Pre-paid smartphone plans that do not suck, part 1

Forgoing a contract does not always mean wonky phones and throttled data. Far from it, in fact.


Image credit: Flickr/Robert S. Donovan

I wrote last week about Verizon's transition of their 3G networks into a pre-paid smorgasbord, and how I thought that was a neat and affordable option. Boy, was I wrong. You told me in the comments, on Google+, on Twitter, and, in one case, when it was time for an evening beer. I have been on one cellular contract or another since 2004, and I have had blinders on to what's right off the well-beaten path.

[T-Mobile readies shared data plans for business; no early termination fees and Mobile data growth accelerating worldwide, led by smartphone users]

Today, I intend to correct my dilettantish ways and point out a few ways you might do something seemingly remarkable: pay a company a reasonable sum every month for good access to their data pipes, along with their voice network and basically-free-to-them text messages, without committing to a two-year agreement. And do that with a phone that isn't something that wouldn't sell from last year's bargain bin. We're talking iPhones, Nexus devices, top-of-the-line gear that you buy yourself.

This week, I'm focusing on two nation-wide, third-party services. Next week, I'll dig into the carriers' own pay-as-you-go smartphone offerings.

Straight Talk: Unlocked GSM phones, $45/month unlimited talk/text/data

Straight Talk's explanation of its business model

Straight Talk is perhaps the most interesting plan I had never heard of. Immediately after writing about Verizon’s $60/month 3G plan, I heard from a savvy friend, Dan DeFelippi, about how he’s enjoying very nice data speeds, for $45 per month, with no data cap, no contract, and country-wide roaming, on a best-in-class Nexus 4.

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