Choosing iPhone or Android for Tracfone

A reader, Richard, asks…

Hi Bob. I’m looking for advice on a new smartphone. I’m in need of purchasing a new Tracfone as my current one is becoming obsolete already after just 2 years. I need one that uses GSM technology as my current phone only works on Verizon’s CDMA technology for voice, which they will no longer be supporting come January 2020. I want to stick with Tracfone but want to go with an iphone this time instead of an android. I find my current android phone incredibly annoying and not very intuitive at all. I mean it’s bad. Granted it’s running 5.1.1 version. My current phone came bundled with so many useless apps that took up most of the memory. I hate the way it tells me to delete apps that I no longer use to free up space. Well guess what. Every app that came bundled with the phone I did not use and it wont allow for deletion of those apps. Talk about a scam. The concern I have with the offerings directly from Tracfone is the fact they are already fairly old phones. I worry if I buy one it will soon be outdated and I’ll have to buy another phone in short time again. I’m looking at the iphones as I believe they are more up-gradable and have better support than the Androids. I believe if I bought an iphone 7 or later that it will be able to be upgraded to their latest operating system and beyond. I would have to purchase the phone elsewhere other than Tracfone for newer versions and I’m a bit nervous about the whole bring your own phone deal with sim card, but I definitly want to keep my phone number. Does Tracfone charge more for their service if you bring your own phone? I currently have an active account with them and I’m on their 90 day pay as you go plan which works perfect for me. I’m 57 years old and not too computer savvy. I can rebuild my engine and tranny in my car better than I can comprehend computer technology. LOL!
Please advise,

Hi Richard,
You have a pretty good understanding of the issues regarding updating to a new smartphone with Tracfone. Here are a few things to clear up a couple of points.

Tracfone doesn’t own their own cellular network, instead they lease service from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or other companies. Your phone uses the cellular towers from one of those companies. If you received a message from Tracfone telling you you need to update to a new phone its because it uses Verizon’s CDMA network (3g) and Verizon is shutting down that network and moving all their customers exclusively to their 4G LTE network.

You are going to need a new phone and you have a choices between iPhone and Android as well as buying from Tracfone or bringing your own phone. As you commented Tracfone sells both iPhone and Android. The iPhone choice is limited to phones that were released a few years ago. They also sell Android phones, typically budget or value priced models. Sometimes they sell older Samsung Galaxy models. While the choice between iPhone and Android phones is a matter of personal preference there are some things to consider. Apple tends to provide software updates for a long period of time and those updates come directly from Apple. When you buy an android phone in most cases its up to the carrier as to if or when you’ll get an update. Many have told me they NEVER have received an update on an Android phone bought from Tracfone.

In my opinion, the best deal from Tracfone right know is an iPhone 7 for $218, that is a Black Friday deal. I expect the phone will get updates from Apple for another two years. That’s a cheap date to get on board with Apple. There are some other considerations, but that’s a discussion for later.

The other option is to buy a new iPhone or Android phone someplace else and then sign up for Bring Your Own Phone. Don’t fear BYOP. With BYOP, you’ll have a chance to decide which towers your phone uses: Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. The choice really depends on what works best where you use your phone. You just need to decide on which phone is in your budget and pick on that is compatible with the network you want to use. You can buy the iPhone 8 directly from Apple for about $450. The new iPhone 11 at $700 is a great deal. It will get software updates for years and is a good value for the money. You can also shop for an android phone, Google (Pixel) and Samsung (Galaxy) have good deals and you can buy from Best Buy, Amazon, Google or Samsung. Samsung has more features and fancier hardware, Google has possibly the best camera and will get software updates for some time to come. Look for dels on Google Pixel 3 and 3a. For Samsung the Galaxy S10 and S10e.

Regardless of which phone you choose and where you buy it from you’ll want to transfer your service and number. When you do this the plans you are eligible for may change. Tracfone is pushing monthly plans these days where you pay monthly for unlimited talk and text and your data rolls over. If you have a large balance of minutes and don’t need unlimited talk and text you may want to make sure you don’t switch to one of those plans.

If your phone qualifies for 3X minute plans or the $50 for 365 service days option you will lose those options when you go with a new phone. (hint, one tip is to load up before you switch).

I’d say if you want to go inexpensive, go with the iPhone 7 from Tracfone. see see Tracfone Deals , otherwise the recommendations above are solid depending on what you are willing to spend. And for most people, either the AT&T or Verizon towers are a good choice for BYOP.

