Help me ditch Verizon – GSM, here we come!

Posted May 21, 2012 at 10:34 am in Threads > Smartphones & Tablets

No Verizon!
(image courtesy of LifeHacker)

So I’ve made the decision that I’m leaving VZW (paying an ETF even to do so) and will be going to either T-Mobile or Straight Talk. However, there are some very important little details that I don’t know or understand that I need to know and understand to make this decision, and I need your help!

I want to go either to T-Mobile or Straight Talk. I’ll be making this move for myself and 3 other members of my family, so I have a variety of questions. If Republic Wireless were an option, I would also be considering them for a couple (but not all) of us. If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have other suggestions, please chime in!

StraightTalk on T-Mobile Network Questions:

  1. Do I get HSPA+ or just HSPA?
  2. If I get HSPA+, is it 42mbps or just 21mbps?
  3. Is it correct that I do NOT roam onto AT&T networks or anybody else?

StraightTalk on AT&T Network Questions:

  1. Do I get HSPA+ or just HSPA?
  2. Are there any rumors of supporting LTE? (I’m guessing no).
  3. Is it correct that I do NOT roam onto T-Mobile networks or anybody else?

General StraightTalk Questions:

  1. With “unlimited data”, what is the limit where they consider it abuse? 2GB? 5GB? 10GB? 20GB?
  2. Are there any SMS or MMS issues?
  3. With the 30MB/mo plan, what happens when you hit 30MB? Does it cut data off? Does it start charging you overages?

T-Mobile Questions (specific to the Monthly4G plans):

  1. With the 100/unlimited plan, are there any family-to-family or nights and weekends type of adjustments that can be added to make 100 minutes more than 100 minutes?
  2. When I hit the 2GB/5GB/whatever limits on the unlimited plan, what speeds should I expect?
  3. With the 1500 mins/texts and 30MB data plan, how do you track where you are on those 1500 mins/texts?

Two things I’m really excited about are 1) the ability to get international phones (looks at the quad-core SGS3) and 2) the ability to slip my SIM card into a tablet and have “native data”! :-)

In addition to these questions, do you have any other suggestions for me? Would LOVE the help here as the last time I’ve been on a non-Verizon carrier was when I had my T-Mobile G1! :-)

  • http://www.ndroidgamers.com B2L

    StraightTalk on T-Mobile Network Questions:

    Do I get HSPA+ or just HSPA?
    If I get HSPA+, is it 42mbps or just 21mbps?
    Is it correct that I do NOT roam onto AT&T networks or anybody else?

    1. HSPA+, one of my friends with a Galaxy Nexus is averaging 6-8 mbps down.
    2. Depends on your area and if your device supports it.
    3. Not sure about this one, I don’t travel very often.

    StraightTalk on AT&T Network Questions:

    Do I get HSPA+ or just HSPA?
    Are there any rumors of supporting LTE? (I’m guessing no).
    Is it correct that I do NOT roam onto T-Mobile networks or anybody else?

    1. Not sure about this one, I’ve been told it’s HSPA+, but in my area I average 2-3 Mbps down, so it’s not much of a difference.
    2. No
    3. Not sure about this one either.

    General StraightTalk Questions:

    With “unlimited data”, what is the limit where they consider it abuse? 2GB? 5GB? 10GB? 20GB?
    Are there any SMS or MMS issues?
    With the 30MB/mo plan, what happens when you hit 30MB? Does it cut data off? Does it start charging you overages?

    1. It depends, it seems like the average consensus that 3 GB is the limit. You can’t go over 80-100 MBs per day, or they can cancel you without notice or reason.
    2. MMS and SMS have had no problems at all for me.
    3. Most prepaid plans will just cut you off when you reach the limit. That’s the great thing about prepaid, no overages.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Ouch! 80-100MB a day is totally a deal-breaker for me!

  • Hue Three of Five

    I just told Verizon to suck about three days ago. I am now on StraighTalk on AT&T, with Google Gnex.

    I believe its HSPA+ 21 on Att. I am getting anywhere between 3-7mbps down and around 1mbps up. I am between Western and Upstate NY.

    On the ST the general rumor is that they only want you using 100mb per day and 2gb per month before they call you with a warning. It varies, though as some users are using a lot more. In ICS on the Nexus you can set your data cap and a warning when it gets close. You can also limit background data to wifi only.

