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
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)
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 SavedYou 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.
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 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)
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.
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!!)
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