My three kids have expressed blessedly little interest in getting cell phones, though James, a gadget junkie by breeding and behavior, has said he wouldn’t mind one. But an upcoming event has made me get them all phones, anyway.
We’re traveling up to Boston tomorrow to attend Anime Boston, the annual three-day anime convention that happens at the Hynes Convention Center. This is the first year we’re bringing all three kids.
We’re getting connecting hotel rooms and I’m anticipating that we’re going to spend most of the weekend together, but I’m also anticipating that the five of us are going to need some down time and are going to find activities at the event that the others won’t particularly be interested in. So it’s conceivable – hell, it’s anticipated – that we’re going to go in different directions.
So several weeks ago I decided that I’d get the kids each some means of staying in touch with us (and each other) if we separate. After considering the possibility of just getting walkie-talkies or other devices, I decided that the way to go was “pay-as-you-go” cell phones.
Pay as you go seemed like the right thing to do, because my kids still aren’t planning to use these regularly. So I saw no point in buying phones and adding them to the family plan that Bonnie and I share; these are almost single-use devices. Fortunately, there are a fair number of such plans to choose from, both from major carriers and MVNOs like Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and so on.
Understanding the way kids think and the environment at Anime Boston (occasionally loud, lots of people), I decided that I wanted to get the kids phones that were easy to text on, preferably with full keyboards.
You can get pay-to-play phones for as little as $10, but they’re junky flip phones with numeric keypads; certainly capable of texting but very, very inconvenient. Getting a full-on touch screen-enabled phone, such as an Android-powered smartphone, was at closer to $200. Many of the “feature phones” with physical keyboards I looked at were in the $80 range. Multiply that times three, and it was still a hefty enough price tag that I kept shopping.
Enter a company I’d never considered initially. I shopped around a bit with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and Virgin Mobile, and had sort of settled on Virgin, which offers a $50 Samsung-built phone with a physical keyboard, when I stumbled across an island of Net10 phones at the local Best Buy.
Net10 had LG 900G models – similar in form-factor to a basic BlackBerry – for $30 each. That was cheaper than just about any other keyboard-enabled pay-to-play cell phone I could fine.
Net10′s terms are pretty decent, as well. I’ve spent $20 on each phone to top it off with 200 minutes (or 400 texts), and they give you an additional 10 minutes just on activation.
The LG 900G is a pretty decent little handset, too. It’s Internet-capable, has a basic, 2.0 megapixel camera built in, supports MMS and SMS, supports Bluetooth, has a MicroSD slot for enhanced storage, even works as an MP3 player. They’re SIM-equipped GSM phones that operate on AT&T’s network.
So for about $160, after all was said and done, I was able to outfit my three kids with keyboard-equipped cell phones that will enable us to call and text each other when we need to, and they’re phones we can just put into storage until the next time we need to use them.
Seems like a pretty good deal to me.