Xfinity Mobile Review

Since I don’t have anything wise or profound to say about the pandemic, how about another (trivial?) money saving post? Nothing like documenting how to save a hundred (or more) dollars a month to ease the pain of huge investment losses and 20% unemployment…

 

I first blogged about my cell phone strategy about 3 years ago in this post: https://frugalprofessor.com/phones/. Coincidentally, David at OchoSinCoche wrote about his similar setup in this post today.

 

Since writing that post (and the decade prior), I had adhered to the following recipe to get ***almost*** free phone (cell & landline) service:

The old recipe:

  • Use Google Voice (free).
  • Use the cheapest prepaid plan I could find. Try to avoid making too many calls on the road (because I was paying by the minute).
  • Get free calls using this OBI device from home.
  • Avoid using data on the road (by turning data off and using offline features such as google maps, podcasts, etc).

In recent months, however, I’ve slightly changed the strategy.

The new recipe:

  • Use Google Voice (free).
  • Use the cheapest prepaid plan I could find. Try to avoid making too many calls on the road (because I was paying by the minute).
    • Use Xfinity mobile for free calling. No longer do I have to avoid making calls on the road. While walking (or biking) the dog, for example, I’ve found myself calling people more and listening to podcasts less.
  • Get free calls using this OBI device from home.
  • Avoid using data on the road (by turning data off and using offline features such as google maps, podcasts, etc).

As you can see, the only thing that changed is bullet point 2.

Even though I have joined the rest of the world with a “real phone plan”, I still use my GV number as my primary number. I still use GV constantly. I love having the option to text on a PC (I loathe texting on a phone; when I get a text, I sit down on a computer to compose the reply). And I love the voicemail transcription, spam filters, etc. I still use my landline through this device because it’s simple and good enough quality. I still turn off data because it’s almost completely unnecessary. I remain perplexed by people’s obsession with “needing” data.

 

What’s the deal with Xfinity Mobile?

I’d read about the introduction of this service a few years back. I didn’t get too excited about it at the time because:

  • I didn’t have Comcast in my area.
  • At the time, it required the purchase of exclusive fancy-pants phones which would have completely negated the cost savings relative to my almost free plan.

About a year ago an extended family member left Verizon for Xfinity mobile. A few months back, another extended family member joined. A couple of months back, Mrs FP and I joined their plan.

I have to say that I’m pretty impressed.

The good of Xfinity mobile:

  • Each Xfinity account can have up to 5 phones connected.
  • Free (unlimited) domestic calling/texting for all family members.
  • $12 per gig of shared data across all family members.
    • They give volume discounts like 3GB for $30/mo and 10GB for $60/mo, but I think the optimal thing to do is to do “by the gig” for $12/gig/month and simply use wifi.
  • Taxes seem reasonable-ish.
  • It uses Verizon’s network, which historically has been the best in the country (not sure if this is still the case nor do I particularly care to know).
  • They seem to have reasonable discounts if you buy a new phone with them if that’s your cup of tea (though surely you can do better on your own if you hunt for promotions). An extended family member recently got a respectable 22% discount on the newest iphone model.

The bad of Xfinity mobile:

  • You need to live in an area serviced by Comcast (unless you have extended family graciously willing to put you on their plan).
  • Not all phones are compatible (list of compatible phones here). Our slowly dying moto g’s were not compatible. However, our new fancy pants <$200 open-box Pixel 3a’s are, which is why we bought them.
  • If you use 1.01 GB of data, it’ll round up to 2GB of data; there is no partial charging of gigs of data.
  • From what I can tell, it USED to be the case that each family member got 100mb/month for free, opening the door for a free cell phone plan. However, this has recently changed as described here.
    • However, two other important changes will be made to accounts. First, our original pricing included a 100 MB per account data allowance for By the Gig customers. This data allowance will be eliminated. As a result, all customer accounts with By the Gig lines will pay a minimum of $12/mo associated with those lines. Even with that change, Xfinity Mobile pricing is still the lowest for customers who elect the By the Gig data option and do not use much data.
  • If you travel internationally extensively, you’d probably be better off using Google’s Project FI. A family member just traveled abroad using Xfinity Mobile and I understand it worked well, but there was a daily charge. If you do this enough, then Project FI becomes more economical.

