It may not seem obvious, but in the U.S. we have more choices for a cellular provider than you may think. Sure, we have the large companies on every other cable commercial; Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all come to mind. But have you heard of Page Plus, H20, Straight Talk or Solavei? Prepaid service is not the same as it once was and is growing in popularity.
The 3rd quarter results by The NPD Group showed pre-paid smartphone sales practically doubled with a growth of 91 percent. The most recent Consumer Reports survey found contract free providers are growing in popularity mainly due to saving consumers more than $20 per month. Over a typical two year contract that is at least $480.
Let’s take a look at a few of the more popular options. Straight Talk has recently begun marketing through Walmart and offers unlimited text, voice and data for $45 a month. When signing up you are asked if you want to operate on the T-Mobile or ATT’s GSM network. Straight Talk is a MNVO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator).
What does that mean? They piggy back off a larger carriers network and offer the service at a discount. Once a network is selected, you can either choose from a handful of phones or opt for the BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) option. $299 Nexus 4 anyone? Keeping your current phone number is an option or you can choose to receive a new phone number.
How well does this service perform for $45? Surprisingly well with a few caveats on the “unlimited” data claim. Straight Talk doesn’t come out and say they have a data cap, but it is well documented by users that they do. The cap is roughly 2gb per month or about 100mb per day. Marketing an unlimited product, but warning users at 2gb worth of usage seems a little odd. Remember though, they are leasing this network from the larger carriers and ultimately have to live within their rules. Stick to Wi-fi when available and staying under 2gb per month is easy for most. Google’s Android does have data usage warnings that can be set to prompt users if they are getting near their preset data cap.
A new choice with a unique approach is Solavei. Similar to Straight Talk, however, it offers a stated 4gb data cap with unlimited voice and text option for $49 per month. Solavei is operating solely on the T-Mobile network and this should be considered if their coverage isn’t ideal in your area. You have an option of purchasing a non-subsidized T-Mobile phone or bringing your own unlocked GSM phone.
The catch with this service is the sign up process. You must go through a current subscriber of the service and it appears to be a multi-level marketing setup. Upon activating the service, other potential customers can sign up through you. If 3 people sign up for the service you get $20 off your monthly bill as long as they stay active. Refer 9 users and Solavei is paying you $10 a month for service. Other one time bonus options are available during different promotional periods. Solavei is definitely worth a look if you require more than 2gb of data and T-Mobile’s network is strong in your area.
Straight Talk and Solavei are each GSM carriers. CDMA providers, think Sprint and Verizon, also have prepaid or MNVO networks. Page Plus is an option that runs on the Verizon network. It offers $55 a month for unlimited voice, text and 2gb worth of data. They do offer many cheaper plans with less data or no data for the non smart phone crowd. The phone selection for Page Plus is its major downfall. With CDMA networks, you can not bring your own device and are limited to what they sell. A few users have gotten Page Plus to use their previous Verizon phone, but as always this is a your mileage may vary scenario. The Verizon network is often considered the strongest and customers will pay a little more to experience it.
T-Mobile offers an incredibly aggressive $30 a month prepaid plan that boasts unlimited data and texts with a stingy 100 voice minutes. The unlimited data does have a caveat of 5GB worth of 4G speeds. After the 5GB cap it’s throttled to 2G or egde speeds though the remainder of the month. Many users take the voip option of Google Voice to route the voice calls over Wi-fi or the 3G service. This method doesn’t use any voice minutes, but does have it’s own set of potential complications along with a confusing setup for novice users. Also, be aware that this plan does not offer any data roaming, so the users are limited to only the T-Mobile network. Voice roaming is allowed and has a more robust footprint.
Research will pay off on this topic and save most consumers a significant amount of money. Do your homework first and remember you are never “stuck” in a contract with these options.
Prepaid Cells Phone Plan Reviews
Prepaid cell phones used to be a good choice only for people who didnt use their phones much. But thats changed. If you talk and text a lot, you just might be able to cut your bills in half with a prepaid phone.
Straight Talk Bring Your Own Phone Compatible Phones
Straight Talk’s Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) program uses GSM technology, also known as a SIM card. We’ll walk you through a step-by-step tutorial to make sure your phone is compatible with the program so you can keep your current phone number and the phone you love, keeping in mind that there’s no high monthly bills, no overage charges and no contracts!
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