Straight Talk Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile: is ditching contracts worth it?

Worse, Straight Talk's support staff, despite their earnest attempts to be helpful, could not inform us what phones actually are compatible with the service. They asked us to read the phones' numbers to them so they could test them individually, but they always got the same results that we got through the website. After several lengthy phone calls we were no closer to finding a Straight Talk-compatible Verizon phone than when we started.

We eventually found a Samsung Brightside feature phone at the bottom of a drawer, and it proved compatible with Straight Talk. This was the furthest we had gotten in this arduous and puzzling process, but we weren't out of the woods yet - the website broke twice before we could finish the transaction, both times after we entered our credit card info.

Straight Talk

'Finalization' is not the whole truth

It took another lengthy call to support before our Verizon Straight Talk phone was working, and after all that they were unable to send us a receipt for our over-the-phone transaction because "the email's not working." We've been checking ever since to make sure we weren't triple-charged.

The one positive aspect of signing up a CDMA Verizon phone for Straight Talk service was that it required no APN fiddling - the data connection was set up immediately when the phone and text service came on.

But does it work?

All told we tested out three phones from three different carriers using Straight Talk: a T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note 2 running Android 4.1.1, an AT&T Samsung Focus 2 on Windows Phone 7.5, and a Verizon Samsung Brightside feature phone.

We attempted, both online and with help from Straight Talk's phone support, to sign up several other Verizon phones, including an HTC One, a Samsung Galaxy S4, a BlackBerry Z10, a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, and still others. None proved compatible.

Of the phones that did work, we tried all three out for several days, making calls, sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages and emails, browsing the internet, downloading apps, and listening to Spotify. All three performed well and consistently, and we have no complaints in that area.

Straight Talk Speed Tests

Once you get it up and running, it's not a bad service

However, actually signing up for Straight Talk's service is a difficult trial, made worse by a website riddled with errors, dead ends, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and confusion.

Things get even worse if you're attempting to migrate from Verizon, and we have to assume Sprint users will face the same problems, since only CDMA phones are accepted from either carrier and there simply is no list anywhere of what phones are and aren't supported.

There was one other moment of weirdness, when the Note 2 alerted us that an "invalid SIM card" had created an error with Wi-Fi calling. This happened multiple times, though we could still make calls just fine, so it's unclear what effect it had.

And we only tested Straight Talk's "Bring Your Own Phone" options; there are tons of other choices for prospective Straight Talk customers, even for those who don't already own a phone or want to upgrade, as the site sells phones as well.

Once the service is set up it appears to work as advertised: you get unlimited talk, text and data at an affordable rate. We weren't able to test whether or when any data throttling begins, but our speed tests on the Galaxy Note 2 revealed fairly consistent download speeds of around 13MB to 15MB, which is roughly equivalent to what our Galaxy S4 gets on a normal Verizon plan (there's a lot of fluctuation and multiple factors there obviously).

Straight Talk might provide a cheaper alternative to the big carriers' contract plans, but only for at least moderately tech-savvy users who are willing to roll up their sleeves and put some elbow grease into getting it working - especially those with older or uncommon devices.

Whether that's worth it is ultimately based on how much you hate being tied to a carrier, and how much weirdness you're willing to put up with.

Michael Rougeau

Michael Rougeau is a former freelance news writer for TechRadar. Studying at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Northeastern University, Michael has bylines at Kotaku, 1UP, G4, Complex Magazine, Digital Trends, GamesRadar, GameSpot, IFC, Animal New York, @Gamer, Inside the Magic, Comic Book Resources, Zap2It, TabTimes, GameZone, Cheat Code Central, Gameshark, Gameranx, The Industry, Debonair Mag, Kombo, and others.

Micheal also spent time as the Games Editor for, and was the managing editor at GameSpot before becoming an Animal Care Manager for Wags and Walks.