Should I Stay with AT&T or go to Net10 Wireless?

A reader Elizabeth writes,

Hi.

I have a similar question/issue. I have an iPhone 4S and the AT&T contract will be up in October. I did the math and I would actually save money if I ended the contract now by paying the ETF. My bill is $80/month ($320 until contract is up) and the ETF would be $125 to get out of my contract. However, I am a little nervous about the process of switching. I’d like to not be without a functioning phone and am also a little weary about if the phone has to be unlocked or not and all of my data, picture messaging, and visual voice mail working. Any tips?

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for commenting. Moving from AT&T to pre-paid service or any other carrier  can be problematic so it is ok to be nervous.  I’ll try to answer your questions.

1. Visual Voice Mail

If you switch to Net10, your visual voicemail will not work. I have been looking for a solution to this but have not found a way to get the built in visual voicemail to work. There is a 3rd party app in the App Store called YouMail that a lot of people seem to like. I have not tried it yet.

2. Unlocked iPhone

There is a lot of debate as to whether Net10 works on locked iPhones. Most people I hear from say they are able to use Net10 on AT&T GSM iPhones with Net10’s AT&T SIM.  A least for data service, some people claim, that the SIM swap or getting to the Cellular Data Network menu can be a problem on locked iPhones too.

Once you pay your ETF, AT&T should unlock your iPhone. They have an online form that you fill out to request the unlock. After they approve the unlock  you need to do a restore in iTunes to finish the unlock. I did this with a 4s and the process was pretty smooth. You can find the URL to AT&T’s unlock portal on my site.

3. Data

The vast majority of people I hear from are able to get Net10 data working on their iPhones. It is a pretty rare to hear someone who can’t get data to work at all.  In most of those cases it is iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 users.

4. MMS

MMS is a little tricker.  You need to manually configure the APN settings on your phone to get MMS to work. And, on iOS 6, you need to use the SIM Swap trick to be able to access the settings page. (Did you see my guide on this?)

Many people learn how to do the SIM swap and use MMS without issues.  I hear the most from iPhone 4 users that have problems getting working, and some people report that it occasionally stops working. I, myself, don’t really use MMS. The few picture messages I send go through iMessage and that works for me. So it’s really a matter of how important MMS is to you.

5. Switching Over and Number Porting

I found setting up Net10 to be relatively easy. With your iPhone 4s, you can buy a Net10 micro SIM and be up and running pretty quickly.  I signed up first, used it for a week or so before porting my number.  I used the Net10 web site to port my number and it was a confusing process but in the end the port only took and hour. We had one reader report in the  comments recently that it took days for his port to go through and others report an experience similar to mine.

6. Other options

Finally, I will point out that there are other options for prepaid. Depending on where you live, you may get great service with T-Mobile.  T-Mobile is updating its network to be more iPhone friendly (eg. 4G & LTE support).  If you live in an area where T-Mobile has upgraded, you can get great service and pretty good support in the T-Mobile store.  I left T-Mobile for Net10 because in my area, all I got saw slow 2G data and was unusable.

Also AT&T’s prepaid GoPhone, has a 65 a month, 1GB Data plan that looks attractive. I have been meaning to sign up just to write an article about it. I hope this helps, let me know what you decide. If you need help, I will try.

Best

Bob

14 Comments

  1. Rosie | | Reply

    Bob, you mentioned that you tried Net10 for a week before porting your old number. Does one need a new sim card to that or not. I would like to try to same thing … if I can’t get everything to work I won’t make the switch.

    Thanks!

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hi Rosie,
      I set up two accounts early last year, one straight talk and one net10. I set up the straight talk account with a new number. I set up my net10 account, used it for a week and ported my number after a week and I was able to do it.

      About three weeks ago I set tup a straight talk account with a new number and tries to port a number later. I wasn’t able to do it. They told me I they would have to send me a new sim.

      These two companies are owned by the same parent, so maybe net 10 changes as well.

      You could still do this, sign up for a new account, call them immediately to port and order the new sim. You can try the service while,you wait for the new sim, and if you decide to keep it port. They didn’t mention if they expected me to pay for the new sim or we’re going to send it to me for free.

