Straight Talk and the iPhone

Warning, this is a very un-Squee post, I know, so skip it if you just want a book review or funny comments on British tastes in men. But after my recent positive! experience with converting an iPhone to work on the Straight Talk network, I wanted to post about it for anyone else considering making the change. I found a lot of helpful advice on–line and a lot of not so helpful advice. I’m hoping to tip the scales more in the helpful favor.

I’ve been using Straight Talk for over a year and have been happy with the service. I don’t have a smart phone so I go with the $30/month plan which has always been sufficient. My husband has been wanting a smartphone for a while so he can get his work e-mails throughout the day. We had BlackBerrys a couple years ago, but hated them and especially how much they cost. Straight Talk is now selling just their SIM card for $15. It can be put into any compatible (SIM is NOT COMPATIBLE WITH a CDMA (i.e. Verizon, Sprint, Metro PCS), TracFone, SafeLink, NET10, Straight Talk, Telcel America or BlackBerry) smart phone. Straight Talk gets along well with any unlocked GSM Phone, AT&T Compatible Phone, and T-Mobile Compatible Phones. The service plan for smart phones is $45 per month for Unlimited Data, text, and Calling.

Sound too good to be true? Maybe it is for some people who want to use their Smartphones for everything. If that’s the case, this may not be the deal for you. Why? Here’s the fine print:

6. STRAIGHT TALK UNLIMITED TALK, TEXT AND MOBILE WEB ACCESS PLAN INTENDED USE: Straight Talk Unlimited Talk, Text and Mobile Web Access Plans may ONLY be used with a Straight Talk handset for the following purposes: (i) Person to Person Voice Calls (ii) Text and Picture Messaging (iii) Internet browsing through the Straight Talk Mobile Web Service and (iv) Authorized Content Downloads from the Straight Talk Mobile Web Store. The Straight Talk Unlimited Plans MAY NOT be used for any other purpose. Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following: (i) continuous mobile to mobile or mobile to landline voice calls; (ii) automated text or picture messaging to another mobile device or e-mail address; (iii) uploading, downloading or streaming of audio or video programming or games; (iv) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing; or (v) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections. This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services and/or redirecting television signals for viewing on laptops is prohibited. A person engaged in prohibited uses may have his/her service terminated without notice or a refund.

Straight Talk reserves the right to cancel or deactivate service, and/or reduce data throughput, without notice, in order to protect the Carrier’s network from harm due to any cause including, without limitation, the excessive and/or improper use of Straight Talk service.

I read a blog online where someone was contacted by Straight Talk and “warned” about their excessive data usage and that their service plan might be cancelled and they won’t be allowed to reactivate with the unlimited option. I can only assume this is true, but I’m still willing to take a chance on it being sufficient for our needs. P2P file sharing is most often associated with Napster, Gnutell, Kazza, BitTorrent. I’m hoping Youtube and Pandora don’t fall in any of these categories.

So, I went on Craigslist (what did we do before Craigslist?) and found an iPhone. You all know they just came out with version 5. I bought the equivalent of a version 3 and ½ (the 3Gs), but it has 16 mb of memory which should be more than enough for my husband’s needs. It had to be “unlocked” and “jailbroken” to work with the Straight Talk SIM. The guy I bought it for had used it for a similar purpose so he had already done the necessary programming. I ordered the SIM card and the $45 service card and crossed my fingers that it would work.

Straight Talk had the option to “port-in” your old number, so I activated his SIM card with that option and had to wait while Straight Talk talked to Verizon (be sure to have ALL of your account information in hand when you start this process including the account number and any PIN numbers). This is all done over the Internet, no live person, so I was a little nervous about whether it was going to work.

The other major trick is to get the iPhone to understand that it’s going to work on the Straight Talk network now. That requires changing something in the phone’s settings called the APN (honestly, I’m still not sure what this is). Most phones do not make it possible for you to manually access the APN settings. I searched on-line on my laptop and tried and failed several attempts for solutions that were out of date or no longer available. I was finally successful by turning on my Wi-Fi on the iphone (accessing my home internet service) and searching through the iPhone web browser (Safari) for this site: http://www.unlockit.co.nz. It was so simple after all the trys and fails (one of which including going through Cyndia and looking for something called Supreme Preferences which no longer existed as far as I could tell) I thought for sure I couldn’t be doing it right with the unlockit site, but it worked easily. It simply requires you to select which country and which service provider you want to use with easy drop down or scroll menus. When it asks if you want to download, say, “YES!”. After downloading is complete, shut down the phone and reboot. Easy peasy, George and Weezy. It did the APN conversion like magic.

By the time I had done all this, the port-in on my husband’s phone number had already completed and his “new” iPhone was working like a charm. He downloaded the Pandora app right away. This may be one of the unauthorized usages by Straight Talk, but we’ll see. He’s had it for two days by now and says he loves it. I’ll give you an update on our review of the Straight Talk service plan in another month or so when we really know if it’s going to be sufficient for us or not. Cross your fingers.

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