The hacked cell phone plan

Posted by amcink November 9, 2015 15 Comments 10967 views

How does a $22/mo. cell phone plan sound? One with unlimited talk, texting and 1 GB of mobile data? How about if this fabled plan let you bump up to up to 5 GB of data, just on those months that you really needed it, for another $20 and without penalties?

It’s not impossible. In fact, I’ve been doing it for a few months now and I’ve found the small sacrifices I’ve had to make and the learning curve to be totally worth it.

Here’s the formula: Bell Flex Plan for Tablets + Fongo + Google’s Hangouts Dialer = everything you need.

We’ll break down what you need, where you’ll get it and what it’ll cost you along the way.

The closest thing Canadians have to an innovative cell phone plan is this. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a roll-your-own solution. None of it is what we’d describe as being particularly complicated or difficult, though.

Get the Bell Flex Plan (ostensibly) for Tablets

  • Get a Bell “NFC Multi SIM Card” ($9.95) at the Bell store. Don’t buy a different SIM and don’t bother trying to buy online. If you can’t get to a store, open an online chat or call customer service). Sign up for the “Bell Flex Plan for Tablets” in store*.
  • Break out the appropriate SIM card size for your your phone.
  • Pay $5/mo. for up to 10 MB of mobile data (basically, a keep-alive fee).
  • When you exceed 10 MB, the plan levels up to $20 for up to 1 GB of LTE data.
  • If you exceed 1 GB, pay $40 for the month for up to 5 GB.
  • Each month, the cycle begins anew.

Total cost: $20/mo. (+taxes) for 1 GB of LTE

*The Bell rep may want to see your tablet to make sure it’s going to work. To simplify this transaction, just tell the person in the store that you have a Samsung Galaxy Tab at home and that you’ve already run the IMEI to confirm it’s compatible, but that the web site wouldn’t allow you to complete the SIM card purchase.

Get the Fongo app

This app takes care of all your voice calls. You can even move your main mobile number over for a one time $25 fee. You don’t have to if you don’t need to. Fongo will assign you a local number

With Fongo (Android | iOS | BlackBerry), calls to most of Canada are free (full list). All incoming calls are free. Incoming text messages are free.

Grab a monthly Fongo texting package in order to send outgoing text messages. If you go month to month, you’ll pay $2.29/mo. You can also save a bit of money by buying in bulk: Six months of unlimited texting goes for $9.99.

You can opt to buy international calling credit for placing call the areas of Canada that aren’t free (think territories) and numbers outside Canada at Fongo’s international rates.

Total cost: $1.67/ mo. for unlimited texting ($9.99 / 6 mo.)

Get the Hangouts Dialer app

To place calls to US numbers or the parts of Canada not covered in Fongo’s free calling areas, grab the free Hangouts Dialer app for Android or Hangouts for iOS.

The only downside here is that you won’t be calling from your main mobile number.

If calling from your main mobile number is important to you, the aforementioned Fongo international calling credit is what you need. Calls to the US cost $0.02/min plus Fongo’s standard $0.04 initial connection fee. Calls elsewhere are subject to Fongo international rates.

The phone you already own

There’s a good chance your phone will work with the Bell LTE SIM. We’ll post soon on how to determine if your phone will work on a given network but in short:

  • Open your phone’s dialer. Hit *#06#.
  • Take the IMEI number that appears and input it here.

Total startup cost of the hack plan

$10 – Bell LTE SIM card purchase
$25 – Fongo number port (optional if you don’t care about keeping your current number)
Total startup cost: $35

Total monthly cost of the hack plan

Assuming you stay below 1 GB of mobile data usage, your monthly cost looks something like this:
$20 – Bell Flex Plan for Tablets (up to 1 GB of mobile data
$1.67 – 1 month Fongo outgoing texting package ($9.99/ 6 mo.)

Total: $21.67/mo. + optional extras like international calling and non-optional extras like applicable taxes and regulatory fees.

Take a trial run

See if you can live with using the Fongo phone dialer instead of your phone’s native dialer. See if you can deal with Fongo’s circa-2010 text messaging interface. Trying Fongo is free and you can use it alongside your existing cell phone plan while you’re test driving.

If you feel like the sacrifices are worth the drastically reduced bill, you can choose to port your number (or not), cancel your current service, grab a Bell Flex Plan for Tablets and save a bunch of money each month.

