Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hold the phone

I generally keep things investing-flavoured around here, but another side of my personal finances is on my mind at the moment.

My cellphone has died. Being a man, I'm apparently genetically predisposed to fall for all manner of technological doo-dads, but I really must say, when it comes to souped-up cellphones with cameras, colous, Internet access and ringtones, I could honestly care less. It's a purely utilitarian device for me: If I can use it to talk to people I want to talk to and it doesn’t cost me very much, it's my kind of cellphone. Anything else, and it's not.

You'd think it would be possible to get a no-bones cellphone in this country, but it's not. Canada's cellphone oligarchy has milked the country to full effect, working the system to the point where you have to sign up for long-term contracts and all sorts of bells and whistles you're unlikely to ever use, much less need.

Wireless number portability was a step in the right direction (indeed, it was a step the rest of the free world had already taken) but the fact of the matter is still that Canadians pay the highest cellphone rates in the world.

I'm actually not too put off by the monthly plan that I have, but I'm amazed by the headaches I'm undergoing trying to get a basic replacement unit. The carrier I've been with for more than three years is pushing me to sign up for another multiyear contract, so I'm tempted to switch carriers out of spite. My job has a better-than-average chance of relocation to a new city every once in a while, and the last thing I need to to have to pay Ted Rogers $30 a month for the privilege of having a useless cellphone.

I'm narrowing down my choices and it's looking like, thanks to Fido, this whole debacle won't actually end up costing me very much. But if anyone has any suggestions for a bare-bones, no contract cellphone plan in Toronto for around $30 a month, I'm all ears.


Thicken My Wallet said...

You may want to try Virgin Mobile for the sole advantage of avoiding a lot of hidden fees that Rogers and Bell hits you with. But, this is Canada after all- choice is an illusion when it comes to cell phone carriers.

NFtoBC said...

If you travel, be sure Fido has full network coverage. It appears to follow the Rogers network, which is thin in many rural parts of the country.

anoisette said...

i used to use rogers pay-as-you go when i was in ontario. if you don't use your phone much, it can cost you as little as $10/month including caller id. i bought a refurbished phone from the futureshop website and happily used it for 3 years.

Investoid said...

If you're on Rogers then you have the luxury of purchasing an unlocked GSM phone from anywhere (resellers, Ebay, etc.) and using it right away.

Fido is owned by Rogers, so you're not really switching companies. If you like your plan, I suggest you just pick up a phone on the internet or your local third party phone dealer.

Why did you state that you may want to switch carriers if you move to another city? Unless you're moving out of country, you're not going to really be affected as long as you're staying in the major centres.

Mr. Cheap said...

If you don't use it much (most just for "we'll be there in 5 minutes, wait for us outside") type conversations, I've been happy with President's Choice pay-as-you-go (basically $0.20 / minute, with a $12.50 / month minimum).

Before X-mas they had dirt-cheap bare-bones phones ($35 with $20 credit included or something like that), but I think the phones are a little pricer now.

GIV said...

Thanks for all the good tips.

Investoid said: Why did you state that you may want to switch carriers if you move to another city?

Basically, i'm worried about being locked into a 416 number for three years, then finding out I have to move to say, 519 or something one year in. Maybe that's easy to negociate out of (or get a new number and transfer the account), but I wouldn't put it past a phone company to make it difficult and pricey.

Senk said...

Sounds like 7-11's Speakout wireless service would be perfect for you. No contract, 20 cents/min for local calls 30 cents/min for long distance, 5 cents to send a text, they'll give you a new number if you move and they have the same coverage as Rogers. Also, and this was the big selling point for me, the airtime lasts for 365 days so you don't have to reload every month like Rogers and Fido.

You can get all the info here:

Krupo said...

I have a per-second billing plan with Telus, $20 a month for 200 minutes. I have a year-to-year contract for free bonus features (100 SMS, Caller ID, voicemail, and maybe something else).

It's enough for me, and with fees all-in, just over $30.

Most of the providers now have $25 plans that include most of the same things AND include free incoming minutes. I also need to look into this "top 5 friends" thing, which sounds like something that the Europeans came up with ages ago.