In lieu of one post with a full article, here is a rollup with several recent, relevant pieces of news from the prepaid phone world, in easy to digest bite-sized chunks.
Quote:Lycamobile Rolls Back Data Increases After 5 Days
On Feb. 11, T-Mobile MVNO Lycamobile updated their website to indicate that they had increased the amount of high speed data included with their $35 plan from 1 GB to 4 GB. The $45 and $55 plans also got high speed data increases, from 3 GB to 6 GB on the $45 and from 5 GB to 8 GB on the $55. The site even included a banner indicating the new larger data amounts.
The plans also included unlimited talk and text and unlimited throttled data after the high speed allotment would used up. An unlimited plan with 4 GB of high speed data for $35/month would be a pretty good deal. However the deal apparently never happened.....
Quote:Verizon Launching Underwhelming $60 Unlimited T&T, 2.5 GB Prepaid Plan Mar. 1
Over the last six months Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T and their prepaid brands and MVNOs have been busy cutting prices and adding data to plans in a frantic competition for new customers. Verizon has been mostly content to sit on the sidelines. Big Red did double the data included with its AllSet smartphone plan from 500 MB to 1 GB last month. But that's still less data for more money than everyone else.
It looks like Verizon is about to make a move, although it's one that's hard to get excited about. Phandroid.com is reporting, based on what look like leaked employee training slides, that on March 1, 2015, Verizon will launch a new $60 per month smartphone plan with 2.5 GB of data. Everything else about the $60 plan is the same as the current $45 1 GB plan (which is being kept); unlimited voice minutes, unlimited SMS including to Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico, unlimited picture and video messaging and mobile hotspot.
So what's wrong with getting an extra 1.5 GB for $15/month more? Nothing really, except that Verizon lets you purchase 3 GB of add-on data for the $45 plan for $20. Not only is that less per GB ($6.67 vs $10) but the add on data is good for 90 days instead of 30. So the add on is not only cheaper per GB but you get more time to use it up. Plus, you only need to buy the add-on when you need it instead of paying extra every month.....
Quote:GoPhone Plan Changes Include Some Previously Unannounced Ones
The previously announced GoPhone plan changes are now live on the AT&T site. They include a number of things that weren't mentioned AT&T's blog post announcing the changes.
The high speed data allowance included with the $60/month plan was increased from 2.5 GB to 4 GB and unlimited calling to Mexico, including to mobile phones was added.
The high speed data allowance included with the $45 plan was increased from 1 GB to 1.5 GB.
There are a number of other changes that weren't officially announced although some had been rumored:
The $55 US, Mexico & Canada plan adds unlimited calling to Mexico, including to mobile phones as well as unlimited texting while roaming in Mexico and Canada. There's also a new $25/month roaming data add-on that's only available with this plan and adds 1 GB of data roaming in Mexico and Canada
There's a new $30/month plan with unlimited talk and text. Feature phones on this plan can use data at the absurdly expense rate of 1¢ per 5KB ($2/MB). A $5/month 100 MB data add-on that's available to both smartphone and non-smartphone users is a better deal.
A new $1/day 100 MB Data Day Pass is now available to users on the $2 Day Plan
The $25 250 minute, unlimited texts plan and the $40 500 minute, unlimited texts, 500 MB plan have been discontinued, current users on these plans are grandfathered.
The $45 plan no longer includes unlimited 3G data for non-smartphone users. All users on that plan now get 1.5 GB/month of high speed data plus unlimited data throttled to 128 Kbps after the high speed allowance is used up.
The changes are generally positive. The data increase and the addition of unlimited Mexico calling certainly make the $60 plan more attractive.....
Sprint's Blacklist is Gone, But BYOSP is Still a Bumpy Road
Last week's rumors are true, Sprint's Blacklist is dead. You can now Bring Your Own Sprint Phone (BYOSP) to a Sprint MVNO, even if it's a recent flagship like the iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung Note 4.
Sprint MVNO Ting confirmed in a blog post that Sprint is now allowing its MVNOs to activate any fully paid for Sprint network phone as long as it hasn't been reported lost or stolen. Up to now Sprint had been blocking the activation of newly released phone models on its MVNOs until 12 months after that model's launch on Sprint. In addition, Boost and Virgin Mobile phones are also now officially allowed on Sprint MVNOs for the first time.
Although this generally good news, there seem to be as many gotchas with Sprint MVNO activation as ever. Ting says that many phones that were eligible under the old rules are now failing Sprint's validation. That's because Sprint seems to have tightened up their definition of what constitutes the customer owing them money. It used to be that phones weren't blacklisted until a previous owner's unpaid bill went to collections. Now it looks like Sprint will not clear a phone for MVNO use until its owner has paid their final bill. As a result, phones are failing activation when the final bill hasn't been paid because the customer hasn't received it yet! That makes porting a Sprint number and phone simultaneously impossible.