 

Conclusion:

If you (or an extended family member) have Xfinity, I can’t think of a good reason to not sign up for Xfinity mobile. The only reason to not do so is if you find the $12/month + taxes fee offensive for up to 5 lines. In which case, you’d be better off with a $1/month prepaid plan through Tello like I’ve done for years.

 

Other notes:

You can activate in an Xfinity store or online. If you do so online they send you a sim card via mail.

 

Learn more:

 

Screenshots for the curious:


Billing cycle ends today. The 4 of us used less than a gig. Mrs FP and I jointly used 0.11GB, which is about 10X what I’m used to consuming in a given month. If I’m not mistaken, we were researching whether we should purchase fruit trees after seeing them at a Costco. These random internet queries at Costco constitute 95% of my typical data usage. I remain unsure why Costco doesn’t give us wifi like pretty much any other (inferior) retailer I can think of.

 

 


Without the iphone purchase, the monthly bill for the 4 of us is $12 (pre tax). With the purchase of a new iphone (extended family member), it works out to $49.50.

 

Digging into the $37.50 charge, it reflects a 22% discount off the face value of the iphone. Not too shabby.

 

 

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911 fees seem fairly reasonable???? It’s been 17 years since I had a “real” cell phone plan, but I seem to recall them being higher than $1/person.

 

 

 

COMPLETELY Superfluous Trip Down Memory Lane (Cell Phone Edition)

During the summer of 2003, between semesters at college, I took a job as a door-to-door salesman with a buddy from college. I sold Dish Network TV services in Indianapolis, IN.

Upon accepting the job, my manager walked us recruits to a t-mobile retailer and I picked out a Nokia 3310 and signed a 1-year contract like an idiot. I think I agreed to pay $40/month for the phone for a 500 min/month plan. One month I unknowingly exceeded my minutes and incurred $150 of overage fees. I think I wept when I found out.

The phone was beautifully ugly. The thing was notorious for slipping out of my pocket, so I bought a holster for it. If I stored the phone on the outside of my waistband, it would get caught on things and crash to the ground. So naturally I stored the phone on the inside of my waistband, which is how the phone earned its nickname “Crotch Phone.” I have a lot of good memories with that phone. Since Mrs FP and I are of the most socially awkward people on the planet, it is through text messages on this phone in which our courtship came to be and eventually turned into 15 years of marital bliss and almost a half dozen children. All because of “Crotch Phone.”

There were probably about 6 of us salespeople in our little door-to-door sales operation and we shared an apartment in Indianapolis. Since I was attending undergrad in the Mountain West, the job entailed moving across the country to the foreign landscape of the Midwest (a foreshadowing of my future life). Most of us salespeople didn’t own cars. Rather, we snagged a ride with our sales manager who would dump us off in random neighborhoods in the afternoon and pick us up in the evening after knocking doors for 6 hours. We would repeat the process daily for three months, making around $125 in commission per sale.

If you want to learn humility, I’d recommend a job as a door to door salesman. My most lasting memories from that summer:

  • During a violent thunderstorm in which the tornado sirens were blaring, an older lady let me into her home for shelter. I remain grateful for that act of kindness.
  • Having cops called on me for soliciting.
  • I learned to feed myself lunch for $2 at Wendy’s ($1 chili + $1 baked potato). There was no way I was spending more and negating the misery I was enduring. In recent years I’ve tried to replicate this $2 meal at Wendy’s but was disappointed to find out that both items have been kicked off their dollar menu.
    • I was a sucker for Arby’s 5 regular roast beef sandwiches for $5 and would occasionally do it during the promotional periods. I can’t remember if I’d split it with a coworker.
  • Since we were isolated in a strange land, we ended up joining a gym and I got the strongest I’ve been in my life. It was about a mile or two away so I’d jog there daily. I also swam daily.
    • Even though I knew Mrs FP before that summer, she didn’t notice me until after I returned from “the summer of buffness”. Unfortunately for me, the demands of a grueling undergrad in engineering kept me away from the gym so I quickly atrophied to my steady-state scrawniness while hunched over textbooks in the library and crunching away at my most prized possession, the cutting edge TI-89 graphing calculator.
  • After listening to my spiel, a recently bankrupt man agreed to try to sign up for the TV service. Due to his ruined credit, he and I were both unsure whether he’d pass the required credit check to get the service installed. Upon passing the credit test over the (crotch) phone, he laughed and jumped for joy. I jumped for joy as well…due to the joy of earning my commission.
  • I earned around $13k that summer which was more than enough to put myself through school the next year (TA jobs on campus helped pad the checking account as well. I TA’d a “numerical methods” class where we learned C++. I got to teach my own lab section. It was really rewarding work. One of my students went on to become the director of Tesla’s autopilot program. By extension, that means I basically authored Tesla’s autopilot software).
  • That summer I learned that our country is obsessed with television. It’s funny to see how much TV has changed over the past 17 years. Streaming, of course, has decimated the industry.

