I recently made the decision to jump ship on my family’s cell plan with Verizon. It was a perfectly fine plan and the reception was great, but I was looking more and more for a phone with data capacity and my parents didn’t want to pay for it (understandable, given that Verizon is crazy expensive). Given that my contract expired last month and my dumbphone‘s case was so beat up that the battery routinely fell out when you picked it up, it seemed like a good time to go.

The situation: In looking for my new plan, I wanted unlimited text, a high data cap, and the ability to cancel service easily since I plan to spend half of next year in Senegal. I also wanted it to be cheap. After shopping around, I went with Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk plan. For $25 a month ($27 with taxes) and no contract, I get unlimited text, web, and data and 300 minutes. You buy the phone from them, so that was an additional $150. I went with the Optimus V, which is a low-end Android phone.

The bad: The plan isn’t perfect. Particularly in rural Georgia, where I spend most of the year, the Sprint service that the phone piggybacks off of isn’t great. The phone took over a week to ship, and it didn’t ship with a tracking number. The Virgin Mobile website, though usable, is a bit of a pain and setting up payment for the first time is more confusing than it should be–I managed to pay two months’ worth of bills rather than the one that I had intended.

The good: However, those really are my biggest complaints about the service (well, besides the fact that having a smart phone is turning me into one of those people who checks her phone all the damn time). Overall, I get much better reception than I thought I would. The phone is a nice entry-level smart phone, and it integrated just fine with my Facebook and hosted Google Apps accounts. The ability to do speech-to-text is more fun than it needs to be, and allows me to get around the fact that I hate non-physical keyboards. The process of transferring my number from Verizon, though crazy detailed (they needed to know my dad’s social security number) was pretty painless and the customer service reps were very patient with me as I found the information I needed. The process of connecting the phone to my school’s wifi network was the least painful I’ve had with any of my wireless, non-laptop devices.

The conclusion: Overall, for students looking to switch off their parents’ plan–which really does make you feel a little bit more like a real adult–this is the plan I’d recommend. I didn’t see any other plans when I was shopping around that had unlimited data for this cheap, and the limited number of minutes is really not much of a limitation since I never actually call most of my friends. For college students who are likely to be somewhat transient in the next few years, not being tied down to a carrier by a contract is great. If you’re in the market, the plan is definitely worth a look.

Do you have a phone plan that you’re devoted to? Let us know in the comments!