Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 21

Thread: What's the point of Net10/Tracfone phones being so locked up and sold for so cheap?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    405
    Feedback Score
    0

    What's the point of Net10/Tracfone phones being so locked up and sold for so cheap?

    The Net10 and Tracfone policy of selling super-locked phones for cheap has created so much grief for some customers, and so much work for their so-called "other department" (loss prevention).

    For GSM phones, I think it would make more sense for them to sell SIM's and airtime cards that work with unlocked phones. They could sell unlocked phones for fair prices, rather than the super-subsidized prices they often have now, which are a temptation to traffickers, and are such a pain in some ways.

    Then if your phone died, you could often just move the SIM to another phone and avoid the customer service department altogether. They could probably get rid of all their Byzantine rules surrounding transfers of service. They would cut their costs, and reduce customers' grief by some astronomical figure.

    This would go a long way toward fulfilling their (currently hollow) promise of "no evil."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,405
    Phone
    Nokia 2720
    Carriers
    T-Mobile
    Virgin
    Feedback Score
    0
    Quote Originally Posted by EdGrey
    I think it would make more sense ...
    I'm often asked, "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" and there's really no good answer.

    Thanks to anonymous posting (with a "handle") I can make obnoxious remarks like this. Carlos Slim (el Jefe) is one of the worlds richest men. The people do what he says. He must be right because he's rich.
    Regards

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    14
    Feedback Score
    0
    The reason Tracfone has such market penetration is because they started so dang early; before 2001, I know.

    And they could pull that off by having unit tracking software in the phone, rather than on the network. That let them sell prepaid on anyone.

    It also gave them the trademark units/expire display on the phone. No need to ask the network, the info is stored in the phone.

    Networks have gotten a lot smarter over the last decade, so new Tracfone brands like Straight Talk do keep the smarts on the network.

    But real Tracfones (and Net10) still use that unique tracking software in the phone, polished and honed to allow more options, like buy units from phone.

    And that's why no standard phone can ever be a Tracfone, because it doesn't have the tracking software.

    And why Tracfone can sell phones cheap without too much worry about them not being used as Tracfones. Gotta reflash them to make them standard phones without unit tracking software.

    So no, Tracfone won't be able to use standard phones anytime soon.

    And the reasons are proprietary, historical and a trade secret.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    405
    Feedback Score
    0
    But what's also crazy about their system is that only the phone knows how many minutes are left.

    Let me make sure I understand what you're saying here:

    "And they could pull that off by having unit tracking software in the phone, rather than on the network. That let them sell prepaid on anyone."

    "Unit tracking" means keeping track of minutes and days? "Sell prepaid on anyone" where "anyone" means "any network" (e.g. T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.)?

    I think the minutes and days display on Tracfone/Net10 is nice, but I can't believe that displaying something that obvious can be tradmarked or patented. Or is there another reason that most other prepaid phones don't have this feature? By the way, Verizon prepaid phones can show the expiration date and the amount of money left, if you set the display options that way.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    14
    Feedback Score
    0
    Tracfone spent a lot of legal resource keeping unit tracking in the phone proprietary to them.

    And Tracfone, as far as I know, is the only MVNO that currently provisions phones on Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile, and has also provisioned phones on lots of smaller carriers over the years.

    Any other MVNO phone can pull the current account data from the network, sure, but it requires a lookup over an active connection.

    Tracfone does seem to have some legal protection over unit/expiration displays, but for the details, you will have to ask the lawyers.

    Is phone based unit tracking something you would do if you were starting today? Probably not, even if you could get past Tracfone's legal hurdles.

    Is keeping the info in the phone "crazy?" No, it's just another approach with benefits and tradeoffs.

    Today, they keep detailed records on each phone, and can flag when there are differences, so there are checks and balances.

