Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans: A Buyer’s Guide

Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans: A Buyer’s Guide

Many of the best pre-paid cell phone plans come with no contracts, and are continuing to gain in popularity, with major cell phone carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T noting their first declines in contract-based plans in early 2012. Pre-paid plans are great for professionals, families and kids as they allow you to pay for the services you use and avoid for paying for extra features you don’t.  But there are hidden fees and technological limitations to many pre-paid plans, so here are several things to consider to know if prepaid is the way to go for you.

Advantages of pre-paid plans:

  • No chance of crazy overages.  You’re only on the hook for what you paid for, and after that you can’t exceed your limits.  If self-discipline is a problem for you or your kids,  pre-paid is a great way to ensure they don’t use more than they can.
  • No contracts on pre-paid plans ,make them a perfect option for short-term usage.  Whether you’re on an extended business trip, a vacation or are potentially between phones, pre-paid is the perfect solution if you only need a phone for a few weeks or months.
  • Prepaid phones also provide a good test of usage habits before locking into long term plan.  If you’re scared of making a commitment to a two-year contract because you just don’t know how much texting or calling you really want to do, prepaid can provide a nice test run as you settle on a more permanent option.

Disadvantage of pre-paid plans:

  • Hidden Fees can surprise you.  While you may think you’re getting a certain number of minutes for what you spent, carriers sometimes charge daily access fees that can quickly add up.
  • You can lose your minutes.  You paid for them, so you better hope you use them.  Without rollover solutions, you may end up paying for more minutes than you actually use.
  • Prepaid plans often only provide the most basic phones.  If you want the latest and coolest smartphones and gadgets, you’re likely out of luck if you are using prepaid plans.  Although there are some nice phones to be had that may seem a bit outdated but still powerful, they are not the top of the line versions.
  • No ability to transfer phone number after your prepaid service.  Prepaid numbers stay with the prepaid service, so if after a couple months you decide to switch to a plan with a two-year contract, you’ll likely need to get a new phone number.

If you’re interested in the different prepaid cell phone plans available, here’s an overview of some of the most popular:

Virgin Mobile – Plans start as low as $35 a month with unlimited data and messaging on all their offerings.  For more money, you can get more voice minutes. 

Cricket – Buy an inexpensive phone and pair it with their plan. Cricket also highlights their Muve Music library and includes downloads and music playback as a key feature of their service.

Metro PCS – Offering unlimited plans along with the ability to keep your number, offers plans by the minute, by the week or by the month, and can cost anywhere from around $40 to $70 per month.

Verizon Wireless – Offering $50 a month plans for basic phones and $80 a month plans for smartphones, Verizon is trying to capture pre-paid customers who are balking at two-year contracts.

US Cellular – US Cellular offers standard and prepaid plans, but is only available in certain parts of the country.  For only $10 per month, you can get a voice only plan, or upgrade to as much as $70 per month to get unlimited data and messaging.

AT&T GoPhone – With a ton of different pricing options, GoPhone lets you pay $50 for an unlimited plan, or a $2 daily rate that allows unlimited calls and texting only on the days you use it. 

Most-Anticipated Video Games: 2012 and 2013

Most-Anticipated Video Games: 2012 and 2013

Given the rapid expansion of the casual and mobile games market, some gaming veterans feel like the days of the big-budget blockbuster video game is rapidly drawing to a close. That’s simply not the case, and a quick glance over the best video games of 2012 and 2013 should quell any fears that games produced by big teams will be slashed and burned to make more room for FarmVille.

Granted, not all of these games are yet available, though they’re certainly among the most promising games of the coming year and beyond. This current generation of consoles (including the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii) may be on its way out, but it’s not lacking for awesome options that (from this angle) catch the eye thanks to stunning previews and presentation.

Among the best games of 2012 and 2013 are:  

BioShock Infinite (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC) – BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter that takes the player from the undersea city of Rapture to a floating steampunk-inspired city that bounds among the clouds. It’s certainly one of 2013’s most anticipated titles, and given its pedigree, that’s no surprise. The first BioShock still stands as a prime example of how to thread a compelling story through an action game. Release Date: February 2013

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – One thing is certain about Revengeance: with a name like that, you know you’re in for something different. Most games produced by famed industry professional Hideo Kojima are notable for their grand scope, and this upcoming military-themed action game appears to be no different. We’re talking about a cyborg hero who wields an epic katana and shoves it in the face of everything that moves. Metal Gear games are typically focused on stealth: Revengeance is pretty much the opposite of everything subtle. Release Date: Q4 2012

