The early days of the free government cell phone business had something in common with the early days of the automobile business. That’s when Henry Ford said that his customers could get a car in any color they wanted as long as it was black.
In the early days of the free government cell phone program, you could get a plan that was custom-designed for you as long as what you wanted was 250 minutes of airtime per month.
As competition increased, so did the offerings of the major Lifeline companies such as Assurance Wireless, Safelink Wireless and ReachOut Wireless. Gradually, one of them offered texting. Another one allowed its customers to purchase additional minutes. But the basic offer remained the same.
But, oh, how things are changing. As more competitors enter the business, competition is heating up, and that’s very good news for consumers because the top companies are now attempting to lure in more customers with more free talk and more free texts.
In particular, the “250 minutes OR 250 texts” rule is changing; traditionally, each text costs a user anywhere up to one voice minute per text message. Recognizing that people actually text more than they call these days, companies are beginning to adopt the policy of texts not counting against a customer’s minutes.
Let’s get specific and do what we always do: help you get the best deal possible.
Assurance Wireless has changed its basic offering and now offers its customers 250 minutes AND 250 texts.
Safelink Wireless now offer 250 minutes AND 1,000 texts. (Great deal!)
Unfortunately, ReachOut Wireless, the remaining member of “the big three”, appears to be lagging behind its primary competitors and still offers the same 250 free minutes its always offered. We say “appears to be lagging” because the number of minutes/texts are not marketed on the company’s website, while Assurance and Safelink proudly tout their improved plans. It’s possible that ReachOut has, in fact, matched its competitors’ plans, but if they have, the offer must be hidden deep within the impenetrable bowels of its website because we cannot find them. (NOTE: C’mon, ReachOut, please let us know the facts and we’ll be happy to update this story.)
What about the dozens of smaller, regional competitors? We did a random check of their websites and discovered that they are all over the board. Many still offer the original 250 minutes of talk per month, but others have come up with unique bonus plans of their own.
For example, Terracom Wireless, which does business in fourteen states, now offers three plans. Its Lifeline Plan 250 plan gives you 250 free voice minutes and texts each month. Its Oklahoma Lifeline Unlimited Plan offers unlimited voice minutes but no texting for $4.58 per month plus fees and taxes. And its Oklahoma Lifeline 1000 Plan gives you 1000 voice minutes or 1000 text messages for $1.00 per month plus fees and taxes.
Consider this to be convincing proof that there are almost as many plans as there are states and companies. We recommend visiting our individual state page to find out which companies do business in your state and what they’re offering.
The bottom line: The free government cell phone business is governed by the same rules of economics that hold true for any other business. Look around, do your research, and find the deal that works best for you.
As with any purchase, you get what you pay for. Except that in the free government cell phone business, you get what you don’t pay for.