December 4, 2015 6:21 pm
Updated: December 7, 2015 5:22 pm

What’s the best, cheapest cellphone plan in Canada?

WATCH ABOVE: Trish Kozicka breaks down which cellphone plan might be best for your needs.

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Sifting through cellphone plans is few people’s idea of a good time. But someone’s got to do it.

This time, that someone is me. I followed the footsteps of Global’s Erika Tucker, who had the dubious honour in 2014 and 2013.

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The latest CRTC report by Wall Communications Inc. found that most cellphone packages increased by between four and eight per cent in 2015. It also showed how much the average Canadian talks and texts. Using that information, I called up 10 cellphone providers to see what they would offer me.

Once I got through — after as much as half an hour on hold — the conversation started like this:

“I’m looking to buy a new phone, either an iPhone 6s or Samsung Galaxy S6. I also need a new cellphone plan. I use about 450 minutes every month, send about 300 texts, and need enough data to check my email and social media pages throughout the day. I have some family in the U.S. so I make long-distance calls a couple times a month, as well.

What’s the best, cheapest plan you can offer?”

The ensuing exchange was less than edifying.

The people on the other end either directed me to the company’s website or gave me incorrect information entirely. One agent told me outright that the information on her company’s website was outdated.

Maybe these poor souls were as confused about their companies’ policies as we are.

Or maybe the complexity is by design.

Tech blogger Peter Nowak thinks a confusing mobile pricing system is “absolutely advantageous” for retailers.

“If customers can’t compare prices or deals easily, it kind of works on two fronts,” he says.

Either the plans are roughly the same, discouraging customers from going through the hassle of switching, or they’re just different enough to make them challenging to evaluate.

“You have to weigh it and figure out ‘Well, is this worth it?’… At which point you just stop wanting to think about that sort of thing and say, ‘Forget it, I’m just going to stick with what I have.’”

In other words, consumer inertia helps mobile companies.

We’ve tried to make it a little easier to navigate the mobile plan labyrinth.

All the information below is based on an average Canadian’s cell phone needs.

Canadian cell phone plans compared

Infographic Credit: Deepak Sharma, Global News

ROGERS

  • Best plan base rate: $85
  • Unlimited airtime across Canada anytime
  • Unlimited text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: $15
  • Preferred rate plan: $5/month would make calls to U.S. 25 cents per minute (but agent doesn’t advise this option)
  • If no long-distance add-on: 45 cents per minute to the U.S.
  • Data: 1GB / month
  • iPhone 6S: $398.99 with a two-year contract
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 $249.99 with a two-year contract
  • Activation fee: $20 (you can avoid that by registering online)
  • Bring your own device: Reduces your phone bill by $20
  • Perks: Free Spotify or shomi  (“90 per cent choose Spotify”) or magazine subscription, NHL Gamecenter Live

TELUS

  • Best plan base rate: $85
  • Unlimited airtime across Canada anytime
  • Unlimited text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: $15
  • Preferred rate plan: $2/month would make calls to U.S. 10 cents per minute
  • If no long-distance add-on: 50 cents per minute to the U.S.
  • Data: 1GB / month
  • iPhone 6S: $400 with a two-year contract
  • Samsung Galaxy S6: $250 with a two-year contract
  • SIM card fee: $15
  • Bring your own device: Reduces your phone bill by $20
  • Perks: The agent said he could “try to give $100 off the device,” and $5 off my bills for the next year

BELL

  • Best plan base rate: $80
  • Unlimited airtime across Canada anytime
  • Unlimited text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: $15/month
  • Preferred rate plan: None
  • If no long-distance add-on: 50 cents per minute to the U.S.
  • Data: 500MB / month
  • iPhone 6S:  $398.99 with a two-year contract
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 $249.99 with a two-year contract
  • Activation fee: $15 + $9.95 SIM card fee
  • Bring your own device: Reduces your phone bill by $20
  • Perks: Bell TV app

FIDO

  • Best plan base rate: $85
  • Unlimited airtime across Canada anytime
  • Unlimited text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: $15
  • Preferred rate plan: $5/ month would make calls to U.S. 1 cent per minute;
  • If no long-distance add-on: 55 cents per minute to the U.S.; (agent advised using FaceTime or Skype instead)
  • Data: 1 GB / month
  • iPhone 6S: $399 with a two-year contract; But the agent said “they’re overpriced” and recommend an Android (LG G4). If I really wanted an iPhone, he advised buying the phone from Apple and bringing it over.
  • Samsung Galaxy S6: $250 with a two-year contract
  • Activation/SIM card fee: $0
  • Bring your own device: You can save $36 each month

“If you buy it full price from Apple or whatever, instead of $85, the exact same plan is $49,” the agent said. “And the full price is $900.”

