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Help me pick my first real cell phone

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I have been using a trac phone for years but I might want to upgrade to a smart phone. Like canoes, there are many to chose from and finding the right one for your wants and needs can be difficult for a newbie.
1. I never call anyone, not even my wife, and no one calls me so I don’t need a lot of minutes, if that is even an issue anymore.
2. I like cell phone maps, on x hunt app, and camera. I don’t own a GPS.
3. Water resistant, or something that is tougher than average.
4. I don’t want to lay out a lot of cash up front. My wife has a cell phone so I don’t need a two for plan.
5. I want to have something good for traveling, US and Canada friendly, I live in Maine.
6. I don’t need the latest release, any reliable phone with a reasonable price tag will be good, as long as it can handle #’s 2,3 and 4.

Thanks for any ideas
 
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I finally upgraded to a smartphone a couple years ago. I got a Samsung A20 with an Otter Box case, which helps with fall protection and some degree of water resistance. Doing a lot of physical activities (mechanic, sawmill, outdoorsy stuff) I was worried about it but so far so good, no cracked screen or other issues. I'm happy with it.

The phone was cheap compared to a lot of the other options. I got it from Republic Wireless, which is the carrier I switched to. I pay yearly instead of monthly and the plan cost is $150/year. That's unlimited talk and text but no data at all. I use wi-fi for internet when it's available. Data is offered on other plans but I don't know the cost or options.

I'm not saying that's the best phone or the best carrier, just saying what's worked for me. I haven't done any travel to Canada since making the switch.

Alan
 
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I can only share my experience. I have Google's Pixel 5a, I think 3rd Google phone. Unlimited text and data - needed for maps among many things - from T-Mobile for $50/month over 55 plan. Very happy with phone and plan. Free Canada and I think Mexico. I rarely use my lap top anymore.
 
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There is the phone then there is your provider . Verizon seems to have the most coverage in rural areas but I am no expert
I have had I phones forever I think Androids are fine and IMO my hubbys android takes better pix than the I phone 11 I have
I think I phones are overpriced.
I have an unlimited plan as we travel snd Google maps gets a workout Its also a data hog. But we can cut back at home to a basic data plan
I think the topo apps you can get for use offline and out of cell phone range come in both Apple and Android form
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I've had Tracfone service on four phones, two cheap LG feature phones and two Motorola smartphones. You can put almost any smart phone onto a Tracfone plan. You can either buy your own smartphone from any source, or buy it from Tracfone, or buy a Tracfone bundle of phone+service very inexpensively from shopping channels such as HSN and QVC.



My wife purchased a Motorola Moto G Play smartphone plus 1500 Tracfone minutes, texts, data for about $85. This is less than buying 1500 Tracfone minutes all alone. You can add to these minutes whatever minutes you can roll over from your previous Tracfone. Deals change frequently on HSN and QVC. You can also usually get 10% to 15% off bonus as a first time buyer.

That particular Motorola phone isn't waterproof (you have to go to expensive phones to get that), but it's easy to get an inexpensive waterproof case to attach to your PFD or whatever. Here are two of the cases I've used for different size phones.

Waterproof phone cases.jpg

The only thing I'm not sure about with Tracfone is whether you can make a call from Canada to the U.S. Sometimes that requires a different SIM card. You'd have to research that.

I just purchased my third smartphone, a Google Pixel 5a for $9 a month for 24 months. To get this deal, you have to get a cell service plan from Google Fi, which is $20 a month for their no data plan. (You pay for data at $10 per gigabyte if you do use any data.) Google Fi also has more expensive monthly plans that include data. Don't know if Google Fi still has this $9/month purchase deal going on the 5a. .

I hardly ever make calls, have texted less than 100 times in seven years of smartphone ownership, and rarely use data. Make sure you go on a service plan that has a strong signal at home or where you usually are. The Google Fi service will automatically switch to the strongest carrier wherever your phone goes, as between T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Sprint towers. Most plans lock you into one carrier. Google Fi does allow you to call from and to dozens of countries as part of their plan, so it's highly recommended for international travelers.

If you use smartphone features as infrequently as I do, it makes no sense to me to buy an expensive phone or expensive monthly service.
 

Zac

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I've ran Samsung Galaxy phones for years. Nowadays the company buys me the flagship S series every couple of years but if it didn't I would have an A series like Alan which do pretty much everything that the flagship models from a couple of years ago do. You can save even more money with a 'refurbished' or 'renewed' model but pay close attention to the warranty and return policy so you can send it back for another if something isn't functioning properly. You'll absolutely want to buy a decent case. Most "active" models just have the case built-in so there's not much advantage compared to the regular model in a quality case IMO. Some models have IP65 or better ratings but I don't trust them after the first couple weeks (see below). Most retail stores mark up the cases quite a bit; better prices can be found online. I use quality 'screen protectors' as well which are basically just stickers to keep sandy fingers from scratching the glass. Even with my 'waterproof' S-series in a premium otter box or lifeproof case I still put in a small waterpoof tackle box while on the water, the type with wide, blue, cam-action latches on 3 sides and a continuous O-ring. I'm not sure which model mine is but it fits my S10 with it's big case and a pack of smokes which keep it from rattling around in the box. I've carried a cell phone 99% of the time when paddling in the last few years and the only time I've had a problem is when I thought I'd take it out of the plano box and try and take a video of some large standing waves at the bottom of a rapid.

