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||4¢||2¢||33¢/MB|
|H2O Minute Plan||$10||AT&T||$9.99||Any AT&T Mobile or unlocked GSM||5¢||5¢||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||5¢||2¢||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)|
** $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.