Combine a prepaid cell plan with a cheap phone for extra savings. By Jeff Bertolucci, Contributing Writer January 7, 2010 Who doesn’t want to pay less for their cell? You won’t find any bargains among the major carriers. But second-tier cellular service providers may offer a better deal. Prepaid plans with no long-term contracts and unlimited talk and text cost as little as $25 a month. But you get a limited selection of older handsets, spotty coverage and slower data service in some areas. Straight talker. Wal-Mart has entered the prepaid-wireless market by selling TracFone’s Straight Talk cell service as its house brand. As you’d expect from a gargantuan retailer known for price cutting, Wal-Mart has some sweet deals on respectable (if unspectacular) phones. Our favorite is the Samsung R451C ($100), a “slider cell” with both a numeric keypad and a slide-out qwerty keyboard. Its raised keys are well spaced -- though a bit too flat and easy to miss while typing. Other essential features include a Web browser, Blue-tooth and a 1.3-megapixel camera. The phone’s color display is a tad small for gaming and surfing, but adequate for texting. Wal-Mart offers two Straight Talk plans, each with no contract and low fees. The $30 monthly option buys 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts and 30 megabytes of data. The $45-a-month package includes unlimited talk, text and data. Messaging maven. Would you rather text than talk? The Motorola Clutch i465 ($100) from Boost Mobile has a full qwerty keyboard with good tactile feedback. The keys have a peaked design that makes typing surprisingly easy despite their small size. The 1.79-inch color screen is too small for lengthy Web browsing, and the camera is just so-so. But the Clutch’s durable build and stylishly curved edges compensate for its shortcomings. Advertisement Boost Mobile, a division of Sprint Nextel, offers several calling plans, none with a contract, roaming charges or a credit check. The $50 monthly package includes unlimited nationwide talk, text and Web access. Too pricey? Try the 10-cent-per-minute plan instead. But be careful. Text messages cost a dime each; multimedia messages run a quarter. Chubby chatter box. Who says a cell phone must be long and lean? The Cricket TXTM8 (pronounced textmate; $110 online after a $50 rebate) goes wide with a squat, chubby design. The result is a text-friendly handset with a roomy, slide-out qwerty keyboard. The 2.2-inch color display is bright, but a bit small for Web use. Overall, the TXTM8 is a good choice for calling and texting, but not browsing. Cricket’s unlimited talk and text plans start at $25 per month, with no contract. Roaming costs extra -- a whopping 39 cents per minute, although cheaper packages are available. The $40 monthly plan, which includes long distance, voice mail, Internet service and caller ID, is a smart choice for heavy users. Great communicator. The LG Rumor2 ($130), a sleek slider from Virgin Mobile USA, bears a striking resemblance to TracFone’s Samsung R451C. Both handsets sport the de rigueur candy-bar design, a la the iPhone. Both have a 1.3-megapixel camera, a keypad for calling and a slide-out qwerty keyboard. The price for the Rumor2 is $130; it is sometimes offered for $100 on Virgin’s Web site. Although Virgin offers three no-contract plans, none is all-inclusive. The $50-per-month plan is the only one that offers unlimited, anytime minutes. But it costs an extra $5 for 1,000 text messages, or $10 for unlimited texts. Web access adds $5 to $10 to your monthly cost.