H20 Wireless Review

Introduction

I recently signed up for H20 Wireless so I could try out the service and see how it compares with the other wireless services I have used like Straight Talk, Net10, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Getting Started

I started out by picking up a H20 Wireless Bring Your Own Device Starter Kit at my local Target for $55 plus MA state sales tax. The Starter Kit contained:

  • a 2-in-1 Dual SIM
  • $50 30 Day Monthly Airtime PIN
  • Activation Instructions

The 2-in-1 Dual SIM comes attached to a plastic card. The SIM can be used as a Standard or Micro SIM. The Micro SIM is perforated inside the standard SIM and you just need to punch it out. The kit includes a $50 Airtime PIN printed on the back of the package. Scratch it with a coin to reveal the 10 digit Air Time PIN. The activation instructions are printed on a thin piece of paper. They cover

  • Activating over the Internet
  • Activating over the Phone
  • Installing the SIM in your phone
  • Adding Airtime to your Account

The back side of the instructions also summarize the H20 Wireless Unlimited and By The Minute plans.

The kit I bought had the $50 30 day monthly plan that includes:

Unlimited Talk, Text, and MMS
Unlimited International Talk to 50 countries
2 GB of Data
$40 International Talk Credit
Unlimited International Text

A $50 monthly plan with 2 GB of data is more expensive than Straight Talk & Net10, however if you need international talk and text this could be attractive. Both Straight Talk and Net10 charge extra for international calling. I was actually interested in H20 Wireless’ less expensive plans, which Straight Talk and Net10 don’t offer or are competitively priced. The $30 500MB plan

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 3.47.45 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 3.47.18 PM

Signing Up Online

I decided to transfer one of My Straight Talk phone numbers to H20 Wireless. I know from my experience with Straight Talk and Net10 that number transfers, or ports, are often a little more complicated. My guess would that most people are going to transfer a phone number, so I think any review of prepaid wireless service should include a number transfer.

The sign up process was a little confusing. The activation instructions page says to go to http://h20wirelessnow.com/activate and choose a plan under Product Type.

IMG_6166

There is no option for product type on the page. I actually didn’t initially go to http://h20wirelessnow.com/activate at first. I went to http://h20wirelessnow.com and clicked sign up and created an account. After I successfully created and account. I could not figure out how to activate my SIM and enter my Airtime card. I finally went to http://h20wirelessnow.com/activate. Once logged in, there was screen to enter your

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Choose your H20 Wireless Plan
  • ActFast Code
  • IMEI (optional)
  • SIM Number (optional)
  • Area Code
  • Choose A City

The ActFast code is a 9 digital code printed on the plastic card your SIM is attached to. IMG_6168I am not really sure what this is. I assume it just a convenience to allow you to enter a 9 digit number rather than your 20 digit SIM number when signing up. Not a bad idea. The big issue I had with this web page was that you need to only will this out if you want a new phone number. If you were going to transfer your number. You need to click the link in that says “If you’re trying to transfer your number to H2O Wireless, please fill out this form!”. I initially did not see this. Once I did, I clicked on it and had to fill in a much longer form and include the information about my old phone service to transfer my number. Make sure you have all your account number and PIN from your current wireless company. Make sure to fill out all the needed information or the transfer won’t complete.

I left out my address, I didn’t remember that I had added it to my Straight Talk account. I also had another issue on this page. I entered my 10 digit Airtime PIN on this page and the website said it was invalid. Turns out I needed to wait for my phone number transfer to complete before I could add my Airtime PIN. I had contact H20 wireless customer support to resolve this. I used the online chat option. The support representative was very helpful and effective. She did tell me that I would need to contact them again after the number transfer was complete to use the 10 digit Airtime PIN. I was able to add to my account directly from the website once the transfer completed.

Setting Up Data

Once my number transferred, I wanted to to test data on my phones. I tested data with a Google LG Nexus 5, a Nokia Lumia 920, and an Apple iPhone 5s. The first thing to understand about H20 wireless is that although they advertise high speed data, they don’t make any claims about 4G. It turns out they support 4G HSPA+ data but not 4G LTE. HSPA+ is fast, but not as fast as LTE. Once I looked up the APN settings for H20 Wireless I was able to enter them into my Nexus 5 and Lumia 920 and use data without an issue.

