$45/month iPhone. No Contracts. Hot Damn.
DESPITE MANY, MANY CATASTROPHES AND ISSUES WHEN DOING THIS TO MY OWN 3GS IPHONE, I HAVE FINALLY GOT THE PHONE WORKING AT 100%.
READ MY NEXT POST FOR AN EXPLANATION OF HOW TO DO THIS WITHOUT HAVE THE PROBLEMS I DID.
Got an old iPhone left over from an upgrade? Or maybe that one with the cracked screen you dropped when drunkenly climbing that tree last year? Perhaps a DPRK hand-me-down cell phone from the late Kim Jong-Il? If so, here’s some rather amazing news: you can turn that old (and still incredibly useful) device into a pay-as-you-go smartphone with a $15 SIM card and use an unlimited talk/text/data plan for $45 per month. No credit check, no deposit, no contracts, no jailbreaking/unlocking, no legal loopholes and no trickery.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Read on, young Padawan learner, and see how this geeky miracle is pulled off- and how you too can make your iPhone the best pre-paid device ever for less than $20 using no tools or software in less than ten minutes.
And no, this isn’t another iOS jailbreaking scheme, nor is it an newfound and exploitable bug that the cell carriers haven’t noticed or fixed yet a la the old GoPhone trick used until recently. This method is a whole new way to ditch your contract and all its fees, deposits, nonsensical charges and general messes by using another carrier who is (in so many words) piggybacking on the big-boy cellular signal networks.
How it Works
Basically, you’ll buy a new SIM card for your iPhone from Straight Talk (a cellular carrier that specializes in pre-paid and inexpensive cell service), swap out the old SIM for the new, change the VPN/APN settings by typing in a couple of numbers, and then call Straight Talk to activate the plan. That’s it. The SIM cards are only available online while the plan activation cards are $45 at Wal-Mart, so as long as you have a shipping address and/or enjoy going to Wal-Mart you’re already all set.
- Go to www.straighttalksim.com. Do NOT visit any other sites claiming to be ST vendors: only the aforementioned site is the real thing owned and operated by the actual company.
- Order a replacement SIM card. The standard size fits older models, while iPhone 4S users will need the micro SIM (same price all around) to fit in their device. $15 for the card, or $60 for the card and a 30-day activation plan. You may as well get both online, as it’ll save you a trip to the store and the card cost is the same.
- When it arrives, put it in your phone and activate it using the 30-day Unlimited card. You can order these with the SIM online or simply buy one for $45 at any Wal-Mart. Couldn’t be easier.
- Once you’re all connected and digitally joyous, set the APN/VPN to the Straight Talk settings. This can be done in under a minute by a 13 year old- I’ve seen it happen. Easy, easy, easy.
- Congrats! Everything now works just like you’re used to, so hook it up to iTunes and get to nerdin’. Visual voicemail is NOT available with ST, however, so if having to actually listen to your voicemails is a deal-breaker, then I guess you’re screwed (and greedy), but otherwise everything functions normally.
There have been reported issues with MMS messaging and some headway has been made, but don’t be too horrified if you don’t have access to it at first. There are multiple workarounds, though many require unlocking your phone, and it’s sporadic enough to keep from worrying over. If you followed the instructions correctly, you will probably (but maybe not) have MMS capability.
And This is 100% Legitimate How…?
Saving $40/month while enjoying all the amenities of an AT&T iPhone (minus the visual voicemail feature) with the option of changing your plan or leaving altogether at any time with no fees. AT&T would have you killed for demanding that kind of freedom. T-Mobile isn’t keen on you breaking or altering your contract, either, and would much rather keep you locked into an overpriced plan for two years. This little setup bypasses all of that, and it does it very, very well. Better than any other pre-paid carrier on the market, if you ask me.
The surge in demand for “pay-as-you-go” (PAYG) smartphones has led companies like Straight Talk, RocketMobile, Cricket and many others to offer alternatives to the ball-and-chain contracts the big guys charge. Though companies like MetroPCS have low-cost monthly subscriptions and cheap phones, it’s a well-documented opinion/fact that they suck quite badly- plus they refuse to support iPhones and have almost nothing going for them other than price.
Consequently, you can expect to see PAYG plans made available for a lot more (high-end) phones in the very near future- as well as licensing court cases, service litigation and countless variations on the PAYG theme set up so far. A lot of lawyers are no doubt eagerly awaiting a lawsuit from AT&T trying to keep their virtual monopoly on the smartphone market, while the law clearly states the legitimacy of things like this PAYG idea.
Nevertheless, PAYG plans are here to stay and with Straight Talk offering a $45 monthly unlimited plan (as well as mini and micro SIM cards for all iPhone models evenly priced at a meager $15) it’s easy to see the advantages of going with them rather than have to fork over hundreds- even thousands- of dollars to get cellular service from one of the handful of gigantic corporations that offer them.
How Does the PAYG iPhone Really Perform?
Since you’ll be on the “second tier” of priority as a non-contracted user of the AT&T/T-Mobile/whatever-they-have-now cellular network, you won’t get speeds quite as fast as those who pay $150 every month for their plan, but the difference is negligible. Roughly 95-98% of iPhone owners never even come close to using 2GB of data each month, and with just a tiny bit of monitoring neither will you. Don’t sweat the data, just remember to use the 2G/3G only when you’re out and about and stick to using Wi-Fi whenever it’s available (especially for large downloads, video chatting and apps that take up a lot of bandwidth) and you’ll never have any trouble.
