Straight Talk launched in 2009 as yet another no-contract prepaid wireless service provided by TracFone Wireless Inc. The company is a subsidiary of Mexico’s largest telecommunications company América Móvil its other services include NET10 Wireless, Total Wireless, SafeLink Wireless, and Telcel América.
The service is sold by Walmart and offers a very compelling set of features for an attractive price of just $45 per month. Customers get to enjoy unlimited talk, text, and high-speed data using the infrastructure of all major carriers. What’s more, there’s no contract to sign, no credit checks to perform, and it works with most mobile phones on the market. You can even keep your old number and avoid the hassle of informing all your contacts about the change.
However, the completion is fierce, with plenty of attractive option to choose from. This review will tell with Straight Talk has what it takes to deserve our recommendation and your money.
Straight Talk supports fast 4G LTE speeds, but you must own a compatible phone and Straight Talk’s 4G LTE SIM card. One unique feature of the service is that it runs on all four major U.S. cellular networks. In theory, this should give you the best signal strength and fastest download speed available in your area. Unfortunately, our practical experience confirms complaints of many users who say that download and upload speeds are on the slower side.
Our average download speed hovered around 7 Mbps, and upload was far behind, at just 3 Mbps. The very best result was measured in Chicago, where the download speed reached 10 Mbps. The strength of the signal wasn’t really the greatest either. It never really dipped too low to make us worried, but neither did it fill all signal bars.
Keep in mind that the numbers don’t really tell the whole story. Even though other carriers offer faster speeds, it doesn’t really make for a better everyday experience when you are actually using your smartphone or tablet. Web pages load as fast as your phone can handle, HD online video plays without buffering, and new apps don’t take forever to download.
Customers can select from a wide range of smartphones. Most of them are low- or medium-end devices, but there’s also a few premium phones to satisfy more demanding users. Some phone, such as the LG Optimus Dynamic II, ZTE Midnight, Samsung R375C, are even offered for free with the service.
ZTE Midnight: One of the free smartphones is the ZTE Midnight. This small, 3.5” touchscreen smartphone represents the lower end of Straight Talk’s range of mobile phone. The 832 MHz processor can support very basic usage, such as Internet browsing, and email. You can take pictures with its 3 MP camera or enjoy multimedia files stored on an expandable microSDHC card. The smartphone is limited to an old version of Android – Android 2.3 – but it’s hard to complain, given the attractive price of zero dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S6: Compared to the ZTE, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is on the opposite end of the smartphone spectrum. This stunning phone has a body made out of metal and glass and sports a large 5.1” touchscreen Super AMOLED display with Quad HD (2560X1440) resolution. Needless to say, it looks stunning. The ultra-fast 64-bit octa-core processor has more than enough power for all latest games and heavy multitasking. Owners of other Samsung phones know about the standard of quality when it comes to picture and video capture. Indeed, the Galaxy S6 doesn’t disappoint, and the 16 MP sensor and bright lens with f1.9 aperture capture crisp pictures under all light conditions.
iPhone 6s Plus: The 5.5” beauty with HD display and 3D Touch technology was a surprising find in Straight Talk’s catalog of smartphones. The new display can distinguish short taps from deep presses and provide adequate haptic feedback. The 12-megapixel iSight camera records 4K video footage at 30 fps and slo-mo video recording for 1080p at 120 fps. The smartphone itself is just as breathtaking as other Apple products, representing the very best that the world of smartphones has to offer.
Bring Your Own Phone
Apart from buying a new phone, customers can also bring their own device, thanks to Straight Talk’s Bring Your Own Phone program. Generally, all phones compatible with either AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint will work fine. The network supports unlocked GSM phones that operate on 850MHz and 1900MHz. CDMA phones require a few extra steps that check whether the device will work fine on the network.
The setup procedure of a new smartphone is straightforward: after you verify that your phone is compatible with Straight Talk, you need to buy an activation kit and service plan. This costs just $0.99, and it includes the necessary SIM card or network access code. With the SIM card installed, all that’s left to do is complete the simple activation process on Straight Talk’s website.
There are current two plans to choose from: the $45 30-Day plan and the $60 30-Day plan. Both include unlimited minutes, texts, and data. Data limit is set to 5GB before it throttles to 2G speeds.
The more expensive plan adds international calling to over 1,000 destinations all over the world, making Straight Talk suitable even for international travelers.
Unfortunately, Straight Talk doesn’t accommodate low-usage scenarios, and you always have to pay for the entire month upfront.
Just like other services from TracFone Wireless Inc., even Straight Talk suffers from poor customer service. Problem-solving always involves, at least, some level of stress, due to hard-to-reach customer support and the long time before you get a response. According to J.D. Power and Associates surveys of customer care and the buying experience, Straight Talk finishes second to last in customer care and last in the buying experience.
Probably the best way how to Straight Talk Wireless customer service is to dial 877-430-2355 (or 1-888-442-5096) and then work through the automatic teller machine until you get to a real human being. The customer service desk is open Monday through Sunday from 8 am to 11:45 pm ET.
Alternatively, you can contact Straight Talk on Twitter, Facebook, or using their email address: [email protected]. Never forget to mention your phone number and what smartphone you own.
- Excellent value
- Customers can use their existing smartphones
- Fast download speed
- Great network coverage
- Supports international phone calls
- Poor customer service
- Limited number of plans
Compared to other major carriers, Straight Talk wins when it comes to the amount of available data. If you often find yourself without a Wi-Fi connection, this is the plan to get. You should always keep in mind that the service relies on all major carriers, and you never know which one will be assigned to you based on your current location. This means that you could get a great download speed in one part of your town and mediocre ones in other.