Review: Public Mobile – Is It Worth Switching Providers?

The Canadian cell service market is often noted for ridiculous prices compared to what consumers in other countries receive. Mobile service companies charge outrageous rates, specifically when it comes to data.

While we have seen prices improve in recent years, it is not surprising that consumers continue to seek out the best value to save on their monthly phone plans. As expected, there has been a great interest in the second tier and third tier phone providers that still offer good service and plans with reasonable pricing.

Let’s dig into our experience with Public Mobile so you can determine if it is a good fit for your use.

What is Public Mobile?

Before we begin our Public Mobile review, let’s cover a few basics about this provider.

Public Mobile is a Canadian self-serve cell phone service provider, currently owned by Telus and operating on the Telus network (meaning Public Mobile’s network coverage is the same as Telus). Public Mobile is a “bring your own phone” provider and their phone plans are all prepaid and non-contract. 

Public Mobile’s pricing is vastly cheaper compared to the big three mobile carriers (Bell, Telus, and Rogers), however many features are stripped away. Public Mobile could be (unofficially) considered a 3rd tier (‘no frills’) provider, where the big three are 1st tier, and Fido, Virgin, and Koodo mobile are 2nd tier. 

Public Mobile is similar to the business model of TekSavvy or Lightspeed as internet providers, Tangerine or Simplii as banking providers – you are running the same ‘network’ as the parent company and thus have the same network coverage (Shaw, Telus, CIBC, Scotia), but the customer service and customer support is stripped away or offloaded to reduce costs.

Aside: Public Mobile vs. Koodo

Koodo is also owned by Telus and a more well-known company. The main difference is that Public Mobile is 100% prepaid, whereas Koodo offers monthly and prepaid, self-serve options + customer service. Koodo also offers phone ‘subsidies’, as do all 1st and 2nd tier providers.  If you decide to go with Koodo, there are a few ways to save money on your Koodo cell phone bill.

Public Mobile Plans and Services

As an illustration of the radical price differential, here are the starting 3G cell phone plans that Public Mobile offers. All plans offered include talk, text, and data for a reasonable monthly bill:

$15

250 MB
Data at 3G Speed

100 minutes
Canada-wide talk

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

Unlimited
Incoming Calls

$25

1 GB
Data at 3G speed

Unlimited
Calling Canada-wide

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

All plans come with Voicemail and Call Display.

Public Mobile also offers plans with 4G and 5G data speed now too:

$24

4 GB
Data at 4G speed

Unlimited
Calling Canada-wide

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

$29

20 GB
Data at 4G speed

Unlimited
Calling Canada-wide

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

$34

50 GB
Data at 5G speed

Unlimited
Data at reduced speed

Unlimited
Calling Canada-wide

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

$40

75 GB
Data at 5G speed in Canada and the US

Unlimited
Calling Canada-US wide

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

$50

100 GB
Data at 5G speed in Canada and the US

Unlimited
Calling Canada-US wide

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

$55

100 GB
Data at 5G speed

Unlimited
Data at reduced speed

Unlimited
Calling Canada-wide

Unlimited
International Text and Picture Messaging

What is the Catch?

There are several downsides to Public Mobile. That is of course to be expected, as this is how they offer lower rates.

Limitations of Public Mobile include the following:

  • The cheaper plans can have data usage speeds throttled to 512 kbps after your data cap is reached. They won’t be as fast as you might be used to on 4G/5G networks. But in my experience this is fine for most applications. If you don’t know whether or not you need 5G, then you probably don’t need 5G.
  • Not capable of WiFi calling or VoLTE features. If you don’t have a new phone, then WiFi calling is likely not supported anyways. 
  • You must own your own device outright. The economics of this are debatable, but in many cases, phone subsidies are a marketing scam and thus you would do best with bringing your own unlocked device. 
  • No phone support. If you have technical issues, you must get help via a virtual chat, ticket submission, or via moderators in the online community forums.

