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So You Want to Switch to Pre-Paid? My Experience in Dropping the Big Carriers

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We always talk about it, the final straw that would break our back. There’s always something that the big wireless carriers could do to make us leave and take our business elsewhere. Threats however are only words until you actually decide to take the initiative and switch, but where do you go outside of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint? Pre-paid carriers have always sounded exciting to the people locked into lengthy and expensive contracts, but they don’t usually have the best reputation: sketchy service, throttling data speeds, the list goes on. Luckily for you, I’ve decided to brave the unknown and dove headfirst into the world of pre-paid carriers. Let’s talk about how it went.

My Background

My family has been with Verizon ever since I can remember wireless service being a big deal. All-in-all, 14 years of service with Big Red in my family and I’ve known nothing else since I’ve had a phone. Like many of you readers, I am still clinging to the unlimited data plan and a Galaxy Nexus because Verizon hasn’t released a phone that I want to upgrade to this year. The reason I am looking to switch is because fairly soon college will be over and I am anticipating having to pay for my own cell service in the near future. As much as I’d like to keep my unlimited data plan with Verizon, I don’t think I’ll have the money monthly to do so and it could potentially disappear soon enough anyway. I tell you this because the decision to switch from one carrier to another is completely subjective, only do go through with it if it works for you.

Step One: Choose Your Phone

One of the main benefits to pre-paid carriers, other than the price, is the ability to bring your own phone into the mix and just purchase a SIM card. The choice of phones from pre-paid carriers are usually filled with mid-range smartphones that most Android fans would scoff at, so it’s good to have an idea going into it of what you want. You also have to know which wireless bands the phone supports. Some phones only support certain bands of HSPA and HSPA+ and that can directly correlate to whether or not it will work with certain SIM cards or prepaid carriers.

For the most part, when you are talking “prepaid” options, you need to focus on the “unlocked” phone market. We’re also talking about use on T-Mobile and AT&T’s networks since they are GSM/HSPA and accept a bring-your-own-phone approach, rather than Verizon and Sprint which operate CDMA networks and have the power to decide which phones can connect to them.

It’s no secret that I have a love affair with the HTC One X. This was a phone that I absolutely love and allowed it to dictate which carrier I would go to. The One X features a radio that supports the 850/900/1900/2100 Mhz bands for HSPA. These bands only pick up on the HSPA that AT&T puts out, not T-Mobile (T-Mo is currently refarming their 1900). That distinction right there narrowed my choices of carriers drastically (which I will talk about later) and is why you want to pick the phone you wish to use first before you move forward with the rest of the steps.

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Step Two: Choose Your Carrier

Now comes the part that we’ve all been waiting for, the actual pre-paid carrier. Once you have decided which radio bands you will be rolling with, be it T-Mobile or AT&T, you can make a choice on who you will be giving your money to. Traditionally Straight Talk Wireless has offered SIM cards for both carriers, but as of recently with the launch of AT&T’s Aio, they can be hard to come by. Now, since I really wanted to use my One X I ended up buying a AT&T Straight Talk SIM card off of Amazon (risky I know, but I really like the One X). Luckily for me I had no problems with a faulty or stolen SIM card and everything worked out well for me when it showed up. Straight Talk however is not the only carrier to choose from, there are a few more to choose from:

  • Solavei is another carrier that has been both highly praised and skewered by many people in the unlocked, pre-paid phone game. They offer the typical “unlimited data, talk, text and web” like all the pre-paid carriers do, but their price is $49 per month as compared to the $45 from Straight Talk. Solavei uses T-Mobile’s wireless signals. They don’t have the best reputation because they offer an incentive program to their customers who refer friends and family members. Should you sign up enough people to Solavei, you can earn thousands of dollars on the side. As one would imagine, internet marketers and scam artists have flooded to the MVNO.
  • Aio might be new to the game, but with AT&T backing it there is room for it to grow. Aio’s plans range from $35 to $70 per month and offer 100MB of data up to 7GB on top of their unlimited talk and text. If you use all of that, your data will be throttled afterwards until the new month starts. Unfortunately Aio has only launched in a few cities so far since their start.
  • Traditional carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon also all offer prepaid plans, but rarely will you find them giving out unlimited everything for the prices you see from those other folks.

These are the pre-paid carriers around the country that allow you to bring your own device. Companies such as Boost Mobile, AT&T’s GoPhone program and Virgin Mobile all have fairly low monthly payment programs, but the selection of phones is dismal. What’s the point in breaking off from a big carrier if you aren’t on a phone that you love?

Step Three: Activate your SIM and Use Your Phone!

Once your SIM card and the phone you want to put it in arrive, pop that sucker in your phone and activate it. Straight Talk allows you to choose to pay manually each month, or have them charge your bill automatically when it is time. Once this is decided on your carrier of choice, activation usually only takes one phone call and a bit of waiting before your device is up and running. Occasionally the phone’s radios need pointing in the specific direction of your pre-paid network, so some tweaking in the settings of your device might be necessary, but it’s nothing too daunting.

The Good

Low Price, Duh!: The point of this whole experiment was to save some money. $45 each month for an unlimited amount of texts, minutes and data is just too good to pass up. Granted the data speeds aren’t LTE (more on that later), HSPA+ and 3G do a fine job of providing my data when I am not on WiFi. Knowing that I could end the payments at anytime that I wanted is a good feeling for added measure. Talking with the owners of my family’s plan (aka my parents) we sat down and looked at the numbers comparing a 14-year old, 4 device Verizon plan to if we all switched to a pre-paid network. We would be saving over $100 each month if we made the switch, and that’s a decent amount of change.

No Contract: It’s pretty satisfying to know that you can end your contract whenever you want. If things get tight one month and you need to save a few bucks, it’s as easy as a few clicks to end your service. You aren’t locked into a contract for two years, if your service sucks you can move to another service with the same phone. It’s overall just awesome to have that freedom.

