Straight Talk, which is part of Tracfone, has a $45/month prepaid unlimited talk, text and data plan that lets you use any AT&T, T-Mobile or unlocked GSM phone. It has been getting a lot coverage in the tech press with stories from GigaOM and GottaBeMobile among others. The service is obviously very popular, I get lots of questions about it here in the comments on Prepaid Phone News. This post is an effort to answer as many questions as possible about the service here in one place.
What Bring You Own Phone options does Straight talk offer? There's only one plan; $45/month for unlimited voice, messaging and data. To use Straight Talk with your own compatible phone you need to buy a Straight Talk SIM card which is available from straighttalksim.com for $15 plus tax. Shipping is free. There are four different SIMs:
A regular SIM (mini SIM) that uses AT&T as its home network.
A micro SIM homed on AT&T
A regular SIM homed on T-Mobile
A mysterious and unnecessary "SIM for Unlocked Phones" that is probably just an AT&T homed SIM.
Which phones work with Straight Talk? Any AT&T or T-Mobile phone except for Blackberrys will work for at least voice and text. AT&T and T-Mobile phones do not need to be unlocked as long as you use a Straight Talk AT&T SIM with AT&T phones and a Straight Talk T-Mobile SIM with T-Mobile phones.
You can also use an unlocked GSM phone provided it supports the proper radio bands:
850 Mhz and 1900 Mhz for voice, SMS and low speed (2G: GPRS and Edge) data with any Straight talk SIM.
UTMS band V (850 Mhz) and band II (1900 Mhz) for high speed (3G) data with an AT&T SIM.
UTMS band iV (1700 Mhz) for high speed (3G) data with an T-Mobile SIM.
Are there any disadvantages to using Straight Talk with my own phone? Definitely, there are three that I'm aware of.
1) Straight Talk offers very limited customer support. There is no hand holding and you are on your own when it comes to setting up your phone. You will need to change settings on your phone to get data and picture messaging to work.
Configuring data and MMS picture messaging on Android phones involves changing a few settings but isn't hard and this post will show you how to do it.
MMS settings are locked on Windows Phones. Both data and MMS settings are hidden on iPhones. There are ways to get around Apple and Microsoft's stupidity in blocking users from critical settings, but it takes more work than with Android. There's currently no way to get MMS working on some Windows Phones.
2) Although Straight Talk advertises unlimited data, there are hidden caps of about 2 GB/month and 100 MB/day. Until recently, Straight Talk would terminate your service for exceeding those limits. Thankfully that practice seems to have ended. Now if you use too much data, your data speeds will be throttled to about 100 Kbps for the rest of the plan month.
3) There is currently a network issue that causes data to intermittently stop working when using an AT&T SIM. This issue effects all AT&T MVNOs not just Straight Talk. Turning airplane mode on and off usually gets data working again when this happens. This problem started about a month ago and seems to be occurring less frequently so hopefully it is being fixed.
How to setup Straight Talk data and picture messaging on Android
Follow the instructions that came with the SIM to activate it online at straighttalksim.com or by calling 1-855-222-2355. Insert the SIM in the phone and turn it on. Make a test call to be sure your SIM really is active. Sometimes it takes a little while for the activation to process. If you still can't make voice calls after an hour, call Straight Talk's dedicated BYOP SIM support number at 855-222-2355. There's no point in trying to set up data until the SIM is active. Once you can make calls:
1. On the Android Home Screen, press the Menu key, then tap Settings > Wireless & Networks > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names.
2. You shound now be on the APNs screen (image below, left), press the Menu key and tap "New APN"
3. Enter the values listed below in each field. There are additional fields on the screen that aren't listed below, leave them blank.
Straight Talk AT&T SIM
Straight TalkT-Mobile SIM
Leave blank 2
Leave blank 5
Leave blank 5
2 Straight Talk recommends using proxy.mvno.tracfone.com but doing so causes speedtest.net and some other sites to be blocked. There are no known problems with leaving the proxy field blank.
4 If the APN Type field is a dropdown, choose "internet+mms".
5 If data or MMS don't work try using 22.214.171.124 in the proxy and MMS proxy fields.
4. Press the Menu key and tap Save.
5. Set the Straight Talk APN as the active APN by tapping the radio button to its right until it turns green as shown in the image below right.
6. Delete any other APNs if possible. To delete, tap the APN name to open it, then press the Menu key and tap delete. Some phones won't let you delete the Operator (AT&T or T-Mobile) APNs. If that's the case just be sure the Straight Talk APN is selected.
