I refuse to be sucked into expensive contracts. Indeed while telecom policies in India, and to a lesser extent UK, make it easier for people like me who loathe the phone, to maintain a not-very-expensive relationship with the damned gadget, I am truly appalled at how difficult it is to subscribe to a minimal rental plan in North America.
Getting into a contract is like selling your soul to the Devil. Breaking the contract incurs a huge financial expenditure. Pay-as-you-go is not a viable option either as you generally have to pay monthly $25-$30 anyway. You pay for incoming calls as well and phones here are almost always SIM-locked.
The only option left for someone on a shoestring budget is to go for a VoIP service provider who also lets you buy a local number. Localphone, a trusty VoIP provider since my London days, has been my savior in Montreal. I pay $3.80 per month for unlimited incoming calls. Voicemail is free and call forwarding inexpensive. Outgoing calls are also insanely cheap. There is a serious handicap, though. I can access my virtual ‘phone’ only in an Internet zone. Well, I can live with that for now. When the future demands more, I’ll probably go for a wifi phone with a VoIP client like Fring.
One thing is certain: I’m not signing any contract.