Phone Selection: As we’ve talked about before, these carriers that allow you to bring your own unlocked phone are awesome for Android lovers. See a phone over in the UK or Japan that you want to use? Just make sure that the GSM bands will work over here and you are all set to go. Nexus devices from the Play Store work here as well, and that keeps you as close to Google and Android as you can get. We’re even seeing companies like HTC being to sell their newest unlocked phones directly to consumers in the U.S.

pile o phones

Battery Life: 4G LTE is great and all, but in the past it sure did a job on the battery life of any phone that it was featured on. HSPA and HSPA+ have decent mobile speeds and don’t destroy your battery as quickly as LTE will. Granted, any power user who is watching YouTube videos all day and streaming music is going to have a low battery life, the difference between the two radios is definitely noticeable.

HSPA+:  Depending on the prepaid carrier you go with, you can see HPSA+ speeds that are on par with LTE networks. Kellen gave me the screenshots below that show off the T-Mobile HSPA+ prepaid speeds he sees on his Nexus 4. The upload numbers may be capped, but the downloads of around 15 Mbps are nothing to laugh at.

solavei speed
(Above: Kellex’s SpeedTests from a Nexus 4 on Solavei using T-Mobile bands)

The Not-So-Good

Not LTE: I’m not going to say that we are spoiled with our fantastically fast 4G LTE speeds, but we kind of are. After being on Verizon’s reliable and large network, transitioning back to HSPA was a shock to the system. Of course comparative SpeedTests aren’t going to be close, but only getting 3 Mbps on HSPA prepaid when Verizon and AT&T can offer 15 to 20 Mbps on LTE is a big difference. As for an everyday test, I used Google Music streaming as a real world example. Unfortunately, since I was only on HSPA, buffering took substantially more time than on a LTE connection.

Another slightly annoying thing about unlocked phones is that the radios tend to switch between HSPA and 3G frequently. I’ve talked to Kellen about this and it seems to be something that unlocked phones do when brought to the States. It doesn’t render the phone useless, but the phone can sometimes get hung in switching between networks before loading your Twitter feed or sending a message. You can see it clearly in my SpeedTest images below.

slowspeeds(Above: my most recent SpeedTest, the fastest I could get and the overall list)

Data Throttling: Everything when you sign up for service with these carriers promises “unlimited” data, but deep in the fine print of each of them you’ll read that data is only “unlimited through amount of data.” Meaning if you use too much data on their network your speeds are going to get cut slower than they already are. I personally never ran into the point where my speeds were slower during my time, but I kept WiFi on most the time around the house to get better downloads. Depending on the prepaid carrier, you could see throttling after anywhere from 2GB to 4GB of data.

The Verdict

Is pre-paid right for me? After giving it a test run for nearly two months I feel like the answer is no. As someone who depends on a mobile network for streaming music and video a lot, using Straight Talk just hasn’t given me the same performance that Verizon has. Another combination of a prepaid network and phone could yield different results for you, though. The savings in money are nice, but I don’t think that they are substantial enough to justify the trade offs. Sure Verizon isn’t the place to be if you want all the best Android phones, AT&T seems to have taken that spot, but the two big carriers offer a lot that we seem to take for granted.

Does switching to a pre-paid carrier sound right to you? Can you give up the things you have with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mo to save a few extra bucks? If you have made the switch, feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

  • hoosiercub88

    This is something I’ve been trying to say for a long time.. you get what you pay for.

  • maxfrix

    I have Verizon Service provided by my employer with unlimited data and I purchased Gnex to use it with. I like this allot. But here in the California delta the service is far from perfect. I have used all the carriers over the years here. Was with att for 6 years. Tmo for 2 years. I switched to no contract about 3 years ago and will never sign another contract with the mob.
    If you want use the phone I have found T-Mobile to have the absolute best voice quality. I never thought about it until I realized that I wasn’t constantly asking the person on the other end to repeat themSelves. It is not an issue to many that only care about data. When you have 2 phones sitting next to you all day and you start to realize you really prefer one over the other for voice calls. Pretty soon it becomes so obvious.

  • http://BGR.COM/ riggs

    i just signed up with t-mobile’s no contract plans. (not the monthly 4G) i gotta say after searching and using all the other MVNO’s, tmobile is the best. I dont have to mess with APN settings or ask my friends to send me a picture message to make sure its working. i am financing a phone for 12 bucks a month/ or i can pay it off completely within the 2 years. And wifi calling. which i am always around wifi so tmobile poor signal coverage doesnt matter. plus wifi calling extends battery life. right now i cant complain.

  • Geoff Johnson

    AT&T is now allowing their pre-paid customers to use LTE, so hopefully more will follow suite!

  • dsass600

    Wait, can I pop an AT&T smartphone SIM into my international HTC One after June 21st when LTE is activated on pre-paid?

    • Serge

      Yes.

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      Only if the international model supports LTE band 17. Check the specs first. Normally international models only support LTE bands used in the countries where they’re sold at retail. LTE band 17 isn’t used outside the US right now.

  • jdomann

    For those who don’t live on a coast and actually want coverage outside of metros: I’ve used good2GO Mobile and just started with PureTalkUSA, both AT&T MVNOs. Both have excellent customer service and good2GO has rollover data!
    I went with PureTalkUSA as it was $10 cheaper for less data (that I rarely use, yay wifi). And on AT&T towers, I actually get a great signal in rural Oklahoma, where I was roaming with 1-2 bars or no signal at all on T-Mobile.

    My only regret after going prepaid was missing out on Verizon’s coverage and speeds. But such is the cost of cutting my bill in half.

