We previously published a series of tips for getting out your current cell phone contract -- without paying exorbitant termination fees -- and migrating to the (apparently) required 2-year contract with AT&T/Cingular required for iPhone purchase These pointers included roaming outside your network's coverage (more on this below), negotiating (good luck), and schlepping the contract off on a friend or family member (ugh).
Of these tactics, the most commonly successful is the first one mentioned: use loads of minutes while your phone is in "roaming mode" (utilizing another provider's network, which your provider in turn must pay for, dearly). In the old days, the consumer paid for roaming charges, but thanks to the announcement by one provider that it would no longer enforce roaming fees and a succeeding game of one-upmanship, none of the major providers now charge anything extra when you are outside their network, "roaming." Most plans are advertised with "no nationwide long-distance or roaming charges." (Cricket Communications is a notable exception, offering unlimited minutes on its own network with most plans, but only 200 roaming minutes with a US$60 per month plan).
Rather than pay for your roaming charges, providers will, generally, simply cancel your service. In fact, most have established the right to do so in their terms of service agreements. For instance, Sprint's PCS Terms of Service agreement states:
"Sprint may terminate service if (1) more than 800 minutes, (2) a majority of minutes or (3) a majority of data kilobytes in a given month are used while roaming. International calling, including in Canada and Mexico, is not included in roaming-included plans. Roaming usage may be invoiced after 30-60 days. Vision/Power Vision services and certain calling features (Voicemail, Caller ID, Call Waiting, etc.) may not be available in all roaming areas."
So there you have it -- roam perpetually. Go to a location where you will be roaming, then call a number you can hang on for hours (make sure to do it during off-peak hours or the weekend where you won't be charged for peak minutes if you have a limited-minute plan). Even better, if your plan has free mobile-to-mobile minutes, drive out to a roaming area and have a long chat. Make sure that your plan does not, in the odd case, charge you for roaming minutes..
But how do you know if you are roaming? Glad you asked. Generally, yourÂ phoneÂ will display an indicator. This varies by phone and services, but is sometimes a small "R," the word "Roaming" or some other small icon. Inspect your phone's user manual for exact instruction. (Verizon offers this "How-to" on its roaming indicators, while T-Mobile maintains instructions for determining roaming status on Sidekick models.)
A couple other tips from around the Web we noticed:
Calling your provider on a text message plan discrepancy (via Consumerist)
"Moving" (via Gizmodo)