CellularReviews

Straight Talk Review Update – Not Truly Unlimited

Straight talk LogoThis is an update of my original Straight Talk review that I posted last year.  I have received quite a few emails about this review, so instead of emailing everyone back with my responses, I would just write it out here.  There have been some things going on with Straight Talk lately, so I wanted to address those.

I had used the service since late last year and that is why I wrote the original review.  Many have asked about a few things, but the main theme of each email I have received is about their data plan.

Unlimited Data – Not Really

Straight Talk advertises unlimited talk, text, and data.  I have found through research that this is just untrue.  While you do get unlimited data per se, you will find that Straight Talk will throttle you if you become a “heavy” data user.  They do this because they lease spectrum from AT&T and T-Mobile and then resell it.  This is why their service plan is so cheap at $45 a month.

If you are a heavy data user, then you are taking away from their allotment that they get.  In order to keep data flowing for everyone, they will throttle you down.  The problem with this is that they don’t advertise throttling and they sell it as unlimited.

If you read their terms and conditions, they technically tell you that you can’t stream video and many other services that people use regularly.  They will not tell you that over the phone or in the Walmart stores.  You hear unlimited, but you get “maybe” unlimited depending on a number of factors.  I think Straight Talk needs to give it to us “STRAIGHT“!  It is either unlimited or limited, not both.

Straight Talk BYOP Review

Another issue with their data is that no one knows when you will get throttled.  I have done some research and most seem to see it at around 2GB for the month or about 100MB per day.  This is far from unlimited and there is nothing in the terms that describes this “invisible” limit.  Some people don’t get throttled at this point, but most of the reviews talk about this general limit.

If Straight Talk wants to be a great service, then they need to just tell people that they will get throttled after they hit X.  This would be upfront and people wouldn’t be upset if they get throttled.  So, Straight Talk, I am calling you out on this one.  Let’s get real and just tel people the real deal.  Don’t hide things inside your terms and conditions and make it so vague.  I know you do it to leave you the option of dropping individuals, but that is not a very honest way to do business.

Where did AT&T Go?

When I first reviewed Straight Talk, I picked up the AT&T Sim Card for my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone.  It was easy to purchase and got here quickly.  This means that I was calling and using the AT&T cell towers in my area.  Straight Talk used to offer either AT&T or T-Mobile service.  You got the service based on your zip code and which one provided the best service in your area.

I was emailed a few weeks ago from someone asking me why he couldn’t purchase the AT&T sim card for his phone.  I decided to take a look and low and behold, it was gone.  Straight Talk took it off the website and now you can only purchase the T-Mobile SIM card.  I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I jumped on a few forums.  The general consensus is that AT&T dropped support for Straight Talk due to their overwhelming popularity.  I don’t know if this is true and I am sure that this is just speculation.  You can call Straight Talk and they will just say that they ran out of AT&T sim cards.  We might not know the truth for some time, but for now, you can only get T-Mobile sim cards when doing the Straight Talk BYOP program.

Customer Service

This area is where Straight Talk needs to clean up the most.  I had to call their customer service line for one issue and I had to leave a message.  Are you kidding me?  What kind of national company just puts customers to a voice mail during regular business hours.  Their customer service leaves a lot to be desired.  They have a forum, but in order to get direct messages from their customer service team, it requires you to post 5 times on the forum.  That is ridiculous.  I heard the best way to get in touch with them is to air your grievances onto their Facebook page.

Straight Talk BYOP Review

Final Verdict

While there are issues with Straight Talk, I do think it is still a great value for casual smart phone users.  You can’t beat the price, but their service leaves a few things to be desired.  They also need to be more upfront with users.  They can make their service better if they just clarify their throttling limits and deal with their customer service issues.

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Grayson Bell

Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $50,000 in debt. I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a blog management company, along with another blog. It is Empowered Shopper, which helps people get information about products they want to buy. You can also check out Eyes on the Dollar, which is a great blog that I co-own.

46 Comments

  1. March 4, 2013 at 7:20 am — Reply

    I always do research to find out exactly what unlimited means as it is never really unlimited. The same thing goes for many web hosting companies.

