TracFone - Prepaid Cellphone

Who is TracFone?

TracFone
TracFone is a prepaid cellular provider in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of América Móvil a company based in Mexico City, Mexico. As such it is the fourth largest service provider in the world, providing service to over two hundred fifteen million (215) cellular customers. Most of these customers reside in Latin America and the Caribbean.

TracFone Limitations
TracFone service can only be had on TracFone-branded handsets. This means you cannot buy a cellphone and switch to their service as all handsets provided are locked to TracFone. Even an unlocked handset will not accept a TracFone SIM.

TracFone US Service Providers
TracFone does not provide it's own service. It buys airtime from various companies depending on the model of phone and transmission type. These are listed by network type below:

GSM

  • AT& T Wireless
  • T-Mobile
  • Claro (Puerto Rico)

CDMA

  • Verizon Wireless
  • U.S. Cellular


Company Logo
Company Logo | Source

Services Offered

TracFone Services
TracFone offers five different service plans. These plans work with specific networks only. The list includes:

  1. Net10: Only works with GSM & CMDA phones. These phones support voicemail and text messaging at a minimum. Some models also offer Bluetooth, camera, handsfree speaker, qwerty keyboard, and wireless web. The ten in Net10 means each call it ten cents per minute.
  2. Net10 Unlimited: Works only on GSM phones. Net10 Unlimited only operates on the T-Mobile network and were only offered at Target physical stores. This has lately changed to include more retailers and web-sites. Net10 Unlimited has a monthly fee rather than a charge per minute.
  3. SafeLink: Is an offering only to low-income families. The phone provided is free and the purchaser is limited to a certain number of minutes per month. This plan is subsidized through the Universal Service Fund. Under this plan there is no choice of handset; you use what ever TracFone sends you.
  4. StraightTalk: Offers five different thirty (30) day rate plans including a $30 limited plan, and a $45 unlimited text, web and minutes plan, a $135 three-month unlimited plan, a $270 six-month unlimited plan, and a $540 one year unlimited plan.
  5. Senior Value Cellphone: This is a recent addition with a new cell phone brand-name aimed towards senior citizens. The two options for adding airtime include buying the $7 per month plan, or adding Tracfone airtime cards. There are two phone options, which include the LG 220C and the Samsung T-155C.

LG 420G
LG 420G | Source

LG 420G

The LG 420G (see picture at right) is a flip phone or clamshell. It supports Bluetooth, SMS messaging, TTY (for the hearing impaired). It has two displays, one on the outside to show the date and time as well as any received messages or an incoming call. The display on the inside is higher resolution and displays the proprietary menu, caller ID (when receiving calls), and text messages. It also has a low resolution camera which will record still photo, but no video.

The phone has an internet connection (which is not cost effective when paying by the minute), but you can get there just the same. Because of the screen size the built in browser is limited and tiny.

Call quality is good as is the handsfree speaker/microphone.

One of the great things about the outer display is that you can read incoming messages, once only, without paying to open them.

Talk time runs about seven (7) hours and standby time about eighteen (18) days.

This is not the best phone ever made, but for $19.95 it is head and shoulders above anything available even five years ago.

In short it's a good solid performer that will work well as a back-up or emergency phone. It will also serve well as a day-to-day phone for those who are only interested in making phone calls with limited texting and photographs.

LG 420G
 
Manufacturer
LG
Operating System
Proprietary
Carrier
TracFone
Screen
2.75" TFT/LED
 
1" TFT
Camera (rear facing)
0.3 Megapixel autofocus NO LED flash
Input
Numeric Keypad
 
single microphone
Central Processing Unit
Unknown
Connectivity
GSM 850/ 1900
 
No WiFi
 
BlueTooth
GPS
No GPS
FormFactor
Flip-Phone (3.75" x 1.9" x 0.75")
Weight
2.87 oz (81 g)
Battery
900 milli-amp hour Li-Ion
Samsung T301G
Samsung T301G | Source

Samsung T301G

The Samsung is somewhat higher priced than the LG above at $39.95. The phone is a slider design, meaning the screen slides up to reveal the number pad. It features a 0.3 Megapixel VGA Camera, color display, and SMS & MMS messaging.

The built in memory can store one-hundred (100) entries, twenty (20) polyphonic ringtones, includes a clock with alarm, calculator and stopwatch. It also has hands free speaker-phone and is hearing aid compatible.

