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How to Get a Prepaid iPhone + Data Plan for $30 per Month

Updated on December 28, 2012
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It's official. More Americans now own smartphones than "dumbphones". In 2015, over 80% of us will have them. And by 2020, we'll all be launching NASA spacecraft with our iPhone 12s.

If you're tired of sustaining judgemental glances from your iPhone-wielding peers, here's a guide to helping you becoming just another statistic for less money than everyone else.


How to Set Up Your iPhone

  1. Go to Amazon or eBay and snag a "factory unlocked" iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4. Now that the iPhone 5 is out, you can easily get an iPhone 4 for $250-275 on eBay.

    IMPORTANT: Unless you're a tech-geek, make sure the phone you get is factory unlocked. It'll cost a bit more, but it's better than bricking your phone fooling around with unlocking it yourself.
  2. Go to AT&T and tell them that you want a GoPhone SIM card. They will give it to you for free if you activate it there in the store with what plan you want (read on to find out more about the plans). If they ask questions, just be honest and tell them that you already have a phone.
  3. Insert your SIM card into the iPhone, then try to call a friend. If you don't have any friends, dial the number 611. If you get an automated voice saying, "Welcome to GoPhone from AT&T!," your SIM card is successfully activated and working in the iPhone.
  4. (If you want data on your iPhone, skip to step #7.) Now you are ready to pick your prepaid plan, add money, and buy texting packages if you want them. Log into your GoPhone account online or you can also add money/features right from your GoPhone (by dialing 611). Once you get them added, make a test phone call/text message to make sure everything went according to plan. And you're all set!
  5. If you want to use data on your phone, you'll have to do one additional step: create a new APN profile to accept the GoPhone data. It sounds complicated, but it's really easy. Get on a wi-fi connection and open Safari on your iPhone. Type in "unlockit.co.nz" in the URL bar. It should say "APN Changer". Hit "Continue" > "Custom APN" > "United States" > "AT&T (wap.cingular)" then "Create Profile". It will open a new window, then hit "Install".

Choosing Your Data Plan

Now that your iPhone is ready to go, it's time to set up the plan. There's lots of different ways to do it, but I'll give you mine. Using the method below,you can save $580/year compared to a regular iPhone package.

AT&T recently changed their policy and now require data users to have a monthly rate plan (either $25 or $50 per month). The $50/month plan is unlimited talk, text, and data. I don't use mine that much, so I have the $25/month plan (250 minutes, unlimited texting, & add your own data package).

The cheapest data package starts at $5 for 50 MB. Unfortunately for me (and some of you), I use a bit more data than that.

Fortunately, AT&T allows you to keep any unused data from one month to the next. As long as your monthly package doesn't lapse, you will be able to keep your unused data from month to month. This offers us cheapskates a way to get all the data we need for the least amount of money. Here's how:

For the 1st month of pre-paid iPhone ownership, buy the 1GB data package for $25. Set your calendar to remind you the day before your 1st month expires. On that day, log back into your GoPhone account and buy the cheapest data package possible ($5 for 50 MB) and set up automatic package renewal. As long as you have at least $5 in your account at the end of each month, your plan will automatically subscribe to the $5/month data package. This keeps your data balance intact.

With the 1st month's $25 charge + 11 months of $5 charges, you will get 1.55 GB of data for $80/year. That's 129 MB of monthly data for $6.67.

Add on the $25/month package and your prepaid iPhone will cost $380 for 250 monthly minutes, unlimited texts, and a year's worth of data. That's $380/12 = $31.67 per month for a data-enabled iPhone. Compare that to the cheapest AT&T iPhone plan with unlimited texting at $80/month. Total savings: 60% or $580/year.

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    • profile image

      Tommy 3 years ago

      Can I get a iPhone 4s for $30 per month

    • profile image

      inshuz 4 years ago

      I have been using the APN changer http://www.unlockit.co.nz/ for the last 6 months with AT&T gophone basic plan on my iPhone 4 (25$/month + plus a data package). However, recently AT&T gophone changed their prepaid plans. I changed my plan to 35$/month plan which has unlimited data. However, I am unable to use the data on the iPhone. Do you know what is the problem? Does this APN changer not work with the iPhones now?

