So, I hear a lot of commotion about Walmart's Straight Talk plan. My current AT&T Family plan is dissolving and my mother and sister will be moving to Straight Talk. They've told me about it (just general stuff as they are not tech savvy).
I'm an IT guy and I pretty much consider it a deal breaker if I can't use my phone to talk to someone and use wireless data at the same time. I do actually use this on a regular basis and it would suck not being able to for me. I understand that many network providers can't support this, as the voice and data signals use the same protocols. But AT&T's voice uses CDMA and the data is HSPA+, therefore both protocols can run independently.
I will most likely be purchasing a Nexus 4, which is unlocked and would work on any network provider on the east coast (I live near DC). So, I'm not worried about the phone being capable, but I don't know how the phone would be used in the Straight Talk network.
1) Whose cell towers does Straight Talk use?
2) If there are more than 1 network owners towers used by Straight Talk, whose will an unlocked Nexus 4 use?
3) Will there be differences in network coverage between what I would get from say Straight Talk's use of Verizon towers as opposed to being a full subscriber to Verizon directly?
4) If Straight Talk uses AT&T towers, will I be able to use voice and data at the same time, like I can now, or will this be disabled/not possible?
5) Are there any other considerations that I should be aware of about the details of the use of Straight Talk or a Nexus 4?
6) Opinions? Extra info?
I am looking at dropping my Verzion service in early 2013 and looking to move to either Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, or Straight Talk. I can only partially answer some of your questions.
1. Assuming you have a 4G phone, after 2.5GB during the month you are throttled down to 3G speed. That is true for all three providers I listed above. If you have a 3G phone, then I guess it drops to 2G speed.
2. Straight talk seems to use both AT&T and Verizon towers. I can't answer your question about the Nexus 4.
3. I believe Straight Talk primarily uses Verzion towers. In areas where there are no Verizon towers, then you will be switched over to AT&T tower. Unless of course there are neither towers in that area, then you get no service.
4. I do not know.
5. I doing some googling and saw some reviews of prepaid cell phone services. The biggest issue with Straight Talk has to do with customer service. The main issue is that english is not their 1st language (like you get transferred to a customer service center in India, for example), so many people seem to be frustrated with customer service because they do not understand what the rep is trying to say because of their thick national accent. To paraphrase several customer comments, "God help you if you need to deal with customer support."
6. Because my cell phone is my primary phone, having potentially poor customer service is not an option so I have dropped Straight Talk as an option. Now it is just down to Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. I will likely choose Virgin Mobile because of the $35 plan for unlimited data and text, but only includes 300 minutes. There are no free mobile to mobile calls and there are no "late night or weekend free minutes". You get 300 minutes for the month. Period. But based on my cell phone usage over the past 5+ years 300 minutes will be fine.
Should I ever exceed 300 minutes per month, I can just make a $30 payment to "reset" the billing period. For example, let's just say the billing period starts on the 1st day of the month and ends on the last day. In June 2013 if I were to use all my minutes by June 15th, then I would need to wait until July 1st to get another 300 minutes. Or I could pay $30 to reset the billing cycle to June 16th through July 15th.
However, there is a $45 plan with 1200 minutes so people who like to talk their own heads off and others to death, then that's the plan they should get. For people who simply cannot shut the hell up, there is the $55 plan for unlimited everything (data throttling still applies).
Boost Mobile have plans that start out more than Virgin Mobile and they only have unlimited plans. However, they have what's called "shrinkage", after every 6 month the bill drops by $5 for a total of 18 months or $15. Boost's unlimited plan for Android phones starts at $60 (as opposed to $55 for Virgin Mobile). However, after 18 months it drops down to $45 per month. So the longer you plan on sticking with Boost Mobile, the more you can save vs. Virgin Mobile.
I emailed Straight Talk and got a reply. Here is my email:
Hello Straight Talk,
I have a few questions that are on the technical side, regarding
Straight Talk's network and usage. I've looked online and asked a few
forums, but nobody seems to be able to give me the answers that I'm
looking for. I intend on purchasing an unlocked Google Nexus 4 phone. I
would greatly appreciate it if someone at Straight Talk would be able to
definitely answer my questions. My questions are below.
1) Who owns the cellular networks that Straight Talk uses (AT&T,
T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, etc.), and how does using those networks
work? For instance, is 1 phone locked to a single provider's cellular
network, based on the SIM/phone? Or if my phone doesn't have t-mobile
service, but it has AT&T service, will it will switch to AT&T's towers?
2) I'm currently on AT&T and I frequently use 3G data while talking on
my phone. Is that possible while on Straight Talk? How would I ensure
I'm connected to AT&T's towers to accomplish this?
3) Are there differences in network coverage or access to the cellular
networks from what I would get if I were a subscriber to the network's
owner directly, as opposed to what I would get if I were a Straight Talk
subscriber? (In other words, will I have better service to AT&T's
network if I subscribe to AT&T directly, as opposed to subscribing to
Straight talk and using AT&T networks?)
4) Are there data caps, or does data throttling occur, on the unlimited
data plans? Explain?
Feel free to include any other pertinent information about Straight
Talk's coverage, networks, speed, Nexus 4 usage with Straight Talk,
pricing, or any other information.
Thank you very much in advance.
Here is the reply:
Thank you for your interest in Straight Talk Wireless. We are responding
to your recent inquiry.
Refer to information stated below:
1. Straight Talk Wireless provides nationwide prepaid wireless coverage
by piecing together the best networks such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile
and Sprint. Straight Talk Wireless has created a national footprint
covering 99% of the U.S. population, so that whether you are in your
home area or traveling, you should be able to receive service as long as
cellular service is available in that area.
Phone's supporting carrier depends on its phone's technology. If you
wish to activate your own AT&T or T-mobile compatible phone such as the
Google Nexus four (4) phones, it will be powered by either AT&T or
T-mobile depending on the SIM card that you would activate the phone
2. If you would activate the phone with the AT&T SIM card, your phone
will be provided service with AT&T. Straight Talk?s Mobile Web service
depends on the carrier or tower providing Internet signal to the phone.
In addition, Internet signal speed may vary from time to time especially
when the network is congested.
3. We may not be able to determine the difference in having an AT&T
service as opposed in having Straight Talk Wireless service. However,
the phone will be provided service with the AT&T network.
4. Please be advised that data service is monitored via system. To
ensure that you are not exceeding data usage, refer to our ?Terms and
Conditions' sections six (6) and seven (7) found at our website, www.straighttalk.com.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact one of our
customer care representatives at 1-888-251-8164. For your convenience,
our representatives are available Monday-Sunday from 8:00 AM to 11:45 PM
Thank you for being a Straight Talk Wireless customer. We appreciate