Carriers vs. Consumers

In the early years of mobile contracts, carriers possessed the power. Back then, buyers were bound by the shackles of the fine print; committing to contracts that long outlived their actual phones.

But buyers, rejoice! Gone are the days of lengthy contracts and limited service options. Today, selecting a mobile service provider is a lot like searching for a car, and consumers are taking ownership of their mobile plans by exercising their right to shop around.

History Not Repeating

Since the beginning of business, lengthy contracts have been more or less the bane of the customer’s existence. Sure, they serve to protect, but two-year contracts provided more headaches than they did protection. Contracts were typically permeated with messy, unclear jargon that carried on for multiple pages - leaving the customer more often than not confused or in the dark. What’s more, due to the rapidity of technology advancing, many of the agreed-upon contracts became invalid at some point within the two years. But because cancelling or changing contracts was a major costly hassle, customers were often left to just ride it out. Today, however, consumers are finding more and more ways to outsmart contractual obligations, and carriers have no choice but to loosen the reins.

Options Galore

Nowadays, mobile call and data plans aren’t nearly as black and white. If you’ve got a problem, there’s undoubtedly a solution that won’t break the bank or negate agreements. For starters, the carrier options have expanded well beyond just AT&T -- today, you can choose traditional carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint - or pay-as-you-go with month-to-month services like Cricket Wireless. The are now also “wifi first” service providers like Republic Wireless, that enable your calls and data to go over, as the name implies, wifi first, and only transitions to a cellular network when wifi is not available. Talk about being able to keep your bill low and in check!

But wait, there’s more: service providers aren’t the only companies selling phones or devices straight from their store anymore. There are many other places to shop that allow consumers to purchase direct, at wholesale or refurbished prices. And service-providing brands are getting smarter about their mobile offerings. You’ll find phones being sold at partnering spots where customers already are: Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Amazon, allowing the consumer to buy a phone outright -- no contract necessary. Soon, you will be able to do the same at Stay tuned for more details on that!

Perhaps the most cringy thing about antiquated mobile contracts was the inability to upgrade until you were “due”. Two years would go by before manufacturers would access a major chunk of the market, as well as a two-year stretch before consumers would be introduced to new technologies. Now, consumers are able to trade-in their devices or signup for flexible phone programs, like our trade-in program, or T-Mobile’s JUMP program. These options are not only enabling customers to trade-in their unwanted devices for cash, but are maximizing the value of the service plans in the long haul.

Predicting the Future

Mobile phone features will continue to expand, as will mobile phone freedom. Unlocked devices are becoming more popular due to the flexible nature -- making mobile users capable of pairing any service with an unlocked device.

In fact, FastCompany even predicts that soon everyone with unlocked phones will receive service through an app, letting people change their service/carrier based on their location each day. For example, maybe one day you have to take a work trip through a certain city; you know Verizon works better in this area than your typical, everyday AT&T service -- so you choose a day-pass or a monthly program that allows for the best service in that particular location. Europe is already ahead of the United States on this front.

While the idea that phone service plans will be accessible with the swipe of an app may be a long way off, it goes to show that the demand for a multitude of mobile phone options and flexible carrier plans isn’t going away. To mobile phone freedom, and beyond!