Q&A: Pre-paid wireless for Android devices

Posted Sep 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm in Threads > Opinions

I am working on a mini post about the most important things I learned by switching to pre-paid wireless service. It is such a broad topic, but I want to touch on the Top 5-10 things that people need to know before they make the switch. I have a good working list of topics, but I need some more feedback.

If you are considering a switch to pre-paid wireless service for your Android devices, what big concerns or questions do you have?

  • Jim Rogers

    If one service does not work out will the phone easily move to another service.

  • txbluesman

    For Straight Talk, is it unlimited Data for both AT&T and T-Mobile? As Jim noted above, if you do not get good service with one of the providers can you easily switch to the other? The way I understood their site, if you have your payments drafted on a certain date, you will continue to have continuous service? Great thread! I am planning on going to prepaid after the first of the year with the next great Nexus.

  • kazahani

    I sell wireless phones for a living, both post paid and prepaid, and I can honestly say that prepaid has caught up leaps and bounds in the last year in terms of device quality and prices. Prepaid is now a very viable option for almost everyone, as long as you know what you are getting into ahead of time.

    This is the list of drawbacks that I go over with my customers who are interested in a prepaid phone:

    * Coverage is not as good. Contract carriers have roaming agreements in place that back up their own network, prepaid carriers typically do not. Also, if you are using a Tracfone that runs on AT&T bands, you can be kicked off the tower if there are too many people using it.

    * Customer service representatives are reeeeeally hard to get ahold of, if they even exist. You think it’s hard to get ahold of an AT&T rep? Try getting a Net10 rep on the line.

    *Up-front cost. That “free with 2 year agreement” smartphone will set you back $150 – $250 if you purchase it prepaid. In addition, you need to pay for your first month of service up front, plus the cost of accessories for your new phone. The bill to get started can easily be $350 or more.

    Those are the biggest drawbacks. If you can deal with that, you stand to save a substantial amount of money every month.

    • herb fellows

      re; att

      They put you between a rock and a hard place when trying to buy an Android for pre pay.. They say if you don’t buy an ATT branded phone, you will not get the internet so there is no point in getting a data package.
      They do not sell unlocked Android phones for pre paid.

      If you decide to leave ATT (which i understand most people do), you have to throw your phone in the garbage, can’t use it anywhere else.

      This is their little ploy to show you how contract phones are much better, really!

      • kazahani

        They have a couple of prepaid Android phones for sale without a contract under the AT&T GoPhone brand.

      • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Homncruse

        You can buy an unlocked phone from just about anywhere (Amazon Wireless is usually the best bet). As long as it supports the 1900 MHz frequency, you’ll be fine on AT&T (and T-Mobile in most places by the end of the year).

        Don’t buy your unlocked phones from the carrier store. It’s disadvantageous for them since they make so much more profit signing you up for a two-year contract. Buy it as directly as possible. You wouldn’t buy a car from your local oil change/lube shop, would you? Why buy a phone from your carrier?

  • Ardrid

    Biggest concern I expect most people to have: does unlimited really mean unlimited when discussing data. Straight Talk would be a prime example of this. They advertise that they’re offering unlimited data, but there have been many reports of users either being warned, throttled, or having their service outright cancelled after exceeding some unknown/unnamed cap.

    The second concern I expect some people to have: can you use Google Voice as the voicemail service for your primary, non-Google Voice, number. The answer to that question, at present, is no because prepaid carriers aren’t offering the ability to conditionally forward calls, which is a requirement if you want to use GV for voicemail.

    Additional concerns would likely be whether unlimited texting includes MMS, whether unlimited calling has provisos, such as being limited to wireless numbers, and whether there are any hidden fees or contractual obligations.

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

      My largest concern is an extension of your “is unlimited really unlimited” concern. My largest concern is that, if I go over their definition of “unlimited”, can/will they simply cut my service off and steal my phone number away from me that I’ve had for 10 years?

    • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Homncruse

      1) Yes, that’s the biggest concern with Straight Talk. They’re the only provider I’m aware of who presents their terms so ambiguously. Still, it’s sufficient for most people. Otherwise, if a high data allotment is necessary for you, Solavei offers 4 GB high-speed data (after which 2G throttling occurs) for only $4 more than Straight Talk. The only difference is that Solavei is T-Mobile only, whereas with Straight Talk, you get the choice between T-Mobile and AT&T. http://www.whyprepaid.org/recommended-prepaid-providers/ has cost breakdowns and advantages of both options.

      2) That depends on the provider. I know that’s true of T-Mobile prepaid, but I’m not sure if it also applies to Straight Talk, Solavei, or Simple Mobile.

      3) That’s true of any wireless service, prepaid or not. Make sure you read your terms. I’d be surprised if anyone tried to get away with not including MMS as part of their blanket unlimited texting or limit the “unlimited” minutes to a specific subset (the only common exception to this is international calling, which frequently costs extra). The beauty of prepaid is that there aren’t any contractual obligations as there’s no contract.

  • Laurel laurel25

    The biggest concern I saw when I considered was the coverage. If you live in an urban or suburban area, then the prepaid options are definitely viable. If you live in a rural area, well, not so much. Even if you can get reception, very often, there is no high speed data, which is what I found when I looked into Straight Talk earlier in the year. There is no coverage with T-Mobile at my house at all and AT&T is 2G only.

    • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Homncruse

      Yeah, that’s a valid problem. Unfortunately, Verizon owns a monopoly in many areas. I was looking into coverage areas for a friend of mine in the air force, and *literally* the only provider who reaches the base is Verizon. I looked at a tower map, and Verizon towers surround the exterior of the base. Not a single Sprint, AT&T, or T-Mobile tower for 20+ miles. It should be illegal to allow that kind of monopoly, but when you’re Verizon and you have infinite cash reserves, you can do whatever you want.