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Old December 4th, 2012, 10:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Virgin Mobile or Straight Talk?

Hi! I'm trying to decide between ST and VM and hoping someone with experience with both can chime in. ST runs off of ATT so I would get better coverage with their service in my area however VM isn't terrible, and VM is 4g right? Also, for my son and hubby they stream YouTube and Netflix and I'm reading that isn't allowed on ST? If that's right would VM be a better option? Also, how is customer service and phone choice? We're coming from Verizon but looking to save some money. Oh, and my son is dead set on an iphone (even though hubby and I much prefer our androids and have tried to win him over); can an iPhone be used on ST at all? Thanks for any input you can give.

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Old December 4th, 2012, 10:39 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by angiembfl View Post
Hi! I'm trying to decide between ST and VM and hoping someone with experience with both can chime in. ST runs off of ATT so I would get better coverage with their service in my area however VM isn't terrible, and VM is 4g right? Also, for my son and hubby they stream YouTube and Netflix and I'm reading that isn't allowed on ST? If that's right would VM be a better option? Also, how is customer service and phone choice? We're coming from Verizon but looking to save some money. Oh, and my son is dead set on an iphone (even though hubby and I much prefer our androids and have tried to win him over); can an iPhone be used on ST at all? Thanks for any input you can give.
VM sounds better for your family. ST limits data to 100 mb a day. There have been cases where people who have gone over have been cut off. VM has wimax but if you don't have wimax coverage in your area then it would be of no use for you. You can use an iphone on ST but you would have to buy a gsm variant to insert the sim card. You can try to convince your son by showing him the galaxy s 2 on VM. I have the phone now and I laugh at iphone users. Screen size is incomparable and colors are brilliant.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 04:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Personally, I'd go with Straight Talk for a few reasons. First, Virgin Mobile 3G speeds tend to be very bad -- many people (you'd have to check in your area) have 3G speeds of under 200 Kbps most of the time. Also, VM's 4G is WiMax and very spotty -- again, you'd need to check to see if it is available in your area. In terms of speeds, the 3G speeds (HSPA+) you would get through Straight Talk would likely be similar to the 4G (WiMax) speeds you would get from Virgin Mobile.

The big advantage I see to Straight Talk is in phone choice -- you can use any unlocked GSM phone on Straight Talk (including the iPhone) whereas with Virgin Mobile you are limited to the phones they actually sell. The other advantage of this, should you decide you want to switch carriers for whatever reason, you can take your unlocked phone and use it on another GSM prepaid carrier; with the caveat that it must use the right frequencies. You need a Pentaband phone (such as the Galaxy Nexus or Nexus 4 have) to run on either T-Mobile's or AT&T's network. While you can used unlocked AT&T phones on T-Mobile, they typically run somewhat slower.

One other provider you might look at is Net 10, which is a sister company to Straight Talk (both are owned by TracFone, as well as Simple Mobile). The advantage of Net 10 is that they have a family plan -- basically $50 for the first line and then $40 for each additional line per month. Another option, depending on T-Mobile coverage in your area, are the T-Mobile Value plans; they are contract plans but don't include phone subsidies (you'll have to pay full price for phones) so they compete well with prepaid plans. For example, an unlimited talk, text and data plan through T-Mobile's value plan for three lines is $165/month -- and that is true unlimited data similar to what Verizon used to have -- with lower prices for limited minutes and/or data.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 05:11 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by angiembfl View Post
ST runs off of ATT...
Straight Talk resells both ATT and T-Mobile service, so they can send you either a TMo compatible SIM or an ATT compatible SIM depending on what you think will work best for you.

Here's a pretty helpful ST review written in May.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 06:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Since I totally refuse to deal with any TracFone affiliate (theirs was the worst "customer service" I've ever had the misfortune to endure), ST isn't even an option for me.

I've given some thought to T-Mobile to maybe get a better phone than I have via VM.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 12:56 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I like VM but need to travel abroad this spring so am thinking of switching to ST.

It is a shame that I can't use a VM iphone 4s on gsm networks while traveling abroad. This policy by VM may force my hand to make a switch that I would rather avoid.

