Straight Talk – Unlimited Voice, Text, Data for $45/month

Many long-time cell phone users may be surprised to learn that they can save a great deal of money by switching to a pre-paid plan. Most people are paying top dollar for plans they are barely using or are hanging on to unlimited plans simply because they still can. Unless you are a heavy mobile data user, someone who insists on streaming video 24×7, or use your cell phone as a network tether, you’d probably be better off going pre-paid. Depending on your current plan, you may find that you can cut your monthly cell phone bill in half without noticeably limiting your cell phone usage. If you’re an existing AT&T or T-Mobile customer or have an unlocked GSM phone, you should seriously consider switching to Strait Talk’s bring-your-down-device plan. For just $45 per month, you get unlimited voice, text, and data. Of course, the data portion isn’t truly unlimited as Straight Talk reserves the right to cancel your service due to excessive data use. However, most Straight Talk customers do just fine provided they keep their data usage below 1.5 to 2 GBs per month or under 100 MB per day. That may not sound like much but most people use a lot less. Newer Android phones running “Ice Cream Sandwich” or “Jelly Bean” have built-in data usage monitoring allowing you to place a hard cap on your mobile data usage. You can also install data usage monitoring utilities such as Onavo on older phones to monitor and manage mobile data usage. You won’t be giving up much in terms of coverage by switching to Straight Talk as their AT&T SIM service has access to the same network as a regular AT&T customer. You’ll only lose out on roaming and the ability to call internationally — although even that won’t necessarily be an issue.

Going with one of these pre-paid plans also means you’ll likely have to get used to lower quality customer support. Some customers report having their service abruptly terminated for “excessive” or unauthorized (tethering?) data usage, even losing their phone number in the process. You can help alleviate some of the headaches of going prepaid by first porting your existing mobile number to Google Voice. (Bear in mind that porting your mobile number to Google Voice will likely result in the early termination of your current cell phone contract and may subject you to rather costly early termination fees!) Once your number has been ported to Google Voice, you no longer need to worry about losing your mobile number. Most people already know that Google Voice can automatically forward calls to any cell phone you choose although few are aware that you can configure the Google Voice app on your Android phone to route all outgoing calls through your Google Voice number. No need to launch the Google Voice app when making outgoing calls, just use the standard Dialer. I first saw this working on a Samsung Galaxy S3 running “Ice Cream Sandwich” so I’m not sure it will work on earlier releases. You can also use Google Voice to place international calls from your cell phone, closing this service gap in some of the prepaid plans. (Google’s international calling rates are super cheap meaning that you could save even more money.) With the “Ice Cream Sandwich” release, Google Voice messages can now appear in phone’s call log. Why does all this matter? Once you have all of your incoming/outgoing calls routing through Google Voice, you can change prepaid service providers at any time. No one will ever need to know your real cell phone number.

Not convinced? Check out the following links and decide for yourself. Note that not all of links are for prepaid plans for GSM phones and not all of the prepaid service providers allow you to bring your own device.

Is there any reason not to get a prepaid phone? – Mobile – CNET News
Straight Talk SIM Card + iPhone 4S = $45 Unlimited Prepaid Plan » My Money Blog
Geek Factor › Straight Talking With Google Voice and A Locked iPhone
Straight Talk SIM: The BFF of a Galaxy Nexus or iPhone
Straight Talk: Keep AT&T Humming While Chopping Your Cellphone Bill in Half
7 reasons to shred your wireless contract and switch to pre-paid
I hate Verizon, so I decided to compare all the carriers’ plans including pre-paid options to see which is the best
Straight Talk

And here are some links to help configure Google Voice and manage your data usage on Android phones:

Track Android data usage with Onavo Count – How To – CNET
Optimize data usage – Android OS Help
The Best Data Usage Tracker for Android
Google Voice for Android, now with Ice Cream Sandwich voicemail integration – Google Voice Blog
Google Voice gets an ICS update, brings visual voicemail to the missed call log — Engadget
Place calls with Google Voice – Google Mobile Help
Making International calls – Google Mobile Help

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