    And, of course, really only units are tracked in the phone; expiration dates are just shown as a convenience. They are tracked in the main system, so the phone can be deactivated from the network if not refilled in time.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    405
    Feedback Score
    0
    I meant it was crazy to keep the count of minutes ONLY in the phone. That helps support their paranoid attitude toward their paying customers.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    3,696
    Phones
    Samsung T201G
    Motorola W376
    BlackBerry 8703e
    Carriers
    AT&T (Tracfone / Net10)
    Feedback Score
    0
    Quote Originally Posted by choke
    The reason Tracfone has such market penetration is because they started so dang early; before 2001, I know.
    Tracfone started selling analog cellular service in NYC starting in 1996, with time tracking on the phone. If I recall they were using Bell Atlantic at the time (now NYNEX). By 1997 they were in most of the lower 48 selling on many local providers (cell service was fragmented at that time). $10 bought 10 minutes and 30 days, $30 bought 60 minutes and 60 days IIRC. Phones were $99.99 (I still have a 1997 JcPenney catalog packed away with the Uniden Tracfone for sale in it) Airtouch (now Verizon) came out with a prepaid service in about 1997 also, but time tracking was on their central computer rather than on the handset.

    Here are some other factoids from about 1996-1997:

    Portable Cell phones had about an hour of talk time and about ten to fifteen hours standby time.

    Cell phones were candy-bar shaped (or carried in a briefcase with a large battery), two inches thick and ten inches long.

    Calls faded in and out and had a "whoop" sound as you transferred towers. As signal weakened, the phone would "pop".

    Your service (postpaid) was $20 a month for 20-40 minutes or $30 a month for 80-120 minutes (higher price points with more minutes did exist) with overages costing 35 cpm.

    If you left your home city, you were roaming at $1.00 a minute or more (postpaid) or charged four minutes per minute of talk time (Tracfone).

    You had to dial a code before leaving home so you could roam with your phone and redial that code every 24 hours if you still needed to roam.

    You could forget about service in the subway or in the middle of a high-rise.

    Most providers did not have contracts (a couple companies had them by 1998 or so but were only one year) but you paid $100 to $800 for the phone.

    Phones transmitted at three watts compared by the 0.6 watts today. Lightly-used towers calling range was approximately 30 miles. As more calls were placed using the tower, the calling range decreased.

    You could not text nor have voicemail service with most cell phones.

    Digital CDMA and TDMA service was just being tested, most phones did not have access to digital in 1997.

    No WAP internet, some cell providers had a 9.6Kbps internet connection where you connected the phone to a computer (analog only).

    Cell phone phone book capacity was ten names and numbers. PDA's and Black Berries were non existent.

    Rural cellular service was fickle and coverage gaps between towns were massive.

    MP3 players were not installed in phones (and those that did exist were 16-32 MB and cost big money).

    Few people had the strength to hold a phone to their ear with one hand and drive with the other (as phones weighed over three pounds).

    Many displays were either LED circles or Union Jack displays.

    As you can see, cell phone service has improved by leaps and bounds in the past 14 years. Appreciate it. When I was little, we didn't even have a house phone from the time we moved into the country at 3 or 4 until I was 8 or 9 (the service didn't exist where we lived). We had to drive or walk to the general store to use a pay phone at a nickel for a local call. Long distance (to a nearby town) was a nickel for three minutes. No calling cards existed, we had to keep change on us for the pay phone.

    Some other things for the kiddies when I was growing up, which was many years before 1996: No credit cards, we paid cash or went to the bank for a loan, and only borrowed for a truck. Finally a furniture, appliance and TV store moved to town that would carry the note on furniture, appliances and TV's (and they delivered and installed said merchandise), credit checks didn't happen as credit reports didn't exist. If you didn't pay, your stuff was reposessed (my father was the repo man/installer for a year or so, he never came back without either the merchandise or the money when he went out to repo something), word spread all over town and no one lent to you for many years. Wal-Mart and Meijer didn't exist in my area, so we went to the hardware store, the furniture store, the sport shop, the auto parts store (my father was able to repair vehicles), etc. If you couldn't repair your car, the service station was your friend (and sold you gas and candy bars too). If you couldn't change a light switch, electrical outlet or door knob (we could, I learned that at an early age), you called the local handyman (interesting tidbit: my grandmother thought I was crazy when I changed her light switch and wired/installed an electrical outlet and light socket in the shed only 20 years ago, she always hired the handyman I guess). You had to drive to the electric and gas company to pay your bills (if you didn't, I remember hearing that they shut your utilities off even then -- although we never experienced that), checking accounts evidently didn't exist either until I was a teen (we did keep a savings account at the local bank). When we went to town to shop, we always seemed to make ten stops because you couldn't buy all your necessities at one place.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    409
    Feedback Score
    0
    Quote Originally Posted by mharris127
    Tracfone started selling analog cellular service in NYC starting in 1996, with time tracking on the phone. If I recall they were using Bell Atlantic at the time (now NYNEX). By 1997 they were in most of the lower 48 selling on many local providers (cell service was fragmented at that time). $10 bought 10 minutes and 30 days, $30 bought 60 minutes and 60 days IIRC. Phones were $99.99 (I still have a 1997 JcPenney catalog packed away with the Uniden Tracfone for sale in it) Airtouch (now Verizon) came out with a prepaid service in about 1997 also, but time tracking was on their central computer rather than on the handset.