The phone supports up to five (5) hours of talk time and fourteen (14) days of standby time.

Like the LG above this is a budget phone.

Samsung T301G
 
Manufacturer
Samsung
Operating System
Proprietary
Carrier
TracFone
Screen
2.75" TFT/LED
 
1" TFT
Camera (rear facing)
0.3 Megapixel autofocus NO LED flash
Input
Numeric keypad
 
single microphone
Central Processing Unit
Unknown
Connectivity
GSM 850/ 1900
 
No WiFi
 
BlueTooth
GPS
No GPS
FormFactor
Slider (3.91 x 1.94 x .56")
Weight
2.92 oz (83 g)
Battery
800 milli-amp hour Li-Ion
Samsung T105G
Samsung T105G | Source

Samsung T105G

This is another budget phone priced at $9.95. The keyboard and display share the same front panel making this the "candybar" form factor. The screen is 1.5" diagonal and displays up to 64 thousand colors.

It allows up to seven (7) hours of talk time and eighteen (18) days of standby time. It includes a 0.3 Megapixel still camera no flash. It supports SMS and MMS text messaging. It has a built-in proprietary operating system that supports calculator, world clock, stopwatch,memo, and monetary converter.

It has enough memory to allow up to two hundred (200) address entries.

Samsung T301G
 
Manufacturer
Samsung
Operating System
Proprietary
Carrier
TracFone
Screen
1.5" TFT/LED
Camera (rear facing)
0.3 Megapixel autofocus NO LED flash
Input
Numeric keypad
 
single microphone
Central Processing Unit
Unknown
Connectivity
GSM 850/ 1900
 
No WiFi
 
BlueTooth
GPS
No GPS
FormFactor
Candybar (4.23 x 1.80 x 0.58") [107 x 46 x 15 mm]
Weight
2.29 oz (65 g)
Battery
800 milli-amp hour Li-Ion

Coda

Although every one of these phones qualify as smartphones they are the bargain basement variety. That is not to say they aren't good phone; in fact they are quite good for the price with good call quality and texting capabilities.

They are not; however, the top of the line powerhouses offered by the major carriers.

Web Access
The TracFone web-site asks for the zip code first, but any zip code seems to work. Once the zip is entered there is no pressure to start a plan or select a phone. The consumer is presented with a visual list of available models and bundles. It is quite easy to get details on each phone and it's accessories. Airtime is added by selecting "Service and Support" which will activate the "Add Airtime" to the menu. This seems a bit awkward, but is about the only problem the author found navigating.

Accessories
TracFone offers the usual assortment of accessories, but unlike other providers, continues to offer accessories for phones no longer in stock. As with all other prepaid and contract providers the accessories are offered at a mark-up.

Complaints
TracFone, as with every other cellular provider, has it's share of complaints. The top complaint; bad customer service. This, far and away, was the top complaint. The author sees this with every cellular company no matter what, so is not that influenced by it. The second next most frequent complaint was that minutes bought and paid for did not appear on the phone. Interestingly enough, almost no one complained about bad call quality.

Occasionally there are complaints about poor quality phones, but all of the phones offered (see above) are bargain-basement phones. The author finds it a bit odd that consumers complain about cheap phones when the most expensive offered is $30.00. They are cheap phones.

Verdict
TracFone appears to offer good value at reasonable prices. The author would consider this prepaid service from among the plethora of mediocre and down right rotten providers.

Disclaimer

The author was not compensated in any way, either monetarily, with discounts, or freebies by any of the companies mentioned.

Though the author does make a small profit for the word count of this article none of that comes directly from the manufacturers mentioned. The author also stands to make a small profit from advertising attached to this article.

The author has no control over either the advertising or the contents of those ads.

More by this Author


Comments 13 comments

LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

janet2: About a year and a half ago you got charged partial minutes; now you are "charged" for a full minute even if you are one second past the initial minute. I don't like this much, but at least text and messaging are 1/3 of a minute. SMS is 2/3 of a minute.

They don't really offer anything like an iPhone with the closest being the Motorola EX124G. This is an android phone, but it costs $80.00.