Unique Features of Public Mobile

Incentivized Community Forum

On the Public Mobile website, there is a rather large community forum, filled with content, Q&A, and discussion from other Public Mobile users, and moderators employed by Public Mobile.

public mobile incentivized community forum

Community users are incentivized to contribute to the forum through the Public Mobile rewards program. Depending on how much you post, you can qualify for up to $20 per 30 days in rewards for your Public Mobile account (I assume these are deducted from your monthly statement).

public mobile community incentive forum ranks and earnings

Referral Structure

This might be a bit gimmicky, but Public Mobile offers a unique referral structure. For referring a friend to Public Mobile, you get $1 off your monthly bill for as long the referee remains a user.

This seems like peanuts but can add up. If you refer just 5 people to Public, every year you’d be saving $60 on your phone plan.

The referee also gets $10 credit on signup for using your referral code. 

Certified Pre-owned Phone Shop

Public Mobile does sell phones and has an online store for low-cost pre-owned phones which have been ‘certified’ – inspected, tested, wiped, and audited by Telus employees. They come with a 30-day return policy and a 1-year warranty. Warranty claims can be serviced at Telus stores.  

public mobile certified pre-owned phone benefits

I’m not saying you should buy a pre-owned phone (although I myself have before). But if you plan to buy used, this isn’t a bad option. It certainly beats buying one off eBay or Kijiji, where you have no recourse if something is wrong with the phone. There is also the risk of buying a stolen/counterfeit phone (although this can be somewhat mitigated by checking IMEI numbers). 

The prices offered by Public Mobile aren’t too bad either. For example, the Huawei P20 Pro is currently listed for $399 on Public’s store, which isn’t far off what you can find it for on second-hand markets. 

Any phones sold through this service will be unlocked and thus can be used not only on Public Mobile’s network but with any other mobile service provider.

Who is Public Mobile for?

The ideal customer of Public Mobile is a tech-savvy individual who doesn’t have large data needs. 

It’s better if you are somewhat tech-savvy because, as mentioned, Public Mobile has limited support options – virtual only, no phone support and no in-person stores. However, Public Mobile’s community is very good and has been incentivized to answer questions in a very innovative way. If you are used to troubleshooting problems using forums, you can troubleshoot any problems you might run into with Public Mobile.  

As mentioned, Public Mobile has lower data speeds, and its most competitive plans offer lower data quantities on the order of 1 GB – 2GB. For someone like myself, this works just fine – I don’t surf or browse when I’m out and about, but if I need to check Google Maps or place a fast-food order, I can access my data at good enough speeds when I need to.  

Furthermore, Public Mobile is better for those who have low phone turnover. 

Since Public Mobile is bring-your-own-device, you will need to buy/own a phone outright, and you may not be able to rely on insurance or replacement coverage offered by a traditional phone contract. 

There are a lot of opinions out there on BYOD vs. contracts and phone subsidies. The reality is this: if you don’t tend to break phones or crack screens, and you find phones last you longer than 1-1.5 years, it’s almost always going to be cheaper to buy a phone outright and go with a “bring your own device” plan.

Consider if you’re someone like me: I’ve never had a phone last me less than 3 years, I’ve never cracked a screen, and I’ve never chosen to upgrade a phone for any reason other than wanting increased software/operating system performance. 

However, if you find you replace your phone yearly, or do make claims for damage or loss as allowed by your traditional contract, it might actually be more costly using a “bring your own device” plan where you’d have to front these bills yourself.

Ultimately only you can decide where you fall on this spectrum, and what type of plan is going to be best for you.        

Conclusion

Consider if Public Mobile is right for you!

And if you found my article helpful in making that decision and hopefully saving some money on your cell phone bill going forward, then feel free to sign up for Public Mobile using my referral code: ZQE8M2. You will get a $10 bill credit, while I will get $1 off my monthly bill for as long as you remain a Public Mobile user.

As always, happy frugal flying.  

Reed Sutton

Reed Sutton

Founder at Frugal Flyer
Reed is addicted to the art of earning and redeeming travel points, and frequently pairs his trips with his other hobby: photography. Through Frugal Flyer, Reed aims to distill some of the complex and esoteric points strategies into digestible information. Furthermore, he hopes to use his technical expertise to develop invaluable applications and tools for the travel community.

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41 comments on “Review: Public Mobile – Is It Worth Switching Providers?

