I have thought about this for a while, especially after hearing about republic wireless $25 month plan from my friend Luke and H2O wireless (thanks to mitbbs penny savers forum). Previously I only heard about the StraightTalk $50 plan ($45 now, it appears T-mobile also dropped its $50 plan to $40). A little background, I had an iPhone 5s for t-mobile, full price bought from Apple store in Oct/Nov 2013. I only used it for T-mobile prepaid legacy plan, which means “pay as you go”, 10 cents a min for phone call, and 10 cents per text message. I like to have the 3G data, like I had before from AT&T. Here are the steps I followed:
1) Unlock the iPhone 5s. Although I paid the full price, by default the phone is still locked to t-mobile network. The quickest way is to chat with t-mobile, which I did. Actually I did twice, because the first time they did not do the job. The second time they sent me notification saying my phone is unlocked.
2) Get a sim card for H2O wireless from Amazon. I made a mistake again. Without much thought I got this micro sim card first, and I quickly realized iPhone 5s needs nano sim.
3) Last but not least, when my t-mobile prepaid balance came very low, and when it’s weekend (not critical time), I started transfer. I did online on h2o wireless website first. Haven’t seen the number transferred after a bit over a day. So I called. One problem is since my t-mobile is prepaid legacy plan, there is no account number. And I did not give correct pin per H2O rep. Got it solved. The next thing they asked me to install couple profiles for internet (because I want data plan). Then talk to the billing department setting up monthly pay, they gave me 10% off for setting up month bill auto pay via credit card, make the final bill $27. Note H2O actually uses AT&T network, and the data usage is available in real time from “Cellular” setting of the phone.
(update) The main reason I ditched T-mobile is its poor coverage. Sometimes I don’t get signal in the condo neighborhood. The wifi-call feature helped out a bit by tapping into the Wifi network, but it has two drawbacks: 1) It still uses the regular minutes; 2) When at work and I walk around, as the Wifi hot spots changes, the phone will disconnect or lose signal.
Also, how to setup Internet and LTE for H2O. The operator texted me two links. Install the first profile for initial Internet setup. The second one was sent via Dropbox link. No need to install Dropbox app, just tap top right, “direct save”, and install. It will complain about the first profile just installed. Go ahead and remove that one, the second one should install. This is not very intuitive as I did not hear instructions clearly from the operator, nor did I bother to look up their website for FAQ. From my own experience, the first one is probably just for verification or something. Also the operator asked if I want multimedia message, I said no because she mentioned I need to install some “jailbreak” app or something.
Also, I heard from my other friend, if one is really budget conscious, Ting is also a good choice, they use both Sprint and T-mobile network.