Do you want to switch to a prepaid plan, but you want to make sure you will have enough minutes and messages to stay in touch with everyone. Well, you get 1500 minutes, 1500 messages and 100 MB of data for $30 a month with the Straight Talk prepaid All You Need plan.
If you find that you actually need even more minutes or need to use a smartphone, you can check out their Unlimited Plans.
Straight Talk coverage is provided by either Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint depending on the individual phones and on where you live. Usually, coverage is very good. Is it as good as what you find with other prepaid and no-contract phones? Verizon’s own prepaid plan has good coverage but not as good as what they provide to their long-term contract customers.
The All You Need plan gives you 1500 minutes, 1500 messages and 100 MB of “Web” for $30 a month
(actually exactly 30 days). That’s good! The messages can be text or
even pictures messages, as long as you have to have not used up your data bucket.
Simple. You buy one of their phones and activate it with an airtime card for the first 30 days of service. Then you refill your account either using a refill card you purchase in store or online or sign up for auto-refill. Refills are each good for 30 days. Instead of continuous auto-refill, you can also "reserve" a fixed set of refills in advance. These different methods exist because of one of the limitations of this plan.
There are no carryover minutes or messages, and you cannot extend your service period beyond 30 days. So after fifteen days, if you activate another 30 day card, you end up with 30 days of service rather than extending it to 45 days. (You have more options on the unlimited plan.)
Walmart has an exclusive deal, so only they carry the airtime cards for this plan. If this is a problem, you might want to consider the very similar plan from NET10.
That’s why you should consider using auto refill or reserving cards. You automatically renew so you don’t lose service, and you renew on the last possible day, so you get the most days out of your card. Otherwise, you have to remember to refill on the day your service runs out.
You can enroll in auto-refill when you activate your phone or at any point after that.
If you only make phone calls and use your full allotment of 1500 minutes for $30. That’s 2cents per minute. The 1500 minutes in a month translate to about 50 minutes per day. Good enough for one or two good conversations and a couple of short calls.
If you also use your full allotment of messages? Then let’s say half your cost ($15) is for your calls and half your the messages. Then, that’s about 1 cents per minute for your calls and 1 cent per message. 1500 messages translates to about 50 messages a day. Assuming you’re awake for about 16 hours, that’s three messages per waking hour per day. Assuming you get more during peak times and less at other times, this may or may not be enough for you!
With 100 MB of web traffic, you can view about 1000 web pages. If you also use all of that, then dividing $30 by 3 gives you about 1.1 cent per minute, 1.1 cent per message and about 3.3 cents per web page.
The important number is $30 for 30 days or about $360 a year.
Many of their recent phones now have full HTML access. (All their Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy Precedent have full access but require the unlimited plan.)
The web access sounded great. So I began looking for the phones. The phone tutorials originally indicated that web access was limited to just a few sports and weather news services. So I called up...
I called customer service at 1-877-430-2355.
I was told at first that you can access only the web sites Straight Talk allows. Later on, these restrictions appear to have been lifted, though you do need their better phones to make full use of this capability.
Luckily, you could still access the big three email services: Yahoo! mail, Hotmail, and Gmail on all their phones that include mobile web access. You can set up Yahoo! and Gmail to check your other email accounts.
You can receive international calls. To make international calls on the $30 or $45 plan, you have to set up an international calling account and fund it separately by adding money. You can add as little as $5 to the account. Once activated, you dial a special access number. There is an additional cost for these calls which is deducted from your international calling account. You can also set up auto-refill on this international calling account that kicks in when your balance of this account goes below $2.
If you make a ton of international calls, you may want to consider Straight Talk International unlimited plan. This plan costs $60 per month and offers unlimited calling to many countries.
You cannot make calls with your phone when you're outside the continental USA.
If you have a standard long-term cell phone contract and and use a significant number of minutes a month, you would probably save quite a bit if you switch.
One estimate from the Straight Talk blog is that you can pay up to $78 per month for 1000 minutes with a standard cell phone plan. If you pay $30 a month instead, you save more than $48 per month. You save about $500 per year even after you factor in the cost of the new phone.
This can be a really good deal, but you have to look at how much you will use your cell phone to decide if it's for you.
You can also spend money on ringtones and other downloads. A few are included free on the phones, but you can get more if you like.
You have a good choice of phones. Before we go on, let me mention that there's...
Shipping is free on purchases over 29.99 made on the Straight Talk website.
The top GSM phones compatible with the All You Need plans are the Samsung T528g, LG 306G and LG 900g - all of which can run mobile Java apps.
The LG 900g has a 2 MP camera, mp3 player, Bluetooth and a QWERTY keyboard. This phone can also run java apps. The Net10 version of the phone tested out well.
These CDMA phones are offered in fewer areas, but once activated will work just about everywhere.
This mobile phone has a qwerty keyboard, 1.3 megapixel camera, mp3 music player and Bluetooth compatibility. The keyboard and the large horizontal screen make this a nice option if you send and receive a lot of texts.
Check to see if the Samsung R451C for $20 (reconditioned) is in stock.
Apple, Android, Windows and Nokia Smartphones are now available but only with the unlimited plan.
You can also access some good tutorials from the Straight Talk website. These give step-by-step instructions for the most common things you need to do with your phone. Check out the Straight Talk tutorials here.
Here is a little more information about Straight Talk
See how to setup and check your voicemail.
You can compare the Straight Talk with Tracfone and Net10 to see what makes sense for you.
When the $30 plan was first introduced, there was little like it. The related brand NET10 introduced a $25 plan for 750 minutes but didn't include a separate allowance for text messages or data.
As the All U Need plan gained in popularity, you would think many other providers would have matched or exceeded it in some way, but they really haven't except for . . .
For example, the PayLo plans offer 1500 minutes, 1500 text and 30 MB data for the same $30.
Coverage is on the Sprint network.
One reason for the lack of comparable plans is that most people really want smart phones these days.
Even most of the phones offered by Straight Talk are now smart phones.
Heck, even Tracfone has introduced a couple of Android handsets from HTC and Samsung with the plan now split into separate airtime and data cards.