    • jakebowenecu

      I am looking to switch from VZW to a cheaper option as well. Allegedly T Mo is converting the 2g towers up and down I-44 from 2g to HSPA+ as we speak. Do those carriers allow unlimited data? I am a power user that uses my phone as a personal assistant. Are they pushing HSPA+

      • jdomann

        Well, these two MVNOs are on AT&T’s network, so their HSPA+ will be slower. good2GO is 1GB/mo and whatever you don’t use will roll over into the next month. You can buy more data for $10/500MB or $20/1GB. Here’s their plans:
        http://us.good2gomobile.com/plans.aspx

        PureTalkUSA is 1GB/mo, no rollover. Unfortunately their data overage rates are pretty archaic, $10/100MB. I don’t go over 1GB, so I don’t worry about that.

        My only issue with AT&T MVNOs is sometimes I’ll get an Access Forbidden when accessing a tower. I called good2GO’s customer service and they said this is normal unfortunately :(

  • Adam Neighbors

    Me and my brother just switched from 6+ years on Verizon this week. Now we both have Nexus 4s on T-mobile with unlimited everything for $120 a month. No contract and freedom for whatever we want. I love it.

  • Adrienne Williams

    I’m sorry but I still love #cricket! Never going back to the crack, with unreal fees and locked contracts!

  • Taylor Levesque

    Something to consider is now that T-mobs doesn’t lock people into contracts it becomes a viable option. $70 for unlimited everything without throttling.

    • jakebowenecu

      If they can get their act together and convert their 2G to HSPA+ like they are trying they will be a beast!

  • Gunther

    Long time Verizon customer, decided I had finally had enough of them and moved to T-Mo’s $30/month unlimited data + 100 minutes. Most months I pay $40 bucks total, buying 100 minutes extra ($10) per month. Coverage is actually a little better in some areas than VZW, but then again, I had the Galaxy Nexus and its reception sucked, could never really hold 4G for long. My Nexus 4 on the other hand, is better built and a much better phone, esp. for the price. I generally use about 4Gb of data a month, so 5GB unthrottled is great for me. Thanks to this I’m saving about $50 a month on my old Verizon unlimited plan, for which I paid $90/month.

  • Brian_2112

    Went to Virgin Mobile from Sprint earlier this year…and while the network isn’t that great (I barely get Sprint’s WiMAX where I live), I can at least be satisfied with the phone (Galaxy S II) and the price ($45 a month).

    Of course, results may vary, but I feel that as long as it’s good enough for what you do and you’re not breaking the bank keeping a good phone on you, then go for it. Whatever carrier works best for you.

  • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

    I made the switch earlier this year, from Sprint to Straight Talk, T-Mobile, and a Nexus 4. Never been happier. I spend dramatically less per month, have insanely higher speeds, a better phone, and better battery life. Best decision I’ve made in a very long time.

  • Liderc

    Everyone is going to lose unlimited data anyways, so might as well get it out of your system. Verizon isn’t going to allow it for much longer, no matter what your contract says or how long you keep purchasing phones at full price. I got rid of unlimited and I haven’t noticed a difference, never use more than 4-5gigs, so it’s pointless to have it anyways. The only people who care are the ones who abused it and killed it for the rest of us anyways. If you’re using 20gigs a month, you’re doing it wrong.

    • wkg

      Some of us use our phones for personal internet at work when we cannot use company resources. Stream music all day long. At lunch I usually watch a couple youtube videos. 5 days a week that really adds up on the data usage.

    • Ian

      It seems pointless until you use more than 4-5 gigs. Do you think data usage is declining? Also do not try to tell me Verizon’s reasoning for axing unlimited data was due to abuse. They saw a shift in the business and moved to capitalize on it. They know data use is and will be an increasing trend. How do you monetize and ensure growth in such an environment? Static data tiers. And hell it works, look at you, you’re satisfied. Soon you’ll be paying more and non-the-wiser :)

      EDIT: It’s likely someone will retort and say to “use more wifi”. If I wanted to use more wifi, I wouldn’t have cellular service.

  • I-Troll-U

    I got LTE on T-Mo in the Seattle area now so I am golden with my N4 and $30 plan :)

  • Tommy Thompson

    Is there anyway to fix the constant switching? I noticed that on my Nexus 4 and wondered why it was doing it.

    • Taylor Levesque

      That’s the way GSM works, it scales up to use and scales down, which is good for battery life

      • Tommy Thompson

        Ah. The article made it seem like it wasn’t a normal thing. Thanks!

  • Michael Veringo

    I’m switching from T-Mobile at the end of the month to finally get off of my fathers plan. I will be taking my business to AT&T, better service in my area for 10 bucks cheaper than what I pay now. I will be going on the contract AT&T plan but keeping my Nexus 4, thus making me eligible to get a new phone whenever I want! :D

    • Jason Bittner

      im not 100% but as far as i know to get a discounted phone you have to do it when you start the contract, as it requires either a new contract or a contract extension. If you do a contract w/o a phone, you might be screwed for 2 years :(

      • Michael Veringo

        When I called the corporate store nearest to me they said as long as I don’t buy one of their phones and I just bring mine, then I’ll be eligible until I do get one. Ha trust me, I checked like 8 times on that. I’m not looking to get screwed by yet another carrier.

  • trwb

    This website is always strangley pro Verizon hmm …I didn’t like straight talks restrictions either though. I went from Verizon to ST to Att myself. Att is much better than Verizon Imo.Might go back to prepaid eventually.

    • Skittlez

      this site was originally created for the Droid line anyway, but they merged their other site android-life.com with this one

    • ERIFNOMI

      Droid-life was made for the Droid line of phones (you know, Verizon’s better Androids in the early days). If anything, they’re becoming much more neutral, but they were kinda forced to since Verizon has been getting dick all for Android phones lately, and when they do get them, they like to gimp them more than any of the other carriers.

