Straight Talk is a brand of Tracfone, sold only online or through Walmart. Generally speaking, you can bring any unlocked GSM phone (that is, any phone ready for T-Mobile or AT&T in the U.S.) to Straight Talk, or bring an iPhone built for AT&T's network. "Unlocked" means, at this time, a phone you bought for the full price, not subsidized and under contract, or which a carrier has unlocked for you. Unlocking phones yourself, using third-party tools, is currently something close to illegal. You can buy unlocked and GSM-ready phones through Google, Apple, Amazon's marketplace, and other new and used sources.
If Sprint or Verizon rule the skies where you live, or you have a CDMA (Sprint or Verizon) phone you want to bring to Straight Talk, you'll want to browse Straight Talk's site and enter your ZIP code to see if coverage is provided where you live. And everybody looking into Straight Talk should read the FAQ on Howard Forums-Updated-8-16-2012), and
What kind of speeds does Straight Talk pull off? Let’s give Dan the blockquote floor:
I've run three speed tests at two different locations at different times using speedtest.net's app (on a T-Mobile 4G SIM card):
- 14030kbps (download) / 2174kbps (upload), 828ms ping
- 7488 / 1793kbps, 98ms ping
- 3732 / 1038kbps, 93ms ping (done just now from Capital Factory)
So, much like any data plan, speeds and ping (responsiveness) times vary depending on your signal strength. But if you happen to live and roam where AT&T and T-Mobile are quite strong, Straight Talk could be a quiet little money-saver. Just ask the people who told me their Straight Talk stories on Google+.
Ting: A clever, Sprint-centered option
Contrary to Straight Talk, I had heard of Ting before, as Ting has purchased more than a few readings from Leo Laporte on This Week in Google. The pitch is based on simplicity: pay for what you actually use, adjust your allowances on the fly as you use more or less, and share your data (tether or "hotspot"), because you pay for it.