 

Photos

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A Wikipedia image of my first cell phone; the Nokia 3310. She was a beauty; same color as above. I loved the “snake” game that came installed on it. I wasted many hours of my life on that game.

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In my Dish Network uniform staking out my territory.

blankThe only photo I posses of “Crotch Phone” in the wild, before the era of us taking 100 pictures of ourselves (and our meals) per day. Also showcased is my life philosophy: take advantage of public bathroom amenities whenever available. This is in Victoria BC in the era of the 2005 Boeing internship (crotch phone still going strong 2 years later!).

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In going down memory lane I found this gem of a picture illustrating the squalor I lived in during undergrad with 5 other dudes (who remain lifelong friends). Favorite parts of this photo: 1.) Now extinct $11.99 Court Classic shoes from Costco; I came out of the womb a Costco fanatic….well before I procreated a million times. 2.) I purchased that hat at a thrift shop. It’s a picture of a baby with the words “Grandpa’s #1 Grandson.” The irony of a grandfather giving that custom-made hat to Goodwill and the fact that Goodwill deemed this hat re-sellable will always bring a smile to my face.

16 thoughts on “Xfinity Mobile Review”

  1. So at a minimum it’s $16/month for 5 people, and that’s assuming everyone has a compatible phone and agrees to use less than 1 GB of shared data?

    Being able to talk on the phone without wifi for unlimited minutes sounds nice, but at least for me I feel like it would be difficult to find 4 other people to buy in. As you mentioned, people love data.

    Reply
    • I think you’re right with the $16/month for 5 people. Relative to $1/month/person, it’s expensive. However, you get a lot of functionality with the $16.

      If I had comcast in my area, I’d eventually have 5 of us (two parents + 3 kids) on the same plan. Since I don’t, me and Mrs FP just joined an extended family member’s plan. The marginal cost of us joining is about $2/month in taxes given our near-zero data consumption.

      Reply
      • I see. I already have comcast for my internet right now (I hate them, but I’ve been able to get reasonable prices by wasting a few hours on the phone once a year). But I’m not sure I know a single family member or friend who would be willing to use only ~200mb of data. Oh well :/.

        Reply
        • I think comcast is evil as well. Seeing my folks bill in which they paid $10/month for a no longer used DVR rental for equipment from 10 years ago made my blood boil.

          I was living like a king using 50mb of data this month! It seriously felt reckless! It’s hard for me to comprehend why this is difficult for others to accomplish.

          If not for the problem of finding some similarly minded people to join you, it’s a great way to get your cell phone cost to about $3/month/person for unlimited calling.

          Reply
  2. Thanks for the shoutout.

    We use Comcast for internet but I find them frustrating enough that I prefer to not hand any more money over to them. One nice thing about Comcast service is that we can use Comcast WIFI on the go, as if it’s a data plan. So I can often use my GV on the go in most urban areas.

    Reply
    • I understand your perspective of not wanting to deal with comcast any more than you have to; however, their Xfinity mobile program has been really good to us. If you had compatible devices, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value proposition if you needed the unlimited calling/texting on the go (which you and I have proven is completely unnecessary since 2007).

      That said, I get with you wanting to stick to the status quo.

      Reply
  3. I love your original Google voice setup. It works better if you are single or don’t want to share a plan.

