Page Plus Prepaid Cellular has pretty good coverage, a good selection of phones and buy-one-get-one and buy-one-get-two family offers. Their $10 airtime card gives you 100 minutes good for 120 days. Let's start with the coverage.
But first ...
The Phonenews.com staff make a compelling case the this plan itself may be in the process of shutting down. However, the site itself give no such indication.
America Movil is shutting down the Ohio call center and moving it overseas. This has caused some consternation online, but as one commenter says, you still get cheap rates with Verizon coverage.
Page Plus is offering the faster LTE service on plans over $30.
The FCC and US Department of Justice have approved the acquisition by Tracfone contingent on their efforts to comply with the law on legally authorized surveillance as well making sure that other countries do not get relevant data without approval from the DOJ.
Their is no announcement on the Page Plus website, so their is no indication yet of what changes are coming or when.
Page Plus relies on an extensive CDMA/EVDO (Verizon?) network to provide its service. Which means it's pretty reliable but slow for data purposes.
You check your own Page Plus Prepaid Cellular coverage here.
Enter your zip code in the form and voila!
Airtime rates are both reasonable and relatively simple.
Their standard prepaid plans are pure pay-as-you-go plans. You can buy airtime refills in $10, $25, $50 and $80 increments to get 100, 416, 1000 and 2000 minutes respectively.
Refills last 120 days except for the $80 card which is good for a year - a pretty good deal. There is also a 50 cent per month usage fee that is charged on the 25th day of the month. According to Page Plus, you usually won't have to worry about roaming, but in certain areas, you might and will be charged extra.
When I first reviewed their prepaid plans, I went through a few calculations to see what your total costs would be. I haven't updated those results, but you can read them below and make the appropriate adjustments.
Taking all that into account let's see what you actually get with Page Plus airtime:
Standard text messages cost 8 cents each domestically.
International text messages cost 20 cents each to send and receive, which is actually pretty good - both in that it doesn't cost that much and that you can actually send international text messages, which isn't the case with all prepaid cell phone plans.
Picture messages cost 25 cents each plus a Data Rate of $1.20 per MB. Unless you're taking higher resolution pics with a Razr, cell phone pic file sizes tend to be pretty small so it shouldn't cost you too much. Still, it's cheaper to download them to your computer and then email them.
Roaming is somewhat expensive at 59 cents per minute. You don't want to spend too much time on the phone at this rate.
You can make international calls from your Page Plus phone. Calls to Mexico, Canada and Guam cost 34 cents per minute with a slightly higher rate to cell phones in Mexico. Calls to other countries cost $1.50 a minute which is expensive.
Unlimited voice, texts and 500 MB data (so it's not really all unlimited).
The $39.95 monthly unlimited plan gives your unlimited voice calls, text messages, and 20 MB data transfer for web and email. The only limitation of this plan is the low amount of data transfer provided. For example, 20 MB should allow you to check the web 3-4 times per day for short periods. You can compare it to the $30 Straight Talk plan that offers 30 MB of data but not unlimited calling.
For 29.95 per month you get 1200 minutes, 3000 texts and 100 MB data. The curious thing is the higher data allowance which potentially makes this a better value that the unlimited talk and text plan.
You get 250 talk minutes and 250 texts/mms and 10 MB of data for just $12 a month - a pretty good deal for an inexpensive plan. You can go a little lower than that if you use their standard prepaid plans and buy airtime cards instead.
You can find Page Plus Cellular phones at select retailers or you can buy them online. Online, they offer a line of Kyocera phones that include one touchscreen (Rio E3100), a vertical QWERTY handset (Torinia S2300), QWERTY slider (G2GO M200) and one flip phone (Luno S2100). Prices range from $40 to $100. (Updated January 2012).
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If you're looking for other plans that use the same network, check out the Sprint prepaid page on the main menu. Otherwise, here are a few budget alternatives other than your typical Tracfone, Gophone, Virgin options.
Platinumtel used to use the Sprint network, but they've re-branded themselves as PTel and have switched to the T-Mobile network.
If you're looking for a more affordable smart phone, these no-contract handsets are available for $100 or less.