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Ting v.s. Virgin Mobile - Where's Ting's Advantage?

Sean Paradiso
posted this on August 27, 2012 14:58

I've been hovering for a few weeks now and my general sense is that Ting kicks ass for light users. My usage is very light. I am intrigued.

My (monthly, rounded) average Mins/Txts/Data over the last year is: 103/281/0

Ting says I could have a brio + 2 yrs of this service for $406. 

 

But what if I'm a little greedy? What if I'm a greedy little prick and I want a smartphone and maybe some data?

Let's take Galaxy SIII and some (small) data: SIII + 2yrs @ $17/mo = $937

Here's where I throw it down for the Ting devotees:

Virgin mobile will give me an HTC EVO V + Unlimited txt/data (that I won't use, but what if?!) for $240 + 2yrs @ $35/mo = $1080

-I choose the HTC EVO because even though it isn't an equivalent phone...at least VM actually HAS a solid midrange phone. Ting's midrange smartphones are not very well reviewed (CNET, personal experience)

 

So here's the gauntlet: Over 2 full calendar years I would only save $140 total with Ting and after 1 yr (not shown) I would be in the red by $70. Remember this is for (almost) bare bones usage through Ting and unlimited txt/data from VM. Savings evaporate with moderate usage. So why Ting?

 

P.S. I'm frankly looking to be persuaded here (hidden VM fees, etc). I'm just as giddy about Ting's "little shop" feel as everyone else and would rather see them make money than Sir Branson. But the question remains - is it charity or am I bad with numbers?

 

Comments

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Mike Schmidt

I think the value of Ting is for multiple users sharing the plan. Even so, their ability to monitor and limit line specific usage is not quite ready for prime time for use as a family plan. Factoring in the price of the phones, the break even point would probably be well over a year for us.

August 27, 2012 18:03
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David Kleikamp

I'm on my first smart phone, so I can't speak from experience on the life expectency of a phone, but if your phone lasts you longer than 2 years, the savings will be more significant. Also, I'm pretty satisfied with the Optimus Elite. I'm not sure why I would need the Galaxy III.

I actually like the idea of buying  a phone and paying for service, rather than getting a subsidized phone and paying higher rates per month and being locked into a 2-year contract. I don't need unlimited data, but if I ever use a lot in a month, I only pay more that one month.

August 28, 2012 10:04
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Peter Hurley

If you wanted mid-range, why not compare the EVO to the Galaxy S2 instead of the S3?  As far as I can tell, the S2 seems like a solid phone in most reviews, and it would shave $100 off your purchase price, since you don't want tip-top end anyway.

August 28, 2012 10:34
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Sean Paradiso
@David - Virgin mobile is also no contract. They're basically like Ting (they use Sprint towers as well), but have bulky unlimited data/txt (monthly) plans for pretty cheap. @Peter- You're right, that would be a more appropriate comparison. I was pitching a fit about the OS, but I hear 4.0 is getting rolled out now anyway. I still think the unlimited plan wins for a single user since they break even after a year only with strictly mild usage. When I start sharing a plan Ting will surely make more sense as Pizza Man mentioned. That said, if I can find a used S II then that might tip the scale sooner.
August 28, 2012 11:35
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Ken Kinder
Ting Army

I am also a pretty light user. My bills on Ting have been in the $20s up to the $40s, because I text using Google Voice, I don't talk a lot, and I have wifi most places I go.

For me, the biggest differentiator is that Ting doesn't charge for tethering. Tethering is where you can use your cell phone as a wifi access point for your computer or tablet. It's great for browsing the web at the airport or avoiding a hotel's $25/day wifi fee. Tethering never really drives up my data use substantially -- I mostly use it for just surfing the web and checking my email -- but on any other carrier, I'd have to bump myself up into the unlimited voice/data plan then add tethering, even if I don't use much data at all. And in the case of Cricket, I'm not even sure they offer it.