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 10:25 am — Reply

      That is very true Glen. I am tired of hearing it and not getting it.

      • Teresa
        October 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm — Reply

        I also do my research and it says clearly in the Terms and Conditions that they will slow your data down when you reach the 2.5 GB point and there is an asterisk after DATA that directs you there. Mind you they may have changed it by this time to reflect these issues. Also I just got an AT&T SIM card from them so they have them back at least for now. I have also had to contact customer service and other than have trouble with the accents of the people there was no trouble or voice mail actually reaching them. Maybe they’ve change this recently too.

        • Grayson Bell
          October 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm — Reply

          Hello Teresa,

          Yes, they have put that in the terms. When I did the review, it wasn’t in there. They also did bring back the AT&T sim cards, so that is a good thing. Thanks for providing your experience with Straight Talk. I know my readers will appreciate it.

  2. March 4, 2013 at 8:01 am — Reply

    Had to leave a message? Ha! That lowers customer service to a whole new level. Thanks for the update on this company. It’s sad to watch companies that had a huge surge in popularity begin to “get it wrong” on a number of fronts. Hopefully they turn it around.

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 10:26 am — Reply

      I am with you Joe. I have never had to leave a message before and it really soured my initial impressions.

  3. March 4, 2013 at 8:19 am — Reply

    “…they will throttle you down.” I’m a heavy data user and when I sign up for unlimited, I want unlimited! I don’t want to be held down because I use more data than the average user. I have been very happy with Sprint’s unlimited plan, which I started a little less than two years ago.

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 10:26 am — Reply

      I think Sprint is the only one left that has unlimited unless you are grandfathered in on Verizon and AT&T. Sprint doesn’t work well where I am, so they are not a viable option.

      • Brian
        March 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm — Reply

        T-Mobile has an option for unlimited (4G) but I think it is extremely expensive. Otherwise their unlimited is really throttled after 2 gigs but I’m pretty sure all their paperwork says that.

        I have sprint and I was very unhappy with them recently, but they have upgraded the towers in my area so it is much better now. Of course my 4G phone won’t work here, but that is a whole rant of its own.

        • Grayson
          March 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm — Reply

          Yeah, their unlimited is pricey, but now they don’t have contracts, so you can pick and choose your plan. T-Mobile has a long way to go to be viable in many areas, but I think they will get there.

          I think Sprint has angered a lot of people.

        • March 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm — Reply

          My buddy was actually on T-Mobile for years and constantly made fun of me because his bills were so much cheaper. He just jumped ship. We work across the river from NYC and there are cell towers everywhere, however T-Mobile can’t seem to get their service right… he has to go into the building lobby just to send a text message!

  4. March 4, 2013 at 8:38 am — Reply

    Wow, you had to leave a message…that’s just nuts! Did they ever get back to you? I’ve heard similar things about them and just never felt comfortable going with them. I hate paying Verizon, but at least the devil I know is better than the one I don’t know.

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 10:27 am — Reply

      They did John. They called me about 24 hours later. I still thought it was crazy.

  5. March 4, 2013 at 10:59 am — Reply

    I saw one of the commercials during the hockey game yesterday. Just out of curiosity I went to the website to see what kind of “current” phones they sell, and I almost spit my food out when I saw the selection. It was a complete joke: they still had the old-school clamshells! The only thing that could have been worse was a model that required you to pull up on the antenna to get reception or f they still had the brick phones.

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 11:01 am — Reply

      Haha, their phone selection is not good. This is why I used their Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) program. I got to use my new Samsung Nexus phone and just pay for the SIM card. This is the more popular choice for them.

      • March 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm — Reply

        That would be the best way to go. I’m seriously thinking about doing something like that with one of the companies. I’m not in love with contracts, and the early-terminations fees are outrageous. My only issue is having to pay for a phone in its entirety without the subsidy then having to keep it for a set period of time to reach the break-even point before upgdrading should the need arise.

