I have been testing out the Straight Talk service for a little bit now, so I figured I would post a review of how it has been going. There have been many questions from readers in regards to this topic, as I am sure many have been wondering how to get away from the big carriers, AT&T and Verizon. Since I am using the Straight Talk bring your own phone program, that is what I will be reviewing. Straight Talk has expanded this service to allow for both AT&T and T-Mobile service depending on where you live. This program was initially just limited to GSM technology, but they have opened it up to CDMA phones. You can be up and running in less than 30 minutes after you get your SIM card.
Straight Talk BYOP Program Breakdown
Straight Talk offers two programs for anyone wanting to move to prepaid. They have their regular service, where you purchase a phone from them and get their service. Their phones are usually lower end smartphones or “dumb” phones equipped with Straight Talk’s service. You pay for service each month and it is pretty straight forward.
Their BYOP program requires you to already have an unlocked GSM phone (usually a phone that works on AT&T or T-Mobile, not Verizon or Sprint, which is CDMA) and you have to purchase their SIM card*. You only have a choice between SIM cards that work on the AT&T network or the T-Mobile network. This will be based on your location. Straight Talk will analyze which network will work best in your area.
Once the figure out the network that will work best for you, you can purchase the SIM card that will fit your phone, which will be a micro sim or mini SIM. You have options when purchasing the 30 day service, which are $45 for domestic or $60 for international. This includes unlimited talk, unlimited text, voicemail, and unlimited data*.
* Although they say unlimited data, there is a know limit of around 2GB a month. If you are a heavy data user, then Straight Talk is not going to be a service for you.
SIM Installation & Activation
I was able to get free 3-day shipping from Straight Talk with my SIM card and my $45/month service plan. They shipped me a card with the plan that included a code in order to activate the plan. If you want to continue the plan without interruption, then they allow you to enter your credit card number for monthly billing.
When my SIM card arrived, I went to the Straight Talk website and activated the SIM card. Since I am testing the service, I decided to just get a new number and make the process quick and painless. You can transfer your current number to Straight Talk, but make sure you have them transfer the number before you cancel service at your current carrier. After putting the in SIM card number, I installed the SIM into my phone. That took about 1 minute total to complete. During the SIM card activation process, I was able to input my plan number, so it was ready to go once the SIM card was active.
Once your SIM is active, you will have to update your phone data settings. This is a pretty easy process which requires you to go into your phone settings and add a new APN into your mobile networks settings. If it is a new phone, then there will probably be one default APN that can be deleted after your create your new APN for Straight Talk’s service. Here are the APN data settings for both AT&T (first table) and T-Mobile (second table).
After getting up and running, I was able to start testing out the call quality and data speeds. The first thing I did was call my wife with the new phone to see how it sounded. The call quality was crisp and sounded better than my Verizon Droid Bionic phone. Now the call quality is going to be dependent on your phone and your carrier. So far I am happy with Straight Talk’s call quality. Since I am using the AT&T network, I should expect it to be pretty good, especially in my area. I have not experienced any drop calls or fuzzy connections, which is good. Here is the current coverage map for Straight Talk’s service.
The second thing I did was to compare my data speeds on my Verizon Droid and my Google Galaxy Nexus with Straight Talk. The best way to do this would be to download the Speedtest.net app. This application is able to run a simple speed test in order to find out what your upload and download speed is. Some of you may say that my Verizon phone uses 4G LTE, but my Nexus phone does not. While I am aware of this, I do not turn on the 4G LTE as it continues to drop off anytime I want to use an app. This is not ideal and not worth my time. For the sake of comparison, I tested both phones using 3G speeds.
The data speeds that I received from Straight Talk were comparable to what I receive on Verizon. Both were around 4MB download and 1.5MB upload. While these are not blazing fast speeds, they are more than sufficient for me and how I use my phone. Again, these are not 4G speeds, nor will they ever be. I tested my data speeds in different locations around town. The only place where the speeds were noticeable different were at my house. Straight Talk blew Verizon out of the water near my home. That is an easy win for me.
After testing data speeds and call quality, I decided to send out some text messages. This was an easy test to complete and I found no real differences between Straight Talk and Verizon. Both handled messages, either SMS or MMS, easily. I do not text message as much as some people, but I am happy with the service I get from both providers.
If you are looking at an alternative to post-paid plans such as Verizon and AT&T, then I would recommend Straight Talk. The setup process was simple and fast along with their pricing. Their BYOP program is a win-win situation for anyone that wants an unlocked phone. The call quality and data speeds are equal to what I receive from Verizon, so I have nothing bad to say there. I have not had to deal with their customer service, but from what I have heard, the best way to get them is by using their facebook page. I am usually pretty handy, so I rarely have to contact customer service. The big plus about prepaid is that if I am not getting the service I expect, then I can just move on to another provider. I am not tied down to anything.
As I continue to use my phone with Straight Talk, I will update this post with anything that may help others in their search for a prepaid provider. There are many prepaid providers out there that can allow you to get away from a cell phone contract. I would recommend that you test out a few before settling on one, but then enjoy your monthly savings, such as putting away your take into a high-interest savings account.
Do you have any experience with Straight Talk’s bring your own phone program? If so, let me know.