Earlier this month, I took a look at Straight Talk, a TracFone-owned mobile virtual operator that resells service on both AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. I personally bought a T-Mobile compatible Straight Talk SIM card for my Galaxy Nexus because the deal for unlimited everything at $45 per month and no contract sounded too good to be true. For the most part, Straight Talk delivers on its promise with two small exceptions that I’ll point out shortly. The company calls its product a “BYOP” or Bring Your Own Phone prepaid service.
Since trying the service, I’ve received a number of questions about it and the company noticed. So in order to help me answer them intelligently, Straight Talk sent me a loaner unlocked iPhone 4, two AT&T SIMs (regular sized and micro SIM) and some pre-paid monthly service cards.
Unlimited isn’t quite unlimited, except for voice and messages
So here are some follow up experiences I’ve had with both my phone and the loaner iPhone 4, which hopefully helps you decide if Straight Talk’s $45 month to month service is an option for you. First, let me point out the two key exceptions that I’ve found.
Note: I asked Straight Talk about the limit and was told that company is trying to “focus on trust and communication with customers.” It’s likely that TracFone has no way to throttle after any limits, since it doesn’t operate the networks. As a result, the company will warn folks for excessive use and potentially disrupt service if you don’t limit your usage.
Good value or no?
If you can live with those two caveats, I think the service is a great value. I was using a $30 data-only T-Mobile SIM in my Galaxy Nexus paired with low-cost VoIP calling but due to coverage issues with dropped or missed calls, I’m much happier with the Straight Talk SIM. My first month of service ends next week and I’ve already added 3 months to my account for $130 thanks to a $5 bundle savings. And because my kids have T-Mobile Sidekick 4G handset and share 1,000 minutes, I ordered a pair of Straight Talk SIMs for them as well. They use very little data but tons of minutes and messages. Now I’ll save on their service and not worry about voice minute overages.
Some questions people have asked me along with answers:
No, this service isn’t for everyone. Heavy-duty data users, folks that want LTE, use a CDMA phone or don’t want to pay full price for their handset are unlikely candidates. But for someone like myself that buys unsubsidized hardware, doesn’t want a long term contract and can supplement mobile broadband with Wi-Fi usage, the BYOP plan at Straight Talk offers solid savings and the same level of service found from national carriers.
Disclosure: The free 30-day service provided by Straight Talk was for testing purposes, not for my personal use, and the iPhone will be returned, per our editorial policy. I pay for my own phone service and provided my own Galaxy Nexus and iPhone 4S smartphones, which I bought out of pocket last year.
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