A reader Elizabeth writes,
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?
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.
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.
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.