Nationwide coverage on the network your iPhone is/was made to work on can be compared by checking out the coverage maps below. My AT&T 3GS has amazingly good service even out here in Midland, and T-Mobile is supposed to be fairly dependable as well. I suggest using AT&T, but that’s just me, the guy you’re looking to learn all this from, an IT professional with his own business doing exactly this. Trust me 🙂
$45/month, no deposits, fees, contracts or credit checks. You can also sign up in 3, 6 and 12 month increments to save a LOT of money if you can afford it up front. The $45 plan gets you unlimited text, talk and data, though you may get a nasty call or warning if you keep going over 2GB/month or use way too much data habitually.
The guys that run Straight Talk pay for that data in bulk and pass the savings onto you, so if you ignore their “please slow your bandwidth-devouring roll” notifications and repeatedly use over the suggested 2GB limit constantly, you can be cut off from the data plan entirely. In essence: don’t be a dick, just monitor your 3G/data usage and avoid streaming YouTube videos all day like an idiot.
OK I’m Ordering it All Right Now!!!
Even after taxes you’re paying at least $40 less than you would on an “Unlimited Everything” plan contracted for two years with AT&T for access to the exact same services. Configuring the APN/VPN is a snap (detailed walkthrough from the Straight Talk site) and since you won’t have to jailbreak, unlock or otherwise mess with your phone the whole deal leaves you in the clear, safe from tethering and firmware crashes.
Unlike the old AT&T GoPhone SIM-switcheroo trick (now outrageously expensive) the Straight Talk solution is cheaper than anything else out there, shockingly reliable and (most importantly) doesn’t leave the specter of service disconnection hanging over your head. This is all legal, 100%, and backed by laws that allow absolutely anyone to get an iPhone with minimal effort. You’re welcome.
*** UPDATE – 7/12/2012 ***
NOTE: This Apple iPhone and Straight Talk project has been an absolute, dismally exhausting failure. They admitted to attempting to steal my credit card, charged me for parts that were COMPLETELY unnecessary, failed to respond when the replacement I ordered was D.O.A., and have generally been assholes on the level of Dick Cheney if he ran a call center and loved throwing Taiwanese/Cuban insults at his customers. I cannot in good conscience recommend that you use their services as they are shadier than MetroPCS and twice as incompetent.
In the past week alone I have spent over 82 hours (not an exaggeration) on the phone with their “tech support” (who had me download a jailbreaking app- one they say they support 100%, “redsn0w”- that bricked my first iPhone 3GS) as well as 14 hours with AT&T and 12+ with Apple. I still have no working phone, and I’ve spent over $300 fixing their mistakes. A lawsuit is being filed as I type this, and I hope no one ever has to go through what they will do to you if they think they can get away with it.l
Shockingly, the typically-awesome customer service at Apple has also made an ass of me for sport, too: they heard of my situation and offered me a trade of my bricked 3GS for a “new” 3GS, only to find out that “whoops that employee told you the wrong thing… about twenty times, and Apple cannot help that.” After burning through THREE iPhones you think they might stop and think “wait maybe NOT give him the runaround” and tell me the truth instead of accusing me of “not knowing what you’re doing” after my $168.32 payment was taken and the phone due to be fixed shipped back with a “LOL SORRY, OUT- I MEAN YOUR BAD, COINCIDENCE, WE CAN’T HOLD ALL EMPLOYEES ACCOUNTABLE” note attached.
*** UPDATE – 7/12/2012 ***
Apple might just be able to replace it for a fee, but I won’t know until Monday when they look at it again. They’ve been really cool since we last spoke and have taken the phone back to see what they can do- even going so far as to have me send my phone back for the second time and assigning it a “customer satisfaction number” that, as explained by the manager, is a “give this client a new whatever no questions, for real guys or you’re fired” kind of deal. Said he hasn’t ever seen one turned down, and himself has only issued two in his 10+ years with Apple. I know from first-hand experience that their customer support guys typically rock out, and if my history with your customer service is any indicator I’ve got faith that they’ll make things right, even if only to retain a dumb customer like me. If this all works out and the Apple team can replace that 3GS, then expect a big article on the technology giant very, very, very soon. Even putting me this far into their schedule is a lot more than any other company would do, so here’s to hoping that they can find a solution and thus fix this entire debacle.
TL;DR: Apple has been the bomb dot com slash diggity and treated me MUCH better than I likely deserved to be (hell, this is being published from the iPad 2 they gave me for free. Whole ‘nother story there!) and hasn’t ever given me reason to think that they’d do less than bend over backwards for their customers. Love you guys in a platonic-though-caring way, unless you wanna take this somewhere private…
*** UPDATE – 7/16/2012 ***
APPLE IS SENDING IT BACK. WITH A NOW-BROKEN SCREEN THEY WON’T EVEN DISCUSS. I had a diatribe here, but it was simple noise to me. Insult to injury. I would love to unleash a torrent of hateful curses and anger, but that would be uncouth and useless. Fucking hell, this is killing me.
*** UPDATE – 7/12/2012 ***
Peace at last. See my next post for details.