Feel free to ask follow up questions. Hope this helps.

13 Comments

  1. RICHARD COTE | | Reply

    Hey Bob. Just wanted to let you know how things went. I finally received my phone on Wednesday this week. I had to take a vacation day to be home to sign for the delivery. I won’t go into My Fed Ex issues, but lets just say they are not accommodating at all. I followed the instructions on the tracfon website along with the supplied instructions. I followed your recommendation by signing into my tracfon account. I followed the instructions for transferring my existing service to the new iphone 7 instead of the option for just activating the new phone with the supplied activation card. This worked flawlessly and the phone was working in just a few minutes. I would like to add the $20.00 Smartphone card that was purchased with this phone but I will hold off for now for fear that the card may change my existing service to a 30 day plan as it states that it is a 30 day plan. The plan on this card states it is for unlimited talk, text plus 1 GB of data. To me this implies it will upgrade my existing plan. I may call Tracfon support to get a clarification on this. When I do I will let you know the outcome. My current plan is a $29.95 30 day plan which suits me just fine. A whopping $10.00 per month. How cool is that. I’m liking the iphone so far. A bit of a learning curve though.
    Rich.

  2. RICHARD COTE | | Reply

    Just another follow up Bob. This whole issue with the shipping of my phone falls on TracFone. I just called Fed x back and was lucky enough to speak with a woman, an American, that speaks and understands good English.
    I’m glad i called back because Habib lied to me. The restrictions put on the delivery was put on by Tracfone themselves. The restrictions don’t even allow for customer pickup. Strictly needs to be delivered to shipping address and signed for in person. I got Fed x to possibly deliver it after 4:00 pm or anytime on Saturday. I will be contacting tracfon to bitch about these restrictions. Had I known this I might have shopped locally for a good deal.
    Anyways. Just wanted to let you know about the restrictions. I think they should be disclosed at time of purchase. Causing me a lot of aggravation, “For A Stupid Phone. ”
    Rich

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      As far as I know all the tracfone brands require a signature on the phones they sell. My guess is that they deal with a lot of people claiming they did not receive their phones. I don’t recall other Apple or Google requiring this for phones I bought in the past. I think they do say a signature is required somewhere in the ordering process.

      • RICHARD COTE | | Reply

        Yes it’s in the fine print that they require a signature. But that is all it states. I get it. For security reasons. One of the shipping restrictions is that the phone must be delivered to the shipping address and signed for at the shipping address. No where in the fine print does it state that part. Shit , they would probably let anybody sign for it at the time of delivery as long as they’re on the property. I bet my wife could sign for it if she was home. Fed ex told me that I cannot come down to their facility and sign for it there. That is restricted per the shipper. They can’t release it to me. It has to be at my address. Makes no sense to me. So what happens when people have a job working 3rd shift and can’t take time off to be home to sign for a package during delivery hours. Maybe this is a rare occasion but it can exist. I don’t work 3rd shift. I could take time off if I give enough notice, but that’s not the point. I think it’s a bad business practice. They should be more up front about it if it’s that big a deal to them. If Fed ex would have just delivered it within the 2 day window like they should have, this would be a non issue and I would have my phone already. Although I was not aware of the signature issue and I also did not plan on the 2 day delivery to fall on the weekend. Anyways, I should receive the phone by the end of Saturday, possibly sooner if Fed x can accommodate a drivers schedule. Fed x is supposed to call me in the morning about delivery. Fingers crossed.
        Rich.

  3. RICHARD COTE | | Reply

    Thanks for the input Bob. I am already registered with TRACFONE online so hoping the switch over will be a breeze. But unfortunately Fed EX is screwing me over. My phone was supposed to be delivered on Sunday and did not show up. Guess what? They tried to deliver it today , Monday, and I was not home as I work for a living. They will not leave it as it requires a signature. They will try again tomorrow. I won’t be here as I work for a living. Go figure. So I called fed x customer service to see if I could come pick it up and sign for it. I can but I can’t pick it up till Thursday. WTF! It’s unacceptable service, especially when it takes so long to get through the automated system to talk to a representative and when you finally get through that representative has such a heavy indian accent you can hardly understand him.
    So I’m very displeased with Tracfon for shipping my phone Via FED EX. When I saw it was shipped last friday via Fed ex I knew it was going to be an issue. Fed x sucks big time. I should know. I had the displeasure of working for them in the past. I’m so pissed right now I’m seriously considering not picking my phone up at fed x and letting them send it back to Tracfone. I’ll then call my credit card company, get my money back and call Comcast to reinstate my landline. Technology is great but corporate america sucks. It will ultimately be the demise of this country. It gets worse every day. That’s a fact. I witness it every day.
    Ok, Sorry for the rant. I needed to vent.
    On a more positive note, I have a package that was attempted to be delivered today by ups that also requires a signature, but at least ups will allow me to sign the notification slip relieving them of all responsibility if package gets lost or stolen. So, I will have my car parts tomorrow, but not my phone.
    Rich