For the iPhone 5s, I had to cut my micro SIM to an nano SIM so it would fit in the phone. H20 Wireless sells nano SIMs online, but there weren’t any in Target. I think you need to order a nano SIM online. I decided not to bother, as I have a SIM cutting tool.

I could not directly set the APN in settings. When your iPhone detects an AT&T network SIM, it automatically sets the APN and hides the Cellular Data Network option. Unfortunately, the phone sets the APN for AT&T, not H20 Wireless so your data connection will not work. You need to install an APN profile from the H20 Wireless website. You can enter your phone number into the website and they will send you an SMS with the link to the APN profile to load. You’ll need a WiFi connection to load it. Once I did this data worked fine on my iPhone.

MMS Picture Messaging

When I entered the APN settings on my Nexus 5 and Lumia 920 I also entered the MMS APN setup information. I was able to immediately send and receive MMS picture messages and group texts. This was refreshing, as Straight Talk and Net10 customers who often have problems or need to wait days to be able to receive MMS picture messages after transferring their number.

I was not able to get MMS picture messaging to work on my iPhone 5s. As I said earlier, you can’t directly enter APN setup information into your iPhone because the option is hidden. The APN profile I downloaded from the website will only set up data, not MMS. This is a limitation imposed by Apple. I don’t know why. For iOS 6 and iOS 7, there was a trick you could use called the SIM swap to enter the APN setup information and get MMS working for wireless companies using the ATT network. The trick no longer works with iOS 7.1. I tried several times with no success

Data Speeds

As I mentioned before, H20 Wireless uses AT&T’s 4G HSPA+ network, not their 4G LTE network. I used Speed Test to measure H2O Wireless’s download and uploads speeds using Ookla’s Speed Test app on my Nokia Lumia 920, Google Nexus 5, and Apple iPhone 5s. The speed test results were similar across all three phones. Upload speeds up to 1Mbps up and 3Mbps down. The best download speed I saw was 5Mbps but that was at 2am. Below are screenshots of the test results from my iPhone 5s, Nexus 5, and Lumia 920 respectively.

h20iosspeedtest

h20androidspeedtest

h20wp8peedtest

I think these speeds are pretty consistent for AT&T’s HSPA+ network, definitely not as fast as AT&T’s 4G LTE network. I added videos of the speed tests on all three phones on my YouTube Channel. I also have previous video’s that show Straight Talk speed tests. Check out my YouTube channel here.

Summary

I liked H20 Wireless. The setup was easier than Straight Talk or Net10. The directions need an update, but I eventually figured it out. The online chat with customer service was effective.The lack of LTE and the inability to use MMS on the iPhone is an issue though. If I using an Android phone or Windows phone that did not support 4G LTE , I’d consider H20 a very good option.

Pros

  • reasonable signup experience
  • online customer service was effective
  • MMS picture messages and group texts worked immediately with Android and Windows phone

Cons

  • no support for 4G LTE
  • unable to set up MMS picture messages and group texts on the iPhone
  • $50 plan only has 2GB of high speed data, less than Straight Talk Wireless or Net10 Wireless

10 Comments

  1. dan | | Reply

    Can you review H2o again, now that they have LTE. I am curious to see a speed test.

  2. pablo | | Reply

    Hi, I have a new cell phone. I have H2O sim card but i dont know how can i find the pin code?

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hi Pablo,
      Do you mean. The airtime pin? Assuming you bought a package that came with an airtime pin it would be on the back of the package somewhere. You need to use a coin to scratch off the gray / silver stiff to see it. At least, as far as I remember.

      Regards
      Bob

  3. rjflak | | Reply

    What are the APN settings on your nexus 5 to get H20 to work for data and MMS?

  4. Cristian | | Reply

    Hi Bob.

    Where can I get the MMS apn settings for H20 (for an AT&T compatible phone)? As I do have the option to edit the MMS apn settings on my iPhone 4s (I’m sure how but I do).

  5. Steve Mills | | Reply

    Bob,

    Can I conclude that there is absolutely no reason for IPhone users on the Straight Talk / AT&T network to switch? This, of course, assumes everything is working, including MMS.

    Nice, complete review.

    Steve

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hi Steve,
      If you want MMS, then H20 Wireless currently isn’t the best choice for the iPhone. The $100 a year plan is attractive in that you can use voice minutes and data. Nice to see you back reading the site.
      Regards
      Bob

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