An affordable cellphone option, with cheap Smartphones, NO CONTRACTS, plans from $18.99/ month, including unlimited texts, unlimited calls within the USA & unlimited 2G Data, 3G/4G Data varies depending on the plan.
I have been impressed with the TEXTNOW cellphone service and would recommend it as an affordable cellphone option for Middle School, High School and College students.
As the mom of a new middle school student, a big topic of conversation with my fellow moms has been finding an affordable cellphone service for our kids. As our kids become more independent traveling home from school by public transport or on foot we want to have a reliable way to contact them, but don’t want to give them expensive handsets or let them run up huge bills.
One option is to add an additional line on to your family cellphone plan, but this risks them running up big text or data bills. Unless you have an old handset to pass on to them, getting them a new one can be costly or can lock you into a long contract. Another option is to get them their own plan, and TEXTNOW has a variety of really affordable options for doing this.
TEXTNOW wireless plans are non-contract and plans start at $18.99 a month. They have a variety of Android cellphones available inexpensively, with their current sale some are under $5 or even free WITHOUT a contract. I tested out the TEXTNOW service using a Motorola Moto X.
TEXTNOW is a little different than most mobile phone carriers as it uses a combination of WiFi and Sprint to provide its cellphone service. If you are anywhere that you can connect to WiFi e.g. at home, library, school or coffeeshop it will use that as the preferred calling option and if that is not available it will use Sprint.
I live in Northern California in a rural area where in the past AT&T and Verizon have really been our only cellphone options, so I wasn’t sure how well the service would work here. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, and having the WiFi calling does really help in areas where the Sprint signal may be weak. I did not notice any discernible difference in the call quality when made over WiFi vs over the Sprint network.
They have a variety of plans available, none of which require a contract, and they can all be cancelled at any time. Plans start from $18.99/ month, all plans include unlimited texts, unlimited calls within the USA & unlimited 2G Data, the amount of 3G/4G Data varies depending on the plan chosen. With teens using the phone I like that there are no hidden surprises, they can text and call their friends as much as they like without getting a shock when the bill arrives. The phone will try to connect to Wifi whenever it is available to decrease data usage. If they use up all their 3G/4G data there are no overage fees, instead you get asked if you want to upgrade to the next plan level, if you decline then their data is just kept at 2G until the next billing cycle.
I also like not having to worry that my kid will lose or break an expensive SmartPhone whilst still under contract. TEXTNOW have a good selection of affordable (or even free) handsets, the big carriers make these kinds of offers too but the difference is you need to lock into a (usually) 2 -year contract to get these deals. With TEXTNOW there is no commitment, if the kid loses the phone next week you can just buy another at the same low price. The handsets offered are typically not the newest models, but they are still very good phones. I used a MOTO-X which had a 4.7″ screen a 10MP camera and is a good quality Android phone, a perfect phone for my son.
Overall, I have been impressed with the TEXTNOW cellphone service and would recommend it as an affordable cellphone option for Middle School, High School and College students. Their handsets are very affordable, there is no commitment and no overage fees, and with plans starting at $18.99 including unlimited texts, US calls and 2g data it is very reasonably priced. Phones can be ordered from the TEXTNOW website.
NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.
Disclaimer: I am a NETGEAR Ambassador and I received this product in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion and review.
easy to use hotspot which had great internet connectivity in areas that my traditional Verizon Wireless phone did not. Connects multiple devices so my kids could use it in the car, good battery life
Wish it had a bag to hold all of the cords and chargers, I found they got lost inside my backpack
Easy to use hot spot that works both inside and outside of the United States, provides great battery life and connectivity for your devices
Getting an internet connection should be easy right?!? I recently had a chance to test the Verizon Jetpack® 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot – AC791L and was pleasantly surprised to see what a good connection I could get even at places that my cell phone didn’t traditionally work. I had brought the hotspot with me during a recent visit to the doctor for my older son, as I anticipated a long wait and I knew that I would need to do some work. I pulled out my Verizon Wireless iPhone and got the dreaded no service bar, so honestly I wasn’t expecting that the Verizon Jetpack® 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot would get me a great connection. I was pleasantly surprised that when I turned it on and found that I had a good connection – strong enough in fact to log into a VPN connection and begin downloading emails. This test was off to a good start!