  6. March 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm — Reply

    Any talk or post about cell service will usually set me off on a rant, And this time is no different! My particular rant is not about straight talk in particular. It’s about how the Service Providers are almost all forcing you into paying a set amount for a data plan, whether you use all of the data or not. If any of them ever start refunding folks back for unused data I think I’ll fall off my chair in amazement!

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 7:00 pm — Reply

      You and I both Jose. I don’t particularly like the cell phone service providers because they artificially inflate their prices for no real reason.

  7. March 4, 2013 at 6:19 pm — Reply

    Thanks for the update Grayson. Data plans seem to be getting more expensive so you look at something like Straight Talk and it seems like a great idea. But as you said, you have to look at the fine print. While I’m not thrilled that they throttle your usage, but that bothers me less than hearing about their less than grand customer service.

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 7:35 pm — Reply

      Yeah, I guess it comes back to you get what you pay for, right?

  8. March 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm — Reply

    I can’t stand companies that are not upfront with their customers. I’ve been screwed a few times and now I make sure I take the time to read everything. As long as it’s in writing you can’t say they didn’t tell you and that’s the sad part. They know they are getting away with it and ya voice mail, that seems odd. I find it odd they would want customers to unload their concerns on Facebook, weird.

  9. Justin@TheFrugalPath
    March 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm — Reply

    I’m guessing that they’ll be out of business in the near future if they don’t get their act together. This seems like looking at short term gains at the cost of long-term viability. It’s a shame so many companies try to skirt doing things that are actually beneficial for their customers.

    • Grayson
      March 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm — Reply

      Yep. When you are dealing with technology, you need customer service. I don’t usually require any customer service, but in my case it was past my ability to fix the problem.

  10. March 5, 2013 at 12:16 am — Reply

    Since I am the only person under 60 who doesn’t have a smart phone, I have never had to deal with a data plan, but my days are probably numbered. Thanks for the review.

  11. March 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm — Reply

    Man, these posts are such a tease! I would love to reduce my cell bill, right now it is a mind blowing $144 for two iPhones (mine and my fiances). The problem is we’re data hogs, we consume the internet like water and these services can’t keep up. I’ve tried a few similar services but the speed and data limits are deal brakers for us :(

    • Grayson
      March 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm — Reply

      It only really works if you are near wifi all the time like me. I only use cell data when I am not at home or work, which is not as much as I would like.

  12. cjb
    March 16, 2013 at 10:23 am — Reply

    I’ve actually been using Straight Talk since November after leaving Verizon after 14 years. I have Clear.com at home for streaming and I have a few (I’m allowed 8 devices to it) devises that run off of it at home.

    I’m not much of a data hog but I love to have my turn by tun directions, email and feedly and a few others in my pocket at all times.

    I was able to get the AT&T Sim and I love my paid for second hand phone.

    I’ve had to contact Straight Talk’s customer service for my mom’s phone…and they were pretty helpful (no less helpful than Verizon), hard to understand…but helpful and we got everything figured out.

    I was giving Verizon almost 180 bucks a month for just two smart phones…having that down to 95 is like a gift. We pay $145 total for clear.com internet and 2 phones on straight Talk….the extra goes down to paying off debt. Sometimes, the data service is sometimes slow but it’s always reliable.

    • Grayson
      March 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm — Reply

      Good to hear cjb. You were able to get the AT&T sim back in November, which was when I was testing my ST service. Now, you can’t get the AT&T sim, only T-mobile, so the service is not as good as it used to be. Verizon is very expensive and there are other options out there. Thanks for sharing.

  13. April 2, 2013 at 9:39 pm — Reply

    HI Grayson,

    I appreciate the review… but, I have a question. With Straight Talk via Tmobile, does your phone work on the WiFi network?

    • Grayson
      April 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm — Reply

      You are most welcome Randy. I assume you are talking about Wifi calling that is offered through T-mobile. I looked around and have seen people talking about it not working because that is a native thing that T-mobile offers on their prepaid/postpaid plans. If you are just talking about using a wifi network for data, then yes, it will work.

      • April 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm — Reply

        Thanks, I am asking about using the phone via WiFi… in the basement of the office we don’t have cell coverage, I just set up the phone connection to WiFi mode and can talk, text and surf all I want.

