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How a free phone stole hours of my life

A while back I participated in a hackathon of sorts around writing windows 8 apps using javascript. It was actually straightforward, and you can read more about it here. I cranked out 3 apps, and received a nice Nokia Lumia 820.

I’m an iOS user/dev (among other things), and I’m still on contract, but my daughter isn’t, thus began my search for a plan that makes sense for her.
She had been using Kajeet, which provides good draconian parental control, but her phone is an ancient refurb android set from back in the day, with zero battery life.

What a mess

tl;dr: Bring your own phone / contract free is a great idea, but is entirely unfriendly to humans. Data, texting, international, and calling are all wildly inconsistent in pricing.

I scoured the internet for plans matching my apparently not so simple criteria: - She needs very little voice calling - She wants unlimited texting - She occasionally wants internet, but not much - The phone has to work on the network. I’ts a quad band gsm phone, so ATT or Tmobile or their MVNOs - The phone uses micro sims. I’m not buyin a sim cutter.

I spent hours looking for something suitable. She doesn’t need an unlimited plan,

My first attempt was to use ultra but their registration process was horrid. I visited every compatible carrier or MVNO listed on wikipedia I finally decided on T-mobile’s prepaid 5 GB / mo , unlimited texts and 100 minutes of calling. She doesn’t need the data, but it’s the simplest plan at that price point that included some data.