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Friday, July 13, 2012

Give it to me Straight



I have decided that I will start my prepaid adventure with Straight Talk Wireless.  Straight talk offers unlimited minutes, texts and data for $45 per month.  Data is "unlimited" but a lot of forums report that you get warnings after 2 GB of data and can even get cut off for the month for heavy abuse.  I personally usually use about 1.5 GB per month, so I see no problem using this service.  It is certainly giving me peace of mind not having to worry anymore about going over on my minutes on my 450 minute plan from Verizon.

Learn more about Straight talk and my experience after the break.

Who is Straight Talk?


Straight Talk Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) owned by American Movil, a gigantic Mexican telecom, who also own TracFone and Net10.  A MVNO purchases the rights to operate on other carrier networks (The top 4 in this case of Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile). Physical ST phones and cards are sold exclusively in WalMart or online at Straight Talk and use the Verizon/Sprint netowrks. Once you create an account online with your new service, you can purchase your new month directly from the website (price does not include sales tax) and there are options of buying your time in bulk (3 & 6 months and 1 year of service). You can also opt in for the auto replenish so you dont need to worry about logging on each month to pay up.

Straight Talk, like most other prepaid, offers no contracts, age limits, and no recurring monthly bills.  That is pretty nice to hear.  They let the consumer take charge of their mobile needs and no bog them down with administrative charges or other nonsense.

All in the plan.

Straight Talk offers your the ability to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) by purchasing a sim card based on what carrier your phone is compatible with (AT&T or T-Mobile) that you choose. For example, my new Samsung Galaxy Nexus is a pentaband phone that can work on both AT&T and T-Mobile, so that leaves me to choose which one is best in my area.  I have opted for the T-Mobile simcard through research of speeds in the area and the fact I spend 95% of my time between Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Straight Talk also offers phones for purchase which run on CDMA (Verizon and Sprint) networks.  These phones range from simple flip phones, to the LG Optimus Black Android smart phone.  All smart phones require using their $45 per month plan, but if you have no need for that, there is a $30 plan that offers 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 30mb data** (see below for the breakdown).  They also offer the $60 International Plan which works well if you frequently call (not travel) overseas.

** The $30 plan requires a non smartphone purchased from their website and there are quite a few options

There is also a feature called "Straight Talk Reserve" which allows you to purchase service and place it on hold and it will auto refill your account from the reserve.  This is useful if you foresee any financial hardships coming and can buy some extra service so you don't lose it when short money.

**It still is advisable to set a calendar reminder of your service end date so you do not miss it.**


Break it down


As I shared before in a previous post ( ), the breakdown of savings is incredible so here it is with Straight Talk:

My total (with applicable surcharges) came to this, so lets just make it $50.

Verizon
Galaxy Nexus = $149 +tax = $157.94
Unlimited Minutes, Texts and 2 GB data = $119.99/month + taxes and fees = about $135/month

Total 2 year cost on a contract = $3397.94 (don't forget that $350 early termination fee if you decide to leave)

Straight Talk
Google Galaxy Nexus = $350 + tax and shipping = $381 (for me)
Unlimited Minutes, Texts and Data (capped at 2 GB) = $45/month + Taxes and fees = $50/month

Total 2 year cost with NO contract = $1581

A savings of $1816.94 over 2 years, which is $75.70/month. I sure wouldn't mind having an extra $75 a month in my pocket.

Even more Saved

You can lower the costs even more with purchasing their airtime in bulk.

Based on the above billing summary, you can figure out the monthly costs of the other, larger plans:

3 Month = $130 + taxes and fees = $143.11  (or $47.70 per month)
6 Month = $255 + taxes and fees = $280.92  (or $46.82 per month)
1 Full Year (365 days) = $495 + taxes and fees = $545.94 (or $45.49 per month)

Pretty significant over time.

Coverage


While the coverage maps do not look that good for smartphone users, my understanding is you get access to the network you choose via simcard.




From www.straighttalksim.com

From the regular straight talk website


In my case, I should get the full T-Mobile coverage.  Either way, in the terms and conditions, you should get nationwide access to voice and text, which is most important to me while travelling. The Android Area looks pretty pitiful, but since I live in the middle between NYC and Washington DC, I should be well covered.  

