With free Wi-Fi available almost everywhere we go, it should be possible to use a smartphone for calling and texting without a data plan, and save a ton of money in the process, right?
There are lots of benefits to going without data (or even carrier-less): after all, most smartphones these days are used primarily to take photos, browse the web, update social media, listen to music, audiobooks, and podcasts, and play games…making calls is almost an afterthought for some people. Sure, making or receiving a call might happen occasionally, and texting is handy, but do you need an expensive data plan to stay connected? With almost every smartphone featuring built-in Wi-Fi and most public places offering some form of free Wi-Fi, it certainly seems possible if you’re trying to be frugal.
This strategy is obviously not in the best interests of most phone service provider’s profits, so while it is possible to find plans without data, there is a relatively small selection of providers that offer them and they obviously don’t advertise them much. So how can you go dataless?
Get an unlocked phone
Many carriers lure users in with the promise of the latest phones for free or a cheap monthly rate rolled into an expensive data plan. Sure, having the latest and greatest technology in your pocket is awesome, but the downside is you have to commit to a contract term with the same carrier. The hidden aspect of this is called carrier locking, whereby the carrier prevents the phone from working on any network but their own. Granted, there are ways to unlock a phone, either by ‘buying out’ your contract early or some (occasionally shady) operators who can generate an unlock code, but the better way is to buy an unlocked phone outright. An unlocked phone means you can move to any provider of your choice, any time. And while you might pay a more in the beginning you can make it back quickly in savings.
The ‘dumb phone’ loophole
There are still lots of people using simple phones for basic calling services. If you happen to live in a country where it’s impossible to get a new provider plan without any data, such as the United States, it may be possible to get a phone only plan with a GSM (or 2G) carrier (AT&T, T-Mobile etc.). An unlocked GSM phone offers service based on the SIM card, rather than the phone itself, so you can switch the card to change services. As long as you don’t use any carrier data, and don’t tell them you’re using a smartphone with a “dumb” SIM card, you can use a voice and text-only SIM card in whatever smartphone you want.
Go with a dataless plan
Elsewhere, such as in Canada and the UK, you can get a dataless plan fairly easily with a major carrier, however, they have limits to what kinds of phones that are eligible for such plans, i.e. you can’t get a dataless plan with the latest model of iPhone. However, if you bring your own unlocked phone you might be able to sneak by this limit and use a legacy dataless plan.
Go carrierless or SIMless
This is probably the boldest move – just get rid of a carrier plan altogether. Perhaps a tad extreme for people who need guaranteed, always-on connectivity, or those who live in more rural areas, but if you’re in a built-up, urban environment there are probably dozens of Wi-Fi networks available to you as you go about your daily routine. You might have no service while commuting (although some public transit and even cars now include their own Wi-Fi hotspots!) or walking to the gym, but between networks at home, in the office, and commonplace free public Wi-Fi you might find you’ve got good enough coverage to break the SIM card chain. And emergency calls are still possible even if your phone is completely SIM-less.
Going without a data plan or even without a SIM is certainly not for everybody, but there are options available for people looking to save money or take some control over an always-on lifestyle. The best thing is it’s easy to test – just take your SIM card out (don’t lose it!) and give it a try. You might be surprised at how little you need it.
Did you know
Thinking of going without data or without a SIM? You don’t have to give up calling and texting! Hushed lets you call and text using a real phone number using only Wi-Fi or a basic data plan.
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