Once a month, your mobile bill lands. How much are you paying for calls and mobile Internet? Is your iPhone really worth that type of outlay? Do you use your Android tablet enough to justify paying over $50 a month?
Mobile networks have had it too easy from consumers over the past few years, but as Wi-Fi coverage increases, there is a decreasing need to bother with mobile Internet and ridiculously ornate call packages.
That money is better off in your pocket, not the bank accounts of cell phone carrier shareholders.
Smartphone Bills: Healthy vs. Obscene
As I write this I’m coming to the end of a two year contract for a Nokia Lumia 920 with British mobile network EE. This contract sets me back at least £50 a month (around $90) on a package that includes unlimited text messages, 1000 free minutes of call time and 5 GB of mobile Internet (including 4G) a month. Most of this goes unused.
This means that for a £400 handset I will have spent over £1200 ($2000) when the contract comes to an end.
In the USA, you might pay $600 for an iPhone and repay that along with the call, SMS and mobile data charges on a monthly basis on a contract deal. While US smartphone contracts are apparently cheaper than those in the UK they’re still more expensive than they need to be.
If I was using all of those minutes of call time, sending infinite SMS messages and using my phone as a mobile office on a daily basis, this would have been an excellent deal.
Sadly, it’s terrible.
It’s an obscene amount of money to waste. A vast chunk of £800 has been spent on features that I haven’t used, or come nowhere near meeting the limits on.
Since notification of my contract ending popped up in Outlook (because the networks don’t tell you; naturally they want you to keep paying them, so setting a reminder is a good idea) I’ve been researching some alternatives. “Pay As You Go” – no-contract deals where you pay for what you need in advance – are looking particularly attractive for the first time in years.
Some of these deals are as little as £15. Dropping mobile Internet would cut that to as little as £5, around $9 a month. That would be a far healthier bill by anyone’s standards.
But of course, no one is going to do that, are they? After all, we all need mobile Internet and 4G, right?
You Don’t Actually Need Mobile Internet
That smartphone or tablet you have on a contract with a massive monthly outlay doesn’t actually need mobile Internet to access the Internet.
It has Wi-Fi.
You know this already; you use Wi-Fi at home, or on the train, in the library, your local coffee house and at work. In fact, you use wireless networking – often free or complementary to patrons – in a vast selection of locations that you visit regularly. Of course, this will mean avoiding tasks that would normally occur over a secure connection as using public Wi-Fi for banking and shopping is unsafe.
Even if you genuinely need mobile Internet occasionally, then the no-contract approach is perfect as it enables you to upgrade your requirements for a month and then revert to how you had things previously.
So why pay so much for 3G or 4G?
Recent statistics demonstrate that the forecasted global mobile data traffic for 2018 will be 15.9 exabytes per month. Mobile data is set to expand considerably from its current level of 2.6 exabytes. During January 2014 Amazon received almost 53 million visits to its sites in the USA alone from mobile devices. Using mobile Internet is clearly extremely important for successful online businesses, but this isn’t about them: it’s about you.
Get Offline When You Don’t Need To be Online!
How many of us genuinely have to be connected to the cyber sphere 24/7? The need to be online is an addiction for some, and like most addictions it is one that can prove expensive. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t actually matter if you miss a social networking update by an hour or two. In fact, you could probably go a few days or even a week and find that the world hasn’t stopped turning and the sky is still where it was the last time you looked up. Your online social network will probably still be there too.
Similarly, emails don’t need to be answered immediately. For the self-employed and terminally busy it is extremely unproductive to drop everything to deal with emails as they pop into your inbox. Read and reply to them all just once or twice a day in a pair of 15-20 minute sessions and you’ll save yourself a load of time and maintain the focus on the main tasks.
Many of us are using the Internet to the detriment of genuine social interactions, awareness of our environments and even – in many ways ironically – productivity.
Even if you don’t use the Internet that much, you’ve got to agree that the high cost of running a phone is something you’d like to change.
Apps That Can Also Cut Your Phone Bill
Now, if you’re feeling a magnetic pull towards throwing money at your cell phone carrier, don’t worry. Your reaction is quite common, but if you’re experiencing a spark of realisation yet aren’t quite ready to part company with the mobile Internet that you only use for 4 minutes a day between the subway and your office, there are various tools you can use to keep your smartphone bill low.
For instance, you can employ Skype for phone calls over wireless networks on all mobile platforms, along with various other VOIP services such as Tango.
Meanwhile, SMS is really becoming a thing of the past, limited to sending charitable donations and entering competitions. With Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and BBM on virtually every mobile platform, you really don’t need SMS.
If you’re worried about managing your smartphone data use, meanwhile, iOS, Android and Windows Phone each have native tools that can be used to specify a maximum limit. This should ensure that you don’t get charged a ridiculous amount for going a few MB over the data cap.
You should also make the effort to disable mobile Internet whenever you’re not using it. Having your limit reached while you’re nowhere near your phone can be avoided, either by manually disabling or using a scheduling tool like Trigger. Many apps also have the option to only sync while the phone or tablet is connected to Wi-Fi: use these functions!
Use Your Smartphone Wisely & Save Money
The game is changing. If you’re paying for using mobile Internet, you really don’t need to be anymore; certainly not in metropolitan areas and travel hubs.
Sure, you might need access to the cloud to enjoy your MP3 collection, or you might want to browse photos. For the former, however, you should really have your tunes on your phone (especially if you’re a city commuter) and for the latter, well, you could just make sure you have your favourite photos saved to your device. Want to share them with a friend? Here’s an idea: do it later!
If you’re coming to the end of a contract, downgrade your tariff. Locked in? Contact your carrier anyway and tell them that your circumstances have changed.
Just like you should never buy a phone from your carrier, the time has come to stop handing them a virtual blank cheque every month. Forget mobile Internet: use public Wi-Fi, save money, and use it wisely!