Next, I decided I would pair my iPad Mini and iPhone 6 to the hotspot since it supports up to 15 devices at a time. The data was fast, and the hotspot was super easy for all of us to use simultaneously and was password protected so not just anyone could get onto the hotspot and use up our data. I was logged into the VPN and my son streamed music for almost an hour while we waited for the doctor and we didn’t even put a dent into the 5 gigs of data I had downloaded. I liked that I could easily see how much data I had used in a period of time and when the cycle was ending. I also liked that I could plug in my iPhone to be charged – if my battery was running low but I did find that this drained the battery quite a bit faster. The battery will last up to 24 hours – I haven’t had it on for that long, typically I stow it in my purse and turn it on when I use it and off when I am not. I also liked the temporary password feature which meant that I could give my son a temporary password while in the doctors office and then when we left I didn’t have to worry about him using data unexpectedly. I also liked that you could use it all around the world, not just in the United States – although I don’t travel out of the country very often. I also found it was light enough to keep in my backpack with my work laptop and supplies so I would be sure to have internet where ever I was. I also tested it out on the commuter rail on a recent trip into Boston – and I was surprised that I had a great connection which allowed me to work all the way into the city.
In terms of improvements, I wish that it came with a pouch to store all of the cords and chargers. I often find that cords and chargers will get lost in my backpack during my commute so not losing anything is really important to me plus I want to make sure I can find everything when I need it.
The Verizon Jetpack AC791L is available for $49.99 (after $50 rebate) with a 2 year contract from Verizon Wireless or it can be added to an existing cell phone plan – we have the Verizon Everything Plan so I’m going to be adding it to our monthly plan so that when I bring our iPads and other devices that are wi-fi only my kids will be able to stream videos and I can stream music in the car. I’m really enjoying knowing that I can get internet where and when I need it – and not having to find a internet cafe or other place to login and check my emails. I also like knowing my information is more secure rather than just on public wi-fi. It’s a win-win! You can buy it directly from Verizon Wireless.
Disclaimer: I am a NETGEAR Ambassador and I received this product in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion and review.
No contract, data that never expires, works well, connects up to 10 devices, long lasting battery
Only available on Sprint, 1GB data expensive, bigger data bundles better value but these do have expiration
The NETGEAR Around Town is a well-made mobile hotspot suited for those in areas with Sprint coverage that use a hotspot intermittently and want to avoid monthly service fees.
Getting a reliable internet connection when traveling can be an expensive and frustrating endeavor. Hotels often charge a premium for their internet connection and when you are away from the hotel it can be frustrating trying to find a coffee shop or restaurant with internet connectivity. I have used my iPhone as a hotspot but that does not always work well – sometimes it has problems connecting to my laptop or other devices, the signal can be weak and it uses my phone battery up very quickly.When I’m away from home I find a mobile hotspot is the best way to ensure I have a reliable internet connection. I have found that a dedicated Mobile HotSpot works much better. If you need a hotspot frequently it can be worthwhile adding one, such as the NETGEAR Unite Hotspot for AT&T, to your monthly phone service, but if you don’t need it year around getting one on contract may not be the best option for you.
For people who want a Mobile Hotspot without a contract NETGEAR recently introduced the Around Town Mobile Hotspot. I have been testing this out over the last month. It is a 4G LTE mobile hotspot that uses the Sprint network. The hotspot costs $199.99, it comes with 1GB data that never expires and there are a variety of options for purchasing additional data.
Set Up and Use
Setting up the Around Town is pretty straight forward. It comes with a Micro-SD card in place. Before you switch it on for the first time you need to go online to activate it. It comes with the battery packaged separately and a large warning label over the battery compartment to go online and activate before inserting the battery. Once you have completed the online activation you insert the battery and press and hold the on button and it will activate. (If you don’t have internet access to do the activation is is an alternate way using SMS)
The Around Town’s WiFi network is password protected, and there is a guest option to allow you to share the network with a friend without giving them your main password.
The Around Town is approximately 4.25″ x 2.3″ x 0.5 ” and weighs approximately 3.7 oz. It has a black and red plastic exterior and has a single button on the top edge. You press and hold this button to switch the hotspot on/ off , and you press it briefly to change scroll through screens. The LCD screen is approximately 1.5″ x 1.2″, the home screen shows the the hotspot’s wifi name, password, signal strength, battery %, data usage and no of devices currently connected. The 2nd screen allows activation of the guest access and shows the guest password. Other screens show additional information about the hotspot.
It has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 10 hours and you can recharge it via an included micro-USB/USB cable and wall charger.