      Man I hate Verizon, but I’m stuck with their superior coverage and I’m grandfathered into unlimited data. Come on Moto X….please be as cheap as you sound, unlockable, and on Verizon…

  • Dave

    In 2013, I’d say the effect of LTE on battery life is null and void. There are several devices that back it up.

    • KleenDroid

      I agree. The battery life on my new S4′s is fantastic!

  • KleenDroid

    I feel bad for those that left their unlimited Verizon data for greener pastures.

    I even thought about it myself, but luckily came to my senses and bought a couple S4′s at full retail. My son had used over 25 gig since the 23rd and I’ve used over 16 gig. Never really used more than 2 on the Gnex.

    Plus it is also nice not being under any contract with Verizon. I’ve got 5 lines on Verizon and will happily pay full retail for my phones all day long. Only paying $10 per month for unlimited is hard to beat. I looked into the 2 gig tiered plan and it would have cost me $30 more per month than my unlimited.

    Data is the future… Why do you think they tricked so many people into giving it up. And then you have some say we will lose it anyway but Verizon had never said this. They don’t need to worry about the few of us left on unlimited since they tricked must into giving it up for the illusion of subsidized phones… Lol

    • JMonkeYJ

      you don’t have to feel bad for me…leaving my VZW unlimited plan turned out to be an excellent decision. the only kind of bad thing is that i have no excuse to wait to get a new phone (ie subsidized phone prices) so i’ve found myself buying the latest and greatest phone that i want every 6 months (none of which are even available on VZW!). that’s not much of a down side :-) i’ve also been able to skip around to other prepaid providers and even between cell networks to try everything out. i’ve settled on unlimited talk, text, and data (no throttling) on NET10.

      • epps720

        I just did the same thing switched from my Verizon unlimited to Net10 to get the HTC One. Rarely used LTE as it killed the battery on my Gnex so data speeds don’t bother me at all. Still only a few weeks in but do far not regretting the move at all.

        • JMonkeYJ

          with NET10 you should actually get TMobile LTE if it rolls out in your area, but they seem to be taking their time…

          • epps720

            T mobile just sucks in my area so it’s not even worth it

      • KleenDroid

        You guys certainly have a better choice in phones.

    • paul_cus

      I haven’t regretted leaving Verizon and my unlimited plan one bit. I found Verizon’s network to be unreliable in Chicago, so it didn’t matter much that I had unlimited. I’m happy on AT&T with my unlocked phones and a 3GB plan.

    • Bionic_Pags

      I agree 100%… i constantly stream my slingbox, google music and also tether my Nexus 7 all day using foxfi. There will be many more devices that connect to your phone in the future, such as your car. My next phone i will buy at full retail price rather than give any more money to Verizon. No contract with real unlimited data! I will keep my unlimited data and use it every chance i get until they pry it from my cold dead hands.

  • skinja99

    I always bring this up,
    All carriers and their service are not created equal due to the spectrum they have. VZW (and their LTE in particular) will penetrate buildings better than other carriers if all things are equal.

    Tmob is the worst at penetrating buildings. It might work for you. If a tower/antenna is close by, then great. But if a VZW CDMA /LTE tower is the same distance away as a Tmob GSM/HSPA tower, then VZW service will be much better, especially indoors.

    Lower frequencies penetrate better. VZW and VZW LTE have the lowest chunks of spectrum.

    This might not matter if you are in a Tower/Antenna rich area. But if you are in the suburbs or countryside, it can make a big difference. I have gone shopping more than once and had Tmob store reps admit that their coverage maps only consider if you are standing outside.

    More power to you if Tmob/GSM/HSPA+ works for you.

    • JMonkeYJ

      AT&T and Sprint also have low frequency 4G (700MHz for AT&T, 800 for Sprint). of course AT&T is only starting to let prepaid access LTE and Sprint…well, here’s to hoping that Sprint becomes more viable so that competition increases ;-)

      • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

        While you’re right about AT&T, you’re wrong about Sprint. Sprint’s LTE uses 1,900 MHz currently and that WiMax 4G network they had ran at 2,500 MHz. Sprint does plan to utilize their 800 MHz spectrum for LTE eventually, but nothing has been turned on yet.

  • oldman_58

    You completely ignored T-Mobile 50.00 all you can use 4G LTE plan, Here in Orlando works well, it even allows VOIP builti-n and tethering.. No Strings no BS no hidden sharing of personal information to 3rd parties or NSA/Prism with out a “real” Court Order.. Best thing I did was leave Verizon. Albeit rooted device and CIQ and other logger removed

    • KleenDroid

      What’s so great about paying 50? I have 5 lines on unlimited data on Verizon and pay $200 per month plus tax. I think my Verizon deal sounds better. And that’s with full insurance coverage on 3 of them.

      • Alex Hutchins

        It is $190 a month for truly unlimited everything for 5 lines with T-mobile. No contracts, get to use the phone I want. My portion is only $30 a month. ($50 first two lines, $30 next three lines)

        • Chris Hannan

          5 lines on T-Mobile with unlimited, unthrottled data is $210/month.

          $50 first line
          $30 second
          $10 third, fourth, and fifth.

          That’s $110, but only includes 500MB of full speed data. Add another $20 for each line for unlimited, unthrottled ($100 total) and that equals $210.

      • Pedro

        That sounds like an excellent price for 5 lines of unlimited data. I would think that most users are paying the $30 per line. That makes the switch an easier choice.

    • Chris Hannan

      You have to pay full price for new phones on T-Mobile as well, so how is that a disadvantage for Verizon?

      • Pedro

        A Nexus 4 delivered to my door was $390 and change.
        $390 and change won’t get you a decent full price phone on Verizon.

        • Chris Hannan

          Point still stands.

          • Pedro

            If you insist.