I will probably buy a nexus 4 to use on ST, and abroad as needed.
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Old December 6th, 2012, 08:47 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I like VM but need to travel abroad this spring so am thinking of switching to ST.

It is a shame that I can't use a VM iphone 4s on gsm networks while traveling abroad. This policy by VM may force my hand to make a switch that I would rather avoid.

I will probably buy a nexus 4 to use on ST, and abroad as needed.

It's not that VM USA refuses to support GSM devices. VM USA (Sprint) is a CDMA network. AT&T, Straight Talk, and T-Mobile are GSM networks.
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Old December 6th, 2012, 11:56 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The iphone 4s for verizon and sprint are "world phones" and support both cdma and gsm. With either of those vendors you can, for example, use gsm when abroad, although one uses cdma domestically.

VM's iphone 4s is (I think) the same physically as the verizon and sprint phones, but they have chosen to lock out gsm entirely.

Note that the iphone 4 is not a world phone, on any carrier.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 01:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by tcomotcom View Post
Straight Talk resells both ATT and T-Mobile service, so they can send you either a TMo compatible SIM or an ATT compatible SIM depending on what you think will work best for you.
Actually, they also use Verizon now, too. If you go to the "Shop" page on ST's site, the Verizon phones are the ones with the red coverage map.

If you go to Walmart and look at the phones in person, you can tell which network it uses by looking at the box. On the lower left of the front, look for a small oval that says something like (CDMA-S) or (GSM-A).

-A is for AT&T
-T is for T-Mobile
-S is for Sprint
-V is for Verizon

My GF has been using ST for 2-3 years now (with a dumbphone), and has been very happy with them. I've been with VM for almost 2 years and have nothing but complaints. Service - ANY kind of service, voice or data - is almost nonexistent in my town (a suburb of Charlotte). Because of this, my Triumph's battery life is atrocious - like, sometimes as bad a 3-4 hours on a full charge. I've never been able to use my phone in any of my local big box stores and even when I have 4-5 bars (which is almost never) there's no guarantee that data will actually work. Oh, and my missus loves Myrtle Beach; we go there almost every year. If we drive from Charlotte, I'll only have service if we take the longer interstate route. If we take the "more direct, but through East Bumble, SC" route, I won't have service from the time we leave Charlotte until we get to MB... which is always fun on a road trip.

I'm thinking of ditching VM for the Samsung Galaxy Proclaim on ST. It's a big step down, phonewise, as far as I'm concerned, and I'd go from paying $25/mo to $45/mo. But I'd rather have a crappier phone that ACTUALLY MAKES AND RECEIVES PHONE CALLS AND DATA PACKETS than a cooler phone that only works as intended 15% of the time.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 07:36 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default I'd go with Virgin - but here are some facts for you

Some here touched on this, but one of the issues to consider is CDMA VS GSM technology.

Straight Talk uses ATT towers and technology and thus is a GSM based phone with SIM card and all that goes with it. Thus, you can use ANY unlocked or ATT GSM based phone on ST. ATT has a very good network, and it is much larger than Sprint (VM)'s core network in North America. With either carrier you are not going to be able to roam, so with ST you can't just hop on a T-Mobile tower to roam, and with VM you can't just hop on a Verizon tower. Pre-pay phones here in the U.S. all work that way. No roaming.

Verizon and Sprint (VM) are CDMA technology. This stands for Code Division Multiple Access. It is only common to North America. You can google it and research for yourself. There is NO SIM card on these phones. The programming is done internally via keypad or OTA -over the air programming.

GSM is the European standard, stands for Global System for Mobile, and the SIM card governs the phone's programming. The SIM is the key and you can swap SIM cards at your will from phone to phone, as long as the phone is either unlocked or set-up for the carrier you are on.

This being said, then you look at plans and value for your dollar.

VM is pretty darn good at even the $35 Beyond Talk of DATA is your gig.
You get gigs of data and 300 anytime minutes. That's a bargain IMO.
The phone choices are good, and the plans offer some very nice options. Sure, you can't switch phones without either calling or going online to make the switch, but is that really important? The VM (Sprint) core network without roaming is not as large as ATT, but it's awesome in the areas that it is in. Compare ATT (without roaming) to Sprint (without roaming) and see if the areas YOU are going to be in work for your carriers.

