This is a continuation of my dumbphone chronicles which began with my article on why (as a geek) I still
have had a dumb phone and continued in a dumbphone dilemma. In my last post, I concluded that I was ruling out the iPhone on Page Plus due to the risk and the cost. Well, all that has changed and I am now using an iPhone 4s on Page Plus Cellular and I am thrilled with it! This post will explain the thought process that led me to this decision and tell you how I made it happen.
iCan’t Get it Out of My Head
In my dumbphone dilemma post, I was considering going to Page Plus with either an Android smartphone, or a “dumb” flip phone plus an iPod touch for PDA capabilities–like I’ve been doing. But the more I researched this, the more I kept coming back to the iPhone.
As much as I would like an Android device to play around with, the idea of using one as my main “carry everywhere” PDA and phone was not appealing. I did not want to deal with changing my whole ecosystem away from iOS. Syncing would become even more complicated by adding yet another OS into the mix. I would also have to re-buy many apps and/or find Android equivalents for many iOS apps I use and am familiar with. And, for the features that were important to me, I didn’t like many of the Android phones that could be used on Page Plus. So the more I looked at the Android option, the less appealing it became.
That brought me back to the idea of carrying two devices. To switch to Page Plus, I would need a new flip phone plus a new iPod touch. (Well, I didn’t need the new iPod touch, but I wanted a better camera than the one on my iPod touch 4th generation.) I initially thought the flip phone plus iPod touch would be cheaper than getting a used iPhone, but after looking on eBay, I found this to be incorrect. The day after iPhone 5 went on sale, I found there were plenty of people selling the iPhone 4s in excellent condition and advertising “clean ESN” on eBay. I started watching the bidding on eBay and most of them were selling for the same as, or less than, a new iPod touch (5th generation) of the same storage capacity.
Next, I started comparing specs of the new iPod touch 5 with the iPhone 4s. They came up pretty even on most specs. iPod touch had the advantage on weight, but this was cancelled out by the fact that I would also need to carry a separate phone. iPhone 4s had the advantage on the camera, and having a better portable camera was my motivating factor behind all this! There was also the new Apple Lightning connector to factor in. If I did get a new iPod touch, many of my old accessories would not work with the new connector. With a used iPhone, my accessories would all be compatible and it would cut down the amount of paraphernalia I’d need to travel with.
So iPhone 4s wins on cost and features, but what about the potential risk of it not being officially allowed on Page Plus? Was it really a risk at all? In my research, I found enough evidence of successful iPhone 4/4s users on Page Plus that I decided it was worth taking a chance. If I could not get an iPhone activated on my own, I still had the option of going through Beigephone, who would activate it on Page Plus for a fee. And if I couldn’t get it activated at all, I would still be getting a device that was better than an iPod touch, and could be used in the same way without phone service. Worst case scenario was that I would still need to carry a separate phone.
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.
Shopping for a Used iPhone
So, off to eBay I went. I was planning to just watch prices and wait until the new iPhone 5 was in people’s hands before buying a 4s, but I ended up asking a seller some questions on eBay. The seller was very helpful and responsive, but I didn’t bid on his iPhone 4s because I was still planning to wait. I have to admit, when I saw it sell for $350, with only one bid, I was regretting not bidding on it. Similar iPhones were selling for more.
To my surprise, I got a message from the seller after the auction had ended. His bidder was trying to pull some shady stunts and the seller offered to sell me the phone for the same price. After a few more exchanged messages, we came to an agreement. He was able to void the original auction, and set up a “Buy it Now” for me. I got a great price on an iPhone 4s in excellent condition with the caveat that he wouldn’t ship his old phone until after he had his pre-ordered iPhone 5 in hand.
While awaiting delivery of my used iPhone 4s, I had time to do more research on Page Plus. From my reading, it sounded like the best way to ensure a successful activation without paying a dealer’s fee was to do the activation though the request a port page on the Page Plus web site.
Porting My Phone Number to iPhone on Page Plus
When the phone arrived, I was impressed with its condition, and I went about the business of restoring a backup from my iPod touch and syncing all my apps, data, and media. One of the first settings I changed was to disable cellular data. I would be on Wifi most of the time and I would not be using cellular data on my prepaid plan.
Next I went to Page Plus and requested a port following their instructions. A couple of things worth noting: Where Page Plus asks for account number and personal code, that is for your old service provider from which you are switching your number. Where they ask for the ESN, you provide the MEID number from the iPhone settings under General -> About. If you are not porting a number and just want to activate a phone on Page Plus, you can also do it online, but there is a $10 fee.
Per the instructions, I waited three hours before trying to program the phone by calling *22890. This resulted in a message saying the phone could not be activated, so I called customer service to check the status. Hold time was about 20-30 minutes. It turned out I had entered the wrong personal verification code in the online form–Oops! The rep was able to fix that for me and then I had to wait another three hours for the porting to be processed. After the second three-hour wait, I called *22890 from the phone and this time activation was successful. I then followed the rest of the instructions on the porting page to register my iPhone with Page Plus.
I had not purchased any airtime or monthly plan, so Page Plus started me out with $2.00 of credit. That’s it… I was able to make and receive phone calls on my iPhone 4s! I was later able to open an account at the Page Plus website, link it with my phone number, and add $10 of airtime with the Standard plan. Page Plus airtime can also be purchased through sites like callingmart.com, but since there was no discount, I just did it directly through Page Plus.
Under the Standard plan, $10 is the minimum amount you can add. This gives you 100 minutes of talk time which does not need to be replenished for 120 days. This is plenty for my minimal cell phone use, and it should save me about $90 per year compared to what I was paying for my previous prepaid plan through Verizon using a cheap flip phone.
When you add more than $10 under the Page Plus Standard plan, the per-minute talk fee is reduced. You can text and use data on the standard plan as well. This is charged at a rate of 5 cents per text and $0.00099 per KB (99 cents per MB) for data use. Although I plan to keep cellular data turned off, it’s nice to know I have the option to use data under the standard plan if I ever need it in an emergency. Any unused balance is rolled over if you recharge before your expiration date.
If your needs are different, Page Plus offers monthly plans with unlimited talk and text and some data allowance. All in all, it’s a pretty great deal for the excellent Verizon coverage area without Verizon’s high post-paid plans. I’m pretty tickled with my new (used) iPhone and Page Plus!
iPhone on Page Plus Summary
If you’re thinking of going this route, here’s a summary of my recommendations:
- Do plenty of research. Howard Forums and their Page Plus iPhone FAQ are great resources.
- Make sure you get a phone with a clean ESN. Buy from a credible source like Amazon, Cowboom, or Mobile Karma. If you decide to go through eBay or Craigslist, try to establish communication from the seller before agreeing to buy. Be sure to ask for pictures of the actual item you are buying. Ask if it has a clean ESN if it is not explicitly stated. Or ask for the ESN and check it at http://checkesnfree.com. If the seller is difficult to deal with or uncommunicative, move on.
- Try to do your iPhone activation to Page Plus online. If for some reason that doesn’t work, you can use a dealer like Beigephone to activate it.
- Keep cellular data turned off on your iPhone under Page Plus. Do this from Settings -> General -> Cellular. Even on the monthly plans, data allowance is small, and you can always turn cellular data on when it is needed. By keeping it off, you won’t inadvertently burn through your data allotment or balance.
- Take good care of your iPhone–even if it’s used. Apple products hold their value well if cared for. If Page Plus ever does enforce a “no iPhones” rule and kick them off the service, you can probably re-sell it for a good price.
Now I’m waiting for my Lifeproof case to be delivered. Check back for a review on that coming soon!