        So, Straight Talk via WiFi works only for data? If so, that should help you save some of your airtime for when a WiFi network isn’t available. (Even though having voice, text and data even in remote locations is nice.)

        • Grayson
          April 3, 2013 at 11:12 am — Reply

          There are apps that you can use to voice call with Wifi, but T-mobile’s native feature doesn’t work (or has been said that it doesn’t work).

  14. Chris
    April 3, 2013 at 10:39 am — Reply

    Everyone does this. But I don’t think the problem is what the carriers are doing in as much as the fact that they don’t tell people upfront what reasonable expectations should be at this point in time. Unlimited data will not exist in the United States for decades to come. But companies know that is the only way to get people to jump and use their service. So they tell a White lie; this a lie by omission, there is SOME truth to it, but it isn’t the whole truth.

    While it is true that some people wouldn’t purchase a plan because they feel it is only worth $30 a month, rather than $45 (in the case of StraightTalk) or $50 a month (for everyone else), more customers might purchase the plan than companies realize, if they were upfront. You’re still getting unlimited access to the Internet. You’re getting extremely slow access, but you’re still there. The few companies that are offering unlimited 4G will start capping people again once 4G becomes the norm. By then you’ll probably get throttled to 3G, and 2.5G will probably disappear.

    • Grayson
      April 3, 2013 at 11:11 am — Reply

      I agree with you there Chris. I do think the ST needs to be more upfront with their policies. I mean, they are called Straight Talk, so just be straight with us. Their terms and conditions are what frighten me the most. They are so vague and let them cancel you for just about anything. I have read the terms for the other carriers and they are not that vague. I know that no one gets unlimited data, that is just a selling point, but when you have soft caps that differ per user, it makes it difficult to understand how you will use the service.

  15. joyce
    April 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm — Reply

    I’m using St and I’ve got the LG optimus logic phone St throttled me and I don’t really know why..called them and cs just said they reduced my data for over usage wouldn’t really explain why.how am I suppose to know what my daya usage is there is nothing on the phone showing you ur data usage

    • Grayson
      April 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm — Reply

      Hello Joyce. Thank you for your comment. This is something that they do and they never give you a true excuse. Some phones have the ability to monitor data usage in the settings, but if not, then I would recommend this free data monitor app, Onavo. You can download it in the Play store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.onavo.android.onavoid&hl=en or search for it on your phone.

  16. joyce
    April 30, 2013 at 11:02 pm — Reply

    Thanks for the advice I found the app you suggested when I installed it,it kept force closing on me any idea why this is happeing is there anything else I can use to manage my data usage??thanks..

  17. Jeff
    May 12, 2013 at 1:47 am — Reply

    Straight Talk doesn’t just throttle your bandwidth. With me they SUSPENDED my data without warning. Told me I was a heavy data user and they couldn’t guarantee that if I bought another month of service if they would turn my data back on. I said screw it and bought a new phone with MetroPCS, at least they were truthful with me that they would throttle my bandwidth after a certain amount and allow me to mobile hotspot for just $10 extra a month.

    • Grayson
      May 12, 2013 at 10:22 am — Reply

      I have heard about this Jeff. They have to protect their network from heavy data users, but that limit is not specified. I have said that Straight Talk is not for big data users, but I wish they wouldn’t advertise unlimited data because that is not what they offer. Thanks for providing your story.

  18. joyce
    May 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm — Reply

    I’ve been using the onavo count app and it’s doing really good so far. I’ve got a question? Lately when I open up my browser one the tracfone home page their is something saying your web browser has been enhanced to enter your mobile number to continue to the enhanced browser.i did not enter my number i emailed tracfone asking them to pls explain why i need to enter my number? They just wont explain why.. do u know what this is and would you pls explain it to me so i will know what exactually what their wanting me to do and why? Thanks..

    • Grayson
      May 20, 2013 at 10:18 am — Reply

      Hello Joyce. Thank you for stopping by to comment. Unfortunately, I could not find anything about this anywhere on any forum, so I do not know what this is about. Do you have to do it in order to use the browser? If tracfone can’t give you an explanation, then I wouldn’t do it. They need to give you an answer.

