Smart phone plans
Most smart phone plans are quite expensive ($80/month or more, which is around $1000/year), but if you want cellular telephone service and mobile internet capability at a low cost and don't need your cell calls and internet access to happen on the same device (that is, you don't need both in your pocket), get a plain old cheap cell phone for calls (typical cost ~$10-20/month depending on usage), and for mobile internet, two relatively cheap options are:
- Use a laptop or desktop computer (or iPad or iPod Touch or any other WiFi-capable device for web access) with a TruConnect data plan and a MiFi device. The TruConnect plan costs $4.99/month plus 3.9 cents/MB of data accessed. Unless you sit around watching Netflix and youtube a lot, it's easy to stay within $10/month total for the TruConnect service. It's not as fast as DSL or cable internet, but it's adequate for most basic uses. The "MiFi" device (which routes your computer's WiFi traffic to the Sprint 3G network) costs around $80 from TruConnect but can often be found on Amazon for around $60.
- Buy an Apple iPad (an older used model with 3G+WiFi, or a newer one with 4G+WiFi for the AT&T network, so that you can access the internet while out and about like you can on a smart phone) and use the AT&T 250MB/month data plan, which costs $14.99 for 30 days and can be bought at any time as needed, so if there are times when you don't need the 3G/4G internet service, you don't have to pay anything, and then the moment you need it, you can buy a month for $14.99 and start using it immediately. The iPad can mostly run all the same apps as an iPhone and also has a larger screen for easier web browsing. Assuming you stay below 250MB/month, replacing a monthly iPhone plan with an iPad will save you more than the entire cost of the iPad within less than a year (but you'll have to get a cell phone separately if you need to make mobile phone calls).