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Straight Talking With Google Voice and A Locked iPhone

Unlimited plans are an endangered species. Most carriers have stopped offering new unlimited data plans while whoever is offering, are planning to shutter them. But all hope is not lost. There are MVNOs like Straight Talk which are now offering you a $45 unlimited all-you-can-eat plan which includes unlimited talk, text and data.

After a lot of research, I recently made up my mind to switch to Straight Talk from T-Mobile. But reading about the horror experiences of people trying to port over their existing numbers to Straight Talk made me take another route – Google Voice. Google Voice offers an option to port your existing mobile number to their service.

I went to the Google Voice website and created a porting request for my T-Mobile number to Google Voice. To port a number, you need to verify an automated call to your cellphone number and then provide your T-Mobile account number and your address for communication on file. While Google says it takes 24 hours to port a number, mine took about 26 hours on a weekend. As soon as the porting was complete, my T-Mobile account immediately became inactive, which meant that I can’t login to my account and pull out the previous call logs or bills etc., Big mistake! Any one trying to do the same, please download all your data upfront before initiating a porting request. It may also be a good idea to remove any credit card numbers which you would have registered for automatic payment.

In the mean time, I picked up a brand new iPhone 4s from eBay and activated my straight talk connection on that. Since Straight Talk uses the AT&T network, I could use my iPhone 4s without any need to jailbreak or unlock. In fact, I activated my 4S using the Straight Talk sim itself. I then forwarded my Google Voice number to my new ST number. This way, I don’t need to give out my new number to any one. The only problem is if I dial out anyone directly from my iPhone dialer instead of using the Google Voice dialer, they will get to see my new number, which might confuse them.

photoIn order to avoid this happening accidentally, I actually moved the iPhone dialer from the dock and replaced it with the GV dialer. So whenever I want to make a call, I use the Google Voice dialer instead of the built in dialer, which will ensure that callers see only my old number.

Since I was using an AT&T phone, I needed to change the APN settings of the phone to that of Straight Talk. The easiest way to do this is to go to unlockit.co.nz website on your iPhone Safari (You need to use your WiFi for this). Select Custom APN –> United States –> Straight Talk and save the generated profile file. You should be able to connect from now on.

The experience so far has been good. At times I noticed that  whenever I roam from Wi-Fi to 3G, it does not connect automatically. [Update: Haven't seen this problem in the last few days] I had to turn on and off carrier data once and then it works correctly. Data transfer speeds are the same as a regular AT&T connection.

Do let me know if you have any questions!

So What is Straight Talk? Are they a carrier like AT&T?

Yes and No. They are a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) who do not have their own infrastructure, but use the other carrier’s network for offering services.

Can I use my AT&T locked iPhone 3GS/4/4s on Straight Talk without unlocking?

Yes you can. In fact, any AT&T locked phone would work, not to mention factory unlocked phones. You can also order micro sims for phones which use them (iPhone 4/4s/Nokia Lumia 900) from the straight talk website.

Is the Straight Talk unlimited plan truly unlimited?

Going by user experiences, it is not. They monitor excessive usage of data and voice and it appears that your connection may get suspended if you consume more than 1.5 GB of data per month. But 1.5 GB is a lot and you won’t risk overrunning unless you tether your phone to your computer. Tethering is not allowed according to the ToS on their website.

  • David

    Have you noticed any strangeness with SMS and porting through google? On android I have and thinking about just porting my google number back to a real carrier so I don’t have to use Google Talk’s rather bland and odd sms client. I don’t like how it breaks up SMS lists like emails

  • jaganath_sr

    Its early days and I am not a big Text user. So haven’t noticed this problem yet.

    But one thing that annoys me is that whenever I get a text, I see it in multiple places including my email. I am sure I should be able to turn this off.

  • JohnB

    Have you noticed any down sides / regrets to porting your old cell # to GV? I’m looking to make the same change as you detail above, but am a little nervous about porting my number to GV (i’ve had this # for 12 years!)

  • Guest

    If you have jailbreak phone, you could make outgoing calls displaying GV number using “GV Phone Extension”. Download it from cydia, configure your GV account information, now when you call from standard dialer it should from your GV number.

  • BrittanyD

    To the author of this article: Why would Straight Talk suspend you for using 1.5 GB when they say it is truly unlimited – though in their terms of service you cannot stream data like internet radio or video and games that use constant data… They do say in their terms that you can browse as much as you want on your phone without being terminated. So unless they are lying about “unlimited web browsing” I can’t see how 1.5 GB would really be an issue. If your phone was your only “computer” and you used it a lot during the day for web surfing you could easily rack up more than 1.5 GB of data per month especially if you use apps, MMS and email daily.

  • Stella

    How does texting work when you use the native Apple Messges? Does it show your ST number?