    If you get an international phone make sure it is on the correct band. Us networks have different GSM bands than Europe I believe.

    See this thread http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1455014

  • Hue Three of Five

    …Also I am having some issues with pic messages not coming through but could just be a fluke. I have ported my old Verizon number to Google Voice (cancels your VZW acct automatically), so I can forward it to whatever number I have at the moment. If you switch between Tmo and Att, or get a different sim card, your phone number will change. I am going to use Google Voice for Text, Picture Messaging and Calls.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      “I am going to use Google Voice for Text, Picture Messaging and Calls.”

      I’m sure you’re aware of the GVoice MMS situation, right? Not everybody can send you an MMS. Last I heard, it only goes to your email if it comes from a Sprint or T-Mobile user, not from AT&T and I don’t know about VZW.

      • Hue Three of Five

        I didn’t know that. I will have to look into that. My girl is on Verizon, I will have to have her try to send me a MMS.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      That said, I’ve been considering doing something similar – transferring my # to Google Voice and then I don’t care nearly as much what kind of bullcrap my new carrier pulls on me – they can’t steal my ph# (had it since my first cell phone in 2003 and don’t want to lose it).

      • Hue Three of Five

        Yea I have had my number for about 9 years myself, when I got my first LG flip phone. It does cost $20 for Google to port your number over, but then you own it and can forward it how you want. I don’t like how Google transcribes everything, but its ok for now. I am still new to Google Voice, so hopefully it all works out.

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    Okay, here’s a follow-up on what I’ve been learning so far. Much of this has been thanks to you all, and some of this has been thanks to Google and various forums…

    Sounds like “Yes” but I’ve read conflicting reports. I’m going to assume “Yes” though.
    This actually sounds like a “No”. I think it’s only 21mbps. I leave room to be wrong here, though but am going to assume the worst, which isn’t exactly terrible.
    “Yes”
    Unknown – I’ve yet to find anybody convince me one way or the other.
    “No”
    “Yes”
    This is totally unknown but the general concensus is to stay under 100MB every day and 2GB every month. If you do more than this, you risk being randomly shut off without notice and losing your cell phone number! DEAL-BREAKER FOR ME!
    No, if you get your APNs setup properly.
    Data stops working.
    “No” add’l mods like that, but you do get add’l minutes at $0.10/min if you have funds in your account. So you can effectively have that plan but with 200 minutes for $40/mo where you’re only charged for what you use beyond the 100 minutes (so if you used 150 minutes, you’d only pay $35).
    100kbps is what you should expect. Some people say you drop to EDGE but the truth is that you’re simply throttled to ~100kbps and NOT an EDGE connection.
    Still unknown

    Now that I have this information, I’ve made the following conclusions:

    StraightTalk is NOT worth the risk of losing my cell phone number and/or having my service shut off. IF I were to consider this, it’d be in combination with Google Voice, but I don’t see this happening.
    For 2-3 of us 4, Republic Wireless very well might be the best option. Mostly wifi usage is fine for most of us, even with the “voice hiccup issue” when transitioning from wifi to cellular. I’m working on getting a review unit to test it more. HOWEVER, even this summer when they open things back up, it will still be on a fairly limited beta basis so I probably cannot get everybody in on this plan.
    For 2 of us, they are very non-technical users so I want it to be easy for me to support so “creative options” like Google Voice or wonky VoIP is out.
    The $30 T-Mobile plan is PROBABLY what I’m going to do for myself. For myself, I’m willing to do a “creative option” like Google Voice/VoIP to get around the 100 minutes. I’m also willing to spend a bit more money for more minutes, but I’m not sure if even 300 minutes will be enough without friends/family/nights/weekends. We’ll see.

    So in the end, I’m still not sure what I’m doing but I have a better idea. I’m definitely wishing that Republic Wireless was more of an option for my family members!

    Still interested in more comments to help me figure out what I’m doing! At this point, I’m open to ideas that I’ve not yet proposed!

