Complaining about costly phone plans is practically an American tradition. These days, however, it appears that sticker shock at the cost of cell contracts has hit a new high.
We?re all sick and tired of getting nickel and dimed (or rather, drawn and quartered) by cellular carriers? jacked-up prices ? and we?re not going to take it anymore, says a new study by the New Millennium Research Council (NMRC). According to the report, millions of cell customers are nearing a tipping point, and a mass exodus from pricy cell contracts toward budget-friendly, pay-as-you-go plans is already underway.
Pre-Paid's Cool Now?
Yep, and it's an interesting turn of events when you consider that, once upon a time, prepaid plans were? well, kinda 'stigmatized.? They carried a whiff of desperation, sort of like a frail, pasty-skinned nerd donning a football uniform and helmet. While the gear may be the same, he was still just a wannabe cool kid, not really a bona fide player on the mobile phone field. Well that nerd grew up and is starting to kick some butt now.
The reasons are simple and obvious: You?d have to live under a rock to not know about the dismal state of the economy. These days, most people have either been laid off or know someone who has, or harbor some fear of dismissal. In this climate, it seems that frugality has become 'the new black,? and nearly everyone's looking to get more budget-savvy.
To save money, 40 million Americans ? basically 26% of consumers with cell contracts ? say they are more likely to switch to prepaid now than six months ago. And 19% of American cell customers (about 8,740,000 people) have discontinued cell service within the last six months.
The study asserts that cell-related ?extras? are also going to take a major hit. Two out of five Americans who have cell contracts (60.3 million people) say they will limit or remove features like Internet, email and texting if the economy worsens over the next six months. That, sadly, is precisely what experts are predicting.
So What Does All This Mean?
Well, if you?re hooked into a family account, it probably won't be long before the parents start pinching pennies to reduce costs (if they haven't already), so you may have to work hard to defend your right to text. If you?re on your own, you might already be crunching numbers, wondering what features you can do without ? or how many lunches to skip to afford that hot new phone. Either way, you?re at the mercy of a valid, yet no less painful, cost-cutting mandate.
Now that's just depressing, I know. But there may be a glimmer of hope.
The Silver Lining
For many people, their cells are their only phone, and when times were good, they didn't hesitate to trick them out. Others foot the bills for both cell and landlines. That's quite a lot of business at stake. So if the report does reflect a collective shift in thinking, carriers could ? and should ? be scared silly at the potentially huge losses.
Add into the mix more competition from regional carriers, who offer lower prices and some genuinely decent tech, and you've got a recipe for incentivized price breaks.
We?ll likely see more specials and promotions than ever this year, like price cuts, better phone packages or at least the inclusion of new features that gives more bang for the buck. Discounts probably won't apply to new handset releases, though, but at least it would enable more users to afford or keep their Tier 2 phones and service plans.
I hope this bears out, because it would be great to see cell carriers wise up and give their customers some relief, even if it is just to protect their own bottom lines.