PC Magazine surveyed thousands of readers to find out which phone plan is best. The big winner was Google’s “Project Fi,” which hardly anybody has ever heard of. It combines T-Mobile, Sprint and Wi-Fi into a virtual network. (A virtual network is one that doesn’t really exist but seems to. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to make sense.)
Project Fi gives you unlimited U.S. calls and texts and unlimited international texts for $20 a month; add $10 for each gigabyte of data you use. The nice thing is, you get money back for anything you don’t use. We used only 100 megabytes last month, so we would have gotten $9 back, for a monthly bill of $21. The catch is, there’s no family plan and you must buy either the $199 Google Nexus 5x phone or the $449 Google 6P. But both are great phones, and you can keep your current phone number. You also get the latest version of the Android operating system “Marshmallow,” and a new Android system whenever an upgrade occurs.
Second in the PC Magazine satisfaction survey was Consumer Cellular and third was Republic Wireless.
Another magazine, Computer World, surveyed 870 people across the U.S. to get the consumer take on the best smartphone plan among the four biggest carriers. T-Mobile came in first, Verizon was second, followed by AT&T and Sprint.
We’ve used T-Mobile for a few years now and pay $30 a month for unlimited data and 100 minutes of talk time. But we’re driven mostly by price and don’t much care about making phone calls on the road. So we weren’t surprised to read that T-Mobile rated highest in affordability, tech support, billing and privacy issues. T-Mobile doesn’t count the data used when you go to YouTube, Netflix or Hulu, which is a very big chunk of what other services charge you for. Verizon came in first for the availability and reliability of a connection.
Buying an unlocked phone, or unlocking the one you already have, gives you freedom to shop around for the best cell phone plan, and studies show, you pay less in the long run. Yet only 15 percent of respondents to the survey unlocked their phone or bought an unlocked version in the past year.
Most phones have safety problems. In the Computer World magazine survey, 97 percent of respondents said their phone had been hacked. That’s a huge percentage. But ours was hacked too, so we shouldn’t be so surprised. (How do we know it was hacked? A friend in Florida started getting suspicious emails, each claiming to having been sent by us. This happened right after we dropped our phone off at a repair shop to have the cracked glass replaced.)
Only 43 percent of respondents take safety measures to protect their phone. Things you can do include stronger pass codes, finger print unlocking, restricting app permissions, avoiding public Wi-Fi and disabling your phone’s location services when not in use. If you Google any of those terms, you can learn how to do these things