The hotspot feels pretty rugged and is quite light and easy to carry with you when traveling. I have found it very easy to use and have had no problems connecting to the hot spot. It is designed to connect to up to 10 different devices at a time, I have not tested it with this many but it worked fine with the 5 I tried.
I live in Northern California and in our area Sprint is not the carrier with the best coverage. We do have some rural areas that only have coverage from AT& T and Verizon and so I have been unable to use the hotspot when traveling in those areas. In my home I only get a single bar connection but despite that I found that the WiFi from the Around Town worked very well and I had no problems connecting to the internet there and could even watch online videos without any problems. I would recommend checking Sprint’s coverage for your local area and areas you frequently visit to see if this a good option for you as coverage for all the phone networks varies from region to region.
I love the fact that the data that comes with the hotspot does not expire and that you can buy additional data that never expires too, however the non-expiring data is expensive at $24.99 for 1GB. There are cheaper data options available but these do expire: $34.99 for 2GB (expires in 30 days) or $74.99 for 5GB (expires in 60 days.) You can see all the current data option on the NETGEAR website.
Overall, I like the hardware of the Around Town Mobile Hotspot, it works well, feels rugged, is simple to set up and use, has a long battery life and allows connection of up to 10 devices at once. How good an option it is will depend Sprint’s coverage in your area. I love that you can get non-expiring data for the hotspot as this is ideal for those who use it infrequently, but I do think $24.99 for 1GB is expensive, the 2GB and 5GB options are a better value but I wish that the data for these options also did not expire or at least had a 6 or 12 month expiration to make them more useful for the infrequent user.
The Around Town Mobile Hotspot is available from Amazon and other retailers for US$199.99
It is summer again and for my family and many others that means time to go on summer vacation! I have always loved traveling and before kids I visited many places around the world. Since having kids my travel is not quite so footloose and fancy free, but we still love to travel as a family. Every year we go on transatlantic flights to visit my family back in the UK and Ireland, and closer to home we also love to go camping and spend days at the pool, beach or lake.
In this article I want to share some of my favorite travel products that make my life easier every time I travel, including products I use in the car, on the plane, camping and at pool, beach or lake.
1. Back up Battery
On long plane journeys and other times when electricity isn’t readily available a good back up battery is essential for keeping everything charged. I find this especially important for keeping the kids iPads charged during our 10 hour plus transatlantic flights and for keeping my phone charged during our camping trips. There are many back up batteries on the market and features I look for include: keeping their charge for long periods when not in use, multiple outlets so I can charge more than 1 device at once, powerful enough that I can use for an iPad when needed and not too bulky or heavy. A good choice is the RazorMax from myCharge it is a 6000mAH battery, with 2 USB ports a combined 2.4A output, and is quite slim and light for it’s output. It is 4.4 in x 2.6 in x 0.5 in and weighs 0.38 lbs. Available from myCharge RRP $69.99
2. External Storage for my iOS Devices
During long car or plane journeys a great way to keep the kids happy and entertained is to bring along their favorite movies and even some ones they’ve never seen before. Movies can quickly fill up your iPad storage so I load them onto an external storage device. For movie watching and streaming my favorite storage device is the SanDisk Connect Media Drive. It streams up to 8hrs, connects to up to 8 devices at once and can stream 5 different movies simultaneously. For me it is a must-have travel accessory for families on the go, and it is very reasonably priced for the amount of extra storage you get. I especially love how you can add even more storage capacity very economically using SD cards. It is available with 32GB or 62GB memory. Available from Amazon.com and other retailers from $69.99 for 32GB version. Read my full review.
