There have been quite a few different Mobile Virtual Network Operators pushing out new plans that are ‘perfect’ for that smartphone that you aren’t quite ready to upgrade from yet. These plans will save you up to 70% over the normal contract prices and they all have a few positives and a few negatives to share. Looking at the options from MVNO giant, TracFone is where we will start.
TracFone doesn’t seem to have a good plan for the smartphone user under their own banner. The TracFone brand is more targeted to the light phone user. Their $.10 a minute plans or $29.99 a month plans are limited in minutes and options. That said, the TracFone branding will offer you a few different choices under a few different carriers.
Net10 has introduced a fairly simple plan for the average user. For $50, you get unlimited voice, text and data. Now we were unable to confirm if there is a softcap for data, but even with a 2GB cap, the $50 a month plan is a steal. You can also sign up for autopay at the Net10 website, (www.net10sim.com) and receive $5 a month off that fee. The Net10 plan is a very serious contender for any expired contract device. One serious side note for the Net10 plan is that an unlocked iPhone will accept the SIM, but MMS and Data services will require a jailbreak to activate.
Straight Talk service from Wal-Mart is also a break from the TracFone branding. Again, the unlimited voice, text and data plan that you get with Net10 is available, but for a lower $45 per month fee. There is a ‘softcap’ of 100MB per day and 2GB per month on the data plan, which for the average user is plenty of data, but the data hog in some might drive them over that and end up with an account suspension. Straight Talk is offered at http://www.straightalk.com or at local Wal-Mart stores.
H2O Wireless offers a few step programs for those that are looking for options. They start with a full unlimited voice, text and 2GB of data plan for $60. They also offer a plan for the lower user for $50 you get 500MB of data. H2O may not be the cheapest deal on the planet, but their up front statements on cost and limits give them a bit more honest feel than some of the others.
Red Pocket Mobile won our 2012 Best Value In Wireless survey, but has since become a bit less of a value. RPM lost their 2GB, $60 plan and has settled on a 1GB $55 plan instead. While the loss of a full GB should be valued at much more than $5 in our minds, the coverage is still good and the refilling is simple and easy. Unfortunately, it sounds as if RPM’s serivce levels are also on the decline as complaints continue to flood in to their Facebook and Twitter pages begging for help on unresolved PIN issues and serivce problems. It also appears that RPM has dropped from the “3.5G” speeds that were around at our testing and are now running more in the 1.5Mbps max speeds in our area.
With that said, there are plenty of options for that AT&T phone that is out of contract. While we recommend our Windows Phones and Android devices as the go to devices for these MVNO carriers, iPhones are an option on all of them. Keep in mind that you will have to jailbreak your iPhone in order to use the MMS features on most of these carriers. You may find yourself also needing that jailbreak for data services as well. For those looking at ‘new’ devices for use on one of these plans, check out the Samsung Focus S Windows Phone or any of the Android devices that allow for APN editing.
Worth Noting: None of the MVNO carriers from TracFone offers the BIS or BES services that are required for use with BlackBerry devices. The also do not offer data only plans. If you are a WiFi user, you can get voice only plans on these carriers.