The Last Guardian (PlayStation 3) – Oh, Last Guardian. This action-adventure-puzzle game from the makers of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus has teased us since its initial reveal at E3 2009. We know almost nothing about it, except that the team behind it has produced some of the most heartfelt and stunning games that have ever existed, and given the chemistry that’s already apparent between the boy and the baby monster he commands in-game, this seems no different. Release Date: Q4 2012 (Subject to Delay)

Assassin’s Creed 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, WiiU) – When a numbered Assassin’s Creed game hits the news (as opposed to yet another spin-off), everybody sits up and takes notice. Assassin’s Creed 3 generated some extra buzz thanks to its unique historical setting: Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. The same open-world stealth-action that the series is acclaimed applies, which means a whole lot of exploration, hunting, and, of course, killing. Release Date: October 2012  

Xenoblade (Wii) – Xenoblade only hit North America this year, and its action role-playing formula is unique, fast-paced, and helps to tell an involved and detailed story. It’s arguably one of the best role-playing games for fantasy fans available in this console generation, but given the Wii’s lack of vitality, it’s in danger of being overlooked. If you’re a fan of swords and sorcery, don’t miss it! Available Now

For more nominees for the best games of 2012, take a look at :

The 25 Best Xbox 360 Games of 2012 at ComputerAndVideoGames

Top Games of 2012 (And Beyond) at 1UP

The Best PC Games of 2012 at PC Gamer

Streaming Music Services: Which Rock?

Streaming Music Services: Which Rock?

Music is the primal (and thoroughly awesome) force that moves us all, and the Internet has substantially changed the way we listen to the songs we love. Did you know that there are several music streaming services online? Better still, several of the best streaming music services are free to use, and they let you listen to select songs from your favorite artists, albums and genres, hassle-free.

The services typically vary in function. While some will analyze your favorite music and use those tracks to recommend new artists and albums, others provide a variety of preset channels to pick from, and a compelling mix of sports, commentary, and even live events. Still others let you upload your music collection to the web so you can access it from any computer. All of them are web-based, but many are available as apps as well.

If there’s one drawback to these digital services, it’s that they require an online connection to work fully. In other words, if there’s a blackout, good-bye musical distraction. Still, it’s a great way to connect with like-minded fans, and/or simply space out to your own personal Top 10 lists.

Following are five of the best music streaming services that you can listen to on-demand at home or work:

PandoraPandora is a front-end for the Music Genome Project, which is a massive effort to “capture the essence of music at a fundamental level” by using algorithms to  brew up recommendations for listeners. In other words, Pandora’s online radio service turns up recommendations that are “genetically” linked to your favorite songs. As such, Pandora is an excellent music streaming service if you’re in the mood to expand your listening. It has some shortcomings, however: The free version of the service only allows for 40 hours of listening a week, and it’s only available in the United States.

Last.fmLike Pandora, Last.fm is something of a frontrunner in the realm of music streaming. It also gives you recommendations based on your favorite listening selections, and lets you build playlists. The site is loaded with social networking options, which has helped build a rich and busy community around the service. Last.fm is a great choice if you’re looking to share your musical interests with your pals.

GroovesharkIts name might bring up a mental image of the mellowest killer in the sea, but Grooveshark is actually one of the most popular music streaming services on the Internet, thanks to its ease of use. Unlike other services, you don’t need to sign up for a subscription: You simply dive right into the site and begin building a playlist. If you’re at a loss to find anything you like, you can even upload your own music collection to help build up the Grooveshark database.

SpotifySpotify is an excellent streaming service that lets you share your playlists with ease. Premium users can access an offline mode to store music locally. The service recently launched in the United States, and is also available in much of Europe and the UK. Sorry, Canadians. It’s quickly risen to become the most prominent of the streaming music services, at least from the standpoint of awareness and media coverage, even if Pandora has it beat in terms of ubiquity on connected devices such as WiFi-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players.

Slacker RadioYou should check out Slacker Radio—and don’t come back with a response like, “Ehhh, maybe later.” Slacker Radio has great audio quality, and tons of customization options. That’s worth getting up off the couch for, right? But don’t believe us: Take it from top critics, who continually label it as a favorite pick on their best-of lists.

For more about the best music streaming services on the Internet, visit:

The Best Streaming Music Services at PC Mag

The Five Best Music Streaming Services at LifeHacker

Top 5 On Demand Music Streaming Services at VentureBeat