      If you got with net 10, I’d order my sim from the web site rather than get one in the store. I see a lot of old sims in the store. The ones they started selling in October will work with 4g lte,if you phone supports it.

      The other thing to consider is porting your number in, trying the service, and porting out at the end of the month. If you don’t like it toucan port out immediately or at the end of the month. It will have cost you the month’s balance if you don’t stay the will 30 days.

      If you use att now, I think you will be happy with the service. You didn’t mention what phone you have. There are a lot of articles on smartphonematters about the limitations and what is required to set up your phone.

      Let me know if you want to discuss it more so you can Mae an informed choice.

      Regards
      Bob

  2. Ranelle | | Reply

    sorry, i think i posted my last question in the wrong section of this website.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      It’s ok. there just comments 🙂 no harm.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      It’s ok. they are just comments 🙂 no harm.

  3. Ranelle | | Reply

    Hi Bob,

    I did the sim swap on my iphone 4 and now i’m able to send and receive group messages and photos from non iphone users. However, now I can’t turn my imessage back on. It will only let me send an imessage via my email address. I turned my phone on and off. I turned my imessage on and off. I logged in and out of itunes but still nothing. Hope you can help.

    Thanks,

    Ranelle

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hi Ranelle,
      Try this.
      Go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive, deselect all email addresses.
      Go back one screen and turn off iMessages. Now go back a screen, and go to FaceTime, deselect all email addresses and turn off FaceTime.
      Wait 5 minutes.
      Turn on iMessages, ensuring no email addresses are selected, it should then have your mobile number ticked. Do the same for FaceTime.

      If iMessage displays your email address instead of your number
      Another “default” setting courtesy of Apple.

      Go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive > tap on your Apple ID (your email address) > tap Sign Out.

      Regards
      Bob

  4. CMC | | Reply

    We are not very tech savy but have purchased two unlocked new Samsung Galaxy SII phones. My contract with ATT is up and going to switch to Net 10. I’ve purchased two Net 10 sim cards from Radio Shack and when the phones come I hope we can work thru the process. I am confused about the MMS and the other data info. Do you think with the new sim cards there will be a prob with voice data? I’m thinking that means using Siri or equivalent of? We’re looking forward to texting by voice. I’ve tried to contact the customer service with Net 10 and you cannot get thru to them without a serial number on phone and or sim card so we will see. We would like to keep our phone number but if it means getting out of a two year contract we will change numbers. Any tips will be appreciated.. Thanks for your help.

  5. Elizabeth | | Reply

    Hey Bob,

    After some more research, I have a better idea of what I want to do. I thought about getting myself on Net10 $45/month plan and getting my boyfriend on a $30 100 minute/Unlimited Text and Data plan with T-Mobile. However, if he gets Android he really wants Jelly Bean, but is not comfortable spending a lot of money. It’s very hard to find that, also finding a cheap phone that has 4G (HSPA) abilities with T-Mobile’s network and is not expensive is difficult, as well. I decided that I would give him my iPhone 4S and I would get myself a Google Nexus 4. I have been wanting to try Android and I would like a new phone anyways. The great thing is (I have been an iPhone user for 4 years), if I hate the Nexus we can just switch phones (switch out SIMS of course). Since the iPhone doesn’t do well here on the T-Mobile network, I think we are both going to get on Net 10 AT&T. I did the math and the $30 (tmob) & $45 (net10)/month plans would only be $260 cheaper for 2 years than the $85/month net10 family plan (I would auto deduct for the discount, plus that plan after tax is only $11 more/month than what I am currently paying just for my AT&T iPhone service (Wow seriously… more people should go contract-less!!!) Anyways, I think it would be difficult to find his specifications for under $260… so it would not necessarily be worth it for him to purchase a new phone. Switching to the Net 10 Family plan would be a savings of $642.60 after 24 months (that buys a lot of stuff!)

    I had to search for the SIM pack a bit. I went to a couple of Wal-Mart stores and found only CDMA SIMS. I had given up, then the BF suggested running into Target (it was on the way home). They had ONE left. After careful reading, I went ahead and opened it and sure enough it has the 3 SIMS.

