It's not every day that a new nationwide wireless provider pops up, but that's exactly what happened today with the official launch of Ting, a new contract-free carrier. Ting, which is owned by Tucows (mostly know for some domain purchase and registration services), provides service through Sprint's nationwide footprint — so if you have Sprint service in your area, you're probably covered for Ting as well. The big draw for Ting is undoubtably its consumer-friendly billing policies: the company highlights a refund for minutes, texts, or data that ou don't use every month. If you go over your allotment, you're bumped into the next bracket without any sort of penalty rate going into effect. Unfortunately, you only get a refund if you use less minutes than the minimum amount in your bucket. For example, Ting has a 100 minute and 500 minute plan -- to get a refund, you'd have to use less than 100 minutes to be bumped back into the next lowest tier.
Despite this caveat, plans are undeniably cheap and offer a lot of different buckets (so you're not stuck jumping from 300MB of data straight to 3GB, for example). 500 minutes only carries a $9 monthly fee and you can get 1000 texts for $5 — but data isn't quite so cheap. 1GB will set you back $24, while 2GB comes in at $42. Still, these plans are typically quite a bit less expensive than what you see from the major carriers and the increased granularity and refunds mean you're not buying minutes or data you won't use.
Ting also doesn't lock you into two-year contracts, but you pay for that with device selection and pricing. There's only eight phones available, and they aren't subsidized. Five of the six smartphones cost more than $150, and if you want a truly competitive device, you'll be spending $545 on the Motorola Photon. While device pricing, selection, and data pricing might not be ideal, the combo of cheap minutes and texts plus flexible contract-free plans might be enough for Ting to gain some traction.