This year, we have another child entering middle school. She vividly remembers that her older sibling started middle school with a phone and she is ready for her first phone. We had done this dance before so we thought it would be a simple trip to our wireless store to add another line and get a phone. We found out a lot had changed in two years.
We discovered all sorts of new plans and new options. We could choose a family plan. We could do a prepaid plan. We could all move to a new prepaid, no contract plan. It was not just our carrier. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the four major carriers (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon & T-Mobile) offer a total of nearly 700 combinations of smartphone plans—a family of five alone would have more than 250 options to choose from.”
With all these plans where does one start? We started with the Wall Street Journal’s Wireless Savings Calculator. We compared “multiple line” plans between the 4 major carriers. We also played around with different options, like the numbers of minutes or the amount data, to see which carrier offered the best savings.
If you want to look beyond the 4 carriers, some parents love Kajeet. Kajeet is a phone service for kids that offers many parental control features. Kajeet operates on the Sprint Wireless network. Phone choice is limited but this is a good option if you want to closely control content and time on their phone.
In the end, we stayed with our current carrier, T-Mobile. With the no contract plans, we can purchase a new phone or bring in a phone. Lucky for us we have a phone we can pass down.
If you don’t have extra phone lying around, the next big question is do you give them a smartphone or a feature phone? Smartphone ownership is growing among teens. 78% of teens age 12-17 have a phone and half are smartphones. With a smartphone, kids can surf, download apps, post photos and videos and access all of their social media profiles. A smartphone is a computer in their pocket. If you are not ready to give them their own computer, you may want to hold off on a smartphone.
Before heading to your nearest wireless store, it is a good idea to talk to your kid about the type of phone you are considering or willing to buy. Prying a Samsung S4 out of your kid’s hands can be a bit embarrassing. Let them know their choices before phone shopping.
If you are also in the market for a plan/phone, I have included the links to the 4 major wireless carriers below plus a few other articles. One of the other plans, I saw a lot of families mention online was Walmart’s Family Mobile Plan. So, this is another one you may want to check out.
- T-Mobile: Simple Choice Plan for Families
- Sprint : Family Plans
- AT&T: Family Plans
- Verizon: Share Everything Plan
- CNET: Quick guide to cell phone carriers
- PCMag: How to buy a cell phone