Their also seem to be bugs in either Sprint's or Ting's new processes for validating that phones are eligible for activation. Many devices that should meet the requirements for activation, including iPhones from the Apple Store and Nexus phones from the Google Play Store, are failing as financially ineligible.
Ting also revealed that Sprint is requiring Boost and Virgin Mobile phones to be used on Boost or Virgin for 12 months before they can move to an MVNO, making that option a lot less attractive than it could be.
At this point there's a lot of uncertainty as to which phones can and can't work on Sprint MVNOs. Hopefully, in a few weeks, the bugs will be fixed and everyone will have a clearer understanding of the new rules. In the meantime, Ting recommends that prospective BYOP customers only use the Ting ESN checker as other checkers may not have been updated to be aware of Sprint's new financial eligibility requirements.
Lycamobile Quadruples Hi-Speed Data to 4 GB on $35 Unlimited Plan, TracFone Backtracks On Phone Unlocking
Quote:Lycamobile Quadruples Hi-Speed Data to 4 GB on $35 Unlimited Plan
T-Mobile MVNO Lycamobile US has added considerably more high speed data to three of its plans. The biggest improvement is with the $35 plan which had its data quadruple to 4 GB. The $45 and $55 plans are also getting more data:
The $35 plan goes from 1 GB to 4 GB of high speed data
The $45 plan goes from 3 GB to 6 GB of high speed data
The $55 plan goes from 5 GB to 8 GB of high speed data
Lycamobile's high speed data includes LTE, where available. After the 4, 6 or 8 GB per month of high speed data is used all three plans include unlimited data throttled to approximately 128 Kbps for the rest of the plan month. The plans also come with unlimited calls, unlimited domestic MMS and SMS, unlimited international SMS and an international call credit of $2.50 on the $35 plan, $5 on the $45 plan and $7.50 on the $55 plan.
Lycamobile runs on the T-Mobile native network and works with unlocked GSM phones and locked or unlocked T-Mobile phones. Domestic roaming is not available but extra cost international roaming is.
Quote:TracFone Backtracks On Phone Unlocking
Unlike the major US network operators, TracFone, which includes the Straight Talk, NET10 and Telcel America, never signed the CTIA's voluntary unlocking policy which says that carriers needed to have a working unlocking policy in place by Feb 11, 2015.
Nonetheless, last July TracFone published an unlocking policy that was consistent with the CTIA agreement. TracFone said would unlock its phones provided:
The TracFone device was first introduced for sale on or after January 1, 2014.
The TracFone device has been in service for at least 12 months with paid, verifiable airtime.
The TracFone device has not been reported lost or stolen.
The TracFone device is deemed by TracFone to be capable of being unlocked.
Based on that policy some TracFones launched since 1/1/14 should have now reached their 12 month anniversary and be unlockable. Unfortunately, TracFone has changed their unlocking policy again. It now reads:
Quote:"TracFone is working with manufacturers of mobile wireless devices to pursue secure solutions which would allow for unlocking of devices without jeopardizing the security of those devices. TracFone will use commercially reasonable efforts to ensure that mobile wireless devices are capable of being unlocked domestically without compromising TracFone's ability to protect against unlawful distribution and use of such devices and without impeding TracFone's ability to protect its intellectual property. It will continue to keep the FCC apprised of these efforts on a quarterly basis. Once it achieves this capability with any given device, TracFone will permit its prepaid customers, upon request, to unlock such devices one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment, or usage requirements. Currently, TracFone offers a Bring Your Own Phone program which enables consumers to utilize their own wireless devices, including unlocked devices, with TracFone's prepaid service. In other words, no unlocks for now, but at some unspecified time in the future, TracFone will unlock phones for customers after one year of service."
In other words, "someday you might be able unlock your TracFone, but right now you can't. You can see TracFone's new unlocking policy here. The old policy can be viewed on the Internet Archive here.
TracFone's reasons for delaying unlocking seem bogus. I believe that by "unlawful distribution" TracFone means buying a phone at a subsidized price, unlocking it and then reselling it at a profit. Except that it's not illegal to buy, sell or unlock phones. I can understand that TracFone wants to recover their phone subsidy and make a profit on their phone and service sales. However the 12 months active service requirement should take care of that.
If you are wondering if what TracFone is doing is legal, it is. There's no law or FCC rule that requires carriers to unlock their phones. The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which went into effect 8/1/14 makes it legal for users and 3rd party services to unlock phones but it doesn't require operators to do so.
However, the voluntary unlocking agreement that the other carriers signed was created by the carriers and the CTIA only after the FCC threatened to require mobile operators to unlock phones. Hopefully the FCC will put some pressure on TracFone to come up with an unlocking policy and do it soon. I also wonder if TracFone breaking its promise to unlock phones beginning Jan 1, 2015 constitutes false advertising?