Consumer Cellular - No Contract Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a Different Model

The author placed this hub in the pre-paid cell phone category, but it is really a month to month plan. The reason I did this is the month-to-month does not have the traditional "big name" contract. However, you still have to notify Consumer Cellular to cancel and end the bills. (see Coda below) which sounds like a contract to the author.

Regardless, you do not pay the monthly bill up front, but are billed for each month of service. A setup fee is required as well as payment for the phone. So this means at a bare minimum you'll be paying for the setup fee ($35), the phone (only one is free), and the minute plan which is $10.00 minimum.

The $35 fee must be paid before you can get service. So the "no contract" label Consumer Cellular likes to use isn't really true in the strictest legal terms. It is a contract; just not the type companies like Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon ask the customer to sign.

According to Consumer Cellular (CC) you pay a flat monthly fee and you are not obligated to cancel with a cancellation fee. By CC reasoning, without a (standard cellular service) contract and with set rates for the number of minutes you use, this is more like a pre-paid plan no matter what Consumer Cellular calls it. There is a difference though; read on.

No Contract Big Commitment
Consumer Cellular claims there's no contract, but that's not quite fiscally or legally true, once signed up you must notify the company to cancel the service. You can't simply stop paying the monthly fee and expect your service to be dropped no questions asked. You will also continue to be billed if you don't notify CC that you no longer wish to participate.

That sounds like a contract to the author. A contract or commitment to pay the monthly fee which CC fully expects you to do unless you notify them. The upside is there's no cancellation fee. The downside is that you must request discontinuance of service; not simply stop paying the bill.

Plans
There are a variety of plans ranging from no minutes to two thousand minutes (see table below) a month. Each plan has a flat-rate monthly fee. The plans are good for any model phone offered. There are data plans as well. In fact, this is another issue I find with the service provided. The customer is presented with a buffet of separate choices, for minutes, data plans and accessories.

Consumer Cellular Logo
Consumer Cellular Logo | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Motorola W259Nokia 2770Nokia 2680 SliderSamsung A697Samsung A177Doro Easyphone 410Doro Easyphone 345
Motorola W259
Motorola W259 | Source
Nokia 2770
Nokia 2770 | Source
Nokia 2680 Slider
Nokia 2680 Slider | Source
Samsung A697
Samsung A697 | Source
Samsung A177
Samsung A177 | Source
Doro Easyphone 410
Doro Easyphone 410 | Source
Doro Easyphone 345
Doro Easyphone 345 | Source

Phones Offered

Motorola W259 (free*)

  • W: 1.77" D: 0.67" H: 3.74"
  • Weight: 3.32 oz
  • Battery life: up to 9 hours talk time / 18 days standby
  • Hearing aid compatibility: M3 T3


Nokia 2720 ($10.00*)

  • W: 1.81" D: 0.78" H: 3.66"
  • Weight: 3.18 oz
  • Battery life: up to 3.0 hours talk time / 12 days standby
  • Hearing aid compatibility: M3 T3

Nokia 2680 ($20.00*)

  • W: 1.85" D: .61" H: 3.9"
  • Weight: 3.33 oz
  • Battery life: up to 3.4 hours talk time / 17.5 days standby
  • Hearing aid compatibility: No

Samsung A177 ($40.00*)

  • W: 2.32" D: 0.47" H: 4.29"
  • Weight: 3.09 oz
  • Battery life: up to 5 hours talk time / 10 days standby
  • Hearing aid compatibility: No

Samsung A697 ($60.00*)

  • W: 2.1" D: 0.5" H: 4.3"
  • Weight: 3.1 oz
  • Battery life: up to 5 hours talk time / 10+ days standby
  • Hearing aid compatibility: No

Doro PhoneEasy 410 ($25.00*)

  • W:1.9" D: 0.74" H: 3.8"
  • Weight : 3.8 oz
  • Battery life: 180 Min
  • Hearing aid compatibility: Yes

Doro PhoneEasy 345 ($30.00*)

  • W: 2.0" D: 0.59" H: 4.9"
  • Weight : 3.4 oz
  • Battery life:180 Min
  • Hearing aid compatibility: Yes

Coverage Map (the author has no faith in this map)
Coverage Map (the author has no faith in this map) | Source

Charges for Minutes

Name
Cost
Minutes
Overage
Anywhere Casual
$10.00
0
25 cents/minute
Anywhere 250
$20.00
250
25 cents/minute
Anywhere 500
$30.00
500
25 cents/minute
Anywhere 1000
$40.00
1000
25 cents/minute
Anywhere 1500
$50.00
1500
25 cents/minute
Anywhere 2000
$60.00
2000
10 cents/minute

Charges for Text / Pictures

(click column header to sort results)
Name  
# Texts  
Data  
Fee  
Connect Lite
100
2MB (check the web 1-2 times per week)
$2.50
Connect Ready
500
15MB (check the web 1-2 times per day)
$5.00
Connect Active
1000
30MB (check the web 3-4 times per day)
$10.00
Connect Complete
2000
75MB (check the web 7-9 times per day)
$20.00

Plans - The Real Story

Consumer Cellular offers plans for minutes, plans for text, plans for phones and finally accessories. Each of these have their own separate charges.

Though the plans seem reasonable at first glance the consumer is charged for each individual component of service they might want. It can really add up too.

