If you’re considering getting a new iPhone or other smartphone, you may also be considering a new cell phone plan. Owners of smartphones may not be aware of this, but you can actually use a smartphone as a phone. That’s right, it’s not just for apps!
When you sign up for a cell phone plan, you choose lots of options, like voice minutes, data and text messages. Voice minutes, a/k/a how much time you talk on the phone, may be the least of your concerns as you debate which data plan you want and whether you need unlimited text messages. Many people underestimate the number of voice minutes they need, thinking they will use free night and weekend minutes or free mobile-to-mobile minutes, available with many plans. They sign up for only a few hundred minutes in their plan, figuring the money they save on their minutes can be better spent towards a data or text plan.
But then they get in the habit of using their cell phone instead of their home phone, or they travel, or they spend a long time on hold calling a 1-800 number. The next thing they know, they get a cell phone bill that resembles their mortgage payment.
Back in April I wrote about tracking your data in Mind the Cap! Tracking your voice minutes is important as well. You can track your minutes by going to your carrier’s website and logging into your account. You can also download apps that will tell you how many minutes you have used. Using these tools can help you avoid nasty surprises at the end of the month.
Many iPhone apps will track your minutes, but an iPhone app called VoiceMan will alert you when you are nearing your voice minute limit. You can set up to four alerts at different intervals (50%, 60%, etc.) to warn you of how close you are to going over your limit. You can also set the number of monthly minutes in your plan and whether you have free nights and weekend minutes. (Note that there is no setting to exclude mobile-to-mobile minutes.)
VoiceMan gives you the option to use Location Services so you can track where you are when you are talking on the phone, but this feature can drain your battery, so use it only when you need to.
VoiceMan is available for iPhone in the iTunes App Store for $3.99: VoiceMan for iPhone.
(The developer provided me with a promo code to test this app.)
If you want to keep track of your voice minutes on your Android phone, two apps in the Android Market can help you, Droid Stats and Stats Free. Both apps are free and monitor voice minutes, data and text messages, though neither one gives you alerts like the VoiceMan app does for the iPhone. Reviews are mixed about the accuracy of these two apps, based upon the model of Android phone being used, so try out each one to see which is best for your phone.
myATT will let you monitor your voice minutes, text messages and data usage for the month from your smartphone. You can also keep track of your Rollover Minutes with this app. The App has a Notifications feature on the iPhone, but it notifies you when you receive a bill, not when you go over your plan.
My Verizon Mobile
My Verizon Mobile lets you monitor your voice, data and text message usage for your Verizon Mobile account from your smartphone. Check out the app for iPhones in the iTunes App Store here: My Verizon Mobile for iPhone. The app is also available in the Android Market here: My Verizon Mobile for Android.
Exceeding your voice minutes can be very expensive. To avoid surprises on your cell phone bill and save money by staying within your limits, check out these apps.
Have you ever gone over your limit with voice minutes? Have you been surprised by a cell phone bill that made you want to never talk on your cell phone again? Let us know in the Comments section below!
* Image by Judith