  4. RICHARD COTE | | Reply

    Thanks for responding Bob. My phone is supposed to be delivered tomorrow ( Sunday). Hope I find enough time to set it up before Monday. I’m feeling kind of anxious. I’ll be sure to let you know how it go’s. I noticed, from watching your you tube videos that your in Nashua. That’s close by. I’m in Hooksett N.H. I’m looking for guidance. You don’t happen to offer training sessions or classes on using smartphones? Been wasting a lot of precious time trying to understand them. I’d really like to find a way to do WiFi calling to save even more money. Only thing that I almost had luck with for WiFi calling was google hangouts dialer but I believe that is going away soon. I never could get it to work though. All kinds of misinformation online. Man I really hate these things but feel pressured to use them. The more I use these smartphones, in general, the more I realize how much of a rip off and scam they are. I also worry about security with these things. I hate the way you have to give apps complete access to your phone in order to use them. Really? Seems pretty sketchy to me. But I guess that’s the norm these days and nobody bats an eye. I refuse to do any online banking with a phone. I leave that for my home laptop. Guess I’m a dinosaur.
    Sorry for the rant.
    Rich.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hey Richard, I actually live in Metro Boston, but I often shop in Nashua, because well, its a nice place :-). Feel free to ask questions here on the website. I don’t offer or perform any other services for cellular.
      At some point, I thought about setting up an online class for people, and maybe on day I will. One on one training and in person classes are just not viable. This whole smarphonematters.com thing started as me sharing some details of my experience signing up for prepaid wireless a number of years ago.

      I have communicated with a lot of readers here and viewers on YouTube of all levels and abilities. While you may not know a lot of the details about phones and / or technology you have a pretty good understanding of the jist of things.

      Don’t get stressed out over phones and technology, and think about it along the same line as cars. For cellular service, I tell people pick a service that uses an network that has coverage in your area, choose a plan that meets your needs for calling, texting, or data and don’t overpay for services that you don’t use. Choose prepaid to save some extra money but realize that it’s sort of a do it yourself experience. Prepaid is more like a trip to Home Depot or Oreilly’s or Pep Boys versus calling a contractor or taking your car to the dealer.

      Your $214 iPhone 7 is an amazing deal, not a rip-off at all. You are getting a cellular phone, an email and messaging device, a pocket camera, flash light, GPS with turn by turn directions, Music player, and more. I use my iPhone to look up videos to fix things on my car, lawn mower, snow blower, leaf blower and house all the time. you can order parts immediately from Amazon or others online. It’s amazing. You can buy a sub $100 obdp adapter to diagnose problems with a car. All this is good stuff. That iPhone 7 is like scoring a deal on a few year old Toyota with low miles. (even better the phone is new!)

      As for the rip off part, Apple, Samsung, and Google all want to sell people $700 – $1000 phones and you have do ask yourself how much is the total cost of ownership and what percentage of your post tax income is that costing you (think Snap-on vs Harbor Freight or Toyota vs Chevy vs BMW). What do people want vs need? What do people value? My father hated cars with moon-roofs. Once when buying a new car, and negotiating the price, dealer exclaimed, do you realize this car has a $1400 stereo system! (in the 90’s no less). To which he replied, “I don’t have a $1400 stereo system in my house, I certainly don’t want or need that in my car!”

      Postpaid cellular services are great in the sense that you can walk into a store and they will sell you service an set up your phone but all that costs and it’s like paying for dealer service! My local Toyota dealer provides a “free” lunch when you have your car service. Many Americans are paying way to much for cellular services and for data they don’t use. Cell phone stores sell phones by monthly payment, sound familiar car guy.

      You are correct that privacy and security are an issue. If you are not using social media (Facebook, twitter, Instagram) you have already eliminated over 50% of privacy issues. If you use a Web browser, there are some basic steps you can take to secure another 20 to 30% of piracy issues. The fact that you chose and iPhone over and Android phone will provide additional privacy and security. App security on the iPhone is better than Android. And in fact I’d say that using an online banking app on an iPhone is more secure than a browser on a window laptop or a Mac too. But it’s all a matter of personal choice.

