Recently made the switch for 3 cell phones on an AT&T family plan with 550 shared minutes to Straight Talk (ST) for unlimited minutes. It was not all smooth sailing, and underneath it all, the phones will still run on the AT&T mobile network just under a different brand & billing package, with Straight Talk being a “mobile virtual network operator.” These are the quirky things we had to figure out, since explicit and clear info was hard to find, and unfortunately marketing to the masses tends to mean communicating less #YMMV (your mileage may vary) ::
First, ordered the SIM cards via straighttalksim.com for their BYOP (bring your own phone) program ($14.99/ea) – that means you can use existing phones from AT&T or T-Mobile or an unlocked GSM. (Read the fine print because not every GSM phone necessarily works.) Wait a few days for convenient home delivery. Phones using this ST BYOP program must purchase SIM cards with an unlimited service plan (starting at $45/mo) and cannot be downgraded to their $30 “all you need” plan.
After receiving the SIMs, go online to activate each one for each phone via straighttalk.com, selecting the “Activate/Reactivate” > “Transfer Number” menu item, then select “Activate my Straight Talk Service with a number from another company” to submit the request to port your number. This is so you can keep your phone number. Do this one SIM card at a time for each phone number. I found out you need to use your AT&T account number, not your phone number, not your username, when ST asks for your current AT&T login info, for the transfer request to work.
At this point, the new SIMs from ST are still in their card holders, not in the phones.
I made the transfer request in the evening, when I was not expecting phone calls, just in case. And the transfer request supposedly can take up to 2 or 4 business days, but in our case, it took less than 12 hours. I’m not sure exactly how fast it was, since we submitted the transfer request at 8:00pm Pacific Time, and the transfer had happened when I woke up the next day.
When the cell phone (with the current AT&T SIM still in them) stops working, as denoted by some kind of “no service” message, then turn off the phone. Remove the old SIM card from the phone. Carefully remove the new SIM card from its holder, and insert the new SIM card from ST into the phone. Turn on the phone.
Follow instructions from the activation card about changing the APN settings in your cell phone to use the Straight Talk network. Here where different phones require can take divergent paths.
For the iPhone 3GS, you actually do not have to jailbreak it nor unlock it. To get mobile data working, you can use this iPhone APN changer to change its network setting. Visual voicemail is a lost cause, it doesn’t work with this ST BYOP program. We have not yet changed settings to get MMS to work, but there are several ways to do that.
For my Android smartphone, an HTC Inspire 4G, I had to change my APN settings as follows (note I have more fields to fill out than what was provided on the ST instruction card):
Name: Straight Talk APN: att.mvno Proxy: proxy.mvno.tracfone.com Port: 80 User name: (not set) Password: (not set) Server: (not set) MMSC: http://mmsc.cingular.com MMS proxy: 188.8.131.52 MMS port: 80 MCC: 310 MNC: 410 Authentication type: PAP or CHAP APN type: (not set) APN protocol: IPv4
Straight Talk has a web discussion forum at straighttalkwirelessforum.com with some helpful info. You do have to register for an account, and post like 3 messages, in order to activate private messaging, for their customer service to reply to specific issues in private. [update] also see discussion thread over at Fatwallet: Specific Instructions For How To Switch Your AT&T iPhone To A $45 a Month Unlimited Plan >>
The switch will save us around $400 per year, gets us unlimited minutes, no more contracts, and enables data plan for all 3 lines (up from 2). We did have to pay the ETF (early termination fee) for 2 out of 3 phones because they were still under contracts, and according to the math, we still save in the end.
What has your experience with Straight Talk been like?