Don’t Want to Pay for a Web-Enabled Cell-Phone? Too Bad

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To many customers, the recent cell-phone plan price cut heralded by AT&T and Verizon actually amounts to an upsell.

A woman named Lori Yonan, for example, as reported in the Washington Post, has had a Verizon wireless phone for years. She was interested in a new phone with a full keyboard, so that she could easily tap out text messages. The LG enV model interested her in particular.

Yonan did not need a phone that allowed her to use the Internet. She’s in front of a computer all day. But to get that phone, she would have to pay $10 to $30 a month for Internet data charges regardless. Declining that service (and that fee) was not an option. So if she wanted that phone, it would cost her a minimum of an extra $120 a year for a feature she has no intention of using.

Verizon’s explanation, via the WP:

Verizon spokeswoman Melanie Ortel said the company decided to mandate the data fees to “streamline” its pricing schemes. She said customers were accessing the Web on their phones and going over allotted plans for Internet access. They wanted a basic data plan to help prevent them from overage charges, she said.

Ah yes, streamlining, simplifying, etc. These companies are always thinking of you, the consumer, the right?

Unfortunately, at this point the only way to get around such fees is to be flexible with your choice of handset. I’m not surprised a phone with a name like “enV” is sold with some strings attached. While cell-phone plans are as complicated as ever, there are some reasonable, understandable options that almost anyone can live with. Prepaid, no-contract phones like the Straight Talk are particularly interesting, as some commenters on previous posts have pointed out: A flat $45 gets you unlimited talk, texts, and mobile web access for each 30-day period.

With such a plan, you might not be able to get the handset you desire. But in some ways, you’ll be the envy of people who own a smartphone such as the iPhone—and whose monthly bills are more than double what you’d pay, on average.