While most focus is on AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, upstart MetroPCS, a regional carrier piggybacking on Sprint’s network capacity, is making waves with money-saving plans and handsets.

Before getting to the hardware, let’s examine MetroPCS’ new plan and other company-specific info.

MetroPCS operates in much of but not all US markets.  They are ideal for those who are primarily local within the company coverage area. This is because their plans may have a little “gotcha” for some who travel widely. The fine print at the bottom of the About MetroPCS page reads, “Some services not available in extended home areas. Coverage not available in all locations. If you need to place a call while outside of MetroPCS’s local, extended home or TravelTalk extended coverage areas, per-minute charges may apply.”

Generally, the same is NOT true when traveling on the major carriers’ networks with a national plan.  And it should not, generally, be an issue with MetroPCS if the user is mainly in the home area. Recognize that MetroPCS has coverage in 90% of the US!  Still, it is possible that a subscriber would find herself outside of a MetroPCS area and incur added charges for roaming at a rate of 19 cents per minute.

On the other hand, for customers for whom MetroPCS is ideal, one cannot beat the price for service received.  I’m referring to unlimited talk, text, IM, email and Web, all for $50 per month without an annual contract. This is simply not available from the Big Three. That service would cost about double!

Couple this excellent plan with the latest Android handset, such as the LG Optimus M at $229 and it is truly unbeatable!  This handset has the newest 2.2 Froyo OS, too!  Non-geeks need to know only that this is a good thing!  The handset, which I have been playing with, is fun and easy to use, with further details at the link above.

Phone downsides?  Maybe.  “Only” 3.2 megapixel camera with NO flash. It’s NOT fast online, using the native “1X” network if a 3G node is not available. This is NOT a 4G phone.  1X is not as fast as 3G.  On the other hand, 1X is not a battery hog as is 3G and especially 4G.  What does it mean?  When possible, log on to available Wi-Fi and use it!

On the plus side, among many, is a very good voice recognition capability useful for voice dialing and voice search online.

Let’s revue – Downright CHEAP all-you-can-eat service at $50 per month, a snazzy NEW LG Android phone, Optius M, for $229, with MetroPCS.  NO downside for most users as explained above, yet service for which the Big Three charge about $100.

I see this phone and plan worth a look for anyone eligible by area to take advantage or a good phone with a fantastic priced plan. Parents take note – your student who wants it all and is not paying for it would be crazy to turn down this phone and plan. You’ll save big over having to lock into a costly plan with AT&T for a coveted iPhone or any other phone or plan with AT&T or Verizon.  Be smart. Buy smart!

If you’re not certain of the best phone for your gift recipient, have a look at their Facebook page where the Gift Finder link can be found!

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