          • Chris Hannan

            You’ve got one phone being sold barely above cost possibly being subsidized by Google. It’s a great value phone, but it isn’t the best phone. If you want any other phone, it’s the same price on all carriers. And not everyone wants a Nexus 4. Some people want LTE, more internal storage, expandable storage, a removable battery, a metal body, better camera, etc.

          • Skittlez

            some people want any phone they want to use, and unfortunately, on Verizon, you cannot do that

          • Chris Hannan

            That has nothing to do with paying full price for a phone though.

            OP said having to pay full price for new phones was the last straw that made him leave Verizon and switch to a carrier that also makes you pay full price for a phone.

  • skinja99

    “Unlimited Data” to most MVNOs means only web browsing and maybe email data. Youtube, Netflix, music, downloads, etc etc are not part of their “unlimited data”

  • Lucas

    I just switched to Page Plus which uses Verizon’s 3G network. Because like a lot of you Verizon has the best reception. I kept my Bionic and flashed it over and am currently paying $30/month for the 250MB/month and more minutes and texts than I’ll ever need. I found myself always distracted with my phone and forcing myself to limit my data has helped me stay focused at work and when I’m out. I went from using 6GB a month to using 150MB or less and getting about twice as much done. One of the best life decisions I’ve made.

    • artsr2002

      Same plan I’m on now. Using a Sprint S3 flashed to Page Plus. Nice.

  • IDLE0095

    Dont forget AT&T gophone will soon include LTE as of june 21.

  • Chris Carter

    I’ve hopped from T-mobile prepaid to Simple Mobile back to T-Mobile to Straight Talk (AT&T) SIM to Solavei. My Nexus 4 works great with Tmobiles HSPA+, not near as good with Straight Talk AT&T SIM. My NEXUS 7 is speedy with the native AT& SIM but was also slower with the AT&T SIM. Coverage can be an issue. T-Mobiles prepaid didn’t give me coverage that AT&T can.I went with AT&T post paid, no contract, tablet only plan for $50 to use on my tablet. There are some features that post paid plans have that no contract plans can’t beat-yet. I was in Brownwood, Texas and was getting a signal with both Solavei and AT&T when people with Verizon couldn’t get anything. I was getting throttled with Solevei and have since tried to use WiFi more, though its hard when my WiFi is 1/4th the speed of HSPA+. All in all I feel I’ve struck a good balance between speed and coverage.

  • umataro42

    You mentioned leaving college, which first off makes me feel old, but second, if you’re going to enter the work force, if you still have your Verizon plan, don’t cancel it just yet.

    Some of the bigger companies arrange discounts with the big carriers for their employees, anywhere from 10% to 20%, so Verizon might still be an option for you. I think you just have to have your name on the bill and some proof you work at whatever company. But you have a good point about that grandfathered unlimited data possibly going away anyway.

    • KleenDroid

      Why would the unlimited go away? Where did Verizon say this? I will keep it until they pry it from my fingers.

      Besides they don’t need to worry about those of us on unlimited since there are not that many left. They tricked most of the people to leave it already. When I bought 2 S4′s a few weeks ago the salesgirl told me not many people pay full price for their phones. Of course she tried to talk me into switching to a tier but was surprised to see it would have cost me $30 more per month to do so.

      • Justtyn Hutcheson

        The idea that Verizon will remove unlimited data plans entirely is a logical progression based on their past actions. First, they stopped blatantly offering unlimited data, then they stopped allowing new lines to be granted unlimited data without overrides, then they removed the option to keep unlimited data when moving to a new contract without a supervisory override, so the next logical step is to end unlimited data plans entirely. However, they will need to give ample warning (several months at least) that they will be ending unlimited data, and will likely be lenient on overage charges for the first few months during the transition to prevent any type of massive PR bungle.

        That said, with so many “unlimited” options becoming available, it is entirely possible they have done all they are currently planning to do with regard to unlimited data plans, and will be happy to let people continue paying for phone subsidies without using them.

  • michael steinmetz

    dont forget about ting it works over sprint

  • Sean Saunders

    It is funny that this post is up today as this is the 3rd day of my T-Mobile trial. Since my wife and I will be losing our employee discount soon we realized that between the 2 of us we spend almost $200/month on our mobile bill, not sure why it is that much but it is with all the text and mobile data add-ons with Verizon. I have really enjoyed my time with Verizon as it works almost everywhere I go, except for the cottage I have which is a bummer most of the time.

    I have decided to purchase the Nexus 4 for a trial of a different pre-paid service. I tried AT&T before with an iPhone (before Android was really around) and it was abominable for reception. I did not appreciate having to stand 10′ from my house just to try to have a reliable call. Before we had been on Sprint and had minor issues like not getting texts/voicemails until a day or 2 later sometimes. Long before that I had T-Mobile which seemed to drop often too (but I am attributing that to a horrible Sony/Ericsson phone) as well as Nextel which never got any decent phones, especially before the Sprint buyout.

    I feel that I have given all the major services a try and other than price, Verizon has been amazing. I have service in all areas of my house, even the basement without any trouble.

    Now that I am trying T-Mobile, I definitely notice much poorer reception indoors but on the plus side I can at least make calls on the main floor and second floor of my house. The basement however gets no service. Mobile data speeds seem to be acceptable so far, in fact they are comparable to the disgusting “4G LTE” speeds I get with Verizon in the Toledo, Ohio area if it even is available. I know Verizon claims it is spread throughout my area but even outside of buildings I am usually on 3G. Overall the mobile data is a wash between the two but Verizon is winning by a large margin with reception.

    We can jump on a family plan with my in-laws and after splitting the service up, my wife and I would pay around $40 for basic service and $65 for 2GB of data on each line which should be fine for us and it would just be a little more for unlimited data. I can overlook some minor lapses of service here and there for a $100+ savings per month. I have not yet completely decided whether or not I am willing to pay 2x ETF to Verizon but with 2 Galaxy S3′s to sell afterwards we are not looking at much out of pocket to leave. Right now, I am more inclined to switch and deal with less signal. I don’t use the phone much to call people anyway so the poorer signal indoors isn’t that much of a problem for me right now.

