Consumer Cellular

This is the kind of joke I repeat to myself in my head: “Sasuga Consumer Reports.”

Consumer Reports, the magazine/organization that is dedicated to do consumer retail testing and evaluation, has a reputation. Or better put, several. One of them is that they’re biased towards Japanese cars. Another is “their consumer electrics/gadget reviews are so out of date it’s useless.”

I think some of these reputations are true. Moreover, despite the reputation, they do good work. And thanks to their cellular service guide and ranking, I think I put my folks (and sister) on the right wireless carrier for them.

And all of it is because AT&T is retarded and wants to charge a minimum of $30 for any subscriber (post-paid) on top of their monthly voice plans, if they’re rocking a smartphone. In fact if it wasn’t for this, my dad would not have had the impetus to switch carriers.

Simply put, he wanted a smartphone. He also doesn’t want to buy one, which is fine. I have plenty of hand-me-downs, or if not me, one of my siblings. He’s fine with hand-me-downs (especially if it’s a Nexus One rocking Android 4.1.2) since all he does is use it to call, text, and occasionally use MMS or Flipboard or something. Actually he doesn’t really need a smartphone at all. He probably can get by with a Blackberry or a feature phone with a keyboard. But he hates how AT&T charges him $30 (plus tax!) just for this. And I think it’s retarded, too. He’ll use, what, 150mb a month tops? Because wifi at work and at home is not enough? Anyway, it’s your loss  AT&T. Sort of.

Since my dad is a salesman, he needs rock solid cell reception and coverage. That means basically only AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Since we don’t have any hand-me-down phones on Verizon (not to mention…how does it work, CDMA?) that also means, well, we’re looking for a AT&T MVNO.

I did my usual research and found out something interesting. I started to look basically last summer. Ever since my youngest sister got married and moved to Texas, there’s really no reason for the family to stick to AT&T, as long as they can dump her contract onto her husband (who is luckily also on AT&T). That part was confusing but basically it goes like:

You’re basically transferring billing responsibility for one line from one billing entity to another

  1. The plan owner who has the line first call customer service and explain to them what’s happening (you want to move one line to another due to marriage or something).
  2. Hopefully the customer service rep will leave a note in your file for this. They’ll give you a specific phone number to call to reach a specific department that does this.
  3. The plan owner who is taking in the transferring # should then call that specific line and have them pull the number over.

At least, that’s how it worked for AT&T. I imagine it’s similar for VZW.

So we’re ready to go to Cricket sub-company #XYZ right? Nope.

Cricket is really the go-to MVNO. They have AT&T, VZW and TMO contracts, but of course VZW phones only works on VZW bands, and you’ll need a GSM phone to use TMO/ATT. Which is fine, we’re full of GSM phones. Specifically we need sim cards. So to my surprise comes Feb 2013, suddeny all these Cricket subsidiaries (like Straight Talk or Net10) stopped stocking AT&T sims. What is up with that? I guess we did put off transferring for a long time. And we also tried calling them, and one Straight Talk rep gave my dad the runaround.

After googling and looking around to no avail–it’s a developing situation–I went looking for an alternative AT&T MVNO. That’s where Consumer Reports came in. It has ranked, in 2012, Consumer Cellular as the #1 post-paid carrier in the US. That’s neat, I thought, as I was paying attention to the pre-paid section.

“Who the hell is Consumer Cellular?”

A quick search told me all I need to know. AARP AMIRITE w. But they do contract-free AT&T MVNO with share plans, which is almost perfect. Nobody’s perfect, I guess–if they went from 1GB to maybe 2 or 3 GB then I think I can rest in peace. But for $80 we were able to get 1500 minutes, 10000 text, 1gb data, between 2 phones. I think that’s a reasonable compromise. Sure, we can do better on TMO or Metro, but let’s not sell ourselves short. Not to mention when you call them, they pick up without any hold. That’s awesome. HSPA+ here we come.

I think of course, both phones on the plan are light data users–the sister keeps it under 250mb every month (she was grandfathered in from an older AT&T plan) and I have no clue how much Dad uses. I think 1GB is more than enough.

Oh, one thing I forgot–part of this impetus was that Dad scored a One X, so even more Smartphone Use Pressure was building.

This was not a paid blog post or anything. Honestly, they’re a solid MVNO–although they are not exactly competitive on price, they provide a lot of great service.