Even with technology prices plummeting across the board, it still costs a lot of money to buy and operate a smartphone. A newer high-end phone can be the better part of $1,000. Whether you buy it up front or finance it for two years, that's still a dent in your bank account.
Then you have to pay for a cellular data plan, which even as an individual can set you back more than $40 a month, and for a family can cost hundreds. Let's not forget that with so many carriers, smartphone and plan options available to choose from, you might end up paying more than you really need to. That's why it pays to do some research.
Now, you could spend a solid week visiting every carrier website looking at plans, working out costs, doing phone comparisons and hunting for deals, but that's a major headache.
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However, there is another way thanks to sites online that bring together all the information you need in one place. You can even tell the site what you're looking for and it will narrow down your best options.
One good site that's been around for nearly two decades is MyRatePlan. It helps you find the best of everything from credit cards to internet service and travel to phone plans. In this case, you want to look under the "Cell Phones & Plans" section.
To find a plan, simply select the phone you want (or you can leave it blank), the amount of minutes, messages and data you want, and the number of lines you need. Then click the "Show my plans" button to get dozens of results from major carriers and even no-contract smaller carriers. You can further filter the results by carrier, adjust your parameters or sort by price, minutes, data, deals and more.
Not sure what phone to get? MyRatePlan has a cell comparison feature. Simply select the brands and carriers you like and you can see what phones are available to you. Most carriers are going to have the same high-end phones, but if you're after less-expensive phones, it varies wildly by carrier. Check out our smartphone comparison charts to get a better idea of which phone is right for you.
MyRatePlan also has other tools like coverage maps, a termination fee calculator and buying advice. You can also get more information on the most popular phones at the moment, or see the latest deals on specific phones.
If you want an even more powerful comparison tool, whistleOut boasts the ability to search 239,000 plan combinations. Like MyRatePlan it starts with selecting what you're after, but whistleOut gives you even more options.
Select the number of lines you want, and then for each one you select the phone you want and your ideal usage. When you're selecting a phone, you can select if you want a new phone, and it gives you more than 160 options to choose from, or already have one you want to use. If you say you already have a phone, you can give specifics on it to make sure whistleOut only shows networks that work with it.
Once you have your phone and line information in, you can select what network you want to use, or have it show all the carriers. You can also select which carrier you're currently using so it can factor in termination fees.
When you're ready hit the "Search Cell Plans" button to see the results from practically every carrier in the country. You can sort or filter the list further. For example, you can look only for no-contract options, deals for families, what kind of phone financing you need, if the site can swap in similar phones to find you a better deal and more. If you go into the advanced filter options, you can also set your target phone or plan prices and other options.
To make things easier, whistleOut also has preset searches such as iPhone 6s Plans, No Contract Plans, or instructions on how to find the best Family Plan using the search system. It also includes guides to help you make more advanced decisions or explain trickier terms or tactics you can use to save money. It also features smartphone reviews and has a section dedicated to buying tablets.
Bonus: One more way to save
Both MyRatePlan and whistleOut can suggest deals on phones and plans; however, once you have your carrier nailed down there's another option to check. Talk to your employer or any organizations you associate with to see if they have special deals.
You might be able to get activation fees waived or even a monthly discount. Some companies also help cover part of the cost for certain smartphone models.