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I’ve had cell phone envy for a long time. I fell in love with Apple’s iPhone the first time I saw it. My problem? I use my cell phone so little that I couldn’t justify the monthly cost., so I stuck with my little AT&T dumb phone. Last year I got fed up with paying $35 a month and went with a prepaid LG Tracfone. It was supposed to have internet access, but that was a total joke. The only good part was that I was getting by with only paying $20 every 3 months.

Recently, Virgin Mobile started offering the iPhone 4 and 4S at a substantial discount with a low cost, no-contract plan. Buy the phone outright and pay $35 a month for 300 voice minutes and unlimited text and data. To be totally honest, the unlimited text and data is a bit misleading. If you read the fine print, go over 2.5 GB of text and data for the month and they won’t cut you off, but they will throttle way back on the speed. Truly, I can live with that. I’m usually within range of a trusted WiFi network, so I doubt that I’ll come anywhere near the limit. Oh, and the $35 fee? Set up autopay and they drop it to $30 a month. That’s less than what I paid for my old ultra-limited dumb phone. So yes, I bought it.

Switching from one carrier to another was actually easier than I expected. Because I was keeping my old number, I was without a phone for about 5 hours. Had I been thinking, it would have been closer to 2 hours.

Things to remember when porting your number from one provider to another?
a. Power down the old phone before you activate the new one. It won’t give up the number unless you do.
b. Once the old carrier has given up the number, you’ll probably have to reboot the iPhone.

VIrgin Mobile does one thing that drove me nuts. When I went to the website to activate the phone and put in the request to transfer the number, I couldn’t set up payment of any kind at the same time. They will not let you set up a payment method until after the old carrier has released the number. Really? Come on, people. There must be a way you can set it up so it doesn’t require a second trip to the website. And nowhere could I find a warning that this was the proper procedure. In their defense, it only took a minute or two to reach tech support. That said, please save the Spanish-speaking operator for the Spanish-speaking customers. I grew up in a bilingual home and normally have no problem with even the heaviest of accents. (You never met my great-aunts!) While both operators I spoke with were pleasant, they were hard to understand, and one had a hard time understanding me. Sorry, but I speak technogeek. I can’t help myself.

So far the service has been fine. Additionally, I opted for free shipping which offered delivery within 3 to 5 business days. In truth, I had it in less than 24 hours. Can’t beat that for service. An iPhone 5 would have been nice, but the 4S is still great. I could have saved another $80 and settled for the iPhone 4, but for the difference in price I also went from an 8 GB iPhone to a 16 GB. Now if I can just get my apps set up the way I want…

I’ll leave you with Detroit Cass Tech’s own Lily Tomlin:


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