7. Turn the phone off and back on and try to open a web page. If it doesn't work see the troubleshooting section below.
Android specific troubleshooting:
If you have followed the above steps and data does not work, go back to the Access Point Names screen and be sure that the Straight Talk APN is still selected. If it's not, reselect it and try opening a page in the browser. Double check all the entries on the APN setup screen. A missing or extra space, period or other character will keep data and/or picture messaging from working.
Some phones tend to switch back to the AT&T or T-Mobile APN. If this is happening try to delete the other APNs. If the APNs are locked and the delete button is disabled go to the Play Store on the phone and install the APN Backup and Restore App by Ritesh Sahu. Use the app to backup your APNs and then delete the APNs. It will delete all of them, so you will have to re-add the Straight Talk one.
If data still isn't working see the General Troubleshooting section at the bottom of this post. The Howard Forums Straight Talk Android Wiki is also an excellent resource.
How to setup Straight Talk data and picture messaging on the iPhone:
iPhones will only get high speed (3G) data with a Straight Talk AT&T SIM. The iPhone recognizes the SIM as an AT&T one and configures itself for AT&T postpaid and then locks the settings so they can't be changed. To overide the AT&T settings, use the free Unlockit service to push the Straight Talk data settings to the phone using WiFi. This will configure data (browsing, email, etc.), but not picture messaging, on any iPhone, whether jailbroken or not:
1. Connect to WiFi and go to http://unlockit.co.nz/ with Safari on the iPhone.
2. On the Unlockit site, tap "Create APN".
3. Choose County: United States, Carrier: Straight Talk and tap the "Create APN" button.
4. Tap "Install".
5. Turn the phone off and on and test that the web works.
There are many different ways to setup MMS picture messaging on the iPhone. The methods and steps vary depending the model of the iPhone and whether or not the phone is jailbroken and/or unlocked. Refer to the Howard forums Straight Talk iPhone WiKi for detailed instructions.
How to setup Straight Talk data and picture messaging on Windows Phone
Data Only Setup:
To set up data on any Windows Phone:
1. Tap the arrow icon in the top right corner of the home screen to go to the main menu.
2. Tap Settings > Cellular and set Data connection to On.
3. Tap Add apn (WP7) or Add internet apn (WP8).
4. On the APN Settings screen enter att.mvno in the APN field if you are using an AT&T SIM. If you are using a Straight talk T-Mobile SIM, enter wap.tracfone. Leave the other fields blank. Tap the disk icon to save the settings
5. Be sure WiFi is off. Open the browser and test your connection by trying to load a website.
MMS and Data Setup:
Windows Phone 7
Windows Phone 7 doesn't allow users to change MMS settings directly (Windows Phone 8 does). However Nokia and Samsung have both created apps that give full access to MMS and Data settings. The Nokia app works with all current Nokia Windows Phone 7 models but the Samsung app only works with the Samsung Focus Flash, Samsung Focus 2 and Samsung Focus S. It doesn't work with the original Samsung Focus.
There's no way to configure Windows 7 phones from HTC, Dell or LG to work with Straight Talk MMS.
The process of setting up MMS varies from one Windows Phone 7 model to another. There are too many variations to describe here. Fortunately there's a great site called StraightTalkWindows.com that is dedicated to helping users setup Straight Talk data and MMS on Windows phones. The MMS setup instructions include screenshots and are very detailed and easy to follow.
Windows Phone 8
With Windows Phone 8 MMS settings are fully accessible. To configure MMS on all Windows Phone 8 devices:
1. Tap the arrow icon in the top right corner of the home screen to go to the main menu.
2. Tap Settings > Cellular.
3. Tap Add mms apn.
4. On the APN Settings screen enter the following values:
For an AT&T SIM:
WAP Gateway: 126.96.36.199
WAP Gateway Port: 80
MMSC : http://mmsc.cingular.com
For a T-Mobile SIM:
WAP Gateway Port :leave blank
MMSC Port: 80
5. Leave the other fields blank. Tap the disk icon to save the settings
Troubleshooting - All Phones
If you've followed the instructions and your data or picture messaging do not work:
1) Double check your typing. Everything has to match exactly to work. A missing or extra space, period or other character will keep data and/or picture messaging from working.
2) Turn your phone off and back on and try to connect.
3) Even though the SIM is active for voice calls it can take up to an hour before the account is fully configured and data and MMS work. If your are still having problems after an hour, call Straight talk's BYOP department at 855-222-2355 and ask them to check that data is enabled on your account.
4. If problems persist, submit a support ticket on Straight Talk's Facebook page or contact Straight Talk's "Executive Resolutions Dept." number at 1-305-715-6500, Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM Eastern time.
Updated: 16-Dec-2012: Added Windows Phone 8, Net10 APN