    Here are some other factoids from about 1996-1997:

    Portable Cell phones had about an hour of talk time and about ten to fifteen hours standby time.

    Cell phones were candy-bar shaped (or carried in a briefcase with a large battery), two inches thick and ten inches long.

    Calls faded in and out and had a "whoop" sound as you transferred towers. As signal weakened, the phone would "pop".

    Your service (postpaid) was $20 a month for 20-40 minutes or $30 a month for 80-120 minutes (higher price points with more minutes did exist) with overages costing 35 cpm.

    If you left your home city, you were roaming at $1.00 a minute or more (postpaid) or charged four minutes per minute of talk time (Tracfone).

    You had to dial a code before leaving home so you could roam with your phone and redial that code every 24 hours if you still needed to roam.

    You could forget about service in the subway or in the middle of a high-rise.

    Most providers did not have contracts (a couple companies had them by 1998 or so but were only one year) but you paid $100 to $800 for the phone.

    Phones transmitted at three watts compared by the 0.6 watts today. Lightly-used towers calling range was approximately 30 miles. As more calls were placed using the tower, the calling range decreased.

    You could not text nor have voicemail service with most cell phones.

    Digital CDMA and TDMA service was just being tested, most phones did not have access to digital in 1997.

    No WAP internet, some cell providers had a 9.6Kbps internet connection where you connected the phone to a computer (analog only).

    Cell phone phone book capacity was ten names and numbers. PDA's and Black Berries were non existent.

    Rural cellular service was fickle and coverage gaps between towns were massive.

    MP3 players were not installed in phones (and those that did exist were 16-32 MB and cost big money).

    Few people had the strength to hold a phone to their ear with one hand and drive with the other (as phones weighed over three pounds).

    Many displays were either LED circles or Union Jack displays.

    As you can see, cell phone service has improved by leaps and bounds in the past 14 years. Appreciate it. When I was little, we didn't even have a house phone from the time we moved into the country at 3 or 4 until I was 8 or 9 (the service didn't exist where we lived). We had to drive or walk to the general store to use a pay phone at a nickel for a local call. Long distance (to a nearby town) was a nickel for three minutes. No calling cards existed, we had to keep change on us for the pay phone.

    Some other things for the kiddies when I was growing up, which was many years before 1996: No credit cards, we paid cash or went to the bank for a loan, and only borrowed for a truck. Finally a furniture, appliance and TV store moved to town that would carry the note on furniture, appliances and TV's (and they delivered and installed said merchandise), credit checks didn't happen as credit reports didn't exist. If you didn't pay, your stuff was reposessed (my father was the repo man/installer for a year or so, he never came back without either the merchandise or the money when he went out to repo something), word spread all over town and no one lent to you for many years. Wal-Mart and Meijer didn't exist in my area, so we went to the hardware store, the furniture store, the sport shop, the auto parts store (my father was able to repair vehicles), etc. If you couldn't repair your car, the service station was your friend (and sold you gas and candy bars too). If you couldn't change a light switch, electrical outlet or door knob (we could, I learned that at an early age), you called the local handyman (interesting tidbit: my grandmother thought I was crazy when I changed her light switch and wired/installed an electrical outlet and light socket in the shed only 20 years ago, she always hired the handyman I guess). You had to drive to the electric and gas company to pay your bills (if you didn't, I remember hearing that they shut your utilities off even then -- although we never experienced that), checking accounts evidently didn't exist either until I was a teen (we did keep a savings account at the local bank). When we went to town to shop, we always seemed to make ten stops because you couldn't buy all your necessities at one place.
    I vote that this post be stickied for reference, lest anyone short-sightedly opine for 'da good ol' days'.
    Kyocera 2135 on Verizon Prepaid
    Nokia 3585i on Simple Freedom/Alltel U Prepaid/Page Plus
    LG AX-5000 on Alltel U Prepaid/Verizon Prepaid/Page Plus
    LG 420G on Tracfone
    LG 900G on Net10
    DROID by Motorola on Page Plus Cellular
    HTC DROID Incredible 2 on Verizon