      As for your phone, when you get it, you should be able to walk through the activation part on the tracfone website. At some point, it will ask you if you want a new line or to keep your number. When you choose keep your number it will realize you are a Tracfone customer and let you transfer your number and balance. If you haven’t done so, I’d recommend creating a tracfone.com account before you do this. I think it makes it easier. I’d hold over adding the service card until a little later.

      As for Wi-Fi calling, there are two things here. One is using a service that lets you make calls for free (like Google) the other benefit is being able to use a Wi-Fi network to make calls when you have little or no signal. We can discuss that another time though.

  5. RICHARD COTE | | Reply

    Hi Bob. Another follow up question regarding my iphone 7 TracFone which I just ordered and have not received yet. You sated this in the previous reply—
    ” Tracfone is pushing monthly plans these days where you pay monthly for unlimited talk and text and your data rolls over. If you have a large balance of minutes and don’t need unlimited talk and text you may want to make sure you don’t switch to one of those plans.”

    Seeing how they made me purchase a plan with this iphone 7. How do I make sure I don’t switch to this plan? I just fear I may be forced to go with the monthly plan against my will even though they told me I wouldn’t have to and I could keep my original plan. Sounds like you ran into this before. Can you offer up any advice?
    Rich.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      I don’t know that it will be a problem and no no one has reported as such to me.

      Tracfone has so many different combinations of phones. It’s hard to figure out and you’ll get different answers from different customer service reps. It’s confusing, and I don’t know what will happen if you add the card. If they do switch your plan, it will be a pain to get it switched back if at all possible. The value of tracfone is being on the right plan for your needs, it’s a good deal for people with modest needs but kinda left on your own to figure all this out.

      If it were me, I don’t think I’d use the card. You saved $60+ on the phone. it was a good deal even without the plan.

      One example I can point to is triple minutes. They used to offer triple minutes for life. Turns out it was the phone that qualified for 3x minutes, not your account. People lost the 3x minute option when they switched phones.

      When you get the phone, theyremay be a plan card in the box. Tell me what it says, I doubt it is a $20 credit for any plan, but for a specific plan. maybe it’s ok after activating the phone.

      If your current phone qualifies for triple minutes or the $50 for one year of service days you may want to consider adding the service before transferring to the new phone. How many minutes do you have on your account? also see Add 1 Year of Service to Your Tracfone Account

      Let me know when it arrives

  6. RICHARD COTE | | Reply

    I haven’t seen the iphone 7 for $219 even on tracfon’s site. Can you provide a link? The link you provided in your first reply did not work for me.
    Rich

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Here is my corrected link. https://smartphonematters.com/tracfone-latest-deals Use the black friday code, add the cheapest plan, apply the code in the cart. You may want skip using the plan card that comes with the phone if you just want to transfer your current plan. If you apply the plan code, it may switch you to a monthly plan. You should be able to just transfer your service.

      Note that my page contains affiliate links, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

  7. RICHARD COTE | | Reply

    Thanks for your response Bob. Very helpful. I will most likely go with the iphone 7 at minimum as it looks like it will be supported by ios 13 for some time to come. If I find a good deal on something newer I may go that route but ideally I would like to keep the cost below $300.0 Do you happen to know if the Trac phones are refurbished or preowned units or are they typically brand new units? Reason I ask is I’ve been seeing a lot of refurbished phones for sale at some decent prices but I worry about buying refurbished for fear of problems and possibly security issues.
    Any thoughts on refurbs?

    Rich.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      The tracfone brands, tracfone, net10, straight talk, total wireless, and simple mobile all sell new phones as well as open box, and refurbished / reconditioned phones. All open box and refurbished / reconditioned phones are clearly from these carriers are labeled that way and while I’ve never had one myself I’ve heard good reports from readers and no bad reports. I don’t think I’ve seen Tracfone proper offer refurbished phones.

      If you buy from another seller on Amazon, eBay, or somewhere else, the quality of “reburbished” can vary. When Apple reburished a phone, it looks new. With other refurbs the phone could look used, have aftermarket replacements parts, or even a used battery.

      The iPhone 7 from tracfone at $219 is a good deal on and new phone. It will run iOS 13 this year and should get iPhone 14 next year. The iPhone 6s gets iOS 13 this year but likely will not get iOS 14. The issue will be understanding what plan options you have after you transfer your service to the phone.

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