    That’s enough of a post for now, just thought I would share my, limited, experience with switching to prepaid as it may help others make a decision.

    • Skittlez

      thats strange because in my room with my verizon Gnex, i get 0-1 bars, where my N4 on t-mobile gets 2-3 bars. but that might have something to do with radios. i know thats something that samsung isn’t the best at.

      • Chris Hannan

        Probably because you have a T-Mobile tower closer to your house than a Verizon tower. If I go outside my house, I get 2-3 bars from Verizon and T-Mobile. When I go inside, I get 2-3 bars from Verizon but no reception to 2 bars with T-Mobile. Right now it shows no bars on my Nexus 4 with obvious carrier but my Galaxy Nexus has 2 bars of LTE. If I go by my bedroom window with my Nexus 4 though, I’ll get up to 2 bars.

        • Skittlez

          whats weird is that in front of my house i have 2 bars of 4G and when i go inside, i have 0-1 bars of 3G. luckily i have wifi

          • Chris Hannan

            But what’s your T-Mobile signal outside?

  • Eric S

    I left Verizon for Straight Talk’s T-Mobile but 100 minutes wasn’t enough for me (VOIP didn’t cut it for picking up the slack of the 100 min.) So I went to ST AT&T with UL Voice and texts with 1.5GB data and couldn’t be happier. Great signal everywhere I go. I’m usually on Wifi so the low data pool doesn’t bother me.

  • DanSan

    ive been in the same boat trying to figure out if switching to prepaid is a better choice for me. currently im on verizon with a galaxy S4 with unlimited data and i use between 2-5gbs a month, it goes up and down randomly. the only prepaid plan i even considered was the $30/month plan from tmobile but only 100 minutes is a bit of a pain. I thought yes i could use google voice but then thats pulling from my data which is “unlimited” but i really dont want to get capped.

    that brings me to the $70/month plan which is unlimited everything, has no caps. I will lose my amazing 4G speeds but from other locals the speeds are in the high teens on the HSPA+ network around here so not a huge deal. The 2 big problems, i use google voice for my voicemail but the prepaid plans do not have call forwarding which is needed for google voice to work for the voicemail. Also, i pay close to $80/month for verizon so for $10 more a month its really not worth it to switch.

    I could go with the non prepaid plans tmobile has, its still $70/month for unlimited everything, buy the S4, do the payments on the phone monthly (the only “contract” if you must) but in the end, im still paying only $10 more to be on verizon. get access to amazing LTE speeds, awesome network and great customer support. I use my moms dumb phone line to do all our upgrades so unless verizon finds some dbag move to remove my unlimited i dont think im switching until that happens. not worth it for me

    • Flyinion

      Not sure if you’ve already done it, but stop by a TMo store and ask them if their LTE is coming to your area anytime soon? I was in poking around at their phones the other day and talking to them and they mentioned my town was getting it within the next month supposedly. You could buy one of their LTE capable phones (only a few right now) and wait it out for a couple months maybe if it’s coming soon. I too was worried about losing LTE speeds but I’ve seen good speeds for their HSPA network, faster than what I’m usually getting with VZW at home/work. I did have to laugh though when my speedtest in their store doubled what the rep got.

      • DanSan

        Yes i could do that but even if it was in the works or even in the process of rolling out the coverage would still be 100x better with verizon. still not worth it to me unless i either lose my unlimited plan somehow or tmobile blows me away by rolling out 4G LTE like a crazy person everywhere. they barely have in it NYC and im an hour east on long island so i dont expect it anytime soon.

  • KidFlash1904

    Once you go LTE you can’t go back! Ah well, my fam has been on verizon for 8 years but I’m through bending over for them. Once my contract is up (Launch Droid Bionic user), gonna go prepaid T-mobile with either a google edition device or a nexus.

  • Cody

    Great write up Eric! I agree you get what you pay for. I pay $74 a month for unlimited, so I as long as I have that I’m staying. I will probably use Verizons payment plan for my next phone or ebay. Thanks

  • Bionic

    No thanks. My camping site out west has Verizon LTE now. Meanwhile you can’t get even 3G on straight talk or even normal ATT

  • http://filmitnow.moonfruit.com/ Brandon Wood

    Nexus 4 running on Straight Talk (AT&T). Never been throttled. It may not be LTE, but HSPA+ is fine for me. Loving it :)

    Although, if T-Mobile had much better coverage in rural areas, I would definitely switch to them. I’m never switching back to CDMA. GSM for life (well, until something new comes along, anyway)

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      LTE is an evolution of GSM, hence why even Verizon started using SIM cards. LTE-Advanced is based on the same tech. Overall, I think CDMA had its place in the history of mobile, and I don’t begrudge any network for using it, but like analog TV signals, the time has come for it to be phased out.

  • scott62185

    I switched from Verizon to Straight Talk (AT&T) on my Nexus 4 and got throttled after less than 2GB in a month. Then switched to T Mobile Straight Talk and was getting abysmally slow internet so I switched to Red Pocket which uses AT&T and I still have incredibly slow internet. Ugh. Now, I’m waiting to see what LTE GSM phone comes out soon so I can change to a pre-paid LTE service (maybe the new AT&T Go Phone). I love my Nexus 4 but cannot deal w/ this slow internet crap.

  • Radgatt

    For me its about coverage…Verizon offers that where I live. While the other carriers are cheaper they don’t have the coverage that I need. And that’s just to make a phone call. I’m not even thinking about data usage. Verizon LTE vs no service at all, I will choose Verizon. Perhaps, if the coverage is expanded then I will reconsider. It will be hard to reconsider with the Unlimited Data I still have.