August 28, 2012 11:39
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Sean Paradiso
Not that it's a good general talking point since not everyone wants to spend a week fiddling with their phone, but rooting an evo and adding the wifi tether app on google code was my plan and that combined with unlimited data was what actually makes me consider virgin mobile. Free tether with unlimited data sounds appealing. I'm thinking of doing vm with the HTC One (cheaper) for a year, then Ting will have more phones and my girlfriend and I will bundle up on Ting.
August 28, 2012 11:45
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Todd Hayes
Crawford Merz Anderson Construction

On a single-phone account basis, that Virgin deal does look pretty good.  FYI for the others, that Virgin pricing has NO CONTRACT, so it is very comparable to what Ting has.

However, the "unlimited" claim does have it's caveats:  you get 2.5gb/mo at full speed but it's throttled after that.  Looks like you have no need for data anyway so that isn't a concern for you, but may be for others.

I do notice however that, IF someone wants to use their phone as a mobile hotspot they'll charge you $15/mo, which you would not be charged for with Ting.

August 28, 2012 11:48
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Joseph Dreyer

Ting users get the advantage of voice roaming. Virgin users do not. If you travel at all, Virgin's voice coverage is pretty lame. Ting and Virgin users get the same data coverage, which is also lame, but at least Ting users can make a call from almost anywhere in the continental US.

August 28, 2012 12:13
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Ken Kinder
Ting Army

Rooting your phone to enable tethering is almost certainly against Cricket's TOS. Not to say I think their TOS are fair or even that I would abide by them, but if they do any deep packet inspection and see desktop user agents go by, they might cancel your account. (AT&T started doing some kind of rooted tethering detection on their customers, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility.)

It's really just another reason I like Ting. You tell Ting that you rooted your phone, and their response is, add a section of the forums where people talk about rooting.

August 28, 2012 12:19
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Sean Paradiso

@Joseph - That's an incredibly good point. I didn't even consider different coverage since they both use Sprint's network (stupid assumption, I know) but looking at their coverage map...yikes. I actually find myself in the "no-call" areas of SoCal quite often (~ 2 days/week). That said, I have Sprint now and don't get reception where they claim to have voice coverage either... bad phone? Maybe.

 

@Ken - Also a good point, although user-agent spoofing on a laptop/tablet is a) pretty simple, b) permanent once set up (so doesn't require any up-keep) and c) probably the only metric that any service provider would use to try and tell if you're tethering. This does bar, say, multiple simultaneous users (in the frankly unlikely event that VM does scan for illegal tethers - plenty of people are reportedly doing it with no issue right now)

 

All of my points are hacks to give VM the edge, however, and there's a lot to be said about sticking with a company that is both competitive AND honest. Ting is no doubt on the high moral ground.

 

Thanks everyone for your comments. Joe and Ken put me over - I'll search around for an SII and if I end up with a few $40 months because of data...it's barely over the stock VM plan and at least I can feel good about the company I'm with. Also voice coverage. That was a clutch spot; thanks Joseph!

August 28, 2012 12:41
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Ken Kinder
Ting Army

@Sean: User agent parsing is just a guess about how they might detect it. I don't really know. Probably the safest option would be to use a 100% encrypted tunnel, so that if other desktop software (Windows Update for example) is being detected, everything goes through the tunnel and nothing is parsable.

I just like that on Ting, it's not cloak and dagger. Ting just charges me for the data I use, so they don't care what the data is. It's so refreshing.

August 28, 2012 12:51
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Todd Hayes
Crawford Merz Anderson Construction

@ Sean:  You mention "....I'll search around for an SII.....). Beware that Ting does not have BYOD (bring your own device) available yet.  It's coming later this year (Q4). You will have to buy it through Ting if you want to move over before then.

https://ting.com/blog/byod-coming-soon-to-ting/

Also, Virgin devices will NOT be able to be brought over even when that is available - only Sprint devices.

