Cox Communications is well-known in my local area as a reliable cable, phone, and internet provider. They offer their services at a fairlyВ competitiveВ price with bundled discounts. Cox has decided to follow in Verizons footprint and serve their customers with wireless phone service. This sounds great. More competition should mean lower prices for customers, right? Thats not the case here. Cox Wireless does offer wireless phone service, but their prices are hardly what I consider competitive. They offer about a dozen phones which is very limited compared to the other major carriers. Most people looking to get a new phone are upgrading from their dumbphones so its good to have lots of smartphones to choose from. Does Cox Wireless have what it takes to win customers from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint? What sets them apart? Lets go over their phones, plans, coverage, and anything else they might offer.
A large selection of phones is important for carriers to appeal to a wide audience. If Cox wanted to steal customers from AT&T, wouldnt they offer more variety? On their website, Cox Wireless offers 9 phones. 5 of which are Android smartphones. The smartphones consist of the HTC Desire, Motorola Milestone(aka Droid 1), LG Axis, HTC Wildfire, and Samsung Gem. Most of these smartphones are considered last generation. The only one that I would consider a worthy buy is the HTC Desire which is widely regarded as the Nexus One clone.
The messaging phone lineup consists of the Samsung Messager Touch(available in black and blue) and the Samsung Profile(available in black and red). This list wraps up with the LG Nite and LG 100.
Launching a wireless devision with 9 phones is not saying much. Cox is betting all of their chips on the Android horse which may be a safe move but that doesnt leave the customer with much choice. They dont even offer a BlackBerry in their lineup. All the major carriers offer BlackBerry. Even prepaid carriers like Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile offer BlackBerry smartphones.
Lots of wireless carriers give you straightforward options when you sign a contract. With Cox, they give you options. Lots of them. Before you begin, you have to add a voice plan. Plans start at $39.99 per month and go as high as $99.99 per month. The Starter 450 plan gives you 450 anytime minutes, nights and MoneyBack Minutes up to $5 per month. MoneyBack Minutes is a feature that gives you bill credits for your unused minutes. Cox will pay you $0.05 for each left-over minute. You can get up to $20 back if you choose a more expensive family plan. If you choose the Starter 450 plan, you will need to have 100 unused minute to get the $5 credit. Essentially, you are really paying $34.99 for a 350 minute plan! MoneyBack Minutes is offered on the Starter 450 and Essential 800 individual plans. For family plans, MoneyBack Minutes is offered on the Starter Family 800, Essential Family 1400, and Preferred Family 2100.
If you choose anything other than the $99 individual plan, you will have to add a messaging plan on top of you voice plan. $5 get you 300 texts, $15 gets you 1500, and $20 gets you unlimited text messages.
Get this. We are not done yet. Now we have to add a data plan. If you buy one of the 5 smartphones, it will likely be required that you get the Unlimited Advanced plan. This costs $30 per month and gives you unlimited web. For feature phones, youll want the Unlimited Starter plan which costs $15 per month. If you choose a feature phone, you can skip the previous step and pay $30 per month for unlimited text and web. If you dont want web, you will be subscribed to the Pay As You Go plan which will cost you $0.01 per KB of data. Thats $1 per MB(megabyte).
Lets say you want the basic smartphone setup. Minimum everything. You will have to pay $39.99 for Starter 450 voice + $5 for 300 texts + $30 for Smartphone data. Thats $74.99 for the absolute minimum on a smartphone setup!
Coverage is pretty straightforward. Cox Wireless is a MVNO. A Mobile Virtual Network Operator. What this basically means is Cox Wireless uses the Sprint network to cover their users. Sprints coverage is very good. They are only surpassed by Verizon and the difference is arguable. If Sprints coverage works in your area, you should no problems with Cox Wireless.
Additional Features and Final Thoughts
Cox Wireless is looking like the scheming salesman thats trying to nickel-and-dime you. Pretty much, if you want anything extra, you will have to pay for it. Nights and weekend minutes usually comes standard on all Sprints plans but if you want that on Cox, youll have to pay an additional $10. most of their features are common on other carriers like Equipment Protection($5.99) and 411 service($1.79 per call) but one service stands out from the rest. For an extra $9.99 per month, you can ask your phone for directions with Rand McNally Navigator. Most phones already offer this. Its called GPS and it is usually free. You can download a free app from the Android Marketplace. If you do find an app thats not free, its usually a 1-time fee, not a recurring monthly charge. Another thing that caught my eye about Cox Wireless is theirВ ridiculouslyВ overpriced early termination fee(ETF). If you cancel a 2-year contract early, you are subject to pay up toВ $350 per line depending on the device you choose. I thought Sprints $200 ETF was bad. Currently, this is the highest ETF Ive seen.
It was hard finding things I liked about Cox Wireless. They seem to do everything wrong. Their phone selection is terrible, their plans are idiotic, and their prices are sky-high. Their business model seems to prey on those who are mathematically challenged and focus on nickel-and-diming its customers with add-ons. Sadly, once customers fall for this trap, they will be slammed with an insane ETF when they try to get out. I expected Cox Wireless to be competitively priced since I have yet to see any major advertisements. I figured since they must not spend much on advertisement like all the other major carriers, the savings would be passed onto the customers. Wrong. Cox Communications has a history of bundling their services. I do think they will offer discounts in the near future if you are a Cox customer. I only subscribe to their internet so I have no intentions in switching if and when they offer their discounts.
Pros:В Flexible plans, MoneyBack Minutes
Cons: Potentially overwhelming plans, Prices are not really competitive, insane ETF, Android-centric business model
Final verdict: Pass.