After almost 27 months, my wife and I are still using Verizon on the same contract where we bought our Samsung Galaxy S4 phones. The phones are showing their age, and I've been looking at alternatives, including just keeping our old phones (not a good idea for the long term) and even (shudder) switching back to the iPhone.

Since phone plans have changed so much since we bought our contract back in 2013, I decided to take a look at how the carriers are charging for their services. While they all seem to price out within a few bucks of each other, I found the way they represent their pricing to be incredibly misleading -- at least in the case of Verizon and Sprint.

The carriers are now advertising unlimited talk and text, with a cap on the amount of data you use. They tell you that you can buy a monthly data plan for a certain amount per month, and then if you decide to buy a phone, that's a separate charge, as are taxes and fees...

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....How bad is it?

So, are the carriers really lying? You can be very sure that there are entire teams of lawyers making sure the answer to that is technically "no." You can, eventually, find out how much you're going to pay, but you sure can't get that information together easily before you're in the clutches of a salesperson or Web page and making a buying decision.

In this context, it's pretty clear that the carriers may have used the same legal team as Bill Clinton used when he discussed what the meaning of the word "is" is.

The bottom-line is this: the new plans are pretty much the old plans. There are some different terms, different areas where there is flexibility, but if you're going to embark in a purchase of a phone and a phone plan, I have this single bit of advice: watch your back (and your wallet). The carriers are not on your side and they never will be.

That said, these devices and the services they offer are nothing short of amazing. Fly back in time to the big sidecar-sized cell phones of the mid-1980s and tell Marty McFly what we have now, he would definitely think we'd come back from the future.

Read more: Mobile plan pricing: The truth is out there | ZDNet