3. Car Charger
Another must-have is a way to keep my iPhone and other tech charged whilst on the road and I’ve found the RIBBN car charger from TYLT
is a great choice. It delivers 4.8 Amps – making it powerful enough to charge 2 tablets at once. It has a built-in charging cable and a separate USB charging port. I use the lightning version – it has a built-in lightning cable that I use with my iPhone, iPad Mini or iPad Air (a version with a Micro-USB cable is also available.) The charging cable is flat and tough and never gets tangled. I use the 2nd USB charging slot with my own cables to charge a variety of other electronics. Available from TYLT.com
4. Mobile Hot Spot
When I’m away from home I find a mobile hot spot is the best way to ensure I have a reliable internet connection. I have AT&T phone service and find the NETGEAR Unite Hot Spot a great choice as I can add it to my mobile phone service. But if a hot spot is not something you use year around getting one on contract may not be the best option for you. The Around Town from NETGEAR is a great option in this situation as not only does it not require a contract but there is an option to buy data for it that never expires! The Around Town is a 4G LTE mobile hotspot that allows you to securely connect up to 10 devices and its battery lasts up to 10 hours, it uses the Sprint network. It comes with 1GB of data, additional data can be purchased. Available from Amazon and other retailers for US$199.99
For the sake of my sanity I always make sure to pack several pairs of headphones when traveling with the kids. That way each of them can watch their own movies or play their games without me having to listen to them! It also means that I can chill out and relax to my own music in the evenings after they have gone to sleep. A current favorite in our family are the iB37 Color Changing Headphones from iHome. They are adjustable enough that they fit my 8 year-old daughter and yet are comfortable for me to wear too, do a good job of blocking out external noise and sound good. A fun extra (that we don’t use in the car or on the plane) is the color changing option. Coming soon from iHome RRP US$49.99
6. Solar Powered Light
I recently discovered the Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern and it is a great addition to our family camping equipment. It has 10 bright LEDs and requires no batteries as it runs entirely on its own solar panels. It makes a great backpacking light as it weighs only 4 oz and folds to 1 inch thick. It takes a few seconds to inflate to lantern mode or it can be kept folded to use as a flashlight. Available from Amazon, Big 5 and other retailers for US$14.99
7. Wet Electronics Rescue Pouch
One product I carry with me when I go to the lake, beach or pool, but hope never to have to use is the Evap Wet Electronics Pouch from Kensington. If your mobile phone accidentally goes for a swim the Evap pouch can be a lifesaver (or at least a phone saver!) It contains a drying agent that is 700% more effective than using rice at removing moisture. You simply remove your phone battery and Sim card, wipe off any surface moisture and place in the pouch between to 2 pouches, seal and wait 24 hours or until the moisture indicator shows it is ready. Available from Kensington.com and other retailers RRP US$14.99.
8. Rugged, Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker
Where ever you go it is fun to be able to listen to music even when you are away from a power source. My favorite “take it anywhere” speaker is the iBN6 Rugged Waterproof Bluetooth Rechargeable Speaker from iHome. It has an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means you can even submerge it in water. It has a rubberized exterior to help it withstand knocks and as it is dust and waterproof it is a great choice for a camping trip or day out at the beach, pool or lake. Its rechargeable battery lasts up to 14 hours and it will even recharge your smartphone too! Just in case you get thirsty it has a carabiner with a built-in bottle opener too. Available from iHome, Amazon and other retailers RRP US$99
9. Added Peace of Mind at the Pool, Beach or Lake
My 3 kids love to play in water, but as a parent I can find it very stressful, especially as I have 1 non-swimmer. A product which helps to give me peace of mind is iSwimband. It does not replace proper adult supervision around water, but is designed to give you an extra early warning system should your non-swimmer fall in the water or your swimmer stay submerged too long. iSwimband is a wearable sensor that works in conjunction with a smartphone app. In can be attached via a wrist strap for non-swimmers (such as toddlers) and a headband/google strap for swimmers. Available from iSwimband.com, Amazon and other retailers RRP $59.99.Read my full review
10. Smartphone Mount for the Car
When traveling by car I often use my cellphone as a GPS navigation system, and to do that I need it securely mounted where I can see it without taking my eyes off the road. The Universal Car Mount from Kensington is a great solution for this, and is really flexible, working with different vehicles and phones.It mounts in 2 ways- either via a 12 inch long flexible arm attached to a powerful suction cup, or via a vent clip. The mount works in both portrait and landscape mode, and releases with a touch of a button. I love that it is really easy to adjust and will work with lots of different size smartphones up to and including the iPhone6+. Read my full review. Available from Kensington.com for US $29.99.
Of course you need a great navigation app to go with your smartphone, and my favorite navigation apps are the CoPilot series by ALK Technologies
. They are available for US and Canada
as well as many other countries, you can read my review of the UK and Ireland
version here. I love that they can be used off-line, saving precious data (especially important with international data roaming charges!) They are regularly updated, have clear directions, alternative route options and you can also get live traffic updates.
These are some of my travel “must-haves”, what are yours? I’d love to hear about how you like to spend your summer, and what products you have found most useful on your travels.
Note: Some of the products included in this article were supplied by the companies for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received. Their inclusion was the decision of the author, all opinions stated in the article are those of the author and have been offered honestly.