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    405
    Feedback Score
    0
    I'd make it a sticky as an example of "how to hijack a thread."

    The "good old days" were the days before cell phones were so common that you had to have one out of self-defense.

    But let's try to "fight terrorism" (patriotic!) and unhijack this thread. Are people saying that Net10/Tracfone's use of locked-up phones is strongly linked to their ability to display the minutes remaining on the phone?

    I would think that the SIM locking is not related to the minute display. They decided to reprogram the phones in various other ways after programming in the minute display.

    I agree that the minute display is handy, but the tradeoff to get that capability is too much, and it's ridiculous that they can't also keep track of minutes or dollars left in their own system. That's part of what makes it such a bad tradeoff.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    708
    Feedback Score
    0
    Here's the deal. Tracfone debuted in 1996. In the beginning, their gsm phones were easy targets for phone traffickers. Phone traffickers like to buy the cheap , highly subsidized phones of prepaid carriers like Tracfone and Virgin Mobile, mass unlock/flash them by the thousands and resell them overseas for a huge profit. Tracfone took a huge loss in the beginning and began implementing more and more defensive measures to minimize phone trafficking from affecting them. This resulted in their now nightmare phone unlocking defense systems.

    Tracfone has three lines of defense for three different targets.
    Their legal dept. is their main line of defense against mass unlockers/traffickers. These mass traffickers have no problem unlocking the phones but get dealt with cease and desist orders and criminal charges . Legally, Tracfone kicks their asses. They've actually sent people to prison over it. They are highly successful.

    On another front, they put the burden of proof on the buyer for things like lost minutes, huge transfers of minutes, etc. They also limit the ability to buy phones by restricting it to two per purchase and fifty phones lifetime for any one person.

    And on the subject OP is talking about, they make each phone way too difficult for the casual unlocker. They disable bluetooth, have the airtank function and other measures to discourage unlocking.

    Tracfone has been doing prepaid longer then anyone else in the US. They have it down how to protect their assets.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    14
    Feedback Score
    0
    Quote Originally Posted by EdGrey
    .

    Are people saying that Net10/Tracfone's use of locked-up phones is strongly linked to their ability to display the minutes remaining on the phone?

    I would think that the SIM locking is not related to the minute display. They decided to reprogram the phones in various other ways after programming in the minute display.

    I agree that the minute display is handy, but the tradeoff to get that capability is too much, and it's ridiculous that they can't also keep track of minutes or dollars left in their own system. That's part of what makes it such a bad tradeoff.
    When GSM phones came in, Tracfone had a problem.

    You could take out the SIM card and use it in a phone without the minute tracking software.

    The solution, in the end, was simple. ESN/IMEI and SIMs were locked together at the network level. Once the network saw a Tracfone SIM card, it remembered the serial number of the phone. Any future mismatch of SIM and serial was rejected.

    The phones know how to handle this mismatch code the network sends them.

    No activated Tracfone SIM can be used in a phone other than the phone it was activated on. And that phone has unit tracking software.

    The key here is NOT the "minute tracking display." It's the unit tracking software, of which the display is just one part.

    And no Tracfone made up to this date is ever going to not have unit tracking software. None for the foreseeable future, ever.

    That's not ridiculous.

    That's the basis of a very large and profitable business, as Carlos Slim , the richest man in the world, will tell you.

    As to Tracfone customer service, I find them good.