August 28, 2012 13:04
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Mike T

Yep, the roaming seems to be the benefit here.  Ting, while not giving you the data, at least gives you voice and text when you roam over to the verizon side, which makes them a very very very good choice.  RW, in theory, can also deliver this.  P+ gives you verizon access.  The real, true value of ting is the multi-line aspect.  If you're only looking at a single line with moderate usage, there's not going to be much savings over the other players.  A single line pulling down over 500mb of data a month and 500 or more minutes with up to 100 texts, and you're looking at $42+surchage/tax/fees.  At this point, it's possibly not worth it, especially if you are planning on pulling more data.  The only real advantage remaining is the network access, which MOST prepaid simply does not offer at all, and if it *does* offer it, they reserve the right to terminate you for using too much roaming.

 

If you are using over 500 minutes a month and over 500mb of data on a single line, then ting is probably not the right choice for you, once you add in line #2 and don't exceed 1000 and 1gb however.... ting's value starts to really shine through, especially the way it gives you credit back for unused buckets instead of just giving "unlimited" with caveats. 

In *theory* at least, if you can find a VOIP integration service with good compression that keeps your data usage to under ~700kb/m for voice calls, then you can make out like a bandit on low-minute, high data plans.  Hell, pretty much everyone should be doing this anyways with the prevelance of wifi.  The big difference I see between ting and other options out there, is that the data is cheap, and you can use as much of it as you want for those cheap rates without any other obligations.  However the hell you want too.  Ting, while not non-evil, is less-evil.  And until the revolution happens, and telcom is all standardized and state-owned with a non-profit mandate and 100% coast to coast coverage operating on a purely metered model, it does seem to be just about as good as you can get in terms of pricing/coverage/flexibility.

August 28, 2012 13:45
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Joseph Dreyer

@ Sean: You're welcome. My wife and I both have SG2 Epic 4G Touch (longest handset name in the Guinness Book) and they can sometimes be stubborn about roaming onto Verizon. However, after a few minutes of no Sprint service, they usually make the transition. There is an app called Roam Control that I'm considering... The handset has to be rooted to use it.

August 28, 2012 14:25
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Brian Alley

None of the other services come close to what I pay for Ting. Two reasons: 1. I am not a phone addict.   2. I use wifi nearly all the time for my data. 

August 31, 2012 20:42
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paul sargeant

Besides the price and the service and the coverage there is one thing Ting has that Virgin doesn't, and I was on virgin for some time...

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

Nuff said!

August 31, 2012 22:05
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Drew SR

In my case, I am around WiFi 75% of my day.  I want the best smartphone available (SIII or EVO LTE) to enjoy and use.  I probably talk about 100 mins a month and text around 100 per month.  Even if I use 100MB of data when I'm not around WiFi, I can have an SIII or EVO LTE for only $15 bucks a month.  No other service can touch that price, period.  Free roaming is the clincher and Ting customer service is phenomenal as well.  I'm not with Ting yet because I'm locked in a Sprint contract, but I already switched my parents over, their bill went from $80 (Sprint) to $30 (Ting) a month with two lines.

September 01, 2012 14:44
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Mark Bausch

We are a more-than-ten-years Sprint family...and as near as I can tell, Ting will serve our needs.

Here is what I think I know, as far as what the important service-related differences between Sprint and Ting boil down to: DATA ROAMING.

If I believe what I'm reading here, Ting voice and text and data use the Sprint network (more on that in a minute) and while Ting voice and text roam the same as if you're a Sprint customer (i.e. roaming is free)...Ting does not allow data roaming of any kind.

In other words, as far as data are concerned...you'd better be near a Sprint tower...because, as I wrote above, as a Ting customer,  no data roaming is allowed. Is this correct?

But is this no-data-roaming a deal-breaker?

We just returned from a week in central FL (Disney) and east central FL (Cocoa Beach).