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Ugh! Comments don’t support the same HTML as the original post. Plus no edit button. Grr…

      Here are my answers again, this time numbered:

      1. Sounds like “Yes” but I’ve read conflicting reports. I’m going to assume “Yes” though.
      2. This actually sounds like a “No”. I think it’s only 21mbps. I leave room to be wrong here, though but am going to assume the worst, which isn’t exactly terrible.
      3. “Yes”
      4. Unknown — I’ve yet to find anybody convince me one way or the other.
      5. “No”
      6. “Yes”
      7. This is totally unknown but the general concensus is to stay under 100MB every day and 2GB every month. If you do more than this, you risk being randomly shut off without notice and losing your cell phone number! DEAL-BREAKER FOR ME!
      8. No, if you get your APNs setup properly.
      9. Data stops working.
      10. “No” add’l mods like that, but you do get add’l minutes at $0.10/min if you have funds in your account. So you can effectively have that plan but with 200 minutes for $40/mo where you’re only charged for what you use beyond the 100 minutes (so if you used 150 minutes, you’d only pay $35).
      11. 100kbps is what you should expect. Some people say you drop to EDGE but the truth is that you’re simply throttled to ~100kbps and NOT an EDGE connection.
      12. Still unknown

  • JR Jones

    I’ve been looking at other carriers too. Only thing is grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Knowing my luck soon as I switch everyone will start going the same route at VZW. So I think from now on I’ll just pay full retail so I can keep my unlimited data.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      I’ve actually considered this but I simply cannot convince myself that $80/mo for service WITHOUT subsidizing a phone is simply too much when I can get the same enough (minus minutes although 5GB is sufficient for me) for $30/mo at T-Mobile.

      • JR Jones

        If TMobile had better better coverage I’d probably go with them. Been with at&t and their coverage and building penetration is horrible. I couldn’t even go into where I work without losing service with at&t, so they’re out of the question.

        • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

          Same deal with where I work, which is why I convinced them to put in a repeater in the building (was with T-Mobile at the time). Thanks to that repeater, the basement of this building gets great reception now in ~75% of the building. :-)

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  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    Whoa, just saw this! Please comment! I think this is likely the way I’m going!

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian
    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Okay, I have some details here. I had an online chat answering all of the important questions about this plan.

      tl;dr version:
      - Amazing family plan prices.
      - Data is NOT a shared family pool but is tracked per line.
      - Bring-your-device/SIM-only service (you can mix and match full size and micro SIM cards although the web interfaces doesn’t appear to support it)
      - 2-yr contract with outrageous ETFs (an ETF 1 year in on a 5-line 1000min plan would be the equivalent of 8 months of service!)
      - month-to-month after the 2 yr contract

      Full chat log (slightly edited):