Both carriers are going to be strong in some areas, weak or uncovered in other areas of the US.

IF you are going to travel to Canada, or overseas, an UNLOCKED GSM phone is a better choice since you can buy a foreign SIM, pop in into your unlocked GSM phone and be off and running with a foreign number faster than you can say "Salut mon ami!". None of the US Prepay carriers are going to work once you step foot out of the country. Again, they do not roam, period. You can't program a Virgin Mobile Phone to work on Rodgers Network in Canada or an Orange Network in Europe or any of the Non-US carrier networks, but you CAN do this with a GSM phone that is UNLOCKED.

What's important to you? Talking? Texting? Data? All three? Both plans have advantages and dis-advantages.

I happen to like VM very much. I was with T-Mobile for 10 years and paid through the nose. Now I pay a very small cost and have been very happy with VM.

Good luck with your choice.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 08:15 AM   #11 (permalink)
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My understanding is that Straight Talk does allow voice roaming on GSM phones -- it will switch to voice only coverage of AT&T or T-Mobile (the one you don't have) if you go out of your primary networks coverage area. And, again, it is voice only, there is no data roaming.

Also, the problem many of us have had with Virgin Mobile, and the reason we've quit, is that service on Virgin Mobile in our areas has been extremely slow (often dial up speed slow), despite the fact we've had decent coverage. And T-Mobile has one of the cheapest monthly plans, with double the data VM gives you though only 100 minutes for $30.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 12:51 PM   #12 (permalink)
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My understanding is that Straight Talk does allow voice roaming on GSM phones -- it will switch to voice only coverage of AT&T or T-Mobile (the one you don't have) if you go out of your primary networks coverage area. And, again, it is voice only, there is no data roaming.

Also, the problem many of us have had with Virgin Mobile, and the reason we've quit, is that service on Virgin Mobile in our areas has been extremely slow (often dial up speed slow), despite the fact we've had decent coverage. And T-Mobile has one of the cheapest monthly plans, with double the data VM gives you though only 100 minutes for $30.
I am in fact surprised that they would allow roaming at all. I'll have to check out their plan fine print. It was my belief that no pre-pay's in the US allowed roaming to another carrier. It's one of the things you give up with a budget pre-pay service.

When I was with T-Mo, I was a post-pay contract customer. When I traveled in certain areas of the country, I was constantly roaming on ATT. T-Mo just does not have the coverage that ATT does. I was spending upwards of $200 a month for my service, so I had to make a switch. I did unlock my T-Mo phones before I left, so I can use them on Straight Talk or any GSM service.

I've tried Boost, Virgin, Straight Talk, and Simple Mobile since leaving T-Mo. I even did a tiny stint with H20 but I could not deal with the pesky pop-up indication of credit used/remaining every time you did anything on network.

Sidebar; If you are a Blackberry fan (I was), you can't beat Simple Mobile's flat $50 all you can eat Blackberry 3g/4g on any unlocked GSM phone or a former T-Mo since they use the T-Mo network. If I was still into BlackBerry, I'd go Simple Mobile on my unlocked T-Mo 3g Bberry and be happy. iPhone users on Simple Mobile have complained that they were cut loose because of excessive data use. You don't have that problem with Bberry. Hard to use a ton of data unless you are streaming 24/7
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Old December 8th, 2012, 03:28 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I am in fact surprised that they would allow roaming at all. I'll have to check out their plan fine print. It was my belief that no pre-pay's in the US allowed roaming to another carrier. It's one of the things you give up with a budget pre-pay service.

When I was with T-Mo, I was a post-pay contract customer. When I traveled in certain areas of the country, I was constantly roaming on ATT. T-Mo just does not have the coverage that ATT does. I was spending upwards of $200 a month for my service, so I had to make a switch. I did unlock my T-Mo phones before I left, so I can use them on Straight Talk or any GSM service.

I've tried Boost, Virgin, Straight Talk, and Simple Mobile since leaving T-Mo. I even did a tiny stint with H20 but I could not deal with the pesky pop-up indication of credit used/remaining every time you did anything on network.

