Awhile back, we asked our readers to review Walmart's Straight Talk Wireless service, which is almost unbelievably cheap. And now that we're moving further away from carrier contracts, it seems even more important to discuss whether these plans are worthwhile.
We've updated our feature on the details for Straight Talk, and we hope existing customers continue to weigh in on their thoughts. Has the service helped you save money on your cell phone bill? How do you feel about the customer service?
Below is a basic Straight Talk Wireless review, culled from plan details as well as reader comments. So, what is Straight Talk and is it any good?
Straight Talk Wireless: How It Works
Straight Talk is a month-to-month wireless service sold by Walmart and supported by TracFone. The latter is a company that claims to have "coverage in 99.6% of the cellular populations" and is contracted with major carriers, to purportedly "bring the same level of coverage through the same cell towers." A representative from Straight Talk also claims that it provides service in "more ZIP codes than any other single carrier."
What Makes Straight Talk Wireless Great
The up-front price of $45 per month includes unlimited minutes, texts, and data. In the past, users who went over 2.5GB of LTE data per month were then throttled to 2G speeds, but now that limit has been expanded to 5GB of data per month. However, some users have sworn up and down that they experience throttling before the limit, although there are many factors that could contribute to that perception. In order to take advantage of the 4G LTE speeds, you must have a 4G LTE capable device and purchase one of Straight Talk's 4G LTE SIM cards.
Still, Straight Talk is by far the cheapest plan that allows for so much data per month. (T-Mobile, for example, charges $50 per month for 1GB.) The service also includes numerous high-end handsets that you can port over to the service, or purchase directly through Straight Talk. However, it doesn't appear to allow financing for any models at this time, which is a downside for anyone who doesn't want to pay the full-price for a high-end phone upfront. There are many lower-end models available though at more affordable prices.
For folks who want to save the most money, it makes sense to use your current phone rather than buying a new one, and Straight Talk allows new customers to use their current GSM or CMDA smartphone on the Straight Talk network. GSM phones have SIM cards and must be unlocked to operate on Straight Talk's compatible frequencies, 850MHz and 1900MHz. CDMA phones, on the other hand, require additional registration and activation to verify compatibility with Straight Talk.
Straight Talk Can Save You $180 a Year — If You Need 5GB
Compared to the plans now available from the big four carriers of Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, Straight Talk offers a lot more data for your money. Sprint charges $15 more per month for unlimited data, while T-Mobile charges $25 more per month for 5GB. However, if you don't need as much data, these carriers offer cheaper plans as well. Verizon, for example, offers 3GB for $45, which is the same cost as Straight Talk.
If you need a fair amount of data, then Straight Talk can save you $180 or more per year on your service bill. But if you're nowhere near 5GB of data per month, then there are other comparably priced options with potentially more reliable carriers. It's important to be attentive to your needs and compare plans.
Straight Talk Controversy: Coverage, Data Plans, Customer Service
The clear-cut savings aside, there are unmissable customer complaints about Straight Talk coverage and the throttling of its data plans. While the service touts an extensive coverage map, a common complaint amongst our own users is the strength of signal.
But perhaps the most focused point of contention amongst DealNews readers pertained to Straight Talk's customer service, or lack thereof. From the inability to even reach a customer service rep to a representative's failure to address a number of issues in a timely manner, we now understand some of the stresses involved in having to deal with Straight Talk Wireless customer service. As such, we want to offer some tips and techniques for reaching Straight Talk Wireless customer service and prompting the department to resolve your issues.
How to Reach Straight Talk Wireless Customer Service
Thanks to GetHuman.com, you can reach a Straight Talk Wireless customer service rep in less time. Dial 877-430-2355. Press 1 for English, then press press 5; 5; and 2. (A customer service rep in our comments also noted the following number as well: 1-888-442-5096.)
Notice how we didn't say, "you can reach a Straight Talk Wireless customer service rep in no time"? That's because the average wait time is 30 minutes when the customer service desk is open Monday through Sunday from 8 am to 11:45 pm ET.
Other Ways to Reach Straight Talk Wireless Customer Service
Our research shows that Straight Talk does some monitoring of social media channels and comment boards (and our own comment section below), so a rep may reach out to help address a complaint in response to a posted comment. If Twitter and Facebook aren't for you, we found an email address: ST.CorpResolutionTeam@straighttalk.com that may be helpful in getting questions answered. When reporting an issue with phone service, it's important to include your phone number and the serial number of your phone in the email.
Straight Talk Wireless won't win any awards for its customer service. Likewise we can't predict how much more restrictive Straight Talk's — or any carrier's — "unlimited" plans might get over time, or how hard it might be to resolve any problems you'll have with your new (or old) device on its network. But it's worth noting that Straight Talk's LTE coverage and continued fixed monthly service cost remain a serious consideration for budget-minded shoppers.
Readers, what do you think of Straight Talk Wireless service? Do you have any further pros or cons to add to our review? Please add to the discussion in our comments below.