My oh my was the Sprint (data) service bad--and our three devices, which work very well at home--struggled to do anything as far as data was concerned. Roaming? I'm not sure what was going on except that the data was crap.

...all of which gets me thinking--there is a spot about a half-hour north of our home where the Sprint coverage hands us off to what I believe are Verizon towers. While voice works fine when roaming, the data roaming, through the Verizon tower, just doesn't work very well.

So how well does data-roaming work for current Sprint customers? Is our experience the norm? Because if it is, then what do we lose by going to Ting.

Make sense?

September 02, 2012 09:18
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Cathy Cleghorn
Ting Army

I will say that although Virgin Mobile offers unlimited data, Sprint's 3G speeds are paltry in comparison to the competition. So, music streaming and video streaming would be painful as well as downloading large files and viewing graphics heavy webpages. Nowadays, I just use Opera Mini to view webpages over Sprint's network. I use wifi for data-heavy applications and small stuff like synciing calendar and contacts over the network. I heard it best expressed by someone as, "What good is unlimited gold in your bank account if you can only withdraw a gram of it per week."

Since Sprint is setting up LTE, this "problem" could be cleared up. But, that will only be for those who live in extremely large cities for the time being. Unfortunate for me.

September 02, 2012 17:11
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Drew SR

^^And Sprint had the nerve to add a $10 fee for using "Premium 3G", which is the worst in the U.S.  Even worse is that people who never got Wimax "4G" were paying for this as well.

September 02, 2012 17:42
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Samuel A
Ting Army
One thing to keep in mind is that Virgin Mobile voice/text/data traffic are last priority on Sprint's network. Ting gets the same network priority as native Sprint customers which results in much better service in congested areas.
September 02, 2012 22:38
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Cathy Cleghorn
Ting Army

Actually Samuel, Ting cleared up this concept of who gets priority over the network in a recent blog by dispelling the myth. Here's the article if you want to read it:

https://ting.com/blog/do-mvnos-get-second-class-cell-service/

Enjoy the reading!

September 03, 2012 11:27
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Samuel A
Ting Army
^^^ I have read that, but VM is a special exception. You can google this and find examples of people getting slower speeds on VM phones. Virgin actually routes traffic through their own special servers, unlike most other mvnos that go straight through sprint.
September 03, 2012 14:50
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Brian Alley

I live in a  smaller community, and have no problem using wifi for data. It's ridiculously easy to avoid data charges.

September 03, 2012 16:37
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Will Raleigh

I came to Ting from Virgin Mobile. My primary reason for making the move was that Ting had more modern phones. I got tired of waiting for a decent replacement phone on VM. On VM I was on the $25/month plan. I think it's $35 now, but I was grandfathered. My bills on Ting have been less than $25 (0 text, very little talk and less data than I would have expected I'd use), so I'm saving on the monthly rate, but I'm a very light phone user. I guess the phone may be a little more expensive, but I cam to Ting specifically to get a nicer phone, so that seemed like a fair trade-off to me.

September 14, 2012 02:19
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Bruce Kebbekus
4G DIFFERENCE. VM only has one 4G and it is a wimax HTC.
September 17, 2012 11:45
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Michael Carter
Ting Army

I'm with VM right now, with the old $25 unlimited plan, and looking to come over to Ting. I have the Triumph, decent phone, much better with Cyanogen 7. I was interested in getting the HTC EVO V, but it has major problems with the radio, you will need to root, s-off and flash a new radio. Some folks are actually flashing their phone to a Sprint EVO 3D to fix all the problems.

If you intend to use 4G (WiMax) make sure you are in a good reception area, it's spotty at best. My experience with VM reception (3G) has been relatively positive, but there have been times when my signal is crap for days.

Ting offers LTE, which Sprint is pushing hard to get up and going, and Verizon roaming when out of Sprint coverage area, which VM doesn't, when you leave Sprint coverage under VM, no signal. These two perks are what attracted me to Ting. I don't mind paying a little more for what seems like better service.