  • tomn1ce

    That’s the reason why I haven’t left vzw. People complain that vzw is expensive and at the same time bitch about their service on other carrier. I keep telling them you get what you pay for.

  • moelsen8

    Eh you guys are holding it wrong. Prepaid GSM is awesome.

    • EricRees

      It’s not bad by any means, but in living with it for two months I’ll be sticking with Verizon for a bit longer.

      • moelsen8

        Fair enough for sure. I think pretty much all of us who even consider prepaid do so because we could possibly trade off something for the $ savings. And it just seems that for the most part the functionality and coverage (at&t side!!!) is very similar.. and so the savings are incredible. I guess it depends on usage. I don’t stream things much but I surf a lot and haven’t had a problem on ST in the almost year I’ve been on them. But they’ve gone from the best example of prepaid to the worst after they got rid of the at&t sims. I would say Net10 is the best now.. Exactly the same service as Straight Talk (at&t sims are still semi-easy to find.. trio pack still available at best buy).. Well-defined data limit of 1.5 gigs, $50/month ($45 if you do autorefill which = Straight Talk). Its probably the best prepaid GSM you can get now. And HSPA+ doesn’t get enough credit. When saving money is the goal, its plenty fast.. Definitely holds its own against LTE. And on t-mo, its lightning fast.

  • Tony Byatt

    T-Mobile doesn’t throttle the $70 Unlimited Data Plan…

    • Flyinion

      Yep, hoping to move to that soon myself from VZW with a grandfathered in unlimited data plan. If you buy the phone outright just like you would on a pre-paid plan, you can leave t-mobile at any time, and they should unlock it from what I understand since you’ve paid for the device. VZW LTE was great when I first got my Gnexus. I’m lucky to get 5mbps now. TMo is getting LTE here very soon too.

      • Skittlez

        Thats weird. i still get awesome speeds on my Gnex, but i get horrible battery life since 4.2.

  • bigL

    Here’s my neck of the woods from T-mobile’s LTE speed!

    • JMonkeYJ

      awesome…TMobile has just started activating some LTE towers in my area, but no significant coverage yet. i’m really happy with their HSPA+ speeds, but, hey…not gonna turn my nose up at LTE ;-)

  • nxtfari

    I’ve been on Ting for the last few months and love it. All the benefits of prepaid with the phone selection and data speeds of a full carrier (LTE!). Hate to see it it get shafted in every article.

    • sadfasdf

      It’s getting shafted because it uses Sprint’s CDMA network, thus is useless to most people wanting to bring a decent phone to their network.

    • David_ATL

      Have been with TING for over 6 months now, after being with Big Red for years… the cost is consistently 1/2 of what we were paying (or less), and the Spring network is reliable (and LTE) in our area, so no complaints so far. You guys in Sprint 4G LTE areas should definitely give this consideration.

      • David_ATL

        * Sprint network (not Spring) – typo, sorry!

  • Nayners

    Get off Verizon’s tit, Eric! Geez. I had been a lifer on VZW too, and Switching to Tmo’s $30 plan and a N4 was the best move I’ve made. 30 bucks! Truly unlimited data!

    • DanSan

      no, its capped after 5GB. the $70 plan has truly “unlimited” if i remember correctly.

      • Nayners

        No. Actually, it is 5gb of 4G data. Then, unlimited 3G. Check your facts!

        • Flyinion

          So it’s capped (4G speed) after 5GB then (as you just stated). The $70 plan DanSan is talking about is from their new plans and it’s unlimited 4G. According to some recent statements from TMo execs it’s not supposed to be throttled, though they might if you’re using an excessive amount of bandwidth during a high traffic time/peak area.

          • DanSan

            yes the $30 plan has “unlimited” data but gets capped to like 2G speeds after 5GB. which is pretty much useless junk. why even bother

            The $70 plan is truly unlimited. no caps, no nothing.

          • Nayners

            I’ve never had an issue after my 5gb of 4G, on 3G. It is far from “useless junk”. I think others would agree.

  • Mark

    The G-Nex is a terrible phone to compare battery life to. All the current generation LTE phones (SGS3 and newer) do just fine with battery life and are not significantly different from their non-LTE counterparts.

    I had the same end result as you though. I tested out T-Mobile prepaid service at $30/mo for a month, figured it was $30 to see if I could save a lot, and while the service was fine at home, if I traveled to far out of the suburbs, service went from great to terrible in a hurry. I feel like if you want or need reliable service, you’re pretty much stuck with AT&T or VZW.

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      Agreed on the battery life. The GNex was still part of the “first-gen” LTE radios that sucked batteries dry. I think the current gen really started with the Qualcomm S4, when they were able to bake the LTE radio into the SoC along with the regular radios. I think the 600 has been the first truly decent SoC regarding battery life, and is likely the reason that we haven’t seen anything but Qualcomm powered flagship devices (excepting the international S4 with its Exynos chip) in the past year.

  • Bill Anderson
    • jdomann

      Too bad it costs only slightly less than postpaid.

  • bigL

    T-mobile’s $30 unlimited data plan, can’t beat that!!!

    • Chris Hannan

      It’s such a good deal, I use it as a second line alongside my Verizon plan.

      • Quareatunto9511

        @¢няιѕ нαηηαη му ¢σ-ωσякєя’ѕ мσтнєя-ιη-ℓαω мαкєѕ $62 αη нσυя ση тнє ¢σмρυтєя. ѕнє нαѕ вєєη συт σƒ α נσв ƒσя ηιηє мσηтнѕ вυт ℓαѕт мσηтн нєя ¢нє¢к ωαѕ $18345 נυѕт ωσякιηg ση тнє ¢σмρυтєя ƒσя α ƒєω нσυяѕ. яєα∂ мσяє ση тнιѕ ѕιтє­ ­ViewMoreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee&#46qr&#46net/kkEj

        • Chris Hannan

          WTF happened to your original comment?