Sidebar; If you are a Blackberry fan (I was), you can't beat Simple Mobile's flat $50 all you can eat Blackberry 3g/4g on any unlocked GSM phone or a former T-Mo since they use the T-Mo network. If I was still into BlackBerry, I'd go Simple Mobile on my unlocked T-Mo 3g Bberry and be happy. iPhone users on Simple Mobile have complained that they were cut loose because of excessive data use. You don't have that problem with Bberry. Hard to use a ton of data unless you are streaming 24/7
From Straight Talk terms:
Quote:
9. ROAMING: “Roaming” occurs when a subscriber of one wireless service provider uses the network facilities of another wireless service provider. Roaming usually occurs when a subscriber places or receives a call while outside of the network coverage area of their wireless service provider.

Service on the CDMA Network. If your Straight Talk Service is on the CDMA network, your Straight Talk phone will not roam when you are outside of the Straight Talk CDMA network coverage area.

Service on the GSM Network. If your Straight Talk Service is on the GSM network, your Straight Talk Wireless phone may roam when you are outside of the Straight Talk GSM network coverage area. When your Straight Talk GSM phone is roaming, Voice and SMS messaging will continue to be available to you at no additional charge. Mobile Web Services access will not be available while you are roaming outside of the Straight Talk GSM Network coverage area. When your GSM Straight Talk Phone is roaming, an indicator light on your handset may display the word "Roam" or "RM" on the screen while the phone is not in use.
As for T-Mobile coverage (without roaming), while it is worse than AT&T's, it is about the same as Virgin Mobile's. It will be interesting to see what kind of difference the planned network improvements will make for both T-Mobile and Sprint, particularly as Sprint obtains some of US Cellular's network and T-Mobile takes over MetroPCS.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 05:33 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Since no one has explicitly pointed it out, its worth noting that Straight Talk allows out-of-network roaming only; you can roam only when you travel to a city in which the primary provider (whom ever provided the SIM card) does not offer any service.

If you are in a city where you should have coverage according to your primary provider's coverage map, but don't due to terrain/broke down cell site/crazy neighborhood activists won't let them build a needed tower/whatever, you will not be able to roam. (That's called in network roaming and ST doesn't offer it.)

Edit: Actually, Mogelijk did explain out-of-network a couple of posts above, but its still worth explaining the difference between in and out of network roaming for the benefit of those who've never known there is a difference.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 07:38 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Since no one has explicitly pointed it out, its worth noting that Straight Talk allows out-of-network roaming only; you can roam only when you travel to a city in which the primary provider (whom ever provided the SIM card) does not offer any service.
<snip>
I got it. Interesting. Hopefully, those using ST can make calls if they are out of network and without primary service.

Question. "Whom ever provided the SIM card"? I'd assume Straight Talk provided it. Confused with your point here. Do you mean Straight Talk using ATT, thus roaming on T-Mo in an area where ATT has no coverage? That's going to be far a few between, but I suppose you can find these pockets. No data, but at least telephonic communication where applicable. I don't see this as much of an advantage with ST at all. The largest advantage of ST is the large ATT network. That surely trumps VM-Sprint at present. For me, VM is "everywhere I want to be" (sorry Visa), so it works great for me and I love the plan I'm on, combined with a great phone that I enjoy using.

Although I have a few unlocked T-Mo phones, I'll stay with VM as my primary phone. I do have a GSM phone activated as a back-up only, and for travel to Canada and Europe to use with a foreign SIM.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 08:52 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I got it. Interesting. Hopefully, those using ST can make calls if they are out of network and without primary service.

Question. "Whom ever provided the SIM card"? I'd assume Straight Talk provided it. Confused with your point here. Do you mean Straight Talk using ATT, thus roaming on T-Mo in an area where ATT has no coverage? That's going to be far a few between, but I suppose you can find these pockets. No data, but at least telephonic communication where applicable. I don't see this as much of an advantage with ST at all. The largest advantage of ST is the large ATT network. That surely trumps VM-Sprint at present. For me, VM is "everywhere I want to be" (sorry Visa), so it works great for me and I love the plan I'm on, combined with a great phone that I enjoy using.

