EcoMobile and Telcel America recently and there are at least three more new operators that have either launched recently or are about to. Here's a first look at TalkForGood, a new Verizon MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). MVNOs resell another operator's mobile service while generally handling billing and customer support themselves. TalkForGood is aiming for a "soft launch" on or shortly after Nov. 1, 2012.
The TalkForGood website is a bit long on marketing talk and short on facts. But it does tell us that the "ForGood" part of the name means that TalkForGood will donate a portion of your monthly bill to the charity of you choice. I called TalkForGood and was able learn a bit more about how the service will work, although many of the details are still subject to change before the launch.
Like EcoMobile, TalkForGood will not be selling their own phones, it will be a Bring Your Own Phone (BYOD) operator only. TalkForGood's website claims that "if your phone works on the Verizon network it will work on the TalkForGood network". However, TalkForGood is subject to the same restrictions as other Verizon MVNOs and will not be able to activate Verizon prepaid phones. But it should be possible to use any non-LTE postpaid Verizon phone with a clean ESN (not reported lost or stolen or flagged by Verizon for non-payment). CDMA phones from other operators like Sprint that have been manually programmed (aka "Flashed") using specialized software should also work on TalkForGood.
Verizon LTE phones use a Verizon LTE SIM card to authenticate on the network and are currently extremely difficult or impossible to activate on any network except Verizon itself. TalkForGood hopes to have their own LTE SIM cards by year's end and will then be able to seamlessly activate Verizon LTE phones.
TalkForGood has just two plans, a monthly plan and a pay as you go plan
The monthly plan is the "Peace Plan" and includes unlimited voice, texts and mobile web for $55/month. I suspect that the unlimited data has a hidden cap, most likely 2 GB/month.
The pay as you go "Smart Plan" has very good rates; 5¢/minute, 1¢/text and 6¢/MB. However there's a $6 monthly fee. Pay as You Go refills are good for 120 days and will be available in $10, $25 and $50 denominations. Unlike almost every other pay as you go operator, there is no rollover, any funds in the account beyond the 120 day expiration will be forfeited.
TalkForGood says it won't charge taxes in most states but that they will have to charge taxes in about ten states. Which sounds like it's probably E911 and/or state sales taxes only.
When TalkForGood soft launches around Nov.1 the service will be available to everyone, however you will need to call in to activate a phone. A full launch is expected around Nov 10. At that time it will be possible to activate phones online.
It's always good to see new entrants in the prepaid world and I welcome TalkForGood. Their plans seem competitive but not particularly disruptive. To be compelling the $55 monthly plan will need to include substantially more data than the 2 GB that Page Plus offers with their $55 Plan.
TalkForGood's pay as you go plan would have looked good a week ago. But then came the news that Page Plus will begin allowing users to let monthly plans expire and use them as a pay as you go plan with rates of 5¢/min, 5¢/text and 5¢/MB. The Page Plus "Monthly Expired Bundle-in-Limbo Solution" (MEBILS) has a $10 monthly minimum but unused funds rollover rather than expiring and there are no monthly fees or taxes, which I believe makes it more cost effective than TalkForGood's Smart Plan for most users.
Update 28-Nov-2012: TalkForGood is now up and running. It's still not possible to activate online, but you can now call (888) 649-1713 to activate a phone and account Only the pay as you go "Smart Plan" is available. Curiously, all references to the monthly "Peace Plan" seem to have been removed from the TalkForGood site.
Update: 7-Dec-2012: You can now activate online. But all of TalkForGood's plans have changed. See this post: Verizon MVNO TalkForGood's Monthly Plans Are Now Available for current information.