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Is owning a smarthpone smart if the monthly bills put you in the poorhouse? Not so much. Thankfully, a growing number of upstart carriers are trying to make smartphone pricing cheaper and more manageable.
Republic Wireless, for example, offers service for just $19 per month, and as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, you can save big bucks by taking your unlocked phone to another carrier.
Now comes ItsOn's Zact, a new wireless service offering customized no-contract plans.
Like cable companies that charge you the same amount even if you don't watch every channel, most phone companies charge you the same amount even if you don't, say, talk a lot, or use a lot of data, or send a lot of text messages.
Zact affords a more a-la-carte approach, letting you adjust (right on your phone!) the number of minutes, messages, and megabytes you get each month.
Better still, each Zact plan will notify you if you need to add more service, and will actually give you a refund at the end of the month if you stayed under the limits of a cheaper plan.
The service also caters deftly to parents, offering device-specific limits for your kids' phones and tablets.
You can also easily add or remove devices from your plan. Speaking of which, check out Zact's plan chart, which shows you the various configurations.
For example, I could easily get by with 100 talk minutes, 500 text messages, and 1GB of data--which would cost me $31.44 per month. That. Is. Awesome.
So, what's the catch with all this? As of now, Zact offers only two older, somewhat underpowered phones: the LG Optimus Elite ($199) and LG Viper ($399). Both run Android, and both run on Sprint's sagging 3G network.
Even so, I have to agree with Gizmodo's assessment that this is how every wireless plan should work.
I talk very little on my iPhone, use a medium amount of data, and send a lot of text messages.
Yet AT&T charges me an arm and leg for all three, every month.
Here's hoping Zact catches on in a big way, prompting other carriers to adopt similar a-la-carte billing. And while we're at it, here's hoping cable companies will do the same.
I mean, seriously, Comcast, I don't watch Lifetime. Why must I pay for it?!
Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC World and Wired.