    I decided that I would purchase the Google Nexus next week after pay day and try to port my number and get all that fixed first. After it’s successful, then I will buy another AT&T SIM and get the iPhone up and running. Do you know if the iPhone has to be unlocked? I’ve read yes it does, and then I’ve read that if it was already with AT&T before the SIM swap then no it doesn’t. Which one is true? Also, does it being unlocked allow you to change the APN settings vs. Not being unlocked?

    I’m nervous, but I feel like if all these other people can do it, then so can I. Especially with all the resources I have found. Worse comes to worse, I have to go back on AT&T… but I do not feel like that will happen. As you can tell, the more nervous I am, the more I talk. 🙂

    I will post my experiences later next week or the week after that (depending on how long it takes me to complete the process). So for now, it is just researching and preparing for everything.

    Thanks for your encouragement. I hope I have good results to report back to you!
    -E

  6. Elizabeth | | Reply

    Hey Bob,

    I found a website (in case anyone in the future has similar questions as I do) regarding porting a number to T-Mobile. It’s http://www.t-mobile.com/switch/

    You put your number in and it tells you if your number is eligible to port… mine is not. 🙁 So, it’s back to the drawing board. I’m rethinking my whole strategy now. Wondering if it would be cheaper to get the $299 Unlocked Google Nexus 4 and try that on Net10 with an AT&T SIM. I should be able to port my number from AT&T to Net10 on the AT&T Micro Sim since I’m going from AT&T to AT&T MVNO, correct? Now I’m just concerned about successfully porting, getting 4G data, and getting everything to work without a lot of headache on Net10.

    This research business is tough stuff!

  7. Elizabeth | | Reply

    Hey Bob,

    I found another possible wrench in the situation. I talked to a girl that lives in an area close to where my number is from… T-Mobile could not port her original number over… it had to be a new number in the big Metro area. I don’t want to lose my number.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hey Elizabeth,
      That is an important consideration. If you are considering T-Mobile at all, I suggest you go into a T-Mobile store when it isn’t crowded, and ask of your number can be ported.
      I saw your previous comment, which I havent been able to respond to yet. Working on it!

      Best
      Bob

  8. Elizabeth | | Reply

    Thanks for posting about this! I’m still trying to make a decision. Changing the APN settings makes me a little nervous as I am not very phone savvy. Also, would you get 4G speeds with the Net 10 AT&T SIM after changing the APN settings?

    I have been eyeing T-Mobile for about a week now. Their coverage map shows that I get Excellent-Good 4G service in my city (not an LTE upgraded city, yet… but I’m not even getting LTE on my 4S through AT&T because the 4S doesn’t support LTE)… so not a big issue. However, I only know one person here that has T-Mobile. She loves it, but I do worry about the coverage. Also, there is only 2G coverage at my parent’s house, which I visit every 3-4 months for 1-2 weeks. Although, they have wifi and I connect via that when I am there. Would the call quality on 2G be sufficient? T-Mobile really looks preferable because they would buy my 4S (not compatible with T-Mobile 4G) and I could get an Android (have been wanting to try for a while) on a monthly payment plan. I would be looking at ~$76/month as opposed to my $81/month with AT&T… and the bill would go down after my phone was paid off to ~$58/month.

    However, with the Net 10 AT&T SIM I know that the coverage works both where I live and where my parents live (and pretty much everywhere in the whole state – I live in Arkansas). I just don’t want 3G speeds (I connect via Wifi at home and work), but sometimes I need stuff quick when at the store, running errands, etc.

    If I am correct, it looks like that AT&T Prepaid plans use certain phones and I would either like to keep my 4S or update to the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Google Nexus 4.

    Lastly, since I posted my first question to your page, I realized that my boyfriend hates his cell phone service. He has Virgin Mobile and apparently in our area the data is really slow, that or it’s his outdated phone (or both). Since he doesn’t have a contract or ETF to break, I thought maybe we could test out the service of T-Mobile or Net 10 with him before I go and break my contract only to have to go back to AT&T. I thought we would try T-Mobile first, since they have the neat payment plan on the phone. My question for you is… if we tried T-Mobile and decided the coverage was not right for us, can we replace the current SIM to a Net 10 AT&T SIM (granted the phone is paid for and unlocked by T-Mobile)? Would we be able to get 4G after changing the APN settings?

    Decisions, decisions. Too many! Help! 🙂
    Thanks for your time,
    Elizabeth

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