How To Use An Android Phone Without A Data Plan

Android phones are awesome and all, but the fact remains that Android phones are too expensive for some. $30 a month is a lot to pay for a data contract, especially when it takes your monthly bill close to $100 for a single line. But how can you use an Android phone without a data plan? The best option is to buy a used, contract-free device and then activate it without a data plan. Then, keep your cellular data turned off and only use Wi-Fi.
1. Find a good Android phone secondhand
You might be surprised at how cheaply you can get a gently used Android device. eBay or Craigslist are mainstays for buying used electronics, and there’s a new site called Swappa that’s dedicated to providing a marketplace for people trying to buy and sell used Android devices. The prices are low and the site makes it easy to connect with sellers.
On Swappa, you can get an original Droid for as low as $90, a Nexus One for as low as $210, and a Galaxy S for as low as $200, among many more. Granted, these phones are used, but you are still getting a contract-free Android phone for as cheap as you’d pay for a new one and a two-year contract. Make sure that you’re buying a phone that is compatible with your current carrier.
2. Swap out your old phone with your new one
How to switch phones depends on the carrier. If you’re on AT&T or T-Mobile, all you’ll need to do is switch the SIM card from the old phone to the new phone. Sprint requires online activation, and unfortunately Verizon does not allow smartphones to be activated without a data plan.
For Sprint, you can either go through the process at Sprint.com or bring both phones into a retail Sprint store and it will handle the changeover for you.
3. Ensure that cellular data is turned off on your new Android phone
Once you’re up and running on your new phone, it’s very important to ensure that mobile data is turned OFF to avoid getting dinged with a gigantic bill. Without a data plan, your data access is pay-per-use, and the fees are steep — dollars per megabyte in some cases. You’re only going to be able to use Wi-Fi on your smartphone, so you’ll want to turn off the data entirely so you’re sure it won’t be used.
To do this, download an app from the Market called APN on-off Widget. Add the widget to your homescreen and use it to turn your mobile data OFF. If it’s been turned off successfully, you will no longer see 3G, 2G, or 1X listed next to your signal meter in the status bar on your phone.
After this, you’re all ready to go. Enjoy your cheaper Android device!

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  • http://twitter.com/mitch_bartlett Mitch Bartlett

    You can have data shut off if you call the main customer service number and beg enough. Much safer than using a widget that has been reported to not work on some devices.

  • http://twitter.com/mitch_bartlett Mitch Bartlett

    You can have data shut off if you call the main customer service number and beg enough. Much safer than using a widget that has been reported to not work on some devices.

  • Lee

    Unfortunately, this probably wont work in some cases. On AT&T at least, if you put your SIM card in an AT&T branded device, they will pick up the phone change and detect that it’s a smartphone (via the IMEI number) and automatically add the data plan, even if you turn off cellular data. Although I have heard that you can somewhat get around it by blocking data on your old dumbphone and then swapping the SIM. You can also get around it by using a T-Mobile branded phone. You won’t get 3g, but since you wont have a data plan, the only thing it will effect is the time it takes to send a text.

  • http://twitter.com/no_substitute Kim Nilsson

    Why would anyone bother with a smartphone that can only be used properly at home and MAYBE at work? Those are the only two places you can expect to have access to “free” wifi. Do note that quite a few companies do not allow private phones to access the wifi network.

  • http://twitter.com/no_substitute Kim Nilsson

    Why would anyone bother with a smartphone that can only be used properly at home and MAYBE at work? Those are the only two places you can expect to have access to “free” wifi. Do note that quite a few companies do not allow private phones to access the wifi network.

  • Sandoggrules

    I’ve done this when traveling in Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Chile. Almost every restaurant, coffee shop and bar has free wifi. It’s usually protected, but all you have to do is ask the waiter/waitress and they are always happy to give it to you.

  • http://blog.rantspot.co.tv/ JBBdude

    Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could buy wifi-only handheld Android devices? Archos makes them, and the Xoom (albeit a tablet) comes in wifi-only.
    Actually, it’d be a lot easier if they just charged less for this access. These are crazy rates, but they can charge them because we need them. It’s about time the government steps in and regulates what these providers can charge and what sorts of limitations they can arbitrarily slap on.
    I’ll be going around the world with my international VZW phone. However, I will probably use it almost exclusively on wifi. The data prices for international travel are vastly higher than the carriers’ data and voice prices in other nations. One more example of crazy monopolistic opportunistic milking of consumers for every last dollar.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      I tend to agree with you on the WiFi-only front.

    • Mark Sokolovsky

      The government needs to take control of many things…..

  • http://blog.rantspot.co.tv/ JBBdude

    Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could buy wifi-only handheld Android devices? Archos makes them, and the Xoom (albeit a tablet) comes in wifi-only.
    Actually, it’d be a lot easier if they just charged less for this access. These are crazy rates, but they can charge them because we need them. It’s about time the government steps in and regulates what these providers can charge and what sorts of limitations they can arbitrarily slap on.

    I’ll be going around the world with my international VZW phone. However, I will probably use it almost exclusively on wifi. The data prices for international travel are vastly higher than the carriers’ data and voice prices in other nations. One more example of crazy monopolistic opportunistic milking of consumers for every last dollar.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      I tend to agree with you on the WiFi-only front.

    • Mark Sokolovsky

      The government needs to take control of many things…..

  • Alan

    Easier way to turn off the data and it’s what I do. I have an original Droid. Just put the unit into airplane mode. Once in that mode, you can then turn on just the WiFi. Much easier and no software involved.

  • Alan

    Easier way to turn off the data and it’s what I do. I have an original Droid. Just put the unit into airplane mode. Once in that mode, you can then turn on just the WiFi. Much easier and no software involved.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mattbarnes951 Matthew Barnes

    I wonder what Apple will make of this…

  • http://profiles.google.com/mattbarnes951 Matthew Barnes

    I wonder what Apple will make of this…

  • http://twitter.com/Daniel277 Daniel James

    I would love to see Chris in London for MyGreatFest in September, Im sure we can arrange flights, I would personally pay for you….

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      But I’m not a jailbreaker. :)

      • http://twitter.com/Daniel277 Daniel James

        You are enthusiastic about Apple products, you provide your community with all the latest information etc. like you, when you type in “iPhone Convention” in to Google, we are the first result. Can I email you a proposal for this, We would all love to work with you on this, (and to visit London). :)

  • http://twitter.com/Daniel277 Daniel James

    I would love to see Chris in London for MyGreatFest in September, Im sure we can arrange flights, I would personally pay for you….

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      But I’m not a jailbreaker. :)

      • http://twitter.com/Daniel277 Daniel James

        You are enthusiastic about Apple products, you provide your community with all the latest information etc. like you, when you type in “iPhone Convention” in to Google, we are the first result. Can I email you a proposal for this, We would all love to work with you on this, (and to visit London). :)