An elegantly dressed black man using two phones while standing on a busy street
Whether you’ve just moved to a new country and need to get yourself a phone number, want to switch your providers, or simply need a plan that is more cost-effective than your current one, choosing a mobile plan in 2023 can be a tough task. The market is so oversaturated with options at the moment that going over the different providers’ offers one-by-one could take you ages.
Instead, you should clearly identify your own needs, and try to find a mobile operator that can accommodate them in the best possible way. If you aren’t exactly sure what those needs are, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll go over the most popular packages available right now, discuss how plans where you pay as you go compare to other contracts, and provide you with some tips that will help you decide.
Understanding the Different Types of Mobile Plans
There are dozens of different providers out there, and all of them offer a variety of mobile plans to their potential customers. In order to make more sense of these offerings, you need to first understand the three main types of mobile plans: prepaid, SIM only, and pay as you go.
These three formats are the most common mobile plans available out there. If you’re on the lookout for a new provider, you’re more than likely going to end up with one of them.
Having a prepaid SIM card is an option for users who don’t want to tie themselves down with a contract that obligates them to pay a set amount of money every month to use their phone. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’re free, or necessarily cheaper than SIM only or mobile contracts.
With prepaid, you pay for prepaid credit that you can then use to call, use the internet, or send text messages. There are a number of credit packages available. They range from very small (and cheap) ones that are only meant to last you a couple of days, all the way to large packages with plenty of data and minutes, designed to be used up over three months or more.
With set amounts of data, minutes, and texts you can use, you get exactly what you paid for with prepaid contracts. This allows you to adjust your spending based on your current phone usage.
A SIM only contract is similar to a subscription service where you pay for your monthly data and call usage. As opposed to a mobile contract, where you also get a device from your provider, you’ll only receive a SIM card with a SIM only contract. This means that you’ll need an unlocked mobile phone before you can enter such a deal. On the flip side, SIM only contracts usually come with a much lower monthly fee than mobile contracts, precisely because they don’t come with an expensive smartphone.
So what do you get with a SIM only contract that prepaid and pay-as-you-go plans don’t have? In most cases, these contracts have the lowest rates for calls, data, and text messaging out of all the other plans, and you’ll basically get unlimited usage for a set price.
On the other hand, these types of plans tie you to a provider for a period of time, usually 12 months. If you want to switch providers in the middle of it, you’re going to have to pay an additional fee.
Pay As You Go
This mobile plan is pretty self-explanatory – you pay exactly for the number of minutes, megabytes, and text messages you use up. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no contract commitment or additional fees. It’s definitely the most flexible out of these three options, but you need to bear in mind that the usage rates are going to be much higher than in the case of a SIM only or a prepaid plan.
What Type of Phone User Are You?
Each one of the mobile plans mentioned above comes with its own set of advantages and shortcomings. Ultimately, it depends on your own needs and frequency of usage. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer here.
Think about your ordinary day – do you use your mobile data to make calls, browse the internet, or send messages often, or are you connected to a home or office WiFi network most of the time? Do you need a long-term solution, or just need a temporary SIM card as you travel to another country? These considerations are crucial in making a decision that will make the most sense for your needs and your wallet.
If you are on your phone all the time, and use mobile data to browse social media, watch YouTube videos, and communicate with people, then prepaid or pay as you go plans likely won’t be sustainable for you. This is especially true if you also use the mobile hotspot option often to access the Internet from your laptop for work or entertainment purposes.
As a heavy smartphone user, the SIM only contract will give you the best bang for your buck. You’ll pay a steady fee each month, but you won’t have to worry about getting disconnected and having to top up your SIM card due to your usage.
Best choice: SIM only
Your Usage Varies From Month to Month
For some people, it can be hard to predict how frequently they’re going to be using their phone during the next couple of months. Certain professions require them to travel across the country for work, and therefore rely on their phone for most communications. Once they get back, they will stay put for weeks on end, with easy WiFi access making their data plans obsolete. Others simply don’t need unlimited data or calls, but they appreciate a bit of flexibility in terms of how much their phone bill will amount to each month.
If you fit these descriptions, then a prepaid plan is the one you should go with. You’ll have plenty of package options to choose from, and you can simply pay for those that will suit your needs over the next couple of weeks.
Best choice: Prepaid
Infrequent User or Tourist
Believe it or not, there are people out there who simply don’t use their phone all that much. They’ll whip it out every now and then to call up a relative, text a coworker, or check the weather online, but that’s about it for their daily usage. Those people don’t need a complex SIM only contract with unlimited data, and prepaid packages often exceed their needs too much to justify their prices.
If you consider yourself to be an infrequent smartphone user, then a pay as you go plan will keep you from spending unnecessary money on your phone bill. It’s also a great option for tourists who just need a SIM card for a week or two, while they’re vacationing abroad.
Best choice: Pay as you go
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the choice of a mobile plan is a highly individualized matter. The most crucial thing you need to understand before making a decision is the nature of the plan you’re considering purchasing. Once you identify whether it’s a prepaid, SIM only, or a pay-as-you-go plan, then the data bundles and minutes on offer will make a lot more sense, making it easier to choose the plan that suits your particular needs.