I will make sure to give further coverage impressions as I travel around (going to Richmond in 2 weeks)

The Service


Voice Calls: To put it simply, they are phenomenal.  No scratchy sounds, clear and no dropped calls (yet).  Call signal is 4 bars in my apartment.  I will be traveling for a week, so I will share any updates on how well it works.

Cellular Data: Speeds in my apartment are a bit slow.  I live north of Philadelphia and, according to the tmobile website coverage map, I am right area that is "good" for 3g/4g.  T-Mobile ranks from no service, service partner, satisfactory, good, very strong, excellent.  Below is a screen shot of some of my speeds in my apartment.  Nothing special, but doable.  Thankfully my home WiFi takes over and kicks its butt.


I will share more as I continue this month of service.


Conclusion


It is hard to completely give my opinion on a service I have just started using, but it certainly is promising.  Great price, no contract, BYOD......not much more to ask for.  Sure, Verizon and Sprint have 4G LTE service, but I cannot fathom paying $75 more per month anymore to have those speeds.  I will certainly be putting that $75 to work for me in things I want to do with it.  Like maybe a tablet for my Mother's birthday, or a wonderful dinner out with my girlfriend.

If you want to save money, Straight Talk will help you do that, all the while no locking you into a contract that costs tons of money to break and adds ridiculous fees (like the $30 existing customer upgrade fee VERIZON!!)


Support my Blog by clicking the ads I have set up and signing up to follow.  Your support is greatly appreciated.

-Matt

8 comments:

  1. Very cool! That's significant money!

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  2. Thanks for this. I'm just getting ready to start on straight talk (with an AT&T sim - t-mobile coverage is terrible in my area) and can't wait to see how it compares with yours. Oh and your mother and girlfriend sound like lucky ladies.

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  3. Does youtube and pandora work on straight talk iphone 3gs?

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  4. Thanks Gale! I would love to hear what your experience is on the ATT side of Straight Talk. My sister uses the ATT side, but has a crummy older windows phone. She gets great service though and says she is happy.

    Anonymous,

    I believe that both Youtube and Pandora should work with the 3GS. My understanding is that there are a few more steps to getting MMS working on any iPhone, but that it can be done.

    All of my apps work on Straight talk as there are no known restrictions. There are supposed caps, but I have yet to run into them. I burned 300 MB in ]less than an hour and got no warning message or call (as I have read is possible). However, I am using the T-Mobile side and from what I have read, there is less of a chance for getting throttled or warning messages for higher than normal use.

    -Matt

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  5. Matt,

    I've just recently taken the road of pre-paid with the GSM Nexus, and just found this blog. You're plan with Straight Talk looks amazing. I am currently on T-Mobile's $30 plan with 100 minutes, unlimited text, and 5GB of high speed data. I find that my phone cannot hang on to HSPA, and is in an infinite loop of switching between 3G and H. Sometimes, it just dips down to Edge. You're experience with Straight Talk might sway me into trying it with an AT&T sim card to see if the service is any better in South FL. I will be following this blog very closely, thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  6. Thanks Cool Hip,

    I considered the $30 plan, but I just needed more minutes since I use my phone so much. 10 cents per minute isn't bad, but I would have spent more since I used over 700 minutes on my first month with straight talk.

    If you do decide to go with ST please share your experiences with the AT&T side. We as consumers need as much information to make a decision on what works best for us. I hope my blog has provided that so far for all who read.

    Thanks,

    -Matt

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  7. I just started my Straight Talk service on Wednesday the 15th of August with AT&T coverage. I switched from my Verizon contract, which I'm just going to let expire, because I refuse to pay Verizon's Early Termination Fraud...oops, I mean Fee. The coverage with Straight Talk/AT&T is absolutely phenomenal in my area, and Customer Service is friendly and helpful. My Verizon phone would lose service completely, even though I am in a good coverage area and was sitting still. Verizon showed no interest in helping me resolve the issue, and dialing *228 and pressing 2 to sync with the towers did not help at all. I am on a limited income due to a permanent disability, and I love that I'm saving a significant amount of money every month. On a side note, Pandora, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, SiriusXM, Public Safety Scanner audio, Accuweather, Gas Buddy, Fox News and many others work very well on my ZTE Merit, which is an Android-powered phone. For anyone considering Straight Talk, go for it. They really deliver everything they promise, with no corporate overhead.

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    Replies
    1. There are sites where you can sell the remainder of your plan to someone else, if I recall correctly.

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