I just posted Part 2 of my Use an iPhone for $7 a Month video on the smartphonematters YouTube channel.
In Part 1, I wondered if it was possible to use an iPhone for $7 a month after seeing Tracfone Wireless advertise smartphone plans starting at $7 a month. Tracefone sells several inexpensive Android smartphones, but they don’t offer the iPhone. Tracfone does have a Bring Your Own Smartphone program, so that is what I decided to do. I bought a used Verizon iPhone 4s and my plan is to use that.
In my case, I wanted to transfer an existing Tracfone wireless phone number to this iPhone and then choose the $7 a month plan. Your case may be different, if you plan to transfer your number from another wireless company to Tracfone and we will talk about that a little later.
Before starting I went to the Tracfone web site and signed up for an online account for the existing Tracfone phone I had.
Registering and Activation My iPhone
After that I went to the Straight Talk wireless BYOP page, and clicked the getting started button.
I clicked the get started button. On the next page, I began registering my iPhone. I entered the MEID of my phone and my zip code. MEID stands for Mobile Equipment Identifier. Tracfone uses this number to check if your phone is compatible and can be registered on their network. On the iPhone, you can find the MEID in
Settings->General->About. The MEID is a long number listed on that page. After entering the MEID and Zip code, I clicked Continue.
If your phone is compatible, the web site displays three options for getting a Network Access Code. I needed to buy a code, to register my BYOP iPhone with Tracfone. The website had three options. First, use a network access code, that came from a retail package. Second, buy a code online. Third, upgrade and currently active BYOP phone to a new BYOP phone. I chose the second option to buy the network access code online. The network access code cost $10.69. Its was $9.99 plus 70 cents state sales tax.
After registering the phone, I was able to log into the Tracfone account I created earlier and add this new iPhone to the account. Once the phone was added to the account, I chose the option to transfer the phone number and minutes to the iPhone. To transfer the service, I needed to enter some codes from the Tracfone website. I had to get these code numbers from the currently active Tracfone. The website provided detailed instructions about how to get those codes from the currently active phone. Getting these codes was called Code Entry mode, I have no idea what that means. The instructions were very clear.
Once I entered those codes into the web site, the transfer started. After that, I had to wait for the currently active Tracfone to stop working. Once the current phone stopped working, I dialed *22890 on the iPhone and heard a confirmation message. The instructions said I’d have to make a call from the phone before it activation was complete. I made a call, but it didn’t go through. I got some other message, about setting up the phone. At this point, I could dial my Tracfone iPhone, but not make calls. I looked on my account page on the Tracfone website, it said to verify the iPhone’s Tracfone number. Once I did that, I could make and receive calls from the Tracfone iPhone.
Testing Voice, SMS Text Messages, MMS Picture Messages, and Cellular Data
In the video, I show that I can make and receive phone calls. I am able to send and receive SMS text messages. I made sure iMessage was off so that the messages were send using SMS rather than using my data connection. I also show I am able to send and receive MMS picture messages. When I first activated the phone, I could send but not receive picture messages. It took between 12 and 24 hours before I could receive picture messages.
I was able to browse the web. I loaded smartphonematters using Safari. I also checked my cellular data speed using the speediest app. My data speeds were very slow at 0.27 mbps down and upload speed of .62 mbps. These speeds are very slow for 3G. I ran some additional tests and got similar results. I’ll need to investigate why this is so slow.
I am going to say that the $7 a month iPhone plan is possible. I was able to activate and transfer an existing Tracfone phone number to the iPhone. I never needed to pick a plan because all of the minutes were carried from the existing phone to the the iPhone. But, I say no reason I simply could have not chosen the $7 plan for this phone.
The $7 plan isn’t for everyone. Your phone will really only be for emergency use. You’ll have to choose the $19.90 Pay As You Go Plan. That plan has 60 minutes of talk, 60 text messages, and 60 mb of data for 90 days. That averages 20 minutes talk, 20 texts, and 20mb of data per month. That is a really low usage plan. They also have a $9.99 Monthly Value plan. That plan has 50 minutes talk, 50 texts, and 50 mb of data for 30 days. On both plans, the minutes carry over if you don’t use them and keep the phone active.
To get a $7 a month plan, you need to own your own iPhone. I had to buy one. I spent $175 for the phone. $10 for a bumper case, $28 for my Zag invisible shield for a total of $213. For one year the $7 a month plan would cost $19.99 x 4 (thats 4 payments for the $19.99 90 day Pay As You Go plan). The total comes to 292.86 for the year, or $24.41 a month.
This doesn’t include state sales tax for the Tracfone service. In Massachusetts, with 6.25% sales tax, the Tracfone service would cost $84.96 for the year, bringing the total to $297.96 for the year or $24.83 a month. Your costs will change depending on your state’s sales tax rates.
Also, if you pay for your service credit card online or choose an auto pay option, Tracfone might add small fees like 911 service charge, Federal Universal Service Fee, and Regulatory Cost Recovery. On my Straight Talk plan, these fees cost me an extra $1.60 a month. Tracfone may charge these fees as well.
If you want a smartphone but don’t need to use it that often, these low cost Tracfone plans are a great option.