AT&T Prepaid (formerly known as AT&T GoPhone and also the service that was once known as Cingular) still offers good coverage and a good selection of smartphones to go with its unlimited plans.
1 - How it Works
Plans are available for both traditional feature phones as well as the now prevalent smartphones. In general, AT&T plans cost slightly more when compared to dedicated prepaid providers such as Straight Talk or Virgin Mobile.
However, customer support is a little better when going direct with a major carrier rather than through an intermediary as they have direct access to the network.
So let's check the coverage.
You can check your coverage at their site. Just put in your zip code in the coverage viewer yourself to see how you'll fare. There are options on the left so that you can see the voice coverage for both the regular AT&T and the GoPhone plans.
The difference is that in areas where AT&T's digital network is not present, regular AT&T subscribers can roam onto another network. However, GoPhone users are out of luck in those situations. From looking at the overall map, this mainly affects some areas of the Western United States.
Now that you've checked your coverage you can take a look at their plans.
The $60 Plan is their most abundant plan with unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data. This plan also includes unlimited messaging to over 160 countries, unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada. In fact you can even use your phone in Mexico and Canada with unlimited calls, texts and your data allowance.
The $40 plan has unlimited calls and texts and 6GB data. While it also includes unlimited international messaging to over 160 countries, it does NOT include unlimited talk to Mexico and Canada, and usage in those countries is also not included. Still it's a pretty good deal, especially with the auto-refill, especially if you like to text abroad.
Yes this is a smartphone plan, but no data is included. This means you have to surf the web and download and run apps over a WiFi network. You can add data packs at $5 for 100 MB which can get expensive if you use a lot of cellular data.
However, you do still get unlimited calls and texts in the United States, and you do still get unlimited international texts to over 160 countries.
On the $60 and $45 plans, any unused data gets rolled over into the next month as long as you renew on time. You can only rollover one month's data, so you should generally use the amount of data in your plan.
AT&T still offers separate Pay as You Go plans for Basic and Messaging phones. However, you can still choose one of the plans described above with one of these phones.
Pay as you Go calls cost 10 cents per minute. Text messages cost 5 cents to receive and send. International text messages cost 20 cents to send and 5 cents to receive.
Refill cards are available in denominations of:
Under this plan, $100 gets you 1000 minutes for the entire year. This is a pretty good deal. You get a low rate, and if you don't use the phone that much, it reduces your cost to as little as $8.33 per month.
If you don't use a lot of voice minutes but do send and receive a lot of text messages, you could start seeing your balance rapidly deplete.
One way to solve this problem is to add an unlimited texting package for $19.99 per month. While this does increase your monthly cost, it could still be cheaper than signing up for the unlimited voice and text plan.
There is another alternative, however.
This plan charges you just $2 per day only on the days you use the phone. On those days, you have unlimited voice calls and text messages. This plan makes sense if you don't use your cell phone every day, but you use it a lot on those days. For example, if you only use your cell phone on weekdays (for work?) then this plan would only cost about $40 per month (assuming 20 working days a month).
Data costs 1 cent every 5 kilobytes. This part is actually quite expensive because it works out to $2 per MB. If you check your email a lot, you can sign up for a data package.
If you using the phone to communicate in some way or another every day, you may want the unlimited monthly plan.
First, log in to My Account, then navigate to the Rate Plan section where you'll find the option to change your plan. From there, follow these steps:
1. Select new plan.
2. Add your favorite features.
And you're done. Now, you can choose a phone.
You can choose from phones made by Alcatel, LG, Motorola, Samsung, ZTE and others. Smartphones are available for under $100. On the other end of the scale, you can get an iPhone 5S for $449.
Basic phones range from simple candy-bar style and flip-style phones for about $15 to the AT&T Z432 QWERTY phone for $30.
These models are currently available:
These models are all available in new condition. Some of these are also available as refurbished phones ("certified like new").
You get free 2-day priority shipping when you order directly from AT&T. Activation is free.
There are phones from all the major manufacturers including Samsung, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Pantech, Sony Ericsson, HTC and Sharp.
These features are available with all phones: Basic Voice Mail, Caller ID, Call Forwarding, Three-Way Calling, Call Waiting, Nationwide Long Distance, and International Calling. (The international rates are not bad.)
From personal experience with AT&T customer service, while the staff can be helpful, the wait can be long at a retail location.
If you have good coverage on the AT&T network, and you like the idea of features such as the $25 unlimited data plan, then you may want to go with GoPhon.