The other big thing to think about is customer supprt, if you need to call VM, customer support is horrible, sourced out, you end up talking to 3 or 4 people to get a problem fixed, and understanding them is tough at  times.

Good luck on your decision.

 

September 20, 2012 09:26
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Kurtis Swinehart

The definate advatage is sharing among multiple phones with light usage and international texting.  I have 3 phones on my account, mine, my wifes and my mom's.  We use mostly wifi for data talk less than 100 minutes/month and text less than 1000 texts but they are mostly international texts.  Ting was one of the only plans I could find that did not charge extra for international text messages.  I pay less than $35 for 3 phones.  I'd be paying more than triple that on vm. Plus an extra $20-30/mo for international text messages.

October 07, 2012 10:33
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Rachel Stanley

I'm a long time Tracfone user with light needs (probably under 100 mins / 100 texts most months; I use the phone mostly for logistical stuff).  Tracfone's rates are great if you get a double- or triple-minute phone--After buying a $50 touch-screen feature phone,  a $100 airtime card covered my needs for a year.  But you're really limited in your choice of phones, and I was getting tired of my LG800G's lousy resistive touchscreen, lack of worthwhile games and apps, and generally horrible user interface.  I often wished I could use a smartphone but keep paying Tracfone-like rates for light voice/text usage (restricting data to wifi).  Ting FTW!

The only option I've seen that comes close is T-mobile's $30 100-minute, 5GB data, unlimited text plan.  Which, if I use more than 500MB of data per month, looks like a _much_ better deal.  (Virgin Mobile is a non-starter for me because I need the roaming.  Years ago (with a VM phone) I got my car stuck in the snow and had to hike a mile to find someone with a working phone to call for rescue.)

And the T-mobile option would (presumably) let me use a Nexus 4.  Mighty tempting.

But OTOH, if I use less than 500MB/month, Ting is cheaper, especially if I need more than 100 minutes in a month (info is hard to find on T-mobile's site, but it looks like overage minutes are $0.45 each--ouch.)

November 03, 2012 17:42
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Steven Feist

Some thoughts on Virgin Mobile vs. Ting:

I'm a longtime VM user thinking of switching to Ting. I've put up with VM because of the low cost, but their customer service is really awful. I've called Ting a couple of times with pre-sales questions, and the experience has been light years ahead of Virgin Mobile -- it's easy to call and talk to a pleasant, well-informed representative. I've had multiple occasions with VM where their billing was totally incorrect, and it almost always took many calls, fights with their voice messaging system to get to a human (try it -- 888-322-1122),  dealing with employees who gave me incorrect information, periods on hold, and typically the need to talk with a supervisor. I'm currently on my third week of trying to get them to give a meaningful response to my complaint about their latest apparent billing error.

I wish I could post an image of the receipt I got from them once -- Top-Up: $10, Tax: $1.90 Tax, Total: $21.90. In fairness, they actually charged me $11.90 as they should have, but their error necessitated a phone call (always an adventure with VM)  to confirm that they weren't charging me the incorrect total they were reporting.

In any case, from my point of view, the advantages of Ting are apparently far better customer service and a company that actually seems to put thought and effort into keeping customers happy, better pricing than most of what's out there for many people, and free roaming to Verizon for voice and texts (VM has no roaming; Ting has no data roaming). I'll miss my $25 grandfathered VM plan with unlimited data and texts, though.

If you're trying to decide between VM (or any other carrier) and Ting, I'd seriously suggest calling each of them with a question, any question, that you want a human to respond to, to get a sense for their customer service. (It probably would be even more informative if you make the question a little obscure.)

November 30, 2012 10:09
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Kyumin Whang

No LTE for VM.  It is only Wimax, which is fake 4G.  It's basically 3G.  Also like someone said, there's no roaming.  Their coverage is VERY limited.  But if you don't need LTE or a high end phone like S3, VM may work well.  However, in that case, Republic Wireless would be better @ $20/mo unlimited everything.  They only have one phone though, Motorola Defy XT.  

