The telecom industry has long been dominated by big-name operators. But more recently, the demand for mobile virtual network operators (or MVNOs) has been on the rise. There are Verizon MVNOs and AT&T MVNOs — all of them are equally cheap and flexible. One of those MVNOs is Straight Talk, which is popular for its affordability. In this Straight Talk review, we’re clueing you in on everything you need to know about this popular MVNO, including its plans, coverage, pros and cons, and some alternatives.
Inside This Article
- What Is Straight Talk?
- Straight Talk Plans and Prices
- Network Partners and Coverage
- Compatibility and Phone Selections
- Getting Started with Straight Talk
- What’s Good About Straight Talk?
- What’s Bad About Straight Talk?
- Straight Talk Alternatives
- Verdict: Is Straight Talk Worth It?
Straight Talk is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) run by TracFone Wireless, one of the United States’ leading prepaid wireless providers. Because it’s an MVNO, it doesn’t have its own cellular towers; instead, Straight Talk uses the cell towers of other network providers, like Verizon and AT&T, making its services much more affordable. In addition to being cheaper, having tie-ups with more than one cellular network means Straight Talk can transfer you from one provider to another to get the best reception, depending on your location and device.
Straight Talk has a handful of plans you can choose from, and you can purchase them either through their website or through Walmart. They have monthly and extended plans (which run for either three months, six months, or one year), as well as unlimited and fixed plans, so it’s easy to find a plan that works best for you.
|Price||Talk and Text||International Calls||Data||Hotspot|
|$30||Unlimited Texts + 1,500 minutes||None||100 MB||None|
|$35||Unlimited||5 GB High-speed|
|$45||25 GB High-speed|
|$60||Unlimited||25 GB High-speed, 2G after exceeding||None|
|$90 for Two Lines||None||10 GB per line|
If you need mobile data to check emails, then the 30-dollar basic plan is for you. But if you require more data for streaming and browsing social media, then you might want to go for at least the 5 GB plan. Once you’ve already used up your data budget for the month, you can still use your cellular data; just don’t expect it to be fast, as it’s only at 2G speed.
As for Straight Talk’s unlimited data plans, they’re not absolutely unlimited, which is the case for most network carriers anyway. You can only use up to 60 GB of mobile data per month. If you go past that, your account is subject to review by Straight Talk.
For plans with unlimited international calling, you’re allowed to call up to 15 different telephone numbers within 30 days of service. This resets at the end of each plan. You can call both international landline and mobile numbers, but only in selected destinations. Keep in mind as well that you can only make international calls from the US and Puerto Rico. There’s no international roaming with Straight Talk.
Straight Talk also has Mobile Protect, which comes with the 65-dollar Platinum Unlimited Plan. This is more or less your phone’s insurance. It covers spills, cracked screens, and mechanical and electrical failures. If your phone has any of these issues, Straight Phone will repair or replace them free of charge. Make sure to check out Mobile Protect’s terms and conditions for the full details.
|$130||90 days of service
25 GB of high-speed data
Unlimited nationwide calls and texts
|$255||180 days of service
25 GB of high-speed data
Unlimited nationwide calls and texts
|$495||365 days of service
25 GB of high-speed data
Unlimited nationwide calls and texts
Straight Talk has extended plans as well, which can run for either three months, six months, or a year. However, all of these plans only come with 25 GB of high-speed data, regardless of the number of service days. These plans may be best for you if you don’t use that much data or if your phone’s connected to Wi-Fi most of the time. Plus, it eliminates the hassle of having to purchase a plan every month.
If you’re eyeing that 130-dollar three-month extended plan, here’s a tip for you: consider getting the 45-dollar monthly plan instead. It costs around two dollars more than the cheapest extended plan, but it gives you 25 GB of data every month instead of for the whole three-month period. If you’d prefer not to repurchase a plan every month, sign up for auto-refill, and you’ll get a dollar off each month.
|$5||1 GB of extra mobile data|
|$10||2 GB of extra mobile data|
If you run out of data before your monthly plan ends, you can always purchase an add-on plan for as low as $5. The data usage for the add-on starts after you’ve consumed the data budget of your active service plan. You can purchase as many add-ons as you want, and any unused data will be carried over to the next month.
The good thing about Straight Talk is that it has partnered up with all of the four major US cellular providers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. That means you can use any of these providers at any given time, as long as your device and your location allow it. Their website also lets you verify the best coverage in your area, so you can always check that out.
One of the advantages of running on all four networks is that most smartphones are compatible with Straight Talk. That means you don’t have to splurge on a new phone, and you’re free to keep your number and network when you switch over to this MVNO.
However, if you’re planning to buy a new phone anyway, you can do so when you purchase a Straight Talk activation kit. As of writing, they sell 79 phone models on their website, including Apple, Samsung, LG, and Motorola phones. You can pay for the phone in full, but they also offer 24-month financing on some devices if you’d rather not pay upfront. Plus, you can get up to $100 off on some smartphones. They don’t offer 0% financing, though, so that’s also something to consider.
