SMART BUYING


6 No-Contract Cell-Phone Plans Worth a Look

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Boost Mobile: Monthly Unlimited

Cost

Get unlimited calls, text messaging and 2.5 gigabytes of full-speed data (service will be slowed if you pass the speed cap) with a $55 monthly plan for smartphone users, $60 plan for BlackBerry users, or $50 plan for those with other devices.

See Also: 10 Ways to Make Your Smart Phone Pay for Itself

Phones

Several Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S III ($400). The BlackBerry Curve 9310 is available for $60. Or choose from among several other phones with Web access, such as the Samsung Array ($50).

Network

Uses the Sprint network. 4G and 4G LTE data speeds are available in some areas if you have a compatible device.

Comments

With the Shrinking Payments option, you'll receive a $5 deduction from your monthly bill after six on-time payments. Your bill drops by $10 after 12 on-time payments and by $15 after 18 on-time payments.

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Cricket Wireless

Cost

If you use a smart phone, choose among plans with unlimited calls, text messaging and data — you'll pay $50 a month for 2.5GB of full-speed data, $60 for 5GB or $70 for 10GB. Plans start at $35 a month for unlimited talking and texting using a basic phone.

Phones

Several versions of the iPhone (not available in all markets), including the 16GB iPhone 5 ($600); a range of Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy III ($480); and basic phones, such as the Kyocera Kona ($30).

Network

Combines an independent network with other wireless-carrier networks. 4G LTE speeds are available in some areas if you have a compatible phone. Check the coverage map at mycricket.com.

Comments

AT&T has announced plans to acquire Cricket's parent company, Leap Wireless, so changes in network coverage, phones and plans may be on the horizon.

MetroPCS: Pay in Advance

Cost

Plans offer unlimited talking, text messaging and data. You'll pay $40 monthly for 500 megabytes of full-speed data, $50 for 2.5GB and $60 to have no speed caps.

Phones

A few Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S III ($400), and some basic phones, including the Huawei Pal ($30). Or bring your own phone and insert a $10 MetroPCS SIM card. Check metropcs.com to see if your phone is eligible.

Network

T-Mobile has acquired MetroPCS and is introducing its more expansive network, which includes 4G and 4G LTE speeds, to the carrier.

Comments

Create a family plan by adding lines to your account. Each user saves $5 per month — so two members using the 500MB plan, for example, would pay $35 per month each.

Straight Talk

Cost

$30 monthly for 1,000 voice minutes, 1,000 text messages and 30 megabytes of data; $45 a month for unlimited talking, texting and data; $60 for unlimited international calls, texting and data. Three-month, six-month and yearly plans are also available.

Phones

Several versions of the iPhone, including the 16GB iPhone 5 for $550 (or $400 refurbished); a selection of Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S III ($400); the BlackBerry Curve ($130); and basic phones such as the LG 900G ($20).You can bring your own CDMA or GSM phone — check whether a phone is compatible at straighttalkbyop.com.

Network

Shares networks with AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. 4G and 4G LTE speeds are available in some areas if you have a compatible device.

Comments

Customers can get discounts on select products and services through the Trac 'N' Save program. One recent offer: $5 off a $50 order at Target.com.

T-Mobile: Simple Choice

Cost

All plans include unlimited talking and text messaging. You'll pay $50 a month for 500GB of full-speed data, $60 for 2.5GB or $70 for unlimited data with no speed caps. To create a family plan, prices start at $30 per month to add a second line on the 500MB plan and $10 for each additional line thereafter.

Phones

A wide selection of devices, including the 32GB iPhone 5 ($650), the Samsung Galaxy S III ($452) and the BlackBerry Q10 ($580). Or bring your own compatible GSM phone. You'll pay $10 for a SIM card whether you buy a phone from T-Mobile or bring one.

Network

You get access to T-Mobile's network, which includes 4G and 4G LTE coverage in some areas if you have a compatible device.

Comments

If you buy a T-Mobile phone and use the Equipment Installation Plan, you can make a down payment and spread the remainder of the price over 24 months — but you'll have to pay the balance if you cut off service before the term ends.

Virgin Mobile: Beyond Talk

Cost

Plans come with unlimited text messaging and data (data speed will be slowed any month you pass 2.5GB of usage). For $35 a month, you get 300 minutes of call time; for $45, you get 1,200 minutes; for $55, you get unlimited talk time.

Phones

A few versions of the iPhone, such as the 16GB iPhone 5s ($550); and a selection of Android devices, including Samsung Galaxy III 4G LTE ($350).

Network

Uses the Sprint network. 4G and 4G LTE coverage is available in some areas on compatible devices.

Comments

If you don't want a smart phone, check out the PayLo plans, which range from $20 to $40 per month and include limited Web access.

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