$1 FreedomPop LTE SIM using Hangouts for texts and MMS. Calls over Hangouts (or FreedomPop's Messaging app) will be laggy, and may break-up a bit, but doable.
After a few months on Cricket, I'm finding I'm overpaying for things I do not need. My month is almost up and I've used just 50 mb of 1 gb. My family relies heavily on texting, so that's what I use the most. We tend to share a lot of photos too, so I need MMS as well. I am mostly on wifi. I would jump on Tello in a heartbeat, but I hear a lot of complaints about Sprint in this area. Given I'm mostly on wifi, I might give it a try if I can find an inexpensive phone for the experiment. T-Mobile is not the best here either, but with LTE and a Cricket phone that has band 12, I might get it unlocked and try that. I'm willing to experiment as budget permits, so if anyone has suggestions, I would love to hear them. Freedom Pop is a definite no after reading on the forums.
I need to get my bill down as low as possible.
You might consider Tracfone. Once you are up and running you just need to keep the service going. $50/year. 1000 texts are $5. Minutes and data and text just keep rolling forward as long as you keep the service active. Tracfone supports AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile assuming they have service in the place(s) you need to use the phone. Validated by zip code. SIM kits can be had for $1 + sales tax.
If you're with Cricket you must have an AT&T or unlocked GSM phone. Keep that same phone, purchase an AirVoice SIM card for a buck and sign up for the $20/month plan. Unlimited talk, text, (domestic and international) and MMS plus 100 MB data.
My smartphone is a lot smarter than I am.
While Google Voice finally handles MMS, I'd also suggest a more modern means of sharing photos.
As for a phone service to give you coverage when you're not on Wi-Fi, do you have any preference other than not being on Sprint? Are you in a metropolitan area?
I'm with Mathfaster & djphilosophy - combine Tracfone & Google Voice via Hangouts app to obtain very inexpensive service on either Verizon,
AT&T , or T-Mobile.
As for a phone service to give you coverage when you're not on Wi-Fi, do you have any preference other than not being on Sprint? Are you in a metropolitan area?[/QUOTE]
I'm not in a metropolitan area, but not rural either. Whatever works off wifi is fine. I do have an older Tracfone smartphone I can probably activate for a while and I can ask for my Cricket phone to be unlocked next month. So port my number to GV then set up a new number and go from there and I can use computer or phone and just keep usage down.
I have been a big fan of Google Voice for years and used it way back when you had to download Gizmo5 in order to make calls from a PC. (That was when landline phones had a crank on the side.) But I have to warn you that the recent release of the app (version 5.0.1xxxxx) has been a pain in the rear end for me and lots of other users. Check out the GV User Forums and see for yourself. I still can't send and receive text messages using cell data with the new release. Hopefully this is a bug that Google will eventually fix because it worked fine beforehand. Yes, I know there is a way to revert to a previous release by downloading the APK file and installing it but that's beyond what I'm comfortable attempting.
As far as making voice calls with Hangouts over wifi, give it a try. When I used it briefly people would tell me, "It sounds like you're calling me from inside a cave." So, as they say, your mileage may vary.
I have my primary cell # @ Tracfone for regular calls when out & about, text, some data. I obtained a local area code # when signing up
for Google voice a few years ago, then use that phone # via Hangouts on my IPhone 6. So, I keep those #'s separate - don't forward
my regular tracfone # thru GV. It works for me, but many folks have GV as their primary , then forward their carrier # thru GV.
PureTalk has the senior advantage plan that comes with 600 minutes increasing to 900 minutes or 2700 texts after 6 months and it also comes with 100 mb/100 mms for $15. If you do it correctly, you can purchase 400 mb of data/200 mms for $9.95 and stretch it for a year by calling and canceling before the next billing period begins.
You need unlimited text but don't want to mess with Freedompop or google voice/hangouts. Stay on cricket and get 5 family members to join the group plan. $20 each and you'll get 3gb data. Start using data on maps,games, music, videos.
Join Cricket Wireless (same AT&T signal) and get $25 in credit! Click here!
Thank you all for the great options, I'm checking all of them out!