          • Thriller87

            it was a spam message

          • Chris Hannan

            I got his reply via email and when I clicked the link, it said something else.

    • KleenDroid

      My Verizon $10 per line unlimited LTE isn’t so bad. I have 5 lines on unlimited with Verizon and pay $200 plus tax per month. That is a little more but I think I got the better deal.

      • Dan Garcia

        Im at 240. 4Smartphones and a senior phone for my grandma. With a preteen i cant even consider losing my unlimited data

      • Greyhame

        Amazing.

      • umbrellacorp

        How did you manager that?

        • KleenDroid

          The $10 unlimited was a promotion they ran about a year and a half ago. They also posted it here on Droid-Life for everyone to get.

          It was a $20 per line discount on data. And of course at the time it was unlimited. I think almost everyone on Droid-Life at the time did it.

          • https://www.facebook.com/aaron.williams.125 Champion1229

            Won’t the promotion run out once the contract expires? I know when I went with my mom to upgrade her device over two years ago they had a promotion where the $10 fee for an additional line was waved. Just a few months ago she called me and asked why her bill went up unexpectedly. I got online and looked it up only to find they no longer were applying the promotion (her contract expired around the same time).

          • KleenDroid

            No because it was a plan not a promotion. I worded it wrong. It was something they were trying out on an invitation basis. Obviously they decided not to roll it out to everyone. They instead decided to give people tiers. I will have it until I give it up. That is why if I went even to a 2 gig tier it would cost me more money than my unlimited.

            The contract is already expired.

          • https://www.facebook.com/aaron.williams.125 Champion1229

            Oh that makes moe sense! If only they would have rolled that out and kept it as a regular plan for everyone to choose from! Their new tiers suck!

    • Dan

      “T-mobile”.. you just lost.

      • bigL

        Not sure what you mean by, “lost”? There’s wifi calling only from tmobile (meaning FREE calling not using your minutes, also in case you are in middle of nowhere it uses your wifi as cell tower. Can’t beat that.

        • michael arazan

          will never go back to t-mo after all the bs i went through and getting scammed

    • rekem

      Agreed. Combined with my $350 Nexus 4, and it’s just unbelievable. Plus, I enabled LTE on the N4 and this week I started picking up LTE signals where I live.

    • Sting23Ray

      Which plan is that? Do they still sell it?

      • lamenting

        Not sure which plan he’s talking about, but there’s this one:

        http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

        Scroll down to the bottom left. 100 minutes, 5GB of 4G data, then after that it’s 2G but still unlimited. Unlimited text. Great if you don’t talk a lot. Or you can spend $3/month for Skype outgoing calls. if you go over 100 minutes.

        • picaso86

          or download Google Voice and then use that number to talk… for FREE. :)

          • lensgrabber

            Gvoice or Vonage is what I use. Both work great.

          • lamenting

            You can’t keep your original number that way though, right?

          • picaso86

            Yes, you can. All you have to do is pay a one-time $20 fee and thats it.

      • bigL

        Yes, the $30 plan (meaning $30 flat tax included). Only avail online. 100min talk, unlimited data. If 100min nnot enough go get Google voice or tmobile comes with free wifi calling. Visit xda tmobile forum, There’s a Huge section talking about $30 plan.

    • bigL
    • artsr2002

      Except when their network is non-existent in your neighborhood. :(

      • bigL

        Looks like you still don’t understand what i said. When there’s no network you can use your wifi as cell tower.

        • Andromedo

          Only on certain phones that are purchased directly from T-Mobile. Almost no unlocked phones will have this functionality.

          • bigL

            Huh are you kidding me? I have many phonesss and they are rooted and unlocked, wifi calling WORKS fine. Not sure what you talking about? At the moment ONLY AOSP doesn’t support wifi calling the rest works fine.

          • Andromedo

            AOSP, iPhone, unlocked stock AT&T phones, unlocked international phones — none of these will support WiFi calling in their standard configurations.

            Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great feature. But except for some (not even all) phones sold by T-Mobile, it is not an out-of-the-box solution for most people.

          • bigL

            Correct, I was a little vague about that!

  • http://thebeeobee.com/ thebeeobee

    I pay $69(+$10 in fees/taxes) every month for my verizon unlimited plan. Ditch your text plan and use google voice. So cheap/awesome.

    • Chris Hannan

      Yep. Same thing I have and I’m using, but it only winds up being about $76.16 after taxes and fees. I use GV to text for free and I frequently make free VoIP calls from other devices with my GV number out of convenience. I don’t even come close to my 450 minutes/month allowance. And if I did, since I have unlimited, unthrottled data, I can just make calls over LTE until the month is over.

  • BravoKiloUno

    Good article.
    I switched from Sprint to Straight Talk in efforts to save some money, and because Sprint coverage was weak where I lived. After using Straight Talk for 30 days, and having more than one sh** customer service experience, I switched to Verizon. I have been more than pleased with service from big red (coverage, and customer service). IMO, you get what you pay for.

  • panzerapple

    Live in an area with 250kbps download speeds and get your battery drained by vzw lte I had no problem leaving my unlimited data and Gnex Verizon for my N4 with a useable data speed.

  • Skittlez

    Trying out the Nexus 4 on t-mobile prepaid, and even with full LTE on my Vzw GNEX, the nexus 4 still loads faster, probably because of the processor, but what that really tells me is that the processor in the phone helps a lot. I could really see being on t-mobile permanently with those speeds and LTE rolling out soon, but as long as Verizon will let me keep unlimited data at the $74 i pay a month, i really have no reason to switch.

  • carl

    Problem where I live for phones I want is T-Mobile with only voice/2g connections while at&t has 3.5g 10 miles from me and the equivalent of 1x where I live but with Verizon now I have lte