Straight Talk is owned by TracFone, which uses all four of the national carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint) to provide nationwide service. Limited and unlimited plans are offered, as are plans and add-ons that provide international service. Network performance can vary widely, however, depending on which network is providing your service, and customer service earns few friends.
Cheap plans, unlimited (mostly) service. Straight Talk's Unlimited plan (Est. $45 for 30 days) includes unlimited talk, messaging and data. Like many plans, high-speed data is capped at 2.5 GB per 30 days, but unlike some carriers, such as T-Mobile, for example, no option to pay more and get all the high-speed data you want is offered. You can cut your costs by opting to buy more months of coverage in advance -- for example, one year of service costs $495. International calling isn't part of the basic Straight Talk plans, but an International Unlimited Plan (Est. $60 per month) adds calls to over 1,000 countries to the package. Another option is a $10 global calling card, which can be added to any service plan. If you don't need unlimited service, Straight Talk offers the All You Need plan (Est. $30 for 30 days), with 1,000 minutes of talk time, 1,000 text or picture messages and 30 MB of data. Those minutes and services expire every 30 days, and unused portions don't roll over to the next month.
Award winning. Straight Talk wins the 2013 Readers' Choice award at PCMag.com. Users benefit from the extensive network and high call quality of its parent company, TracFone. It's highly rated at Viewpoints.com, where users praise its strong signal and good value.
Poor customer service all round. Customers gripe about Straight Talk's customer service. Although Straight Talk's strong signal and low price make it a favorite among users posting at Viewpoints.com, about a third of them complain of inadequate customer service and trouble porting over their old phone numbers -- the same complaints Straight Talk earns from customers at PrepaidReviews.com. Older reviews complain that data caps were not adequately explained, but those are now posted on the carrier's website.
Many of the latest phones. Straight Talk has updated its phone selection and now offers basic and Android phones as well as the iPhone 5S (Est. $550 and up). Various models of Samsung Galaxy and other Android phones are available, including the latest Samsung Galaxy S4 (Est. $600), and there's a good selection of basic phones, with some of the reconditioned ones offered at no cost. You can also bring your own compatible and unlocked GSM phone and purchase a SIM card for $7.
Each year, ConsumerReports.org surveys its membership regarding their happiness with their cell phone provider. Straight Talk is among the eight prepaid cell phone providers that are rated and ranked.
Review: Cell Phones and Services, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, September 2013
2. J.D. Power and Associates
This study focuses only on pay-as-you-go wireless plans. J.D. Power and Associates questions over 5,000 wireless subscribers, who rate their wireless purchase experiences made by phone calls to sales representatives, visits to retail stores or online. Straight Talk receives the lowest score, but is not alone as two other prepaid providers rate just as poorly.
Review: 2013 Wireless Purchase Experience Non-Contract Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Aug. 15, 2013
3. J.D. Power and Associates
In this 2013 J.D. Power and Associates Customer Care survey of non-contract cell phone users, Straight Talk comes in at below the industry average to earn a score of 3 out of 5.
Review: 2013 U.S. Wireless Customer Care Non-Contract Performance Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Feb. 6, 2013
This article addresses overall satisfaction with cell phones and cell phone service as reported by PCMag.com readers in 2013. Straight Talk is awarded the Reader's Choice award for prepaid carriers, followed by MetroPCS; both receive an above-average overall score. A useful chart shows how each service stacks up in a dozen categories, including coverage, price, network speed and reliability and handset choices.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013: Smartphones and Mobile Carriers, Ben Gottesman, March 13, 2013
5. My Rate Plan
Straight Talk Unlimited is at the top of MyRatePlan.com's list of best no-contract cell phone plans for 2013, according to this news release posted at PRWeb.com. Price, data speed and limits, and coverage, as well as consumer reviews and expert opinions, are considered in compiling the list.
Review: The Best No Contract Cell Phone Plans of 2013, According to MyRatePlan.com, Editors of MyRatePlan.com, July 18, 2013
This website rates 28 prepaid wireless providers. The highly detailed write-ups are based on an evaluation of features and prices and not on testing, but the information appears to be accurate. Straight Talk is one of four carriers to earn 4.5 stars out of 5. Write-ups include extensive detail about features such as roaming charges and data plans.
Review: Best Rated Providers, Editors of and Contributors to PrepaidReviews.com, Not Dated
Saabedra recounts his two years of experience using Straight Talk. He concludes that, despite problems with customer service, arbitrary data limits that weren't explicitly explained (the company now posts those on its website) and "very little in the way of transparency when taking terms and conditions into account," he's glad that he went with the carrier.
Review: Review/Editorial: Two Years with Straight Talk Unlimited Prepaid -- Life Without a Contract, Humberto Saabedra, May 28, 2013
Straight Talk is a highly rated prepaid phone plan at Viewpoints.com, where users praise its strong signal and good value. But about a third of the over 270 reviewers complain about poor customer service and limited handset choices.
Review: Straight Talk Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of December 2013