smart phone, spendy phone?

For a long time I’ve been holding out against buying a smart phone. I’ve had a tracfone (with double minutes) for a good long time that WILL go on the internet, but does it so slowly that the vast majority of the time I wait to check my email til home. My son calls it a dumb phone. And I’m just fine with that. It lets me call and text my family and it doesn’t cost me triple digits in monthly phone bills. My tracfone bill averages about $25 a month even texting multiple kids and friends multiple times of the day. Perfect.

There are times when it might be convenient to access google maps when I’m going someplace, or to be able to google the location or phone number of a business.  But in the past each time I’ve investigated a smart phone, the initial cost has been at least a hundred bucks, with a monthly bite of at least $60-$80.  Not for me.  I’m just not willing to part with that much cash in a month for a cell phone.

The other day I got a tracfone ad touting some smart phones with triple minutes that could be used on a tracfone plan. Wondering if something like that might actually be a good option for me, I looked on the tracfone website.  Several phone models were listed, all of which were $80-$100.  I zipped over to amazon to read the reviews of those particular models.  One I nixed right away– I’m not interested in a battery that only lasts half a day.

But the other one, despite not having tons of space for apps (ok with me),  had a lot of favorable reviews, and — glory be! — it was a cool $25 on amazon.  Yes, with triple minutes.  And the version of triple minutes on this phone is pretty neat– a 60 minute card will get you 180 minutes of text, 180 minutes of talk AND 180 minutes of data.  So that’s actually 540 minutes altogether.  And the phone will find and use wireless at home or in public places for data whenever it is available, which should keep the data use down. 

So.  I am now the happy owner of a smart phone, finally, that should cost me no more to operate that my old dumb phone, with a lot more features and convenience. The camera isn’t fabulous– 3mp– but that’s twice as much resolution as on my old phone. I figured out how to load music onto it.  I’ve been having great fun voice-searching information on the internet and having my phone read me the answers.  I even found it a fun case.  I’ve only been using it a week, so it’s too soon to tell you anything about durability.  But I’m thrilled with how it’s working so far.  And the price is right!


Though I wasn’t asked to review this phone, this post does contain affiliate links.


  1. Melanie E. says:

    Which one is it?! I’m looking to replace my Tracfone – the one I have keeps missing calls and disconnecting from service. And I could really use that version of the triple minutes – with aging parents, I use text a pretty good bit to my husband.


  2. We have been considering a tracfone, but have worried about the coverage it would provide. How have you found them to be in your travels?

  3. My teenage daughter grudgingly uses a tracfone and I did upgrade her recently to a touchscreen model but she doesn’t like it – she finds the keyboard trickier to use than her former slide keyboard trac fone model. My middle son will get a tracfone as well soon. I pay for a certain number of minutes every 3 months and if she goes over she pays for those additional minutes. She learned quickly monitor her texting usage. She has an iPod touch for internet so web access a nonissue but my kids think I am seriously uncool and mean for not having iPhones and family plans. Anyone else blanch at the ads where family plans are “only” 160 per month?

  4. I used Net10 for years, but I switched over to Virgin Mobile when I bought a smart phone. It’s a fantastic plan!! For $35, I get 300 minutes of talk (never even come close!), unlimited texting, and “unlimited” data at 4G LTE speeds. Whichever carrier you choose, pre-paid can hardly be beat!!

  5. No cellphones, etc. for me. Have not had the need to ever be in a place where I have even thought for a second ‘it would be nice to have a cellphone now’. With nine adult children only two have cellphones. We manage to live quite happily without. The money people spend on cellphones, internet rental, video games, etc.; we have for something else.
    And no computer at home either- right now at the library while daughter is looking for a couple of books to read for the week.
    As for schoolwork- public schools are required to give alternative assignments to children who do not have computer access at home.
    Partially out of financial issue have we chosen to stay free of electronic gadgets in our home but also we find that we play more board games, are outside more, and just generally less stressed.

  6. Melanie E. says:

    Just got mine in yesterday – yay! Best of all, even though it was $25 when you first posted this, a couple of days later (before I had committed to buying), it dropped to only $20! I haven’t ported over my number yet, still getting all the rest of it set up.

    Laurah, it’s great that your family can do without cell phones. I know that in my family it’s become a necessity with two aging parents (my mom, his dad) that live in two different cities while we’re in a third. My FIL just broke his hip and has been home for less than a month. I’ve been travelling back and forth on a constant basis for two months now, seeing to the two of them. Two teenagers who are homeschooled, so we need to be able to contact them wherever we might be. Luckily my husband’s job provides a cell phone for him, but like Mary, I don’t want to spend a ton just to “keep up” with the latest phone or gadget. I’m perfectly happy with a “dumb” phone, but the savings provided by this plan are the attraction here, not the gadget. By using and sharing the best savings possible on something that is needed, we are making it easier to have extra pennies to spend on everything else, rather than just going with the standard, expensive types of phone contracts.

