Walmart last month started touting a service from a wireless reseller called MobileX that starts at only $4.08. Considering most plans cost five, 10, or even 20 times that amount, it turned some heads.
At first blush, it’s one of the most aggressive offers in the prepaid wireless business, an area that’s seen a lot of activity with everyone from Ryan Reynolds-fronted Mint Wireless to Verizon’s Visible and T-Mobile’s Metro, which are in the middle of a George Costanza-inspired battle.
The end result is that for consumers looking to save a buck on their wireless service, there are plenty of deals to be had.
But $4.08 a month for service sounds unreal. There have got to be strings, right?
Let’s break down MobileX’s service and what you need to know if you’re considering making the switch.
What is MobileX?
MobileX is considered a wireless reseller, or a company that leases capacity off of a carrier like T-Mobile or Verizon and resells that connection as its own service. The service launched in February, but it gained some attention after striking a deal with Walmart, which it announced on September 26.
Who started MobileX? Is it legit?
Given the Walmart connection, you can be assured that the service is legitimate. Furthermore, the company was founded by Peter Adderton, who founded Boost Mobile before selling it to Sprint (it’s now part of Dish Network following the T-Mobile-Sprint merger). Adderton has an established reputation in the wireless industry.
What network does it run on?
The service runs on Verizon’s service, the quality will depend on how good the carrier’s coverage is in your area.
What’s this about a $4.08 plan?
Let’s get into it, because there are a whole lot of caveats here. Walmart and MobileX tout this entry price, but you really don’t get a lot. Out of that initial price, $1.98 covers a 30-day “access/platform fee” to use the network. The rest of it is where things get tricky.
The remaining $2.10 covers your first gigabyte of data. If you go over that, you’ll be charged another $2.10.
You’ll have to look at how much data you use, but the average data consumed by a smartphone user in North America each month in 2022 was estimated at 17.4GB, according to Statista. Based on that consumption, the data charges would be closer to $37.80.
But keep in mind that your initial service just includes data. You need to pay for other perks – like making a phone call.
How much is that?
You can pay $1.50 to 50 minutes of calls and 50 text messages, $2.50 for 150 minutes and 150 texts, and $4.50 for unlimited calls and texts. These are monthly fees on top of your data charges.
There’s an unlimited international talk and text plan to Mexico and Canada that’s another $4.50 per month.
Any other costs?
Yes. You have to pay $9.88 for a SIM card starter kit, which is a one-time fee.
MobileX says you get 10 days of free service as it learns your usage patterns and recommends the best plan going forward. If you pay for too much data, it will roll over into the next month’s plan.
I’ll probably use a lot more data. Are there unlimited plans?
It depends on how you define “unlimited.” MobileX does indeed offer two unlimited plans, but you need to check the fine print.
There’s the Basic Unlimited 5, which gives you unlimited talk and text and 5GB of high-speed data. After 5GB, your phone will be throttled, which means your speeds gets dramatically reduced to 512kbps – or essentially an old-school modem. It costs $14.88 a month.
There’s also the Basic Unlimited 30, which gives you 30GB of data at high speeds before the throttling kicks in. It costs $24.88 a month.
Who is this for?
This is ideal for someone who doesn’t use much data on the go. If you’re at home a lot and on a Wi-Fi network, you won’t consume a huge amount of cellular data, so this could work. But if you find yourself on the go often, like commuting to work, then the pay-per-GB model could add up. The “unlimited” plans, meanwhile, are workable if you can stay under those thresholds, because the throttled speed will be a terrible experience.
But the $24.88 plan is comparable to the $25 a month that Verizon’s Visible and T-Mobile’s Metro charges. Although note that Visible’s base plan could also see throttling, although not as dramatic as MobileX. There are also comparable plans from Tracfone, and it’s worth looking at Straight Talk, also available at Walmart.
It could be a matter of figuring out which service works best in your community, and go from there.
Who should avoid this?
Power users or folks who like to hotspot or are out on the road a lot shouldn’t give MobileX a second of consideration.