October 22, 2016 10:00 am

The best, cheapest cellphone plan in Canada in 2016

WATCH: Global News called up Canada's three biggest carriers and six discount carriers to see which offered the best plan based on average cell phone usage.

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It’s become a tradition of sorts this time of year for one Global reporter to take on the ultimate treasure hunt for the sake of Canadian customers everywhere: track down the cheapest and best cellphone plans in the country.

This year, that someone is me.

Before diving into my calls, I consulted the CRTC’s yearly telecommunications services report. Historically, this document has spelled out what the “average” Canadian consumer uses for their phone plan in terms of minutes, data, etc., but because of a change-up in market research firms, the 2016 report doesn’t offer helpful info by which we could base our phone comparison off of. (You can see the 2013, 2014 and 2015 stories here to compare.)

What they did do is divide cellphone plan use into several categories.

One service basket includes 450 minutes for calling and 300 text messages; another includes 1,200 minutes for calling, 300 texts and 1 GB of data.

According to the report, plans that fall under the former basket have jumped an average price of 0.19 per cent across the country — the highest hike being in Toronto (5.8 per cent) and the least in Regina (minus 12.9 per cent).

Plans that fall under the latter basket, however, have dropped an average of about 12.4 per cent with no price hike reported in any city, the report says. The most significant price drop was seen in Montreal (minus 24.1 per cent) and the least in Regina (minus about 1.3 per cent).

But there’s a reason different cities experience the hikes and dips as they do.

In January 2016, Rogers, Telus and Bell increased the average revenue per user by 1.3 per cent on a monthly basis, which raised the cellphone bills of the majority of their customers.

This didn’t affect of all of Canada the same, however.

According to Sphere, a Vancouver-based online cellphone trading company, provinces who have their own regional carriers that offer cheap plans are forcing Canada’s “Big Three” to reduce their prices in order to compete. These provinces include Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec.

So to test the CRTC’s findings, I called up Canada’s three biggest carriers and six discount carriers to see the best plans they could offer me based on the average Canadian customer’s cellphone usage.

My experience with each provider was relatively painless. I didn’t have to wait very long to speak to a representative and conversations lasted around 10 minutes – give or take a few depending on the company.

My script went something like this:

“I’m looking to buy a new phone and plan for either an iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S7. I use about 450 minutes a month, send about 300 text messages and need enough data to check my email and social media throughout the day. I have family in the U.S. so I also make a couple long-distance calls a month. What’s the best, cheapest plan you can offer?”

The conversations we had were clear and straightforward and left little confusion, which was a big step up from Global’s struggle in 2015.

My “no complaint” experience was pretty much in line with what was reported in this year’s CRTC Wireless Code Public Opinion Research study.

According to the CRTC, only 21 per cent of consumers made a complaint about their wireless service in 2016 – that’s a decrease of 20 per cent since 2014.

“This downward trend of complaints suggests a better understanding of the contracts and the services [customers] signed up for,” the report reads.

But before you go signing any contracts, take a look at our findings below to get a better idea of what type of plans are available now and what you as a customer can ask for when you’re at the negotiating table.

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ROGERS

  • Best plan base rate: $90/month
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Unlimited text messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting
  • 2,500 call forwarding minutes
  • Data: 1 GB/month
  • Activation fee: $20 (fee can be waived by registering online)
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): $399.99 with a two-year contract
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB): $200 with a two-year contract
  • You can change the unlimited Canada-wide calling option to the North America-wide calling option by paying an additional $15/month
  • Rogers customers travelling to the U.S. can pay $5/day for roaming that includes incoming and outgoing calls and texts within the U.S. and Canada
  • Save $10/month off your plan when you bring your own device on certain Share Everything plans

BELL

  • Best plan base rate: $90/month
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling, text, picture and video messages
  • Call display, message centre, conference calling and call waiting
  • Data: 1 GB/month
  • Activation fee: $15 plus $10 SIM card charge
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): $398.99 with a two-year contract
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32G): $199.99 with a two-year contract
  • Calls to the U.S. are 50 cents/minute or a $20/month feature can be added to get unlimited calling to the U.S.
  • Access to Mobile TV for three months
  • Bell customers travelling to the U.S. can pay $5/day for roaming that includes incoming and outgoing calls and texts within the U.S. and Canada and 100 MB of dedicated data per day that doesn’t come out of your regular home data

TELUS

  • Best plan base rate: $100/month ($75 for the plan and $25 for 1 GB of data)
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Unlimited text and talk, call display, voicemail, call waiting
  • Data: 1 GB/month
  • Activation fee: No activation fee but comes with $15 SIM card charge
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): One-time cost of $400 (may be limited time only)
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB): One-time cost of $200 (may be limited time only) but was offered the phone for $0 at the time of the call
  • Calls to U.S. are 50 cents/minute or a $15/month feature can be added to get unlimited calling to the U.S.