    For international travel I would recommend looking into eSim technology. With sites like https://esimdb.com/ you can find deals for downloadable sim cards (eSim).

    Reply
    • The original GV setup worked great for Mrs FP and myself for our entire married lives. David at OchoSinCoche is doing the same thing with his kids too. It’s the perfect cheapskate plan.

      Thanks for the eSim card link! I hadn’t heard of an eSim before. I’ll keep that in mind next time we travel abroad.

      Reply
  4. Re: “needing” data. I think I was the last 30+ human being to get a cell phone except for Russ. I would love to go back to a flip phone with no amenities–or no phone at all except we ditched our landline finally–except for GPS. I’ve thought about researching the cost of GPS-only, but then I start scrolling through Facebook or playing Free Fall 🙂 The one thing about data for me is that it makes it so convenient to document my observations of student teachers. It is a rare school that has a guest WiFi setting, and the time saved by typing up and email observation reports is worth it for me.

    Reply
    • Terri,

      You don’t need data to use GPS on a smartphone. Google “google maps offline” for information on how to do so. So you don’t need to pay for data to have GPS functionality. It works perfectly, with turn by turn navigation. The one downside is that it doesn’t have traffic info, but that’s really not a big deal. If you wanted that, you would just initiate the navigation from a wifi hotspot (like your home).

      Regarding making notes on the go, there is nothing preventing you from composing those emails using gmail (I have my university account linked to gmail so I get all of the functionality), and then hit “send” while offline. The next time you hit a wifi hotspot, all of your unsent messages will send at that time. So you’ve lost no functionality there by not paying for data (unless the delay from composition to wifi syncing is a problem).

      I’ve done this “no data” thing for about a decade now and I can tell you with complete confidence that it should work for 99% of people out there like you and me.

      Reply
  5. @FrugalProfessor,

    I pay more than you with T-Mobile, but I have no data caps. I’m currently paying $140-$150/mo for 7 lines + Netflix + Quibi. I could probably save a little with Spectrum/Comcast phone service +/- Mint Mobile, but I have received very good customer service from T-Mobile and don’t have to think about minutes, data, text even when travelling internationally. Very good deal. Not best deal, but could do far worse.

    Reply
    • I’m glad the t-mobile thing is working out for you and the gang.

      I admit that I tend to be pretty extreme with this cell phone stuff (claiming that most people should get phone service for almost free). The caveat with my approach is I use Wifi instead of data. In my personal life it isn’t a big adaptation/hassle, but for others it’s a bigger deal. It sounds like you guys use data so my approach isn’t particularly viable.

      Reply
  6. I’ve been waiting for this post since you last hinted at it a couple of months ago. I switched from Verizon to Spectrum Mobile (Which is the Charter cable version of Xfinity). We also don’t use that much data and the cheapest family plan for 4 lines after our employee discount was $108, add taxes & Verizon fees and it came out to be ~$125. We did get 2GB with rollover with it. But with Spectrum it’s $14 per line, including taxes and each lines gets 1GB that is shared. So for it comes out to be $56 flat every month with 4GB shared between the lines. Not as nice as Xfinity but I’ll take it.

    Reply
    • Not too shabby! Congrats on getting your bill down to $56!

      What I love about optimizing my finances is, once the initial work is done up front, you’ll have decades of downstream benefits to enjoy with no added work. I feel the same way about credit card rewards, successfully haggling my internet price to $30, finding the best insurers I could find, setting up my TV antenna with Plex DVR, etc. A little up front work pays huge dividends down the road.

      Reply
  7. I’m almost ashamed to say that we pay a little over $300/month for 4 lines and phones. It’s ridiculous. Everyone wanted the luxury of the lastest phones😡.
    I’ve used GV since it’s inception and love it. Right now we’re waiting for our contract to be up in September so we can buy out our phones and switch to Xfinity mobile.
    Thank you for your post to support the switch!

    Reply
    • Sandra,

      Happy to help. $300/month * 12 = $3,600/year. Over a ten year period with interest, that’s a nice chunk of change you’ll now be able to reallocate to savings or paying down debt.

      Once you experience life without a phone (or TV or car) bill, you’ll never go back. It’s incredibly liberating.

      Reply

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