I can't comment much on carriers. I've had Verizon for 15 years with no complaints other than the high bills. I've never travelled internationally with them but in the rural upper midwest they do pretty well.
 
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I have an iPhone se. I need all the bells and whistles because of my work. The iPhones are now all waterproof. You need a case to protect against drops. The camera is excellent. Otterbox makes excellent inexpensive cases.

The only carrier that covers my area, even with a booster, is Verizon. They are very expensive. They do cover Canada, although I did have to buy some special package; but it wasn’t much, and I could purchase by the minute or by the day.

If you pay your cell phone bill with the REI MasterCard, REI pays for the insurance.

I have an old iPhone 6s I’ll give you. I may even have an iPhone 8 hanging around, that I could give you. The 6s I think only works with Verizon, but the 8 will work with any carrier, if I indeed still have it. I may have done something with it already.
 
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Just an addendum While phones may be waterproof now they dont float
Get a dry case with adequate flotation
Lanyards too are a big help
TRUE. A buddy of mine likes to dive rivers and finds all sorts of things, tablets, phones, sunglasses, engagement rings… sometimes the iPhones still work.

For the OP, I’d be a terrible source of info. We have 3 adults on our plan, unlimited talk/text and data. I like iPhones. I am morally and adamantly opposed to anything involving google, so no android phones for me. Our plan costs too much.

But, I don’t have a laptop or PC. I even file my taxes on my phone. I keep it as lean as possible, no extraneous apps. Some apps that I use occasionally I offload when they’re not needed. All apps are dataminers. Everything gathers your data for the express purpose of selling it and selling you things. If you don’t NEED a smartphone, do yourself a favor and don’t get hooked!
 
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SO many choices out there but (I think) about any of them should work with your trac phone plan if you've had sufficient coverage in the past. I'm not big on locking myself into plans so I buy unlocked androids for cash and swap the sim cards.

Currently I have a Motorola G7 Power. Seems like it's all battery... weighs about double what everyone else's phone does but takes great pictures, runs all the navigational apps I want and the battery lasts about 3 days for me (moderate usage).

Get an impact resistant case and one of the waterproof cases that Glenn has. You should still be able to operate the touch screen without opening the case and most have floatation built in (as well as a lanyard).
 
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Thanks for all the great responses, a lot of helpful information. I'm not sure what I'll do at this point, but I will weigh each response and try to come up with a decent plan.
Thanks Erica for that generous offer, I'll let you know.
 
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Don't know much about smart phones. I just get whatever my son tells me to. But I do buy via gizmotrader for their pricing.
 
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Well, if you’re going to use maps for traveling, you’ll need plenty of data (different than minutes). My data is on the low end, but it rolls over from the last month. I don’t leave data turned on because it will be used by apps in the background updating and tracking. Minutes and data are different, and not tied to your device choice. Make sure your plan accommodates your needs. The iPhones are pretty indestructible. I swam with mine once and after a few days in minute rice, it was ready to go. Use a dry bag when paddling. Good luck.
 
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I've previously used SmartTalk as a cell plan and got along fine with them. The claim was that they used Verizon's network so you got the same coverage from them you'd get with Verizon. I have no idea if that's true, false, or somewhere in the middle. Maybe something to look into though.
Our local Verizon store is abominable, which is what prompted me to switch to SmartTalk. I signed up online but Wal-mart sells (or at least used to) their plans if you wanted to do it in person. But I don't like going to Wal-Mart much more than I liked going to the Verizon store. :)

Alan
 
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I have put up with Trac phone for years and was surprised at the service and phones available when upgrading because of the 3g being shut down. I then learned that Verizon bought Trac Phone a few months ago. Very good experience compared to the old days with Trac Phone. Very cheap like $10 a month for a basic plan and the phone was free.
 
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Well, I ended up going with Verizon via the local Verizon store. I tried to get the plan Glenn mentioned but they said I wouldn't have coverage at my zip code.

So I went to the Verizon store but I kept thinking about Alan and his bad vibes about the place...well, it was pretty painless. I ended up with a nice phone (Samsung Galaxy A12) for $226 plus $37 for a case, and a plan that starts at $40 a month and goes to $25 a month after 9 months with 5gb a month of data. I can upgrade for $10 a month to 15gb if needed. It can work in Canada, I just need to read up on the specs.

Thanks to all those who took the time to answer my query, very helpful.
 
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