    • profile image

      skyesm 4 years ago

      Does this still work? I'm a minor, but I have a debit card and a job (not sure if that makes any difference) but I wanted the $50 a Month (Unlimited Text, Talk, and Data). So after buying the iPhone, I just tell AT&T that I've already got a phone and activate it (GoPhone card) there? Or can I buy one from Wal-Mart and activate it at home on my computer? Sorry! I'm just confused, and I don't want to buy something that would waste my money or that I can't return.

    • profile image

      noyb 4 years ago

      Does the plan include 3g wi-fi

    • profile image

      nbm0511ar 4 years ago

      Ad Your Comment...

      I have a 4s unlocked GSM Iphone that I recently purchased but have not activated as yet. What size SIM card does AT&T furnish for the Go Phone plan and will it fit in my phone? Will I have to tell AT&T I am planning to use an Iphone; does it matter, on these types of plans? I know it does with Verizon. I have never had AT&T service, but am anxious to try this type of service at a better price. Please advise ASAP.

    • reThinkRiches profile image
      Author

      Nathan 4 years ago from Midwest

      @aykianink - You can actually go in and block people from sending you messages. That would save you significantly on your bills (pre-paid or not)! ;)

    • aykianink profile image

      aykianink 4 years ago

      So you bleed out mainly on the data, eh? Very interesting. I wonder how much data I would use if I were to go that route... (I tried the system of 'get any plan and pay the 'overages' later with my texting. You see, I don't care for texting. However, coworkers and bosses ensured I was WAY over my limit on texts and made a very large bill appear in the mail.)

    • profile image

      naya89 4 years ago

      Yes I tried that and it still doesn't work.

    • reThinkRiches profile image
      Author

      Nathan 4 years ago from Midwest

      I have had that issue as well, but not recently. Have you tried upgrading to the latest software?

    • profile image

      naya89 4 years ago

      i currently have the $50 a month and the $5 MB data plan however i can not send or receive picture messages. do you have this same issue?

    • reThinkRiches profile image
      Author

      Nathan 4 years ago from Midwest

      Make sure that it's unlocked.

    • profile image

      mishyboo 4 years ago

      i put my sim in my iphone 4s and i have the data package but it keeps telling me i do not have data. how do i fix it?

    • reThinkRiches profile image
      Author

      Nathan 4 years ago from Midwest

      It will work with any unlocked phone with a SIM card tray. If you don't want the data, simply do not pay for it once you get your phone activated. The phone will work without it no problem.

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      RM 4 years ago

      Will this work with a att samsung galaxy s2 skyrocket?

    • profile image

      Tim 4 years ago

      How about the iPHone 4S ?

      How do I bypass the data plan requirement? I'm happy with wifi...

    • reThinkRiches profile image
      Author

      Nathan 4 years ago from Midwest

      Yes it will.

    • profile image

      Nestor 4 years ago

      will this work on an unlocked iphone 5?

    • reThinkRiches profile image
      Author

      Nathan 4 years ago from Midwest

      The data rolls over as long as you keep purchasing a new data package each month. I've been doing it for over a year with no interruption.

    • profile image

      Chinarut 4 years ago

      I spoke to a rep at our AT&T store and separately to one on the phone at their call center. they both say they know of any plans where data rolls over. are they mistaken? is this an unadvertised (or legacy) feature they really don't want people to know about?

    • reThinkRiches profile image
      Author

      Nathan 5 years ago from Midwest

      @Jill - Are you sure that you have a factory unlocked phone? Have you tried calling a friend? Also - your GoPhone SIM card will have to be activated in order for this to work. If you're not sure, go into an AT&T store and ask them to activate it for you.

    • profile image

      Mae 5 years ago

      I am using an Iphone 4 and bought my micro sim card at Amazon.com for 4.59 I am sure you can get it from ebay too. Just type ATT prepaid micro simcard for iphone.

    • profile image

      Dawn 5 years ago

      While searching, I found that you can buy the sim card from Wal-mart for 5 bucks. No need to buy a cheap pre-paid phone!