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Alternatives to GoPhone for Pay As You Go Data

Yesterday AT&T GoPhone users on the 10¢ minute and $2/day plans got a text from AT&T announcing that effective the 18th of this month, add-on data packages would no longer be offered except on the GoPhone $25 and $50 prepaid Monthly Plans.

GoPhone is a popular choice with smartphone users who don't talk on their phones very much and need a modest amount of data. Combining an initial $25 data package with a $5 one every 30 days for 180 days would give you 78 MB per month for $8.33/month or about 11¢/MB. If you used more data the price per MB would be even less.

GoPhone was the best deal around for prepaid GSM data in the US. Now that it's soon to be gone here's a look alternative provides with the best data pricing and a low monthly cost .

If you want to keep using the same phone, your best choices are AirVoice Wireless or H20 Wireless. Both are MVNOs that use the AT&T network. Your locked AT&T or unlocked GSM phone will work with some changes to the data settings. The settings changes are easy on most smartphones but the iPhone requires a bit more work. AirVoice and H20 each have a $10/month plan and the lowest pay as you go per MB cost of any provider that uses the AT&T network. Rates are listed in table below.  H20's data is a little cheaper but Airvoice has better voice and text rates.  Many users find H2O's customer support to have long hold times and unhelpful agents. Air Voice's support gets better marks.

If your AT&T phone is unlocked another option is the Tru SIM, which is primarily sold as a travel SIM. It works in many countries with voice, text and data rates that are lower than most operator's international roaming rates.  For US users, Tru has several advantages. Data and text rates are low (incoming texts are free) and prepaid funds never expire. You do need to send a text or make a voice call at least every 90 days to avoid a $3/month service charge. Tru uses the T-Mobile network but roams at no extra cost on AT&T. However, there is no 3G data while roaming, only 2G so you need a phone that supports T-Mobile's uncommon 3G band (UTMS band IV) to get the best data speeds on Tru.

Users have discovered that Tru rounds up each data session to multiples of 100 KB. Smartphones make frequent connections to keep email, calendar, contacts, IM and social networks current. These connects amount to only a few KB's each but Tru's rounding causes them to be charged as 100 KB or 1.7¢ each. As a result an idle smartphone with data enabled "leaks" about 50¢/day of data.

With a different phone there are more options. PTel, a T-Mobile MVNO has 10c//MB data and low 5¢/minute voice and 2¢ per text pricing. PTel offers a small selection of their own phones, but you can also use any T-Mobile or unlocked GSM phone that supports T-Mobiles 1700 (3G) and 1900 (voice, 2G, 3G) Mhz bands.

Verizon MVNO PagePlus has a $12/month plan that includes 250 voice minutes, 250 texts and 10 MB of data. Additional data is 20¢/MB. PagePlus can activate any Verizon phones except models sold for Verizon prepaid. Officially, iPhones aren't allowed but have been reported to work.

Here's a table summarizing all he plans and operators.

Plan Monthly Minimum Price Network SIM Cost or Activation Fee
Allowed Phones Voice Text Data
Airvoice $10 Plan $10 AT&T $4.99 Any AT&T Mobile or unlocked GSM 33¢/MB
H2O Minute Plan $10 AT&T $9.99 Any AT&T Mobile or unlocked GSM 30¢/MB
Tru SIM 4¢* T-Mobile & AT&T (GSM) $29.99 (includes $15 credit) Any unlocked GSM 17¢/min Free incoming, 12¢/ea to send 17¢/MB***
PTel Real PayGO $5 T-Mobile (GSM) $5
PlatinumTel, Sprint 10¢/MB
PagePlus The 12 $12 Verizon (CDMA) 0 Any CDMA except Verzion prepaid 250 (overage 10¢/min) 250 (overage 10¢/ea) 10 MB (overage $0.20/MB)
* Based on an outgoing text every 90 days to avoid a $3/month charge on inactive accounts.
** $40 to activate a Sprint phone. Activation of PlatinumTel phones is free.
*** each data session is rounded up to the next higher multiple pf100 KBs.

32 comments:

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  1. Unused minutes on H20 $10/month plan, do not roll over. You get more minutes (250) and unlimited rollovers on AirVoice.

