Tuesday, December 16, 2008

5 Ways to Avoid a Wireless Data Plan

Is your wireless data plan really worth the money?  With money being tight for so many of us, you may be wondering if your wireless plan is really justified.  iPhone users may be the exception to this phenomena thanks to a great browsing experience and plenty of 'apps' to pull down content that is useful. The rest of us are stuck with 'smart phones' that have a mediocre browsing experience. Is it worth the extra $30 to $50 per month in data charges? For me, the answer is "No".

Here are 5 ways that I avoid a wireless data plan.

1) Use a mobile phone with a cross platform operating system.

Over the years I've had plenty of phones that relied on some sort of proprietary operating system built by the manufacturer or the carrier. Unfortunately that means that all content also comes from or is licensed by the manufacturer or the carrier. The biggest problem for the end user is that it squeezes out a lot of innovative apps and cool games that are out there. Right now I'm using a Windows Mobile phone. While not a completely open platform, it is more flexible than a straight-up Verizon phone. Google's Android has some promise to be the most flexible OS for a phone, but will need to gain some market momentum before I'm really interested.

2) Microsoft ActiveSync.

In selecting my most recent phone (Motorola Q9m) one of the most important features was being able to sync with my Outlook Calendar at work.  By simply connecting my phone via USB, I let ActiveSync do all the work of updating changes I've made via the phone, in Outlook itself, or even via my Google calendar (also synced via Google Calendar Sync).  Another huge bonus is that I also have all of my contacts and phone numbers backed up on a regular basis.  Throw in the ability to have recent emails, tasks or Audio/Video files synced and it becomes a powerfull way to keep your phone up to date.  I do have plug my phone in about once a day, but it usually while I'm sitting at my computer anyway - any easy price to pay for avoiding wireless sync costs.

3) SMS Alerts

I do have to confess that my strategy is not entirely free.  I pay $10 a month for a large amount of text messanging.  Verizon throws in the free V to V texting and it gives me more than enough value to cover these communications.  SMS Alerts are available from just about every service you can imagine.  

Here is a list of alerts I get on regular basis:  
  • Yahoo Sports Alerts with scores from my favorite teams (Boston - thank you very much).
  • News alerts from Boston's WBZ.
  • Stock Market Updates at the end of the business day.
  • Email alerts from my work's email server (available via Rules and Alerts... in Outlook).
  • Updates from Facebook and Twitter.
  • Traffic alerts (for whatever area you select).
The reality is... you can create an alert out of just about any content available on the web.  Just utilize RSS feeds and push them through Yahoo or Google.  I never feel like I need to get on the mobile web because the information I want to see just comes to me in real time.
AvantGo is a great application you can download for your 'smart phone'.  Just think of it as a 'Google Reader' for you phone.  Go to their website, set up an account, select content they suggest (MSNBC headlines or CNET), create your own channel with just about any RSS feed, then sync your phone while your connected via USB.  It even captures images and gives you a pretty decent browsing experience for the money (free).  I use it to catch up on news and blogs that I didn't get a chance to read while I'm at my computer.

Suggestions:  It would be great to be able to sync this type of application with Google Reader so the stories you've already read online are removed (and vice versa).  

5) WiFi

This option is kind of cheating... but is on my wishlist.  I don't have a WiFi enabled phone, but if I did I would use my broswer for that mediocre browsing experience I was talking about at the begining.

Ultimately, I wish I had an iPhone, but I'm somewhat locked into Verizon because of the better coverage in my area and the fact that so many friends and family are on Verizon as well (big savings on minutes and texting).  So for now, I'm getting by without the wireless data charges. 

Do you use a wireless data plan or sneak by with other means?


Seth said...

I'm pretty much chained to Verizon too, and not too happy about it – mainly because of the phones. I'd like an iPhone, but haven't found a way to justify it. Besides, I'm probably near a computer 95% of the time anyway.

akifer77 said...

I have a data plan and pay very little for it, one of the few benefits to working for At&t. I don't buy into the iphone hype, have a blackberry and have been very happy with it. I'm not a techy though. The email wins the day for me and being able to MMS photos with Mandy, and use turn by turn gps(not google maps, although I have that app also). Countless apps available for BB. Admittedly the internet experience leaves a little to be desired but the new Blackberry BOLD has remedied that. In the end if the iphone gets you to At&t then the world is a better place.