There are 15 Comments

  1. darryl
    - November 13, 2015
      -   Reply

    Excellent post! May be worth noting that the same plans are available from both Rogers and Fido as well…

    • amcink
      - November 13, 2015
        -   Reply

      Thanks for mentioning it. I haven’t looked into variations on the data-only plan from the other carriers recently but in looking around a while back, they all seemed to require that a person be an existing cell service customer. The tablet plans I recall seeing (before this one) were designed for adding a data-enabled tablet to your existing mobile plan.

      Anyway, I guess I’m not surprised that the other carriers would follow suit. I talk about that phenomena in this post: http://hacktheplan.net/2015/10/27/choose-a-data-only-cell-phone-plan-to-save-big-on-your-mobile-bill/

      • jm1010
        - September 9, 2016
          -   Reply

        Hey would this work with the Bell share everything plan? Cost only $5 to share my plan data with a tablet. I know it defeats the purpose of keeping the cell plan but we’d use it for a 2nd phone.

        • amcink
          - October 14, 2016
            -   Reply

          Apologies for the late reply. Personal stuff…

          I can’t see why it wouldn’t work… and it’s a great idea! The Share Everything deal gives you an active data-only SIM. There’s nothing that would stop said SIM from working in a phone.

          My reply is so late you may have already figured this out for yourself! Apologies again.

  2. - June 15, 2016
      -   Reply

    Sorry Fongo but there’s a better way to do this type of thing that will only cost you the data costs, and no other apps to download – it’s called FreeTone! One Number, Free Calling/Texting, CDN or USA number. Voicemail/CD/3-Way etc..

    https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/freetone-free-calls-texting/id338088432

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.textmeinc.freetone&hl=en

    • Cody Williams
      - August 10, 2016
        -   Reply

      Sorry dude that is one ugly UI, and don’t like. full screen ads too.

      • Colton
        - August 10, 2016
          -   Reply

        Well what do you expect for free calling/texting to 40 countries?

        • Cody Williams
          - August 11, 2016
            -   Reply

          What would the UI have to do with that?
          Nite: not dissing the service, only the UI and fill screen ads you are forced to close. To each their own, (and only in my opinion) full ads detested while smaller banner ads more accepted by most.

  3. justrajdeep
    - June 15, 2016
      -   Reply

    Hi
    I have been using the same setup for almost 2 months now.

    Couple of additions
    1. Hangouts can actually display your number, you just need to enable it
    2. It might be worthwhile to buy Hangout credits as call rates are cheaper than Fongo call rates
    3. you can cancel the bell plan without any hiccups by just giving them a call, it does not come with any contract.

    The only downside i found was
    1. if my phone is switched off people calling me hear my phone ring and i receive no notification whatsoever
    2. you cannot sms anyone who is not in US & Canada, with whatsapp you hardly SMS but still thats a bummer
    3. you cannot receive incoming SMS unless you buy the SMS pack from FONGO, incoming sms should be free.
    4. I did not know the sim card type you have mentioned, the bell store charged me $25 for the sim card

  4. Garret
    - June 16, 2016
      -   Reply

    I have been doing the same thing, but with Sasktel. My tablet plan is 38.50 tax in, which gives me 5 GB of data per month. I do however just use the Fongo calling as I don’t really call out that much. I believe that in the five months that I have been using Fongo I have used just over five dollars worth of calling. Comparing this to my old cell phone bill is still crazy. Thanks again for the amazing app Fongo!!!

  5. Ryan
    - June 16, 2016
      -   Reply

    Been doing this exact thing for a free years now, except with a telus tablet plan. My average phone bill is $11 a month

  6. Cody Williams
    - August 10, 2016
      -   Reply

    Google hangouts dialer now can use your fongo number as caller ID.

  7. Neil Hajhassan
    - November 1, 2016
      -   Reply

    Fido has a plan right now which gives you upto 3 GB for $15. The only hitch is that you have to get a tablet on a ‘tab’ with it which is an addition $10/mth.

    Not bad though, I got the tablet with my remaining fido dollars.

    • amcink
      - November 7, 2016
        -   Reply

      If someone was in the market for a tablet already, I’d say that’s a pretty good deal. It’s a promotional offer with no detail on expiration but anyone interested can take a look at Fido’s tablets page to see if the deal is still on.

      Screenshot of Fido $15 / 3GB data plan.

  8. Bob Tennent
    - December 26, 2016
      -   Reply

    I’ve been using Talkatone as the phone-replacement app. Free phone number, free calling to US or Canada, free SMS/MMS. A one-time charge to turn off ads.

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