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    1. I'm pretty sure the H2O $10 plan does have rollover. The official H2O account posted H2O's Facebook page that it does. This was confirmed by someone on Howard Forums who is on the plan and reported that his balance did rollover when he refilled.

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  2. Boost Mobile's talk/text rates suck at 20 cents per but their 50 cents a day unlimited 3G pay every day use or not is still the lowest priced one around for paygo data hogs...

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  3. AirVoice website states data rate is $2/MB on the $10 monthly plan. It appears it is $0.33/MB if you are on the pay-as-you-go plan. Anyone talked to their customer service to clarify this?

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    1. Where do you see $2/MB? The $10/month plan page at airvoicewireless.com/Plans10Min.aspx shows the the data price as 33¢/MB.

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    2. Look at the 'How to Use My Features' tab on that same webpage, scroll to the bottom and it lists $2/MB.

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    3. i've confirmed with them that that is a mistake. On the $10 a month plan it is indeed $0.33

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  4. Has anyone found out if its $2/Mb or $0.33/Mb ?

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    1. I just called Airvoice and was told that data is 33¢/MB on the new $10/month, 30 Days validity, 4¢/min, 2¢/text plan.

      Data is $2/MB on the old $10/month, 90 days validity, 10c/min plan.

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  5. Anyone's thoughts on H20 $100 minute plan for 1year?

    https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/pageControl.php?page=plans&category=W#fragment-2

    MINUTES: 2,000
    • TALK: 5¢/minute
    • TEXT: 5¢ to send/receive
    • DATA: 30¢/MB
    • MMS: 10¢

    Seems like a good deal and it doesn't seem like it's monthly.

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  6. $30/mo Montly3G plan on T-Mobile will match the 17c/Mb data rate on TruSIM if your monthly data usage is at least 176 MB.

    For H2O and AirVoice rates, those thresholds will be 100 MB/mo and 90 MB/mo correspondingly.

    If you use voice, the level should be adjusted accordingly. For example, in the TruSIM vs TMO comparison, every voice minute spend on TruSIM will shift the equilibrium by 1 MB/mo in favor of T-Mobile. If you reach 100 min/mo limit, this will allow you to spend 76 MB/mo to match the TruSIM (83 MB/mo for H2O, 79 Mb/mo for AirVoice).

    Also, AT&T may change conditions on their monthly plans too, so new variables may easily come into equation.

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  7. Thanks for this article on alternatives. According to this article, I can only consider H20 and Airvoice for my locked iPhone particularly if I'm after dirt cheap pay as you go service. Lucky me that I had read this article before shopping and then there was the H20 sim card in the electronics section where I was shopping at. So I bought the H20 sim card and it had 7 minutes on it and a 2 months in which to use it.

    Question about H20 and Airvoice:

    On H20, you get annoying balance notifications each time after you call, text, or surf. Nowhere to turn it off in the H20 online settings like you can with AT&T GoPhone. Tried calling H20's customer service but they're no help since they have nothing on their screens to turn it off.

    For Airvoice, according to the Airvoice website, it's seems like they talk about the balance notifications are a feature. My guess is they won't turn it off and that you yourself as a user can't turn it off on Airvoice.

    My question: Has anyone had any experience in getting the automatic balance notifications turned off on either H20 or Airvoice?

    If not, then being able to turn off the annoying automatic balance notifications is an advantage that AT&T GoPhone seems to have over at least these two MVNOs. Wondering if AT&T will allow MVNOs turn off the balance notifications? Or if the MVNOs have to pay extra for that capability in whatever deals they have with AT&T. Being a newbie with these MVNOs, please tell me there is a way to fix this without too much of a hassle. Thanks for any comments.

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    1. My father in law is having the same problem with the automatic balance notifications. Is there a way too disable this function?

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    2. Android users running Android 4.2.1 and earlier can block them with the Balance Update /USSD Blocker app. That app doesn't work on Android versions 4.2.2 and later but the USSD Blocker Xposed module does, but only on rooted phones.

