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Pay-As-You-Go Faceoff: Boost vs. Jump


Our No. 1 goal here at Prepaid Reviews is to arm you with information necessary to make a decision on your cell phone carrier. A while back, we ran a series of columns called We Help You Decide, in which we profiled various phone users and how each of our featured providers matched up with each one. That’s still a viable source of information, but now we’re taking a step further. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to pit pay-as-you-go plans head to head to see which ones come out ahead. This is strictly for per-minute or per-day plans. The monthly rate plans will duke it out later. Up this week, Boost vs. Jump.

This week we bring you one of the caveats of these Pay-As-You-Go Faceoffs, though it did have an effect on the last one. Simply, Jump Mobile is not a national carrier. It is a subsidiary of Leap Wireless, which only carries service in select regions. Boost Mobile, however, is a fully-owned subsidiary of Sprint Nextel, meaning it covers the entire nation.

Last week, we featured AT&T, a full national carrier, vs. Alltel, which, despite having coverage in all major markets, is not available for purchase and activation everywhere. It’s an inherent problem that we’re inevitably going to come across often. That’s why we’re going to compare as many of these companies as possible. That way, you can see how each service stacks up against all the others.

Boost’s pay-as-you-go is quite average, considering the per-minute rates of other prepaid carriers. During peak hours, calls are 20 cents per minute. If you’re talking to another Boost or Sprint customer, or after 9 p.m. and on the weekends, the rate is 10 cents per minute. It’s tough to assume where a user’s average per-minute rate is, since everyone uses their phone differently. But we can make a rough estimate by splitting the difference. If you can average out to 15 cents a minute, we’ll say you’ve used your Boost pay-as-you-go account wisely.

If you don’t travel out of your home calling area much, Jump offers a far superior rate. First off, incoming calls are free, the way it should be (you know, the way it was back in the day, before we had phones attached to our hips). When you place calls, they’re just 10 cents per minute. Once again, there comes the issue of average rate per minute, and this one is even tougher to figure than Boost. Why? Simple manipulation, our friends. Since most other people in the cell phone bearing world pay whether they make or receive a call, you can get people to call you more often…or send a text message rather than calling…or call them, tell them to call you, and hang up, effectively using just one minute.

However, the plan becomes less ideal when you travel outside of your local calling area. And by less ideal, we mean absolutely horrific. It’s 69 cents per minute, both outgoing and incoming. So — and we hope this is needless to say — if you don’t work strictly within your home calling area, you probably shouldn’t be using Jump. This also goes for people on the fringe of a calling area; you’re just more apt to leave the calling area and pay four, five, or even six times what you’d pay with other carriers.

When it comes to text messaging, Boost and Jump are on even ground, both offering 10 cent outgoing messages and free incoming messages. Ah, but then we get to the Jump caveat. Surprisingly, text messages outside of your local calling area won’t cost you a penny more. Heh, the catch: text messaging simply will not work in these ares. So once again, we have the give and take of price vs. convenience.

Boost has a major edge in data services. For just 35 cents a day, you can explore the web on your Boost phone. With Jump, such a service is not available. They do have Jump Downloads, which allows you access to select media outlets. But it’s a one-time, $5 fee for access, plus the cost of each download. If you’re an Internet junkie, it’s all Boost.

Like most other prepaid carriers — and heck, telecommunications companies in general — both Boost and Jump have hard to reach customer service departments. We once called Boost to ask a simple question (pertaining to number porting, if our memory serves us), and waited on hold for an inordinate length of time. However, our experience with Jump was far worse. In fact, we never even reached a rep. This shouldn’t be a problem for subscribers, since the reason we couldn’t get through is because we don’t have an account number. Either way, we can’t vouch for their level of service.

And now we get to phones. Now, we’re not saying that Boost has anything resembling a comprehensive selection of phones. In fact, they’re exclusively supplied by Motorola, which certainly limits your options. But when they’re put up against Jump’s selection, it’s like the King’s army vs. the peasants. Jump offers just two phones. And while we’ve been told that you can “flash” a CDMA phone so it will work on any network, it’s not something we’d recommend. So many things can go wrong in that kind of process. Even so, in theory, you could do the same with Boost.

The verdict: It’s tough to gauge the average per-minute rate under each plan, though it’s clear that Jump’s is lower. WIth text messaging being equal, you’d think it’s a tough call. We don’t see it that way, though. Boost has better coverage and the same rates no matter where you’re talking. If you so much as step outside your local calling area with Jump, you’re basically screwed.

Given this, plus Boost’s superior data services and phone selection, we have to hand it to them. Yeah, if you only call within your local calling area, if you don’t care about data service, and if you don’t care about a limited phone selection, yeah, you might be fine with Jump. But that’s a lot of ifs. Boost is simply better on a universal level.