  1. I tried to sign up for Public Mobile. They took my money but the service did not work. They only have online support – no humans – so ended up in a infinite loop. So now my phone does not work and I am forced to try a different service provider. it is unfathomable to me that they would not have human support for people having problems getting going. After the initial hump usually there are not many problems. Now I am lost to them for good. Bad business strategy.

    Reply
  2. We are seniors spending 5 to 6 months in the US. We use a cell phone one very little (10-20 minutes a month) but there is a safety facture in having one that operates here and there providing 12 month coverage.
    What plan(s) should be looking at?

    Reply
    • Hey Rick. Have you taken a look at Google Fi? The flexible plan would work well if you don’t need the phone on service all the time. You can also use it in both US and Canada, and abroad.

      Reply
  3. Reed, You might want to research this because it directly relates to your article.
    Over the past few days it has really blown up at Public Mobile over their change from the past rewards based system to their new points based system. The new system is complete garbage (thousands of users out there are venting all over the internet), not hard to find I just didn’t know if it would be disrespectful to you by posting some other websites. Personally I have been with PM for probably 5~7 years on a $15 /month plan. With the rewards system I had that reduced to $9 per month. Plus every year they would give out freebies like nationwide minutes, data, etc that never expired as long as your account was active. People with more expensive plans could use referrals to reduce fairly substantial amounts from their overall costs.
    With the new points system I’m basically going to get squat and it won’t automatically be applied, I have to do the work after the fact.
    Out of the goodness of their heart /s they gave me a one time 5GB “gift” that expires in 150 days whether it’s used or not.
    I’m definitely going to bring it up with the CCTS and other government agencies as appropriate because I think that this is completely over the top gouging. I’m sure that the staff at the CCTS are having a hard time keeping up with the complaints from this and a huge chunk will be leaving at the 1st opportunity for greener pastures.

    Reply
    • Hi Dale,

      I was aware of that change as a family member signed up recently and is now on the points based system. As of a few months ago, my understanding was that the points system and the old referral system were in practice the same, as 1 referral = 1 point per month, and 1 point = $1 off your bill. However I still left my account on the old system as the $1 is guaranteed whereas of course “Public Points” could be devalued at any time when Public Mobile sees fit.

      Nonetheless I think the plans still remain competitive and the referral program, albeit less ideal, is still better than a nonexistent program which is the case for a lot of cell plan providers.

      Reply
  4. They give out so much credits, I get paid 2$/month to use their services !
    Yup you read right, I get credited 2$/month ! It’s super easy to lower your bill with Public Mobile.
    First, use referral code at checkout to get 10$ free (one shot deal, not every month).
    Then, take the automatic payment for 2$/month discount
    And just refer everyone you know to this deal for 1$/month discount each.
    Finally, you get a 1$/month discount every year for loyalty.

    Reply
  5. Followed the link you suggested to check out Public’s used phones. The link no longer works. Any other ideas?

    Reply
  6. PUBLIC MOBILE IS THE MOST DISRESPECTFUL COMPANY I EVER MEET – No support, it is a big trap…. The maximum we can get is group therapy which does not help at all. The majority of numbers (SIM) are blacklisted by banks and you will never get a verification code from a bank. Probably because it is a cheap service…the scammers use numbers and them abandon…
    I am very disappointed…
    No support at all… don’t fall into this trap!

    Reply
    • Magnus, are you sure you mean Public Mobile? You can port your own number to them. They use Telus infrastructure. I know at least 5 others including myself using it with no problems whatsoever.

      Reply
    • Magnus — I switch about a year ago and it has been great. I now pay $38 and get US calling included and 50gb data at 5g. I also get texts from my bank and others for 2fa. It has been better than I had hoped and saves me $100’s/year over my previous experiences with Telus, Rogers and Virgin. No phone help but that means less time on hold! 🙂 You do have to commit to using their help ecosystem but when I had a a problem recently I solved it in 5 minutes that way.

      Reply
  7. Thank you for your great summary of useful information. Since joining Public Mobile my experience has been good. No dropped or missed calls as with my previous carrier. There is a special offer plan for new activations which include unlimited talk and text as well as 4 gigs of 4G data for only $24. This would be a step up from what I was offered at 1 gig of 3G data so new customers could really benefit.

    Reply