  19. Steve
    June 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm — Reply

    I was happy with Straight Talk until they cut my data off with NO WARNING! I used the service for 4 months and then bam no data, even the 3G icon disappeared from my screen! I called and asked what was going on only to be sent to a recording about data over use and violating TOS. I could not even talk to anyone to get a “straight answer”. I was so pissed about the situation that I went and took the contract plunge with AT&T. At least now I have 3 GB that I “know” I can use and the speed is blazing fast with 4G.

    The bottom line, well it just goes back to the old “you get what you pay for” saying. So I won’t be “cutting my phone bill in half” again any time soon, it’s just not worth the aggravation! I will note that the data was cut off on my Straight Talk phone for approximately 1 week before being restored. Again, just not worth the aggravation! I’d rather just pay more and use the device however I want instead of the carrier playing hidden games!!!!

    On a different note…. What happens if you go over whatever voice minute threshold they have set? What if you needed the phone to make an important or emergency call just as they cut you off????

    Straight Talk really should disclose or be forced by a court to supply the data and overall usage info they will penalize users at. This way at least you know if the service is for you or not.

    The way I see it is Straight Talk is for lite users that just talk and text, not for those that want to stream music, videos, movies, or surf the Internet all day.

    Thanks Straight Talk for wasting my money on a 4 month old phone and service with hidden rules! I’ll be sure to talk you “down” to all my friends and family….

  20. Mike
    July 1, 2013 at 12:31 am — Reply

    I have read nothing but bad bout ST I have been with straigt talk for over two years now and have not had any complaints only now when I try to look into how ppl felt about there 4g did I see how bad it was yes there customer service is crap but I must add I purchased there LG Optimus (lg l38-c) and while its not 4g I download through p2p networks every day about 1.5 gb to 2.5 gb my roommate on same phone also has no issues our download speed is about 238kbps I wonder is this because we are not trying to take advantage of the higher speeds? I can easily and most often do dl 10gb a week I also use usb teathering as often as I can I would think I was just lucky if it was me but two phones doing the same everyday so that’s 20gig a week between two phones I enjoy it do not question it but figured upgrading to a 4g phone would give same luck wit faster speed but not looking too good anywhere I look

  21. Mel
    July 19, 2013 at 9:58 pm — Reply

    Cell phone manufactures keep adding new features to their products. And we as consumers always want the latest and greatest. Naturally the carriers love it because they keep adding more charges. The bottom line is a win, win for both the phone manufactures and carriers. But guess who the losers are in this game.
    I signed on with Verizon just before they discontinued all of the free unlimited services. My phone is used primarily for making and receiving calls and even then I am way below my allocations. So this is why I am considering going to ST. Only wish my Verizon phone could transfer to ST.

    • Grayson
      July 19, 2013 at 10:46 pm — Reply

      I certainly agree with you there Mel. They are the only ones winning in this game. We continue to pay more and more each and every year. I have had my phone for 3 years and that is considered old. I don’t really upgrade to new phones unless I have to, but I am still paying the price for service.

      You can’t transfer a Verizon phone to ST. Currently, ST is only allowing people to bring their phones and use a T-mobile SIM. There are rumors that AT&T is launching their own BYOP network. If you want to use a Verizon phone, then I would check out Page Plus, which uses Verizon.

  22. joyce
    July 20, 2013 at 11:56 am — Reply

    We also tried to use our Verizon phones with st but no go.. We also checked with clear talk so far they sound liable but not sure we haven’t switched to them yet.. I asked a sales rep if they throttle they said they don’t have a certain cap of data usage not sure on that either.. But they did say they were able to flash our Verizon phones over to their network they also said it depends on the type and model of the phones.. Ours was the LG ally and it’s on their list of phones they can flash.. Sales rep quoted us a total of $70.00 to start their service it’s $50.00 for the monthly unlimited service and $20.00 to flash over the phones don’t know if that’s a good deal or not but really thinking about switching.. St has gotten on my last nerve, my service is constantly going in and out of service. seemed great at the time of getting with st not so sure now..

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