Getting started with Straight Talk is incredibly easy. The first thing you’ll need to do is to buy a Straight Talk SIM Activation Kit either from Walmart or through the Straight Talk website. Once you have that ready, head on over to straighttalk.com/activation to activate your SIM card.
If you purchased a new phone through Straight Talk, simply click on the “Activate” button under “Straight Talk Phone.” But if you’re going to use your own phone, click on the button under “Keep Your Own Phone/Tablet.”
Then, just follow the steps you see on your screen, and you’re all set. The site says that you’ll be able to use your Straight Talk SIM card after five minutes. Other customers have noted, however, that they had to wait around an hour before their SIM was activated. If this happens to you, you can contact their customer service at 1-877-430-2355.
Here are several good points that Straight Talk has going for them:
1. Cheap Service Plans
Straight Talk’s service plans are considerably much cheaper than those of other MVNOs. For $45, you already get 25 GB of data per month, whereas with other operators, a 45-dollar plan usually only gets you 4 GB to 20 GB of data per month. Plus, its most expensive plan, which is priced at $90, already gets you two lines, and each has unlimited data and nationwide calls and texts, as well as 10 GB of mobile data hotspot each.
Another good thing about Straight Talk is that it offers flexibility, both in terms of network coverage and device compatibility. Since it runs on the four biggest network carriers in the US, you can hop on to any of these carriers at any time. Of course, being able to connect to any of these networks still depends on the type of device you have (i.e., whether it’s CDMA or GSM) and your location.
3. No Contracts
Straight Talk also comes with no contracts. That means you can switch to a different plan or cancel your service any time you want, and it won’t cost you anything.
4. Auto-Refill Option
Most of Straight Talk’s plans allow for auto-refill as well. When you sign up, you save $1 every month. This might not seem much, but the dollar you save every month will definitely add up over the course of a year, so consider signing up for auto-refill if you’re in it for the long haul.
Straight Talk also has a couple of downsides to it that you should take into consideration before making the switch. Here are some of the key issues that customers have noticed with the service.
1. Slow Data Speeds
One major issue is that Straight Talk’s data is significantly slower than that of other operators, coming in at an average download speed of 5.1 Mbps — and that’s with high-speed data still running. Although this speed can already be considered decent enough (at least for web browsing and light video streaming), it still doesn’t compare to the data speeds of other MVNOs, which are at an average of 8 to 10 Mbps.
2. Data Deprioritization
Data deprioritization is an issue that is present across all MVNOs, not just Straight Talk. Essentially, data deprioritization means your coverage isn’t prioritized by network carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. That’s because these major carriers will cater to their customers first, especially when the network gets congested. So when you’re in a crowded area, like an airport or a concert stadium maybe, your coverage might drop all of a sudden for a few minutes.
If you think Straight Talk just doesn’t cut it, there are tons of other MVNO options you can explore. We’ve picked three alternatives you can check out so you can better weigh your options.
Mint Mobile is one of the most popular MVNO options available in the market. It runs on T-Mobile and AT&T, and its plans are incredibly cheap. Its cheapest plan, which costs $15 a month, already comes with 5 GB of 5G or 4G LTE data plus unlimited calls and texts. Its most expensive plan only costs $30 a month, and it includes unlimited calls, texts, and high-speed data.
Net10 Wireless is another MVNO you can try out. Straight Talk and Net10 Wireless are operated by the same parent company, TracFone Wireless, and both run on all four major network carriers. Net10 Wireless’s cheapest plan starts at $20 and offers 2 GB of mobile data with unlimited calls and texts.
This MVNO also has two Super Unlimited plans, which are priced at $50 and $65. The 50-dollar Super Unlimited Plan comes with unlimited high-speed data, nationwide calls and texts, and 5 GB of mobile hotspot data. The 65-dollar plan, on the other hand, includes unlimited high-speed data, nationwide calls and texts, international calling, and 10 GB of mobile hotspot data.
Spectrum Mobile is another reliable MVNO you can check out. Verizon, arguably the best wireless network currently, is what Spectrum Mobile uses, so you can expect that this MVNO gives you reliable coverage as well.
Spectrum offers two types of plans: by-the-gig and unlimited. By-the-gig plans start at $14 per gigabyte and let you share data with up to ten lines. Unlimited plans, on the other hand, start at $45 per line and give you calls, texts, data, and mobile hotspot. You can also switch between these two plan types anytime without incurring extra fees. Plus, you’re also free to mix and match plans if you need more than two lines.
Keep in mind, though, that purchasing a Spectrum Mobile plan requires that you sign up for Spectrum Mobile Internet first, which starts at $69.99.
Straight Talk is a decent enough MVNO. They offer a wide range of cheap service plans, so you’re sure to find a plan that fits your needs. Plus, it runs on all four of the major network carriers and is compatible with almost any smartphone, so that’s plus points for flexibility.
On the downside, its data speeds are incredibly slow. Although that may only be one disadvantage, it weighs down all the other good things that Straight Talk has. After all, we do live in a world where most things are done online, so a fast Internet connection is a must these days.
Overall, if you’re looking for cheap plans and don’t use mobile data that much, Straight Talk is well worth trying out. Otherwise, you might be better off with another MVNO.