Although I have a few unlocked T-Mo phones, I'll stay with VM as my primary phone. I do have a GSM phone activated as a back-up only, and for travel to Canada and Europe to use with a foreign SIM.
Yes, by "whom ever provided the SIM card" they meant the network the SIM card is tied to (T-Mobile or AT&T). As for the worth of roaming, I think I'd look at it the other way -- especially since T-Mobile appears to work fine in your primary area.

And there are advantages to having T-Mobile as your network on Straight Talk, largely that you are allowed more data before Straight Talk cuts you off. Though Straight Talk doesn't provide numbers, users claim that those on AT&T's network only get 2 GB/month while those on T-Mobile's network get about 4 GB/month (which is in line with other companies that resell T-Mobile's network). Additionally, T-Mobile's network is typically faster than AT&T's (and much faster than Virgin Mobile's), since T-Mobile in most cities is using HSPA+ 42.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 12:01 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Yes, by "whom ever provided the SIM card" they meant the network the SIM card is tied to (T-Mobile or AT&T). As for the worth of roaming, I think I'd look at it the other way -- especially since T-Mobile appears to work fine in your primary area.

And there are advantages to having T-Mobile as your network on Straight Talk, largely that you are allowed more data before Straight Talk cuts you off. Though Straight Talk doesn't provide numbers, users claim that those on AT&T's network only get 2 GB/month while those on T-Mobile's network get about 4 GB/month (which is in line with other companies that resell T-Mobile's network). Additionally, T-Mobile's network is typically faster than AT&T's (and much faster than Virgin Mobile's), since T-Mobile in most cities is using HSPA+ 42.
Got it. Makes sense now. I had forgotten that you had a "Choice" between ATT and T-Mo on Straight Talk.
I may dabble with Straight talk again for my iPhone. It is tied to ATT and not unlocked. It worked on H20 because they are an MVNO of ATT. I would think that it would work with ST on the ATT network. I liked H20 very much .... HOWEVER.... their pesky pop-ups constantly telling you how many dollars and cents left in your account for every single thing you did while on network drove me nuts. I had to bail.

I don't see roaming with voice as much of an advantage from ATT to T-Mo, but I do see it as an advantage of T-Mo to ATT. I remember driving through Western upstate NY and having zero coverage on T-Mo for about 200 miles, but ATT roaming was strong.

Good info, thanks.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 02:23 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Got it. Makes sense now. I had forgotten that you had a "Choice" between ATT and T-Mo on Straight Talk.
I may dabble with Straight talk again for my iPhone. It is tied to ATT and not unlocked. It worked on H20 because they are an MVNO of ATT. I would think that it would work with ST on the ATT network. I liked H20 very much .... HOWEVER.... their pesky pop-ups constantly telling you how many dollars and cents left in your account for every single thing you did while on network drove me nuts. I had to bail.

I don't see roaming with voice as much of an advantage from ATT to T-Mo, but I do see it as an advantage of T-Mo to ATT. I remember driving through Western upstate NY and having zero coverage on T-Mo for about 200 miles, but ATT roaming was strong.

Good info, thanks.
Sounds like an experience I had with Virgin. I was driving from Denver east along I-70 and went 400 miles with zero coverage (you can see it on their coverage map). Virgin Mobile coverage is terrible in the high plains area of the US.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 08:11 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Sounds like an experience I had with Virgin. I was driving from Denver east along I-70 and went 400 miles with zero coverage (you can see it on their coverage map). Virgin Mobile coverage is terrible in the high plains area of the US.
I hear that. I used to be on Sprint with a hybrid Nextel phone that only worked on Sprint cdma for voice and nextel iden for ptt. Basically it is the same as the Virgin footprint for voice. I drove that same I 70 corridor and know its zero bars for hundreds of miles.

My heavy driving days are over and I prefer to fly now. Virgin works great for my destination locations so I am very happy with the service and I love the low cost vs the quality of service for my needs. I am also done with contracts for cellular. I also have to add that I'm a fan of Branson and his Virgin brand. I know Sprint is the owner here in the US but I still like the connection to the Virgin brand.
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