Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

Teacher

Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

I'm interested in checking out AT&T prepaid (specifically the pay-per-minute plan, if that makes a difference for anything). My current provider has very poor reception in the places I use it most. That's not entirely their fault, as I live in the bottom floor of an apartment building. So before I plunge into something else (even though their maps show good signal in my area), I want to actually get a device that I can walk around with and check the signal.

 

I don't know anyone who is an AT&T prepaid customer, so borrowing a phone isn't really an option. I just discovered that I should be able to get my current cheap GSM phone unlocked, so I think I have a device for free. Now I guess I just need to get hold of a SIM. I see a few vendors offering GoPhone SIMs in the $10 range... is this the best I can hope for?

 

When you purchase phones marketed for prepaid services, do they usually include a SIM? Right now there's a cheap flip phone listed for GoPhone service selling at a local retailer for under $10... would I be better off getting that than an individual SIM if I have to pay the same or more anyway? Are there phone-locking issues with SIMs that will come into play if I want to use my current phone after I get it unlocked?

 

Kind of a different issue, but might as well ask it here as well... as I understand it, the least I can get away with paying on an ongoing basis for prepaid service is $100/yr. If I'm doing the pay-per-minute plan but want to purchase a monthly messaging plan, does the cost of that messaging plan come off that $100 credit? In other words, if I do the $5/mo 200-messages plan, would I then effectively have $40 worth of voice minutes to burn through for the year (assuming very low usage)?

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Accepted by topic author fornax
‎09-30-2015 1:39 AM

Re: Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

Smart idea to try it out before you stick with it, even if it's not a "risk free" 30-day trial. Smiley Wink

In the past I have paid on average $3.77 for SIM cards on either Amazon or eBay, so those are more "realistic" prices I would say. You could choose to go either route - the el cheapo $10 flip phone (SIM included) or purchasing your own SIM since you will have to activate the SIM and set up an account on your own anyway. As long as you're certain that your current phone is eligible to be unlocked, then I don't see any harm in using the phone you already have in possession.

As for your question regarding prepaid messaging packages using the pay-per-usage plan, yes, the cost of the package gets deducted from your account balance, which is $100 in your scenario. I think that you calculated using the $5 messaging package for 12 months = $60, so yes, you would have $40 left over, but NOT to use for the rest of the year. Remember that the $100 credit adds one calendar year to your account expiration date. Purchasing the $5 messaging package consecutively over the course of 12 months will equal a year. After one year, you will want to add more money to avoid forfeiting the remaining $40 and to keep the account active.

Hope this makes sense!

Cat Happy Remember that Wild Banchi... 1993-2010 Cat Happy



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Teacher

Re: Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

Thanks. One follow-up... I'm reading some references (no idea as to the reliability) mentioning that once you activate a new SIM in a new phone the SIM is "locked" to the phone. If this is true, what's the mechanism? What's actually "locked"? The phone? The SIM? Both? I ask in case I can't get my current phone unlocked and end up buying the cheap phone, and then deciding to upgrade later. Will I just be able to move the SIM over?

 

I think we're both saying the same thing regarding the plans. Just wanted to make sure I wouldn't have to pay more money on top of the $100 to get the monthly messaging add-on (assuming I don't run through the $100 credit prematurely between the messaging plan and any used voice minutes).

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Re: Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply


fornax wrote:

Thanks. One follow-up... I'm reading some references (no idea as to the reliability) mentioning that once you activate a new SIM in a new phone the SIM is "locked" to the phone. If this is true, what's the mechanism? What's actually "locked"? The phone? The SIM? Both? I ask in case I can't get my current phone unlocked and end up buying the cheap phone, and then deciding to upgrade later. Will I just be able to move the SIM over?

 

I think we're both saying the same thing regarding the plans. Just wanted to make sure I wouldn't have to pay more money on top of the $100 to get the monthly messaging add-on (assuming I don't run through the $100 credit prematurely between the messaging plan and any used voice minutes).


The SIM card being locked to the original device of activation may be a thing of the past. I am not 100% sure if it is a "rule" anymore. I activated a prepaid iPhone 4 for a family member this past July and I seem to remember briefly placing the newly activated SIM card in my phone to see if everything had been set up successfully -- which it had been -- so I guess no worries. Other regulars here have reported that there has been no lock on their SIMs lately, either. In the past, "locking" referred to the SIM in particular and I guess the phone, too in a way if it had not been carrier unlocked to begin with. 

 

And yes, you shouldn't need to add additional money to the $100 credit in order to use a messaging package. The cost would get deducted from the $100 balance. 

Cat Happy Remember that Wild Banchi... 1993-2010 Cat Happy



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Teacher

Re: Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

Great, thanks for your help!

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Master

Re: Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

You're welcome! Hope you find that the service works the best for you!

Cat Happy Remember that Wild Banchi... 1993-2010 Cat Happy



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Teacher

Re: Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

As a follow-up... I got my phone unlocked today. I decided I wanted to test out AT&T over the weekend, so I stopped into Radio Shack to pick up a GoPhone SIM for $10. It's apparently something new for them to sell, as the guy didn't actually know they had them. I had to tell him that the website said they had them in stock in the store, and then he found them in back. (Tip for anyone else who does this: even though they didn't actually activate the SIM, they still needed a valid IMEI to process the sale.)

 

Brought it home, stuck it in the newly unlocked phone, powered up, and basked in the slightly-weak-but-definitely-present signal. I decided that was good enough to commit another $10 to actual testing, so I activated the SIM through the website and signed up for the 10c/minute plan. I called up my wife's phone and walked around every corner of the apartment, and the signal held. Still more testing to be done, but so far things are looking good!

 

Even if it doesn't work out, it only cost me $10 to test the signal (could have been less if I was more patient), and another $10 to test the service proper. Not too shabby.

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Master

Re: Testing AT&T/GoPhone prepaid cheaply

Interesting to hear that the employee was not aware of the SIMs in stock at Radio Shack. Come to think of it, I am not sure if some of my local branches carry them in stock. But it's great to know that everything is up, running, and working like it should be.

I agree - not too shabby!

Cat Happy Remember that Wild Banchi... 1993-2010 Cat Happy



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