I have no special allegiance to any phone carrier; I go wherever I can get the best deal. And it's starting to look like I'll be going to Mint SIM.
The carrier, a spin-off of Ultra Mobile, arrived in August with an interesting proposition: dirt-cheap rates, but you have to prepay a year at a time.
Today, Mint SIM lowered those rates even further and set up an introductory offer for folks who want to try the service before committing to an entire year: Three months for $35, which works out to $11.67 per month. That's for a plan with unlimited talk and text messages and 2GB of LTE data. (If you use up your 2GB, you still get unlimited data, just throttled. In other words, the usual deal.)
Most of the uber-cheap carriers (FreedomPop, RingPlus) tap Sprint's network (which, in my neck of the woods, is terrible) and limit you to CDMA phones. Mint SIM uses T-Mobile and therefore works with any unlocked GSM phone.
There's no contract, of course, nor an activation fee. Assuming you're bringing your own phone (Mint SIM sells handsets, but not discounted), the company will send you a SIM card for free -- though you'll have to pay a few bucks for shipping and a regulatory fee. So plan on a grand total of about $40 to get you set for that three months of service.
If you decide to keep going, Mint SIM offers some of the best rates anywhere. That same "Small" plan (2GB of data) costs $199 for one year -- an effective rate of just $16.58 per month. Previously that same plan was $250.
Need more data? The Medium plan comes with 5GB for $299, which works out to $24.92 per month. To put that in some perspective, Cricket Wireless is currently charging me $35 monthly -- $420 annually -- for a 2.5GB plan. And according to a Mint SIM company rep, all plans do allow you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot -- something you can't do with Cricket's lower-tier plans. Update: This requires clarification. Android users can use the mobile hotspot feature normally, but iOS limits you to Bluetooth connections and only one device at a time. What's more, visual voicemail is not supported.
Now for the potential deal-breakers: Mint SIM offers no family plans, and there are no refunds if you cancel your service. If you find a better deal elsewhere and decide to switch, you'll forfeit your remaining balance.
Ah, but you know what they say about a bird in the hand -- in this case a killer deal in the hand. Assuming you can afford the up-front payment, you won't have to think about your phone bill again for an entire year. And that's mighty sweet.