November 30, 2012 14:21
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Sean Paradiso

@Kyumin Whang: Please explain to me the conditions under which one *needs* an S3 OR LTE =p

November 30, 2012 14:24
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Sean Paradiso

(btw I am currently a Ting customer and happy as a clam)

November 30, 2012 14:26
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Kyumin Whang

There really is no "need."  However, LTE has been rated as superior even in voice services.  Plus if a person does surf the net, it is about 26 times faster (if my memory serves me correctly).  It is not just a factor of 2.  The use of this is mainly in quicker browsing and when streaming videos and music.  Now, I would never do that but I have spoken with people who do.

As far as the S3, the phone is rated as one of the best.  It's processor speed is great, great screen, etc.  It also has ICS and now upgradable to Jelly Bean.  Remember that phones are no longer just used as phones.  They are mini-computers with numerous apps that may or may not be useful for you.  

November 30, 2012 14:28
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tax payer

@Steven Feist:  Like you, I'm a VM customer (>5 years) considering Ting. VM's customer service is as bad as you say, maybe worse, and you did not mention their un-navigable web site, where stuff keeps popping up and disappearing, you get logged out and back in without notice, and the "site map" isn't. But it is cheap, including cheap feature-phones in case you lose or break one. As you suggested, I yesterday sent Ting a question which I really do want answered before making the switch; perhaps will get answered soon.

December 01, 2012 14:09
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Rob Lake
Ting

@Tax - I just replied to you now. :)

December 02, 2012 15:09
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tax payer

Thanks Rob, and you actually answered my question.

December 02, 2012 15:51
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Gladys Hill

I had to decide this myself. Eventually I decided on Ting for my needs. Hopefully this post helps others decide: http://www.tingfans.com/2012/12/showdown-virgin-mobile-vs-ting.html

December 21, 2012 10:55
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Francis Buchwalder

@Will Raleigh

You must be a pretty old "grandfather" with Virgin Mobile! I had the same $25 monthly plan for 5 years, and the SOB's booted me off. I wasn't in the mood to fork over $38, includimng tax, for their newest low-tier plan, so I looked around and found Ting. The very day my old VM service plan expired, I activated my LG Marquee

In my 5 years with VM, I never had a single customer service question successfully resolved.  Screw Richard Branson and his ragged band of phone 'tards!

 

January 05, 2013 22:10
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Catherine McClarey

My daughter has a Virgin Mobile smartphone (originally bought for her dad, but she took it over) on the $25 monthly plan.  I have a Virgin Mobile Kyocera Rise which was on the $35 monthly plan (until I cancelled my VM account this morning), which is a nice phone, but wasn't getting used nearly enough to be worth paying $35/month.  Just ordered the refurb LG Optimus S (the Sprint version of my daughter's phone!) from Ting today, and anticipate that I'll probably be paying $15/month (at most) for service.

My daughter uses her phone a lot more than I have ever used cell phones, so as long as we can keep the $25/month plan she's currently on with VM, we're OK with that.  If VM ever forces a price increase on us for her service, though, we'll certainly consider switching her to Ting as well.

Now I just need to remove my contacts & non-default apps from the VM Kyocera Rise, and then try to find a buyer for it on eBay!

July 08, 2013 10:55
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Monty Kamath

I've been blogging about Ting vs. Virgin Mobile for some time now.  Here is the most recent post where I explain how I've saved $85 by switching from Virgin Mobile to Ting:  http://montykamath.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/ting-vs-virgin-mobile-t...

November 04, 2013 13:51
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william b

@Monty, nice blog!  How much Ting credit have you earned from strictly your web page?

November 05, 2013 12:02
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Monty Kamath

@William thanks!  I've only gotten one referral.  I'm really happy with my savings so far.  Any referrals will be a nice bonus.  Cheers!

November 05, 2013 12:07