FIDO

  • Best plan base rate: $80/month
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Unlimited text messaging, picture and video messaging, call display (not name display), voicemail
  • Data: 1 GB/month
  • Activation fee: $15 (fee can be waived by purchasing online)
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): $399.99 on a two-year contract
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB): $320 on a two-year contract
  • Calls to the U.S. are 55 cents/minute or you can buy the value pack add on for an extra $5/month and pay only 1 cent/minute
  • The value pack also includes premium voicemail-to-text (35 voice messages), name display and WhoCalled and 2,500 call forwarding minutes
  • 6 month subscription to Spotify Premium

VIRGIN

  • Best plan base rate: $80/month
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Unlimited text and picture messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, three-way calling
  • Data: 1 GB/month
  • Activation fee: $15 plus $4.99 SIM card charge
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): $398.99 on a two-year plan (on the Platinum Plan)
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB): $329.99 on a two-year plan (on the Platinum Plan)
  • I was told that if I signed up that day, they would remove $100 off the price of the phone of my choosing
  • Calls to the U.S. are 50 cents a minute (add-on options are available, but was told they wouldn’t be worth it if I was just making a couple long-distance calls a month)
  • You get deals at certain stores and discounts at a travel company
  • If you bring your own device, you can save depending on the plan you choose

MOBILICITY/CHATR
*Note: Mobilicity is changing over to Chatr at some point in October/November.

  • Best plan base rate: $40/month
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Unlimited incoming text, call display, voicemail, call forwarding and group calling
  • Data: 1GB/month
  • Activation fee: No activation fee but $10 SIM card charge
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): Not offered
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB): Not offered
  • By upgrading to the $50/month plan, calls to the U.S. will be covered under the International Talk Saver and cost about 20 cents/minute; the plan will also up your data to 4GB
  • A list of phones for purchase through Chatr are available to view online; if you bring in your own smartphone, like an iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S6, you can get the plan put onto your phone when you buy a Chatr SIM card

WIND

  • Best plan base rate: $35/month
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Unlimited texting, picture and video messaging, voicemail, call display, missed call alerts, conference calling, call forwarding, call waiting
  • Data: 2 GB/month
  • Activation fee: No activation fee but there is a SIM card charge of $25
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): Not available but can bring your own
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB): Prices ranges between $249 and $649 on a two-year contract depending on which WINDtab Boost option you want to go with; this allows you to pay for the rest of the phone through your monthly cellphone bills
  • If you bring your own phone, you will receive $5/month in credits for add-ons and extras like U.S. roaming, international calling, etc., but because not all phones are compatible with WIND, however, it’s recommended you consult the website before
  • If you use all of your full-speed data, you can continue to use data but at reduced speeds (there is no extra cost or cut-off)
  • With World Saver add-on, calls to the U.S. would be 5 cents/minute; without an add on, calls are 15 cents/minute

KOODO

  • Best plan base rate: $40/month + applicable monthly tab for whatever phone you purchase
  • 500 minutes for Canada-wide calling, unlimited evening and weekends after 5 p.m.
  • Unlimited text and picture, call display, voicemail, call waiting, conference calling
  • Data: 500 MB/month
  • Activation fee: No activation fee but a $25 SIM card charge
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): $400 up front + $21 monthly tab charge on a two-year contract
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB): $330 up front + $21 monthly tab charge on a two-year contract
  • With the International Long Distance Saver for $3/month, long-distance calls to the U.S. cost 5 cents/minute; without the add-on, calls cost 50 cents/minute
  • You save the monthly tab charge by bringing in your own phone

PC MOBILE

  • Best plan base rate: $44/month + data usage
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Unlimited international text messaging, picture and video messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding and conference calling
  • Data: 1 GB costs $10
  • Activation fee: No activation fee
  • iPhone 7 (32GB): Not available
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 (32GB): Not available
  • Bring your own phone and save $6/month

Disclaimer: The prices presented in this article are reflective as of mid-October. Conversations over the phone with customer representatives of the wireless carriers resulted in the reported prices in this article. They may not necessarily reflect other prices offered to customers throughout different times of the year that may or may not include promotional and/or seasonal deals.

 

Graphics by Deepak Sharma

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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