“So yes you pay $500 up front, right off the bat, but afterwards instead of $85, you’re paying $49 which is $36 less. 36 times 24 equals $864. So you pay $500 more in order to save $864.”

  • Perks: Spotify is free on certain plans for two years; $100 rebate on second bill; If you refer a friend, you both get $25. You get a $25 discount if your family member is with Fido, but you’d be linked to the same account

VIRGIN

  • Best plan base rate: $85
  • Unlimited airtime across Canada anytime
  • Unlimited text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: $10
  • Preferred rate plan: N/A
  • If no long-distance add-on: 50 cents per minute to the U.S.
  • Data: 1GB / month
  • iPhone 6S: $398.99 with a two-year contract (on the “Platinum plan”)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 $249.99 with a two-year “Platinum” plan
  • SIM card fee: $4.99; $35 activation
  • Bring your own device: Savings depend on the plan you choose
  • Perks: You get deals at certain stores and discounts at a travel company

MOBILICITY

  • Best plan base rate: $45
  • Unlimited airtime across North America (as long we you’re in your local coverage area of either Toronto, Ottawa , Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton), plus 30 minutes of roaming
  • Unlimited text messaging across North America, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: included
  • Preferred rate plan: N/A
  • If no long-distance add-on: 20 cents per minute to the U.S.
  • Data: unlimited but slows down after 6 GB
  • iPhone 6S:  “Most iPhones work,” the first customer service agent said, but couldn’t confirm if the 6S was one of them. She also didn’t know if they sell it and how much it would be.
  • Samsung Galaxy S6: The first customer service representative I spoke to wasn’t sure if this phone would work on the network. When I called again, I was told that both phones should work but should be brought in and tested on the network.
  • SIM card fee: $20 (but apparently “every store is different”)
  • Bring your own device: N/A

WIND

  • Best plan base rate: $35
  • Unlimited airtime across Canada anytime
  • Unlimited text messaging across North America, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: N/A (but their $50 plan includes unlimited calls to U.S.)
  • Preferred rate plan: $8/month would make calls to U.S. 5 cents per minute
  • If no long-distance add-on: 15 cents per minute to the U.S.
  • Data: Unlimited data but slows down after 2GB
  • iPhone 6S:  N/A You’d have to bring your own; “All the latest iPhones will work,” the agent said, while also recommending you bring your device into the store to be tested. You can also test the compatibility online
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 On sale for $149 (from $199) with a two-year plan, which would add $25 on to your bill each month.
  • SIM card fee: $25
  • Bring your own device: You receive a $75 credit, which you can split up for a $5 monthly discount; as well as the monthly tab charge

KOODO

  • Best plan base rate: $40
  • 500 anytime minutes across Canada
  • Unlimited text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: $10
  • Preferred rate plan: $3/month would make calls to U.S. 5 cents per minute
  • If no long-distance add-on: 50 cents per minute to the U.S.
  • Data: 500 MB/ month
  • iPhone 6S:  $400 on a two-year “tab” (add $21/month to bill for 24 months)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 $400 on a two-year “tab” (add $15/month for two years)
  • Activation fee: No, but you pay $25 for your SIM card.
  • Bring your own device: $15 or $21/month, depending on which phone you choose

PC MOBILE

  • Best plan base rate: $54
  • Unlimited airtime across Canada anytime
  • Unlimited worldwide text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding
  • Unlimited U.S. calling add on: N/A
  • Preferred rate plan: N/A
  • If no long-distance add-on: 10 cents per minute to the U.S
  • Data: 500 megabytes/month
  • iPhone 6S:  N/A
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 N/A
  • SIM card/Activation fee: None
  • Bring your own device: 10 per cent monthly discount

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