Because TracFone uses GSM you could possibly buy a used iPhone3 and transfer personality cards between a TracFone and the iPhone3. Just a thought.


janet2 5 years ago

I think its great that people are trying prepaid phones. With today's economy being how it is I have been trying to find ways to cut back. I have three kids ages 14, 16, and 17 and I want to switch to tracfone but I'm wondering how good the phones are for kids. Like they all want an iphone but there is noooo way I could afford it. Anything good you can tell me?


LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

Thanks TamCor! It's always great to have first hand accounts of products or services I cover.


TamCor profile image

TamCor 5 years ago from Ohio

I've been using TracFones for about 5 or 6 years--I think I'm on my fourth one now. Not because anything went wrong, though--they've all been very reliable--I just like to get a newer model once in a while!

I don't use a cellphone a lot, so this option is perfect for me. I have never had a problem with reception, either--I get better reception than my kids do on their expensive phones, lol.

I've only had to deal with customer service once, and my problem was resolved quickly. That was several years ago.

I have the T301G now, and love it. :)

Thanks for a very informative hub--I just wanted to let you know that I am a longtime customer of TracFone...a testimonial of sorts, I guess! :D


LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

TLMinut: Now that the economy is in tatters I guess its finally cheaper to hire in the states. Well see how long that lasts.


TLMinut profile image

TLMinut 5 years ago

I talked to the customer service at AT&T about their Go phone and they were all native English speakers (sounded American).


LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

TLMinut: I hear you on customer service, but honestly, does anyone have a help-line based in the states anymore?


TLMinut profile image

TLMinut 5 years ago

I've got a TracFone because I don't like to talk on the phone but needed one while traveling in case of emergencies. When the phone finally died after two (three?) years, I got another so I could keep all the minutes I had just bought. They said they could only verify about 2/3 of the minutes! Still, it works for me and now I've even started texting on this new phone. Great reception all the time, everywhere I've used it. The only reason I'd consider something else is to get American customer service - I just don't like having to work so hard to understand what's being said when I'm trying to do business!


yangty 5 years ago

SVC with or without all the comments is a great cellphone for everyone, not just for seniors. Those who can't afford a bill each month or a contract I say SVC is great and economical. It does not matter if they divide the $20 per 3 month, is still cheaper than Att, and all of the other cellphone companies with a 2 yr. contract that my family still has them. Switch, I did and am saving.


LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

Marge: Thanks for bringing T-Mobile to my attention and the other information. This article was written some months ago and as with everything else there are changes.

Ray: The definition of "smartphone" changes over time. By the original standards that defined "smartphone" every phone listed is one.

Benton: The seven dollar figure came directly from their web-site. If it's no longer valid, its because there has been a change since I wrote the article.

Thank you all for reading.


Benton Wilkes 5 years ago

Sorry mate, just another correction: Regarding the SVC phone plans - there is no $7 plan. I suspect they just say $7 a month cause it sounds better. But the only veritable source for this $7 business, is the $20 plan that they devide by the amount of service months you get for it - 3 months. Which is slightly less than $7, but close enough.


Ray Burley 5 years ago

Not to be funny here, but none of the 3 phones you listed are smartphones. Straight Talk is the only one of the companies listed that offer smartphones and they are the Nokia E71 and the Nokia 6790. There's also the LG900, which tends to be a bit of a gray area with regards to whether it is a smartphone or not. Either way, these are really the nice options for using Straight Talk's unlimited everything plan.

Which company are the one's you have listed for? Tracfone, Net10? Cause they actually look ideal for my son who is about to embark on his first cellular experience! Thanks for the info.


Marge M 5 years ago

You've brought forward a very informative and easily navigated hub, but there are a couple of incorrect facts here. While Net10, Straight Talk, Safelink and SVC all fall under the Tracfone umbrella, Tracfone actually also has a service of their own too.

To focus on Net10 though, as it's the one I know and use, they use both the gsm and cdma networks, and have only run off AT&T and Verizon in the past, but have more recently added T-Mobile too. The options for minutes are purchased either as airtime cards, or online on the Net10 website or from your phone. There is a variety of denominations to choose from- most equate to 10c/minute, though some monthly plans, like the $25 and $50 offer far cheaper rates (750 minutes and unlimited respectively). There are also easy minutes -automatic monthly wireless service that offer lower/minute rates. One of the biggest benefits for me is the ability to switch between plans on a monthly basis, depending on your needs or budget. Hope this clears things up a bit.

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