In June of 2009, Straight Talk Prepaid cell phones hit the market with the offer of 1000 minutes plus 1000 text or multimedia messages plus 30 MB of data in a 30-day plan for $30. Not a bad deal! Even better, they have now added a $45 unlimited plan.
They also now have added a web-only offer where you can get a free Straight Talk phone with the purchase of an airtime card! Click image below for more details.
Straight Talk began as a partnership between TracFone, Verizon, and WalMart, but many of their new phones are now with AT&T The plan is administered by TracFone, runs on the Verizon or AT&T network, and the phones are currently sold exclusively by Wal Mart store and on the Straight Talk website where you can enter your zip code to see if the service is available in your area. If no stores near you carry the phones, you can order one online and have it shipped to your door or to your favorite Wal Mart store.
One advantage of ordering from the Straight Talk website is that you can order a phone bundled with the airtime card that you will need to activate the phone. Or you can always order the phone "naked" and activate it online.
Note that by studying the coverage maps, it's clear that Straight Talk is not available on the entire Verizon network. Straight Talk has updated their coverage map now, but definitely go to straighttalk.com to check out the coverage map to make sure it will work in your area.
(I've now had a chance to do a Straight Talk Prepaid coverage area test, and in Southwest Missouri at least, the phone seems to work on the full Verizon network)
Curiosity overcame me, so I went ahead and ordered a Straight Talk Motorola W385 on walmart.com and had it shipped to my house. I'm working on a full review, but here's a quick first look at what I've found so far.
- Although Straight Talk is administered by TracFone, most everything works differently.
- Your account balances do not rollover. When you add a new card or refill online, it's all reset to 30 days, 1000 minutes, 1000 messages, and 30MB. So it's use it or lose it. Of course, that's a non-issue if you do the $45 unlimited plan.
- They have an auto-refill option where they will charge your credit card and reset your balances every 30 days, which is kind of like a postpaid contract plan except that you can cancel any time with no penalty or fee.
- They added $2.58 in taxes and fees when I paid the $30 for my first 30 days.
- You don't get any free time with the phone. You have to either activate it with an airtime card or pay for your first 30 days with a credit card during the activation process.
- You can't see your remaining balance on the phone. You have to use straighttalk.com or call the 800 number.
- The browser is not limited to only certain sites like with TracFone. I was able to browse www.fone-review.com and any other site that I tried. You'll want to access the mobile version of your favorite sites, though, because Straight Talk still uses the same Openwave browser as TracFone.
- You are not charged based on the time the browser is open, but rather on how much data is transferred. So once a page is downloaded, you can read it at your leisure.
- I was able to successfully copy pictures from my computer to the W385 and from the W385 to my computer with the bluetooth connection.
- I was able to send and receive pictures to and from another phone in MMS messages and also to and from my gmail account using my computer.
- I had on hand a usb cable with the right connectors to connect the W385 to my computer. My computer downloaded some drivers from Windows update, and the phone will now charge through the usb port on my computer. The phone does not, however, show up as a drive on my computer where I can transfer files back and forth. I don't know if this is because TracFone has crippled the usb on the phone, or if I just don't have the right drivers.
- The W385 does not have a removable memory card.
- The packaging and walmart.com say that the W385 has a VGA Video Camera, but the camera only takes pictures. I can't find any way to make it take video, and I can't find any other references anywhere to this phone having video capabilities.
- Part of the fine print on the back of the box says, "TracFone is selling this phone to you at a discount in exchange for your agreement that it will only be used on Straight Talk's wireless service." Another part says, "This phone will only operate with the Straight Talk service plan...".
Straight Talk claims to be "Everything you need in a cell phone without a contract", and although "everything" is a broad term, I must say I'm impressed with Straight Talk so far. Nothing feels prepaid about it, things work like I expect them to work for the most part, and the price is definitely right for those who are at least moderately heavy cell phone users. The $45 unlimited price is definitely right for heavy users! Just pay attention to the coverage area and be aware that your account balances don't carry over on the $30 plan.
I'll keep plugging away on my full review, but in the meantime you can learn more about the service at www.straighttalk.com.
If you have found the information on Fone-Review more helpful than the sales clerk at your average big box retailer, please help me to continue helping everyone!