  7. Sandra Mort says:

    I know that part of the reason I am so dependent on my smart phone is my ADD/whatever other dx I ought to have but haven’t acquired yet. My poor time management are a big piece of it. Before my first smartphone, I was using a palmpilot to organize my life. For the first time, I wasn’t getting thrown out of medical practices for repeatedly forgetting appointments. It was a lifechanger to have it with me. And yes, I could go back to a small personal organizer, but I’d still need a cell phone and then I’d have two things to carry, so it’s not practical.

    Also, I’ve got an incredibly poor sense of direction and can (and have) gotten lost going places that I go on a regular basis. I just get confused. Being able to call for help is the primary non-prescription reason that I can drive places by myself.

    But there are other things, too. Right now, my smart phone is causing me problems so I’m back to an ancient flip phone. I won’t lie — certainly some of the things I miss are social — but I do a lot more with it than I’d realized.

    For example, I’m supposed to be working on my kids’ school’s blog. If it was working properly, I could take photographs, edit them and upload them to the blog, then write a quick entry about what is going on in the photograph. All from my phone via wifi in the school, therefore not costing a cent extra.

    I have a friend who helps me with time management. With a quick call to her, I can go from being overwhelmed & panicked to calm with a detailed to do list. We were talking briefly a few times a day to touch base & to help each other stay calm and make appropriate choices with parenting & school (I’ve got my 4 outschooled currently, but was homeschooling when we met & she’s homeschooling her 3). The problem is, she’s not in the United States. Using a smartphone lets me use apps that are free to touch base with her. We also have a third mom here in the US who we talk to together. In addition to supporting her parenting and schooling, she’s a freelance writer and we cover for each other when we’re behind on work. All three of each proofread for each other, too.

    Did I mention that I can log into the web sites where I get paid work and accept jobs from the phone? I can even log into google docs and do first drafts if I’m feeling patient typing. I’ve never been able to write articles while killing time out on errands before!

    I found a math game that is untimed & low stress. When I’m feeling anxious and load drop7, I can often relax enough to handle the situation more easily. I use drop7 in bed when I’m too wound up to sleep. While I’m on the topic of sleep, there are apps that track your sleep phase so that it triggers your alarm clock while you are most likely to wake up alert & calm, instead of groggy & disoriented. And there’s another app that plays sounds known as binaural beats through stero headphones. The two ears here slightly different sounds and it gently alters your brainwaves to make falling asleep easier. From somebody with lifelong insomnia, it’s like magic. Again, as long as you’re in wifi range, nothing is added to your bill. The drop7 game was 99 cents, I think, and everything else I’m talking about is free to download.

    Tons of educational apps are free to practice reading or math skills with the little ones while we’re out and about. Sure, I could bring books, but I’ve got three herniated discs in my back and bringing much more than a phone and keys eventually hurts. Books are WAY too heavy. We are also a family that is solidly addicted to audio books. Audible has books that you can buy for your phone, but the library has lots to borrow for free, too.

    I could go on and on about the apps that I use that make my life easier, but I think you get the idea. I won’t say that it’s just as cheap as the flip phone. As part of the Verizon family plan, it’s $30/month for the unlimited minutes and texting or $40 for the smartphone. I didn’t really NEED the unlimited minutes, since I was able to keep it to under 400 minutes a month if I tried hard, but the way my father’s account was set up, it was a choice of keeping 700 minutes split three ways and text messages (in and out) for a dime each or changing to unlimited minutes & text for almost exactly the same amount of money.

    I could spend more to bump up the bandwidth because it comes with next to none and would certainly use it if I had it, but unless I’m in the car, I’m almost always near wifi. Sure, it would be NICE, but it’s not a high priority. Beyond that, the only addition to the bill is the $5/month for my extra insurance in case I ruin my phone. That seems worthwhile to me, given that I’m a clumsy oaf and have four clumsy children who use my phone as much as I do.

    I think you will find that the smartphone becomes as invaluable as another arm.

  8. I could not agree more with this! We’ve only ever used Tracfone. We spend about $30 every couple of months. My phone has double minutes, and my husband and daughter’s phones have triple. I do not text, though, and my phone is very old. Maybe it’s time to upgrade! Thanks for the link!

    I also read (and shared) your On the Edge of the Nest post. So beautiful, and is right where I am. I have 10 children ranging in ages 21 to 17 months. Our oldest daughter is married, and our second oldest has flown the coop to college in another state. The post brought tears to my eyes. It’s all so true! And definitely causes me to savor every snuggle, kiss, and leg grab from my little ones.


  9. So now that you have had this a while, what do you think about it?