    Now, that doesn't mean that after 10 years I don't have horror stories, haven't had to file BBB complaints, haven't been in "Tracfone Hell" when they just keep telling me it will be fixed in 24 hours or call back, day after day.

    But it does mean that with a phone that went through the wash and another that died, we have gotten units back on a new phone. It does mean we have done many transfers and they worked well. It does mean they have eventually fixed problems and made it right, even without total verification.

    My experience is that Tracfone has been very rigid when saying what the rules are, but when dealing with customers they have worked to satisfy them. To me, that's a sensible approach.

    Tracfone has been a pain in the *** sometimes, but in general, they have been good to my family. I might choose differently now, but with so many units on our phones, and VA phones available, Tracfone works great for me.

    Now, for people who played the glitch and those who buy without consideration, Tracfone may well have a downside, sure. The choices today are different.

    But they did well by us.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    405
    Feedback Score
    0
    All these replies are simply restating the obvious, and even apologizing for "the richest man in the world," who must be right because he's so rich.

    Nobody has mentioned the possibility that the subsidized phone is a prime suspect for being the problem. They give you a free toy at the beginning to hook you, and then they gradually take everything away from you the longer you're a customer - your phone, your money, your time, your self-respect, your critical thinking...

    And nobody has addressed the alternate idea of Net10/Tracfone selling the SIM and the airtime for unlocked GSM phones, and maybe selling the phones at a fair price, phones that you actually own with no strings attached, as opposed to phones that they actually own in important ways.

    At least when Gillette gives away the razor and sells you the blades, it's your razor, and they don't come into your bathroom later and take your blades away.

    When they sell phones for so cheap, how should anyone know or care what those phones are really worth? They're simply regarded as disposable, like toothbrushes or toilet paper.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    14
    Feedback Score
    0
    FYI, Carlos Slim owns Tracfone (and many other properties.)

    If you don't like the idea of subsidized phones, don't buy one.

    There are lots of other providers who will let you used any unlocked GSM phone on AT&T or on T-Mobile. Enjoy.

    One lovely thing, at least to me, is the fact that Tracfones are, for all intents and purposes, disposable. Like a razor handle, sure; only useful if I buy the blades that go with them.

    My Tracfones are mine; that's why I have a pile of old ones in a drawer. I can send them off to be recycled, sell them off, whatever.

    Sure, they can only be used with Tracfone, but new Gillette handles can only be used with Gillette blades. And the blades? They don't take them away, you throw them away.

    If you are upset because TF Customer Service can question transactions, well, services are different than products, OK.

    Tracfone isn't going to be an open system anytime soon. Why should they be? They have millions of reasonably satisfied users, are making money for investors, and keep going. Why should they give up their unique selling proposition, their proprietary advantage to become just like other GSM sellers?

    Why?

    Just because EdGrey thinks that Tracfone changing over to an unlocked GSM system would be a good idea?

    Somehow, I think there has to be more reason than that.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    409
    Feedback Score
    0
    Quote Originally Posted by EdGrey

    And nobody has addressed the alternate idea of Net10/Tracfone selling the SIM and the airtime for unlocked GSM phones, and maybe selling the phones at a fair price, phones that you actually own with no strings attached, as opposed to phones that they actually own in important ways.
    There are other providers selling prepaid SIMs just as you describe. Tracfone Wireless, as profitable as they are, hasn't gone with that model for any of its brands; it doesn't seem interested in doing so in the future...oh f'ing well! Guess you'll just have to settle for the other prepaid MVNO services who do that sort of thing.

    Your point about 'phones you actually own' is so disingenuous it's not worth typing a response.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    7,087
    Feedback Score
    0
    Tracfone has a system that works for them. Companies like Verizon don't mind giving them the deals like Straight Talk because they know that Trac won't allow byod and cut down on attempts to put devices that can end up abusing the system (like Droid smartphones gulping up 3G data).

    No gsm or cdma phone can be put on Tracfone and made fully functional. At least not at a level where it is economically viable or worth the effort.

    Straight Talk phones have been proven to be usable on other Verizon mvnos like PPC but considering that they cost double relative to their Tracfone versions, there is no subsidy for ST to lose on such phones. The customer pays the full going price.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Bookmarks