I love gadgets, as many of us do. One of my favorites has always been my Smartphones. I love the fact that they perform several useful functions in one device. I've had several models and have been using them since Handspring introduced the Treo 300 (back in 2001 or so). Currently, I use an iPhone (1st generation). As soon as it breaks, I'll upgrade it to something else shiny and new.
Cellular phone companies love Smartphones
Cellular phone companies also must love Smartphones, but probably for a different reason. I'm sure they think of them as the bait on hook when you go fishing. The hook, of course, is the data plan that they want to lock you into paying for month after month. Sounds remarkably like your cable bill doesn't it?
Do you love your smartphone, but hate feeling like a fish on a hook? Well, just like cable TV, it is possible to live without a dataplan and not make a major sacrifice.
That dataplan doesn't come cheap
If you have an iPhone, you must have a dataplan, right?. A cheap plan with AT&T in the US is $15/month, but more useful one is $25. Plus, you will get charged $10 per GB over 2GB. $25 adds up to $300 per year (minimum).... every year (ouch!).
Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that my phone can connect to the internet. I love being able to check my email, access my contacts, use my calendar, play games, etc. These devices have a thousand uses.
However, most of the time, I only need to be connected when I'm in a few places. I like being connected when I'm at home, work, at friends houses, in a hotel, or sitting in near shops. The wifi capability in phones now is great for this (and is fast).
The question is, do I need to be connected while I'm away from Wifi and is it worth the price? Sure, there are times that I would find this convenient, but I can be patient and wait. I don't personally feel like a second class citizen because I can't check Twitter updates while in my car (sounds a bit dangerous anyway).
What about other nifty features like GPS?
Well, if GPS is part of your data plan, you can live without that too. Just buy a stand alone GPS. They are cheap enough and have better screens/features anyway. We use the Garmin 265W and you can pick it up for $130 (refurbished).
I'm sure all kinds of new features are coming in the next generation phones. Video chat, etc. I'm sure they will be pretty cool, but just remember that if you can live without them (other than when near Wifi), you will save a ton of money.
So, how do you get a Smartphone without a data plan?
Some Smartphones can be purchased outright without locking you into a dataplan. This might be a good option even if they cost more. Remember, they are more expensive because they aren't being subsidized by the money that you pay for the data plan. Besides, you can often resell them for more as well when you upgrade.
Buying phones used is another way to avoid getting locked into a dataplan. We bought our iPhones refurbished (just like new). Since I was migrating from another GSM phone, all I needed to do was move my SIM card from my old Treo 650 to my new iPhone. Of course, my iPhone was locked and wouldn't let me use it until I used a Jailbreak/Unlock program. Lots of information is available on the web on how to do this. One really great resource for iPhones is here (check out the dev-team blog).
Don't expect Cellular companies to sit still. They are constantly adding features that will try to lock you into paying more for your service. Just realize that you have a choice.
Skip the data plan, save hundreds per year and be happy that you aren't tethered to the internet all the time.