Straight Talk Review: Affordable Pre-Paid Wireless for Smartphones
Straight Talk is a pre-paid cell phone service that offers unlimited calling, texting and data usage for $45 a month and allows users to bring their own phone.
This means that the Nokia Lumia 900, iPhone 4S and many Android phones work with Straight Talk Wireless.
(Read: Nokia Lumia 900 Review)
AT&T compatible phones deliver amazing speeds on the Straight Talk network, in the “4G” range that many iPhone and Lumia users would achieve on AT&T’s network.
Update: While Straight Talk provides good coverage, their customer service department is incapable of handling any request that is not part of a strict set of problems. When we tried to reactivate the SIM card to use in the LG Nexus 4, customer service representatives, were unable to provide any assistance.
For the past week I have used the Nokia Lumia 900 on Straight Talk Wireless with the bring Your Own phone plan. This requires the purchase of an AT&T compatible Micro SIM for $14.95.
The Lumia 900 does not need to be unlocked to use with Straight Talk. I opened the Lumia 900 box, popped in the Straight Talk SIM, entered the provided apn settings and started talking.
Coverage & Service
Straight Talk Wireless offers wide coverage area, but does little to educate potential customers about coverage.
The map below shows the coverage for the United States, but breaks it out into Android and Non-Android coverage, which is to say smartphone and non-smartphone.
During my time with Straight Talk I enjoyed the same coverage as I would with a regular AT&T phone in Ohio. There is good coverage for smartphones in many areas, but before ordering I suggest users check coverage in their area.
While using Straight Talk call quality was good and I had several bars of “4G” coverage wherever I tested the phone.
Texting works just like any other phone, Windows Phone does not allow users to change the settings to turn on picture messaging without a network program that is currently unavailable for the Lumia 900.
On the Lumia 900, do not enter the APN proxy settings, otherwise the Marketplace will not work on a cellular connection.
Data & Speed
Contrary to many online comments, Straight Talk Wireless does offer 3G and 4G service on AT&T’s network with the AT&T SIM card.
This means that users can expect to see download speeds of 4Mbps.
During my use on the AT&T 4G network I saw download speeds of 4Mbps and upload speeds of around .57Mbps.
This is much slower than AT&T or Verizon 4G LTE, but noticeably faster than Verizon 3G on the iPhone 4S.
Straight Talk advertises Unlimited service, but includes a long list of activities not supported, which includes streaming music and movies. The restrictions are quite troublesome because Straight Talk advertises these features in the nationally aired commercial below.
I’ve reached out to Straight Talk for clarification, but have not received confirmation on the restrictions listed deep in the Terms & Conditions.
For what it’s worth I can stream Rhapsody and Spotify as well as watch Netflix movies on Straight Talk, but that’s no guarantee that the company won’t decide to cut my service off without a refund.
Straight Talk does not support wireless hotspot or tethering on the Lumia 900. I would be very surprised if it worked on any other phones offered.
The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S should work with Straight Talk without being unlocked, but will not support picture messaging unless jailbroken. More details on using the iPhone 4S with Straight Talk found here.
Straight Talk Wireless offers an unlimited plan with unlimited calling, texting and data for $45 a month without any contracts.
Unlimited plans on competing nationwide carriers are much more expensive and come with a two-year contract.
- Sprint – $109.99
- Verizon – $119.98 (4GB Data)
- AT&T – $119.98 (3GB Data)
These plans come with subsidized phones, which is another price factor to consider. Users can buy the Straight Talk SIM card and use it with an AT&T iPhone 4, iPhone 4S or the Lumia 900, but up-front costs will be higher.
Straight Talk delivers great coverage in many locations, including access to the fast AT&T “4G” network that is four times faster than Verizon 3G in my tests.
The price is right, and the ability to use the latest phones, including the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and Lumia 900 as well as many AT&T Android phones, is incredibly attractive.
Unfortunately the ambiguous data usage terms and conditions detract from an otherwise impressively priced plan.
Users willing to risk the ire of Straight Talk by streaming music or videos can enjoy fast speeds, good call quality and great prices.
Until Straight Talk delivers straight talk about the data usage terms, users must be careful of investing large amounts of money in a phone to use with Straight Talk.