      teh Jax: Switching from VZW to TMo – questions about the plans…
      T-Mo Bernard Welcome to T-Mobile live Chat. I`m Bernard, my Agent ID is XXXXXX. I am happy to assist you. Thanks for your interest with our Plans. We have regular account and Prepaid, what do you prefer?
      teh Jax: Hi there, I’m not a current customer. I’m a former one looking to come back to T-Mobile from VZW. I hope you can help me understand some of the plans.
      teh Jax: http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/Packages/ValuePackages.aspx is what I was looking at
      teh Jax: (the family value packs)
      teh Jax: It appears that I could get a 1000min/unlimited text/unlimited data (2GB) for ~$125/mo for 5 lines…
      teh Jax: Does that 2GB high speed data limit apply to each line or is that a shared family limit?
      T-Mo Bernard Let me check that link just to make sure.
      teh Jax: thank you’
      T-Mo Bernard You`re welcome.
      teh Jax: (and yes I realize this means full-priced phones)
      T-Mo Bernard Yes, since its Value.
      T-Mo Bernard Okay, I got that. That`s right, its $124.98 for 5 lines, 1k talk, (UL) unlimited text and up to 2G high speed data access.
      teh Jax: Good. So that “up to 2G high speed data” – is that 2GB across all lines or does each line have its own individual limit?
      T-Mo Bernard Each line has 2GB.
      teh Jax: Excellent! So I think this is what I’ll be going with (not today but soon). Now a couple questions about the transfer from VZW to these plans…
      teh Jax: First of all, I think I’ll need 3 full-size SIM cards and 2 micro-SIM cards. I assume that’s possible?
      T-Mo Bernard Yes, that is possible.
      teh Jax: Okay, so next to porting numbers…
      teh Jax: when I sign up for this, I presume that I sign up and 5 SIM cards get mailed to me. At what point do the phone numbers actually get ported? I’d hate to not be able to use my phone number for a few days while the SIM cards are in the mail.
      T-Mo Bernard Right. For porting request, for your security you will have to call our Number Transfer Center at 1-877-789-3106 so we can process that. For we only have limited access regarding it.
      teh Jax: can that porting process happen AFTER I receive the SIM cards instead of while they’re in the mail? Perhaps I initially sign up with new numbers and pay for both TMo and VZW services for a few days, once I get my SIM cards and phones working with the new numbers, THEN port our numbers from VZW to these new lines?
      T-Mo Bernard Yes, that is possible, it can be done right after you got the sim cards.
      teh Jax: perfect
      teh Jax: and final (I think) clarification: The plans we were discussing earlier… Are those monthly pre-paid with no contract?
      T-Mo Bernard No. Its Postpaid or Regular accounts.
      teh Jax: contract?
      T-Mo Bernard Yes, under a contract.
      teh Jax: 2yr?
      T-Mo Bernard Yes it is 2 year.
      teh Jax: okay, a couple more questions then… sorry. I thought that was a prepaid month-to-month plan
      T-Mo Bernard Okay.
      T-Mo Bernard Go ahead.
      teh Jax: With those plans, there is no possible overage for texts or data but minute overages are $0.10/min?
      T-Mo Bernard Yes, that is absolutely correct, the only overage is minutes and that`s $0.10/min.
      teh Jax: After the 2-yr contract, does it simply transition to a month-to-month under no contract?
      T-Mo Bernard Yes. Exactly.
      teh Jax: What is the ETF if we leave before the end of the 2 years?
      T-Mo Bernard That depends, I`ll give you the lists.
      T-Mo Bernard hang on.
      teh Jax: thanks. Being on contract without having subsidized phones is a little strange. :)
      T-Mo Bernard Actually we have that Plan, that`s Classic Plan, where you can get subsidized phones.
      teh Jax: Yeah – I don’t want the subsidized phones though
      teh Jax: I just wasn’t expecting a contract is all. Am trying to learn. Those ETF lists should do the trick. :)
      T-Mo Bernard If the days remaining on contract is More than 180 days, that`s $200. 91-180 days is $100, 30-90 is $50 and Less than 30 days is $50 OR the amount of the customer’s monthly recurring charges, whichever is less.
      teh Jax: per line or for the entire family?
      T-Mo Bernard That`s per line actually.
      T-Mo Bernard I understand.
      teh Jax: ouch! That $200 ETF is equivalent to ~8 months of service!
      T-Mo Bernard You can also view the ETF chart fee online through this link: http://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-2938.
      teh Jax: Okay, I think this will be my final question. I really appreciate your help here and your patience. :)
      teh Jax: Any chance you have any pre-paid or month-to-month family plans? I see the individual plans but couldn’t find any family plans.
      T-Mo Bernard You`re welcome, it`s our pleasure to assist you today.
      teh Jax: You’ve been VERY helpful and have answered every question I’ve had excellently! I’ll fill out some survey saying so if such a thing exists! :-)
      T-Mo Bernard Prepaid is only single plan, no family plans.
      T-Mo Bernard Appreciate that much, there will be a survey after you ended chat session.
      teh Jax: sorry, one more question… I promise the last one
      teh Jax: Is there any add’l fee I can pay to make it a 1-yr contract instead of 2? VZW used to have that
      T-Mo Bernard Sure, that`s totally fine.
      T-Mo Bernard i`ll check that real quick.
      teh Jax: thx
      T-Mo Bernard You`re welcome.
      T-Mo Bernard Sorry for the delay. We no longer have that option, we used to before.
      T-Mo Bernard All plans are on 2 yr contract, if you like – you can finish a year of service and then if you would like to end the service, there will be a corresponding ETF and I know you are aware of this.
      teh Jax: Okay, I believe that was my last question
      teh Jax: Thank you very much for your time, patience, and answering every question (even if they weren’t all the answers I was hoping to hear)
      T-Mo Bernard Okay. You`re welcome. thanks for choosing our online help, have a good one.
      teh Jax: Thank you, you too
      T-Mo Bernard Will do, thanks.

      • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

        Yeah not a fan of contracts and ETFs.

  • Josh

    I have an iPhone on straight talk. This month I pulled about 20gb down with no issues. (my wifi was down quite a bit). Be careful though because you may get a call from straight talk. I’m on the AT&T network and I get about 8mb down. Hope this helps.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Really?? That’s the first I’ve ever heard a success story like that!