On the plus side, some of us don't want to text or send pictures; we just want a phone. This buffet style pricing structure may be just what some of us want or need rather than an "everything" plan for features we will not nor ever will use.

The Phones
The phones are basic functional phones. They make calls and send text. Most have built-in calendars, calculators, and address books; but all three of these things are limited. The phone prices range anywhere from Motorola which is "free"* to to the Samsung which is sixty ($60.00). None are particularly advanced; they are primarily designed to make phone calls and that's it. You don't get minutes automatically with the phone.

The Minutes
A separate purchase is made to buy minutes. These plans are all called "Anywhere" and range from no minutes, where you pay 25¢ per minute for each call, to two thousand (2,000) minutes for a set amount per month. Once you exceed the monthly plan limit you are charged 25¢ per minute thereafter. The sole exception to this is the with the Anywhere 2000 plan which charges you 10¢ per minute over the two thousand minute allotment.

The Text and Pictures
Want text with that? That's going to be an additional charge. If you limit your texts to 100 per month with 2Megabytes# (Mb) of pictures it'll cost you another $2.50 a month. If you go for the maximum two thousand (2,000) texts and 75Mb of pictures that's an additional $20.00.

Twenty dollars is a very popular figure with Consumer Cellular.

Taxes
None of the figures above include taxes which are levied by the Federal and State governments. Some locales even charge for 911 service.

The Accessories
Most phone packages come with at least a charger, earbuds, a carrying case and car charger. These things (or most of them) come with the phone.

Not with Consumer Cellular; you get a wall charger, but if you need an extra battery; that'll cost you $20.00 and up. How about a car charger; that's another $20.00. Want an earbud headset; at least another $20.00.

It's almost as if they took the package from the manufacturer, opened it, removed all the components and put an individual price on each one.

Setup Fee
No matter which phone you buy you'll be charged a $35.00 setup fee.

Why The Author Wrote This Article

Consumer Cellular has launched a veritable advertising blitz. The ads feature an attractive set of older male twins who banter back and forth about the benefits of Consumer Cellular phones and features.

The production values (what was spent for filming, editing, etc.) are high and the ad itself is quite slick. It's all very attractive sounding and looking. They even mention that their service is endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons ^ (AARP). Considering past endorsements by this association I can't say there's any reason to put a lot of faith in that endorsement.

In short, Consumer Cellular's fees can quickly add up to about the same amount any consumer would pay for a contract plan. In short, this seems to be another way of getting the most profit from a select group of the population. The gray-haired twins appear to be the target demographic.

Coda

Consumer Cellular's pricing structure may be great for someone who wants an emergency cell phone or for someone who plans to use talk only with their phone. But, and this is a big but, if you want text and pictures or accessories (those that normally come with the phone) your charges will quickly add up to figures that meet or (shockingly) exceed the prices you'd pay with a pre-paid service or even with a two year contract.

Consumers can do much better. The author refuses to use the term "rip-off" only out of fear of a misguided libel suit.

Blogsphere Reviews
Consumer Cellular gets very mixed reviews. Some people claim it's just what they need and have no complaints. Others, disturbingly, claim that shipments aren't as timely as advertised and that cancelling the service is a nightmare if not downright impossible.

One blogger claimed to have cancelled the service, yet continues to get monthly bills. The author wonders if that shows up on bloggers/commentator's credit report?

Another commenter stated that the phone they got was used. Yet another complained of constant dropped calls.

Almost an equal number of reviewers had no complaints; however, a 50:50 ratio does not give this author a lot of confidence in the plans or service.

Verdict
If you want anything more than phone only service you may want to take a pass on this one. The service seems to be specifically designed to itemize you into a large bill. Worse, the site and advertising seems to be geared toward the elderly with an eye toward making as much money as feasible for the privilege of having an easy to use phone. There are other plans that do this at much less cost.

It is just the author's opinion, but these plans seem like buying a tire and then paying for balancing, with a separate charge for mounting, the valve stem, the valve stem cap, and yet another charge for warrantying the tire.

Footnote

* You must pay a $35.00 activation fee before receiving your phone no matter what. This is on top of plan fees, the phone itself, and any accessories beyond the handset, instruction booklet, and the wall charger.

^ AARP has made recommendations in the past that stirred a virtual firestorm of controversy. This "fire-storm" was the result of perceived "sound advice" from AARP on, health-care reform, its own branded insurance, and other offers that may directly or indirectly profit the group.

# Two megabytes of pictures is not that much. It's almost impossible to say how much each picture takes up on each phone, primarily due to JPG compression, but it could not possibly be more than ten (10) pictures maximum.

Disclaimer

The author was not compensated in any way, either monetarily, with discounts, or freebies by any of the companies mentioned.

Though the author does make a small profit for the word count of this article none of that comes directly from the manufacturers mentioned. The author also stands to make a small profit from advertising attached to this article.

The author has no control over either the advertising or the contents of those ads.

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Comments 2 comments

LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

Thanks for commenting King. I'll check out Just5.


King 5 years ago

I made a personal review of Consumer Cellular offers before I purchased a phone, but I don’t find them very practical. Just5’s offers are more attractive for me. Aside from the cheap costs of their calling plans, their minutes also last for 90 days. The minutes roll over, too, when refilled. This is really practical for consumers to maximize both of their minutes and money. Just5 also offers unlimited call and text service. Such service is not available in Consumer Cellular. So as I perceive it, Just5 is a more viable option in terms of practicality.

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