Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Prepaid Cellphone Services (update)

In July, I wrote about going PREPAID for my cellphone service - in which I mentioned T-Mobile Monthly 4G plan. IN the past several months, I have done quite an extensive research about available prepaid service, from just minutes and messages to all unlimited. This post is a highlight or summary of what I found and my recommendations.

Straight Talk

Straight Talk is probably providing the best value for prepaid phone service on the market right now in US - with $45 a month for unlimited voice, messages, and data*. This is probably my choice in January when I am done with my T-Mobile contract.

Straight Talk Wireless' parent company is TracFone Wireless - which is the largest prepaid service provide in US. TracFone mostly offers basic services such as voice only or voice and messages only. Straight Talk is different that it's main service is about unlimited* voice, messages, and data for $45 a month. The data part is not truly unlimited - it is 2-5GB with 3G speed with some restrictions such as data plan cannot be used to tether, cannot be used with BB service, no P2P, etc.

Straight Talk uses GSM bands from both T-Mobile and ATT. So what this means is that you can bring your own ATT-locked phone and asked for ATT-based SIM from Straight Talk or bringing your own T-Mobile-locked phone and ask for T-Mobile based SIM. If you have a T-Mobile based phone, you will get the T-Mobile 4G (HSDPA+) with Straight Talk. ATT will only give you 3G.

Using both bands also means larger selection of handsets. If you want to keep your Lumia 900 from ATT, you can. If you want to use the Galaxy S3 from T-Mobile, you can. If you want to use the new Nokia Lumia 920 from ATT, you can.  No need to unlock the device - just ask for specific SIM card based on the phone.

You can pay in advance for several months or even a year - which will give you some savings. For example, if you buy a year plan, it will cost you $495 (instead of 12 * $45).

There are instances where MMS won't work with Straight Talk. There is also a short configuration setting mads that you will need to do once the SIM is installed. Nothing hard or requires unlocking etc - see here.


With T-Mobile, to get the similar package like Straight Talk, you will need to pay $60 per month. But T-Mobile provides more options - see my post about T-Mobile prepaid service here. The killer awesome deal from T-Mobile is the $30 per month (web only or from Walmart) which gives you 100 minutes, unlimited messages, and 5GB of data. This is actually perfect for me and would have gone for it except for the causes below.

T-Mobile coverages is quite lacking compared to ATT or Verizon. I go to several places in a year that my current T-Mobile phone do not get coverage at all - while my ATT friends get their 3G.

Secondly, T-Mobile handset selection is limited, especially compared to Straight Talk, which gives you the flexibility to choose handsets from BOTH ATT and T-Mobile.

Also, T-Mobile customer service has been awful for the past 2 years or so.

Virgin Mobile and Cricket Wireless

Virgin Mobile (running on Sprint network) probably provides the best pricing with $35 per month for 300 minutes, unlimited messages and data* (2.5 GB). This would have been the perfect plan for me. But then, to go unlimited everything, it would have cost you $55 - which is still more expensive than Straight Talk.

Cricket also has $45 a month for 1000 minutes with unlimited text and data (1GB). To get 2.5GB data, the cost is $65 per month. 

Virgin & Cricket also has very limited selection of phone (Sprint phones) - but it has the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S options. Secondly, Sprint's 3G (or 4G) is the slowest.


Boost Mobile provides unlimited voice, text, and data for $50 per month, but like Straight Talk, if you pay several months in advance then you will get a discount.

Verizon provides the best coverage for 3G, but it is also the most expensive. It will cost you $50 per month for unlimited text, voice, and web* on a basic-dumb-phone. If you have a smartphone, it will cost you $80 per month.

ATT GoPhone costs $65 per month with 1GB of 3G data.

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