Sunday, March 26, 2006

Vaporware and Things To Come: Tracfone, STi, CheapPhoneCards

First of all let me start out with the last thing...I am as surprised as anyone else that CheapPhoneCards has gone a week without introducing really their new MVNO. I can't wait for it, as I barely use my STi phone and those daily fees really add up. Come on CheapPhoneCards, let tomorrow be the day that ReadyMobile's flatrate plan makes its appearance!

CheapPhoneCards has also increased the prices on their LG 5225 phones. So now an open-box 5225 is the same price as the refurbished, older 5350. I'd pick the 5225, even though it doesn't have analog (the 5350 doesn't have web access...). The new 5225s are now $89 (or $94 with the car charger\case extras) so with discounts they're $76.95, or $27 plus airtime Not horrible, but not great either.

Speaking of STi, the second topic: they're introducing a hybrid plan. Or rather re-introducing; back when their 10\12 cent plan carried a $1.95 monthly fee (about 6.6 cents a day) they also had a hybrid (aka postpaid-without-the-contract). This time, however, the deal seems a lot worse...100 minutes and unlimited nights\weekends for $49.95. Seems a bit odd, because the STi rep kept saying "5 cents a minute". Maybe it's 1000, in which case it'd actually be a quite good plan, for someone who would otherwise be on postpaid but doesn't like contracts. Overage minutes, reminiscent of Sprint's new Fair&Flexible plans, are 10 cents apiece. This plan will launch April 1st.

A second thing about STi: now all their phones come with $50 in airtime...except now it's phone-specific "starter" airtime so

a) You can't transfer phone-to-phone
b) It's an extra cost on STi's website if you buy a phone from there, making the phones rediculously expensive
c) The airtime is nonrefundable so if you hate your phone you might as well eBay it as most of your money is sunk into nonrefundable airtime

Then again the airtime may just start being included in earnest on the 1st, taking phone prices down to a sane level, but then again it might not, rendering STi wierder than ever.

Now to Tracfone: they are releasing new GSM phone models soon to very soon, or at least that's what PhoneScoop and LetsTalk think...

The Motorola c257 (I don't expect that Tracfone will get a camera phone for a few more years ;) ) is a likely, thin successor to the c155 wierdphone. It does have a nice big, bright screen (128x160, 16-bit, the same as the LG 5225 or LG 225)'s as thin as a CDMA Razr (maybe a little thinner at 0.59 inches), but the one pitfall is that its speakerphone is only one way, one pet peeve that made me migrate from my LG 5225 (listen only) to the 225 (two-way). It's nice to see Tracfone getting a pretty modern phone like this, probably for around $50 if the past is an indicator of future performance, and especially nice to see that the phone is thin.

The Motorola v176 is a chubbier phone, a flip that's successor (probably) to the v170\v171 currently on Tracfone and Net10. Again, it gets a bigger screen (looks to be the same as the c257), upgraded looks (personally though I think the phone is pretty ugly but that may just be me) and a one-way speakerphone. Again, this will probably retail for $80 like the v170 did around the time it came out. Personally though, since this phone offers no real advantages over the c257 other than being a flip, I'd take the likely-cheaper bar phone.

It will be refreshing to see Tracfone stock these new models. I hope they'll do it soon. I kind of have my eye on the c257, if for no other reason than it's thin and is a bastion of free incoming SMS.

Now for some undocumented writing: the sweepstakes is still going on, and now there are two Nokia 5165s, each with a home charger and battery, as second prizes. As said before, complete an offer for the "FREE" link in the link bar at the righthand side of this page to enter. The first prize will most likely be my 225, along with its car charger, home charger, leather case, and $10 airtime PIN (I'll get the PIN when I send the phone to the lucky one-in-eight winner). But please enter soon; the sweeps ends May 30th, and if I don't have all eight entries by then I'm not giving out the prizes. So click on over and sign on; the 225 is a nice phone, even with STi's wierd rates.

Undocumented Writing 2: Virgin Mobile's Shorty and K10 phones are now around $30 at my Wal-Mart. They're $35 online, along with the Kyocera Slider (V5). The Slider Sonic is $200, and the Snapper is $100. This is a pretty good time to get a Virgin Mobile phone, but personally I wouldn't get a Virgin Mobile phone; the rates for EVERYTHING are too expensive and the $35 phones (Shorty, V5, K10), while OK phones, are starting to show their age (think the age of the GSM Tracfones currently available...ech).

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