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.
In 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.