$5 per month? Yep! For that price, I get unlimited calls via WiFi at home, and carrier access on the T-Mobile network (United States) when I am away from home. This is cheapskate heaven! Here are the details:
My Cheap Chinese Brand Smartphone
I purchased a new unlocked Jiake (JK) A8 Plus Quad Core smartphone from China (on Ebay) for $75.00 (including shipping). It has a 6-inch display, 3G network compatibility, 4800mAh battery (excellent battery life), 8GB of storage. Android 5.1 and a crisp 1280x720 pixel screen resolution. It took about two weeks for the smartphone to be shipped. These are not cutting-edge specs, but they meet my needs quite well!
The $5 Cell Phone Plan
Now, here's how I pay only $5 per month for my cell phone service. I already have excellent home high-speed cable Internet service that I am paying $60 per month for. I use my smartphone and the free Talkatone App for free calls and texting through my cable Internet service whenever I'm at home. I make the majority of my calls at home. Whenever I leave home, I use the US Mobile prepaid Pay As You Go plan on my smartphone. I purchase 100 Minutes per month from US Mobile for the cost of $3.00 (plus $2.00 service fee). US Mobile uses the T-Mobile network for nationwide coverage.
It's Cheap, But Does It Work?
I have used the system for more than 60 days now. In short, I am delighted with the results and the savings. Here's how I make this work:
I do not have 3G or 4G Internet access included in my $5 per month US Mobile prepaid cellular plan (I can choose to add it at any time for an additional fee). However, I live in a city that has free WiFi access on all of the city buses, libraries, and municipal buildings. Plus, my cable Internet service provider has plenty of hot spots throughout my city. Additionally, every coffee shop, fast food chain, hotel and even local laundromats all offer free WiFi. For that reason, I choose not to pay the extra prepaid fees for 3G/4G access. If I do need it at some point, I can always add it to my cellular plan (US Mobile has great rates on 4G Data as well).
My US Mobile prepaid plan ensures that I can be reached anywhere I go with a smartphone. However, I make all lengthy calls at home through my cable Internet service (using the free Talkatone app). By doing this, I preserve my 100 monthly minutes on US Mobile for essential and emergency calls when I am on the go. If I need more minutes I can easily add them online.
My Chinese Smartphone Experience
I do not lust after the newest and latest high-end smartphones. For me, reasonable specs and reliability at a rock-bottom price are prime concerns. For the bargain price of $75 my Jiake smartphone is perfect. Jiake is an unknown brand in the US, but it is well known in China, India, and European markets. My phone is reliable, unlocked, well made, and looks much more expensive than it is. I choose this model for the large 6-inch display and long battery life. It does everything I need it to do beautifully. There is no US warranty as I had it shipped from China. Yet, I have found it to be very reliable so far. If it does stop working at some point I will just buy another one. It's only $75.00!
The key to making this all work smoothly is Google Voice. I use a free Google Voice telephone number as my primary contact number and for all voice mail. When someone calls me using my Google Voice number, it instantly forwards the call to my US Mobile cell number and my Talkatone app number (you can do this in the settings for Google Voice). Therefore, no matter what smartphone(s) or computer I use, I get my calls and texts instantly.
Because the minutes are so cheap on US Mobile you will save money over any monthly contract from large carrier contract plans. For example, you pay only $15 for 5000 Talk minutes on US Mobile! Since I'm a cheapskate who occasionally uses a smartphone away from home, and has home-based high-speed Internet access, my savings are more than $500 per year over a typical $50 per month carrier contract. I'd rather eat that money than talk it away! Hopefully, this post that will save you a few bucks!
Update: December 2017
I have used the service and phone discussed above for over a year now. How is it working out you may ask? Flawlessly! My Jiake smartphone has been very reliable. I use a smartphone more like a utility than an entertainment system, so for my needs it is fine. Overall, US Mobile has provided solid service as well. I'm happy with it!
http://willmyphonework.net - This website will tell you what US carriers will work with any smartphone you buy. It lists most of the Chinese phone brands. I suggest checking here before buying any Chinese import phone to ensure that it works with the carrier you choose. I checked here before purchasing my smartphone to ensure it is compatible with US Mobile.
The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans You Never Heard of - This online article lists the cheapest pre-paid cell phone plans available in the US. These cellular services all lease their services from the major carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon.
The best sources for cheap Chinese smartphones are Ebay.com and Amazon.com. Try to purchase a brand that has a good number of positive online reviews. Be sure to purchase an unlocked smartphone and make sure that it is compatible with your carrier before purchasing it.
The author, Don Peterson, funds his spendthrift thrills as a freelance web designer helping small businesses with budget-friendly value-packed online marketing.