There are many options to look at when buying a smartphone, and with this large amount comes confusion rather than clarification. Cell phone bills seem to be skyrocketing, which is crazy when you consider that you’re paying a monthly subscription for minutes you don’t use and internet that is often slow. And then if you do choose to go with a carrier you then get locked into a long term contract, tied to a certain handset and have to deal with all the stress that goes with that- statements, spam letters, extra charges… Fortunately, Ting aims to take away the stress and save you money, and we’ve been trialling out the service to see how it compares to the likes of traditional big carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as how it compares to other prepaid carriers.
So what is Ting exactly?
In a nutshell Ting is a mobile network that lets you pay for what you USE and doesn’t fit you into a neat little one-size-fits-all box. This pay-for-what-you-use model is extremely unique, even amongst other prepaid carriers. Ting is also a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), which piggybacks its service off Sprint, so you’ll get coverage anywhere that Sprint has signal.
Pay for what you use. No penalties. No waste.
Here’s how it works:
To start with you choose a phone that you like that Ting offers. They have a reasonable range of options, including the Samsung Galaxy S III, but so far no iPhone. You pay a flat fee for the phone and it will get delivered to you in a few days. Yes, this part hurts your wallet a little, but this is just the price you pay for bigger savings.
Next Step: You choose your Ting price plan. Categories are split into Minutes, Text, messages and data and each section has options that range from XS usage to an XXL user. As a person who texts a lot and uses a lot of data, I opted for 500 minutes talktime ($9) 1000 text messages ($5) and 1 GB of data ($24). Add to this a fee of $6 for monthly line usage and the total is $44 plus tax-, which seems pretty reasonable when compared to the likes of Verizon and how much they charge. I especially liked the fact that if I used less than my allotted time my priceplan would drop down to the next category and I’d be charged less- and if I went over, I’d just go up from M-L rather than incur fines.
So how long do I need to commit for?
The great thing about Ting is that they have a no commitment policy. You pay for one month and if you don’t like it or it doesn’t work for you, you can just leave the service completely.
What’s the catch?
In terms of mobile phone choice, some people might find the options a little limiting- and yes, I’m talking about Apple fanboys. There have been rumours that iPhones may be available at some point, but so far this isn’t an option. The cellphones also are locked to the Ting network, so this means you can’t use a sim card when travelling, and roaming charges are pretty high if you use your cell abroad- $0.50 for a MB in Canada, $1 for a MB in Mexico in and $2 a MB for most other countries offered.
Another thing to be wary about is how much they charge for data. Their plans are great for the casual user, but if you use a lot of data, anything over 3GB (charged at $60) will incur a fee of $2.25 c per MB, so an extra 2GB will cost $45- working out as $105 for 5GB.
What if I want to use Ting and already have a cellphone?
Luckily, Ting has thought about this and worked out a way you may be able to do this. If you have a phone on the Sprint network they will soon offer a BYOD- bring your own device option- whereby they remotely activate your Sprint handset so you just sign up for service and don’t need a phone as well. Because of network restrictions this is currently only available for Sprint and on certain phones. but if you’re adventurous Ting suggests you may want to try hacking your phone- at your own risk of course!
Extra Cool things
Pooling Ting plans together. This is really more of an option for families, and if you have a few signed up to Ting you can share you minutes and data out amongst a few of you, to keep costs even lower.
I’ve been using Ting for over a month now and have been very impressed at how low my phone bill has been. I mostly use my phone for data and texting, and have noticed that I generally have good service in New York City and that it also works as a great portable hotspot when I want to connect my Wi-Fi iPad. Ting regularly sends friendly emails about my balance, and when I login to my dashboard online, I get an easy to understand overview of the services I’ve been using, laid out in a clean accessible manner.
Using Ting isn’t rocket science- it’s a simple low cost alternative to pricey contact plans that tie you in for two years. It might not be perfect in terms of phone selection or roaming charges, but it cuts monthly costs significantly, offers good reception, and their customer service staff is friendly, efficient and easy to deal with.
Update 2/7/2013: After three months of testing out Ting, we have an update to our review.