It wasn’t all that long ago that students were expected to make do with less of everything as a trade-off for a life devoted almost entirely to study. But times change, and technology changes even faster. Now, no matter what you’re studying, you need to be able to keep in touch with your fellow students and the wider world without stressing about paying a fortune to do so.
The age of the cheap mobile phone — and cheap mobile plans — has completely changed student life very much for the better. In times not that long ago (but which may as well be in the dark ages when viewed from today), keeping in touch with your family, friends and organisations depended on you having access to a phone — any phone. Living in a share house or a dorm you might have had limits on how much you can use the phone, or had no phone at all (in which case, the local payphone was your friend!).
Mobile Guide for Students
Mobile phones solved the problem — but they were not only prohibitively expensive to use as an everyday phone, they were also quite hard to get a plan for in the first place. It was a mess of credit checks, high call charges and long, long contracts. Thankfully, the world’s moved on from those dark days, and now as a student you’ve got a wealth of choices when it comes to finding yourself a mobile plan that does what you need and doesn’t break the bank.
Of course, you’ll need a suitable phone to use with any student mobile plan you might choose, and here’s the key tip — do not get a phone on a plan. There was a time when mobile phones were heavily subsidised by providers, so that agreeing to sign up for a two-year contract effectively got you a free phone handset. Sadly, that’s a disappearing thing — though you will still find some cheaper and/or older phones heavily subsidised (or even appearing to be “free”), by choosing those options you’re really cutting yourself off from the very best value mobile plans, and getting yourself locked in to a long-term contract with a single provider.
Instead, look at buying a phone outright. That’s not as expensive as it sounds — especially if all you need is a phone to be a phone, rather than a portable internet browser. So-called “feature phones” (we’re not sure why, since the one thing they don’t have is lots of features) do a perfect job of the essentials without the distractions. Make calls, take calls, send and receive texts, and that’s pretty much it. You can pick phones like this up at supermarkets and phone provider outlets for as little as $39. Spend a little extra and you can get yourself a basic (and somewhat slow) Android smartphone and still come away with change from $100.
The thing to think about is whether you need smartphone features — namely, internet access for browsing and email, and the ability to run apps (which can be great for things like public transport schedules). If you think you’ll need more than calls and texts, get a smartphone — but be willing to accept that it mightn’t be the fastest smartphone on the block. Wouldn’t you rather have a slower phone and spend $1000 less than everyone else? Thought so!
However, what you’re looking for is an unlocked phone — one that isn’t tied electronically to the provider you buy it from. These are becoming more common at lower price points, but be sure to ask so you’re sure. Being able to pick and choose from a range of great value mobile plans is a lot harder when you’re locked down to a single mobile network.
So now that you’ve got your phone — or persuaded your brother to let you have the year-old iPhone he’s just replaced with the shiny new version — you’ll want to get hooked up with a plan that’ll let you talk and text and — if you’ve got a smartphone — do data things.
Here’s the five plans that we think hit the sweet spot for students. The goal: either unlimited calls or close to it, unlimited texts, and enough data to get stuff done without coming up short.