Today, a reader Dave, asks a lot of questions about Straight Talk wireless and I try and answer them. Actually, I’d point out that Dave is taking the right approach to research the issue before switching.
I just came upon your web site while trying to do some research on Straight Talk options. I am currently paying $170/month to Cingular (“AT&T”) and am trying to radically reduce my monthly costs. Last night, I nearly signed up for Verizon service at ~$120/month, but their servers went down as I began to check out. Amazing, huh?
Because of my frustrations, I began looking more closely at Straight Talk.
I expect to purchase 2 iPhone 5s’s. In my area, the Cingular network is terrible, so I’d like to insure that these work on & use the Verizon network. Based on information that I found here, it sounds like there may be limitations, if I can get on the Verizon network at all. Is this correct? What’s my best option for proceeding, so that I get what I need in this situation?
Also, as I started my research, I found that many people had the following general issues with Straight Talk, so I wanted to get your input on them before I get serious about jumping in:
1) Can I really keep my existing phone numbers? People have posted that they were able to keep their numbers, but only temporarily. They indicated that the original numbers got disconnected and new numbers were issued in their places. We **really need** to keep our existing numbers. Are there any “gotchas” that we should know about?
2) Are there issues with support? Folks have posted that the technical support is outside of the US, and that it is very difficult to get issues understood, let alone resolved. That’s why your site is so valuable. 🙂 Can you comment?
3) My expectation is that I cannot have multiple phones on one account/card — I will need one card/phone. Based on this, I expect to get unlimited talk/text/web access (currently $45/month at Walmart, with longer terms available at a slight discount), so I expect that this means $90/month. Am I misunderstanding anything?
4) Does Straight Talk throttle their data access? At what thresholds?
5) I see from your site that Straight Talk does not allow/support Wi-Fi hot-spot functionality. Are there other limitations that I should know about?
6) Users have indicated that there may be issues with the “Auto-Refill” functionality, and that I should use pre-bought cards until things are working flawlessly before I sign up for Auto-Refill. Any comments?
7) Can I trust the folks at Walmart to know/understand the equipment and plans that they offer?
My biggest concern about moving to Straight Talk is that there are many potential unknowns, that I might not get service that fulfills my expectations, and that, in the worst case, I will be stuck with 2 iPhones that I cannot use, and will have lost our current numbers. Like many others, we rely on our cellphones, and cannot have any hiccups.
Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer my questions and also for making this site available. It’s a tremendously useful resource for folks like me who want the straight talk on Straight Talk. 🙂
That is a lot of questions, but I’ll try to answer them point by point.
0. When you sign up for Straight Talk, your phone will be on either their ATT, TMobile, Verizon or Sprint networks. You mention your using Cingular, so I assume that is AT&T as ATT bought them a long time ago. You also mention you’d like to be on the Verizon network. You won’t be able to use the iPhone 5s on their Verizon network though. They won’t activate it. See Using Your Verizon iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, or iPhone 5 with Straight Talk Wireless
1. Yes you can keep your existing phone number. If you read many internet forums, you’ll always find a case of someone reporting that they lost their phone number when changing to Straight Talk or another phone service. I can’t recall anyone telling me they lost their number here. I’d say that is more of a horror story, then something that happens often. It’s more common to her people report that it took days to get their number transferred. But I’d say most people get their number transferred in a few hours.
2. When you use AT&T, TMobile, Verizon or Sprint you have the ability to walk into a company store and wait while they resolve your issue. With Straight Talk and other prepaid services, you’ll need to rely on phone and online chat for support. As far as I can tell, Straight Talk’s support is outsourced outside the USA. Many people report the best results when they get their support ticket assigned to Tier 2 support.
3. I am not sure what you mean by one phone per card. Do you mean credit card? You can create an online account and add a number of phones to it. You can set up auto pay for the phones to use your credit card. You’ll get a $2.50 discount per line for using autopay. You’ll pay state sales tax for the service plus some other government fees so it will come out to a little over $45 a line in the end. See Net10 & Straight Talk Wireless Taxes and Fees
4. On a $45 a month plan, Straight Talk throttles data after you use 3GB in your 30 days of service
5. Straight Talk doesn’t offer Hot Spot / tethering. Many carriers offer this as an add on feature you pay extra for. Straight Talk doesn’t support visual voicemail on the iPhone. Some users have issues getting MMS picture messages and group texts working reliably.
6. I use Auto Refill, it works for me. I can’t say I have had many readers report issues with auto refill. In fact, I’d say I hear about more issues when people forget to refill their account and reactivate it. Again, this isn’t common. Also remember when reading my site and others, you are reader about users that had a problem and are looking for help. Most customers don’t bother to post that everything is working fine.
7. I think it depends on the individual employee at Walmart. Walmart employees aren’t straight talk sales or support agents.
I generally tell people that if support is really important to you, your best off going with a prepaid plan directly from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. You can walk into a store and get them to set it all up for you and go back if you need help. This plans may cost more money, or offer less high speed data for the money. For example, Verizon’s AllSet prepaid costs $45 a month for 500mb of data vs Straight Talk’s 3GB of data (before throttling).
I have used ATT, TMobile prepaid, Straight Talk, Net10, H20 Wireless, and recently Red Pocket. I had a few issues with getting my phone numbers transferred to Straight Talk, Net10, and Red Pocket. It required a hour or more on the phone and in one casea new SIM to resolve, which Straight Talk sent me for free. For me it was worth the savings. Since signing up, I don’t have any reason to call for support.
For you, it might be best to decide which network works best in your area, and then pick from the prepaid companies that use that network.
Also, I’d encourage you to read through the many articles and comments on smartphonematters. You’ll get a sense of what problems people have had and the effort needed to resolve them.
I hope this helps.