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  8. Tru rounds up all data usages to 100KB. Doesn't seem like much, but consider that the iPhone sends a few KB of data every hour even if the phone is sitting plugged in and connected to wifi. Tru will charge 100KB every hour, or 2.4MB of data per day! That's 50 cents per day or more than $14 per month if you just leave your phone unused!

    I asked Tru about this and there only suggestion was to manually disable 3G every time I'm not using it. What a ridiculous pain of a workaround for their crummy policy.

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    1. i was wondering about Tru SIM. so Tru sucks too. the alternatives for iPhone really do suck. for me, i've crossed off H20, Airvoice, Tmobile, StraightTalk, and now Tru SIM. that just leaves me with sticking with AT&T go$25phone$5data per month. looking at the alternatives, for me, it's like thanks but no thanks.

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    2. I guess you arent yet aware of AT&T shoving it into every Pay-as-you-go user ? Not only did they steal your money, but they have cenceled the earlier data plans without any damn notice. They need to be outlawed.

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  9. I was not able to get my iphone to work with H20. Did any one have any luck. If so, please share the intructions. H30 web site indicates that it only works with Month plan.

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    1. It should work if it's an AT&T or unlocked iPhone and you have AT&T coverage.

      If you get a SIM error try reinserting the SIM.

      If there's no error and voice doesn't work, it's most likely because your account wasn't activated correctly and you will need to work with H2O's customer support. Good luck.

      If it's just data that doesn't work see this page: h2owirelessnow.com/pageControl.php?page=IPhoneData

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  10. Do "pay by the day" plans work out for Andriod phones? If you disable 3G does that keep the phone quiet enough that you don't get charged?

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    1. You didn't mention what carrier's Pay By the Day plans you are referring to so I'm going to guess it's AT&T.

      The daily charge is triggered when you make or answer a call or send a text. Receiving texts and calls you do not answer do not trigger the daily charge and neither does data use.

      Per use data on Pay by the Day plans is not available with any AT&T branded Android phone.

      If you are using a non-AT&T Android phone you might be able to use data and if you do you will get charged for data at the rather high rate of $0.01 per 5 KB ($2/MB).

      Turning off 3G won't prevent you from being charges as 2G data is billable too.

      To avoid getting charged you need to turn of Mobile Data. On most Android phones go to Settings > Wireless > Mobile Networks and uncheck "Enable Data". On Motorola Android phones do Settings > Battery & data manager > Data delivery and uncheck "Data Enabled".

      There are mobile data toggle widgets in the Play Store that make toggling mobile data a one-click process.

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  11. Tru phone is having a 25% off sale on their business plans. Discount applies as long as you own your account. The BB plan might work for BIS and BES users in the US. $41.25 plus tax, and that includes BIS and BB email. The minutes can be used in USA, UK or AU. You can add 500 mb to the basic plan for $15/month.
    Their Android plan is also on sale.
    They offer BB phone discounts if you sign up for 2 years.

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    1. Tru phone plan also includes two phone numbers on one SIM. You can get a UK or AU phone number in addition to your US number. And the data can be used in any of the 3 countries.

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    2. This month they are also waiving the $35 activation fee.

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    3. They even give you 90 days to try out the service; you can cancel if you do not like it.

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  12. Do any of these options let me keep my current AT&T phone number (LNP)?

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    1. You should be able to port your AT&T number to H2O, PTel, Airvoice or PagePlus. I don't know if Tru supports porting.

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    2. Truphone will port your number to use with their service.

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  13. I have an ATT Fusion with 3G etc. Can I change to a straighttalk plan even though it is an ATT phone? Will I need a new SIM card as well? Please advise as I am growing increasingly distressed with my increasing expenses for less services. .. Thanks
    Regards,
    my 'fuse' is getting shorter..

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    1. The Fusion would work with an Straight Talk AT&T SIM if you could find one. However Straight Talk no longer sell AT&T based SIMs.

      You could use another AT&T MVNO like Airvoice, Red Pocket, NET10, etc. See: AT&T and AT&T MVNOs Compared

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  14. It looks like Truphone now rounds up to 1KB for data. Found this on their fb page, under: How is data usage charged with the Truphone SIM?

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