Cell Service Is Expensive. This Guy Only Pays $24/Month for His Smartphone

David Edwards of Seminole, Fla., uses the smart phone he recently got when he switched over to Twigby from Verizon.Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
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Like everyone else, David Edwards has a cell phone. And like everyone else, cell phone bills were bleeding him dry.

“I was with Verizon for many years. I got tired of paying $185 a month for three lines, and I didn’t even have a smartphone,” said Edwards, a 55-year-old marine science technician who lives in Seminole, Florida.

Then his 27-year-old son told him about Twigby. Edwards made the switch and started saving a ton on his phone bill.

Now, he’s paying $24 a month for his single line. He can hardly believe it.

“So far, so good,” Edwards said, wrapping up his third month with Twigby. “I’m really happy with it.”

What is Twigby, exactly?

It’s a discount wireless carrier that’s making a splash in the incredibly competitive world of low-cost, no-contract cell phone service.

If you’re a company intent on surviving in that ultra-competitive business environment, your product has to be affordable — really, really affordable. That’s job one.

“We keep the prices as low as possible,” said Twigby representative Chris Alarcon. “Price point is a big thing that we’re always monitoring.”

It helps that new customers get 25% off the first 6 months of service.

Beyond the Big Four

In the United States, just about every John and Jane with a cell phone uses one of the so-called Big Four wireless carriers.

Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint have more than 412 million wireless subscribers collectively. These are big-time, mega-corporations with Super Bowl ads, celebrity spokespeople, storefront locations, and vast networks of cellular towers sprawling across this great land.

Then there’s everyone else — a slew of independent providers, all competing for a small corner of the cell phone market.

“Maybe 95% of people are with one of the big carriers, and 5% are okay with more budget-friendly brands,” Alarcon said. “We’re in a hyper-competitive industry, with a lot of companies fighting over that 5% of the American population.”

And that brings us back to David Edwards, a guy who grew weary of paying through the nose to use his cell phone.

Making the Break From the Big Carriers

Like many other customers looking to leave the Big Four behind, Edwards had nagging questions about signing on with a discount carrier: Will my phone even work? Will I be dropping calls? Is this a legit business? How’s the coverage? Will customer service be there when I need it?

Edwards had tried a number of different discount wireless providers before, with mixed results. It didn’t always work out.

He’s awfully pleased with Twigby, though.

“The pricing structure is good. I’ve never had an issue with coverage,” Edwards said. “The customer support is simple to use. I’ve used it online a couple of times. Almost immediately someone was online with me, so I didn’t have to wait and wait and wait.”

Edwards’ bill with Twigby is $24 for a single line compared to the $185 monthly bill he previously paid for Verizon. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Spoken like a man who’s previously had to wait for ages for customer service to get back to him.

When it comes to pricing, here’s the lowdown on what Edwards pays: It’s $21 per month (before tax) for unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, and 500 megabytes of data. That’s for one phone.

Last month Edwards paid $25 (before tax) because he ended up using more than 500MB of data. So he got bumped up to Twigby’s 1-gigabyte plan, which is $4 extra.

“If you go over, you can choose to have it automatically bump you up to the next level,” he explains. “You only pay for what you use. That’s very attractive.”

With Twigby, Edwards is paying $24 a month for one smartphone.

Just to be clear, back when he was with Verizon, he was paying $185 a month for three lines — a smartphone for his son, and flip phones for Edwards and his mother.

At different times in the past, he had cell phone service through Verizon or Sprint. He also tried discount carriers like Page Plus Cellular and then RingPlus, which went out of business earlier this year.

“RingPlus was pretty horrible,” he recalls with a rueful chuckle.

His phone, a Motorola Moto G5 Plus Android smartphone, works fine on Twigby’s network. Twigby sells a large assortment of phones (17 at our press time). You can also use its online tool to see whether your current phone is compatible with Twigby’s service.

Customer Service a Key Selling Point

Twigby launched in late 2015 and has been gaining momentum ever since, company officials say.

It’s an MVNO, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. There are dozens of these companies that buy connection wholesale from the big wireless carriers and resell it to customers.

WhistleOut, a website that compares wireless plans, explains how this business model works: “Essentially, all of the MVNOs buy service in bulk at wholesale prices, then resell that same service on to us. But because they have lower overheads, smaller advertising budgets and many don’t stock handsets, they can offer the same products as the big networks but at much cheaper rates.”

Twigby is on Sprint’s cellular network for voice calls, texting and data, and uses Verizon’s network as a backup for calls and texting

A number of these smaller wireless providers have been criticized for poor customer service — too slow, haphazard and difficult to understand.

Edwards recalls: “When I was with RingPlus, for their customer service you had to fill out a service ticket, and it would take days to get a problem solved.”

Well aware of these kinds of criticisms, Twigby has taken pains to make sure its customer service is prompt, efficient and helpful. Instead of a call center for customer service, the carrier has an online chat feature.

“Our chat team replies super quickly to any questions,” Alarcon said.To compete, we’re differentiating ourselves based on how accessible we are to our subscribers — how easy it is to get in touch with us.”

As for Edwards, he’s been easing into semi-retirement and is pleased to have found an affordable, reliable cell phone service.

Although some Twigby subscribers are retirees, many are on the other end of the age spectrum. They’re children and young teens whose parents are getting them bargain cell phone plans.

“I used to pay an arm and a leg for the exact same service,” Edwards said of his experience with Twigby. “I’m really happy with it.”

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s clearly paying way too much for wireless service.