I have spent the last year looking for a cell phone plan that was right for me.
I used to have Verizon, but I feel like they are becoming more and more tailored to businesses rather than individuals. The do have the best network in the USA, but that network comes at a very steep price. Their plans are very expensive, far more than I feel they are worth, and they don't reduce the cost of the plan when you finally finish paying off the subsidized cell phone you purchased from them. They don't allow any other phones on their network so you are stuck getting a device from them; this is actually a complaint I have about all of the major cell networks, there is no reason not to accept phones just because they were branded by another network. They come up with all sorts of excuses as to why they can't accept other phones, but in the end they are just that, excuses. Also, they lock you into plans, typically 2 years, which is a very long contract for a cell phone.
Anyway, so on my recent deployment to Afghanistan, I cut all ties with Verizon and told myself I would never get into a contract for a cell phone again. I also wanted more flexibility in my plan. Because I know a little bit about technology I started playing around with various prepaid options trying to see what I could build for myself using the VOIP and SIP technologies available to me.
Finally, I found republicwireless.com who promised everything I wanted. Their phone was a bit expensive, but their plan was $20/month unlimited everything. It relied on a home wireless network to offset the usage costs on the cell phone. So I got on their waiting list and started monitoring their forums for months to see how things were going. I started seeing reports of horrible customer service and a few problems with the phones. Now I can live with one or two issues for a really great plan, but an over priced cell phone (even for being un-subsidized) along with customer service issues when trying to work out cell problems was too much for me. I was right on the border still liking the idea, but not sure that this company was for me.
Then I found ting.com. Ting was running a $50 off special, so I purchased a $65 LG Optimus droid from them for a grand total of $15. Then they allowed me to fully customize my plan taking off all minutes, and text messaging, and just keeping a small amount of data. I figured I could make this work since texting, email, and gps was what I primarily did on my phone. My total cost came to $20/month for 500MB. It may not seem like a fantastic deal, but as long as I am using less than 1GB in normal usage then my cost is far cheaper than a regular plan. Also, Tings customer service is great.
In comparison, Ting is overall more expensive than republicwireless if you are a heavy cell user. However, Ting has much better customer service, and they have a wide selection of phones at a far cheaper price. And there is no waiting list with Ting. These two options should give you some great choices for finally breaking away from contracts with the big cell providers and actually getting what you want.
Both Ting and republicwiress run on Sprints network. Ting allows roaming in the USA for minutes and text messages, but not for data; you won't get charged roaming fees at all, data simply will not work. If you allow roaming on a Ting phone and a Verizon tower is closer than a Sprint tower, it will choose the Verizon tower for better signal and you will lose data connectivity. This is resolved by simply not allowing roaming (you might have to restart your phone after turning it off). From what I have heard, republicwireless does allow unlimited roaming in the USA for everything, but I have not had the chance to verify that.