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Thread: Thinking about a lowcost Tracphone

  1. #1
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    Thinking about a lowcost Tracphone

    I probably have several thread topics (I'll be hijacking myself ) but I'll start with the basic info.

    Just cancelled Sprint after 2 years. Looking to stop the insanity (I guess I kinda already did) but would like a fairly basic phone as I drive a 70 miles round trip daily for work.

    I hooked up a MagicJack to cut down on home minutes (adding WiFi this week) and would lean towards a WIFI capable phone. Not a deal breaker. Current phone is a Samsung Galaxy class, S1 (original). That will go up on Ebay/cl.

    I never used many minutes. 100/month or so. Mostly data. That habit will stop with the Tracphone switch. No number porting since I didn't overlap service.

    I've been all over Tracs site and their Forum (what a mess)

    I'll just list a few questions. Answer what you can.

    1) any problems buying a used phone and activating?
    1a: if it's a double minute phone model, will I get that with a used purchase, or is it only for the original purchaser?

    2) It seems the calling area is based on my zip code. I can't find a way to see how large that is to see if I'll roam, only if there's coverage. Is it possible to know that ahead of time? Since I commute, I'd like to know.

    3) The coverage map utility seems backward. zip code, "then you choose a phone", then you see the coverage. Is there a site/way to see what phones work in the area w/o choosing them individually? (pick zip code, site shows you available phones for your area?

    4) any advantages on Trac with GSM or CDMA? Also, any good way to tell which phones are either?

    Thanks for trouble ahead of time. I am a member of several forums and always find it the best way to get info. If a Mod wants these topics in separate threads, not a problem. I moderate a forum too.

    The Trac "forum" is basically a bad, not live chat connection. Since it's operated by Trac, it's not even a forum. Lotsa upset people over there....

  2. #2
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    I think double-minutes is tied to the phone. I own a CDMA TracFone that was deactivated for just under six months. When I reactivated it and added airtime, it still provides double-minutes.

    TracFone models with a C in them, are CDMA phones and (with TracFone) will activate on Verizon. Models with a G in them are GSM/HSDPA and will activate on AT&T or T-Mobile. When looking at a GSM phone package at retail (e.g. Walmart), if there is a P4 on the white label on the bottom of the package, that phone will activate on AT&T. If it has P5, it will activate on T-Mobile.

    You will not be roaming as long as the phone is on the same carrier it was activated on, when you are traveling. My understanding is that the agreements TracFone has with the carriers, would ensure that the phone will pretty much work everywhere in the U.S. where there is coverage, roaming or native/home network. More recent phone models (both CDMA and GSM) will display "Home" when you are on the home network, even with outside your home area, and will display "Roaming" when the phone is roaming on another carrier's network. Older phones displayed "TracFone" as the network when you're on the home carrier and "Roaming" when roaming on another. There is no extra charge when roaming, the phone deducts 1.0 minute for every minute on a call for voice calls. With the newer models, if you want to use data/web browse - if the phone includes a browser, the phone deducts minutes based on the actual data usage. Text messages cost 0.3 minutes for each message sent or received. I have not yet sent a picture message with the new phone I have, so I do not know what the new charge is for picture messaging.

    The zip code is requested so they can provide the actual phone number for the activation, which may or may not be local to you. Several years ago when I activated my first TracFone, I used my home zip code and ended up with a phone number that was 2/3rds of the way across Massachusetts. Although it was in the same area code, it was not a local number, not even close. Perhaps they have fine-tuned this since then?'

    Hope this information helps.
    America Movil/Straight Talk/TracFone customer since 2004.
    verizon customer since 2012.
    T-Mobile customer from 2005-2014.

  3. #3
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    1. I would not buy a used phone to start out. There are too many deals for a new phone + minutes bundle. This is by far the best way to get going. Check out shopcelldeals.com, shopcelldeals on ebay, also QVC and HSN. The double and triple minute thing is tied to the serial number and it remains there. Anyway, you really shouldn't bother with a used phone unless you need a certain model. Sometimes, there is an issue with who is the registered owner complications.

    2. You can use any Tracfone model you want, as long as you take responsibility for coverage. The GSM phone models usually end with a G and are either AT&T or T-Mobile depending which sim you get. The CDMA phone models usually end with a C and are usually Verizon. Tracfone assigns carriers based on what jibes with their various carrier contracts i.e. what is cheapest or physically possible. That's why they ask for a zip code, but you are ultimately responsible for checking the carrier coverage maps if you want to be your own phone decider. They will ask for the zip where you will use the phone the most so as to give you a phone number that minimizes roaming. The roaming doesn't matter to us because it's free, but it matters to TF because they pay for it. But you can tell them any zip you want if you want to control the phone number.

    3. GSM carriers usually specialize in urban areas. So if you travel in more rural settings, you might want to get CDMA, which is urban and rural. CDMA is supposedly better suited to long distance transmission than GSM is, so they need fewer towers than GSM would, and are more willing to serve a small customer base. Verizon is kind of the rural king. But the Verizon voice quality isn't as good, so there's a tradeoff.

    4. GSM and CDMA handsets are not interchangeable because of the way the programming handles traffic. TF has recently tried to simplify things by putting a G or C on the end of the model number. Also, a GSM phone cannot roam on CDMA and vice versa, due to the different programming.

    5. There are more models than what the TF store has. Authorized retailers have selections, too. You just have to see what everybody happens to be stocking at the present time. When you enter your zip code on the website and see some phones, look up at the url bar. Where is says market= you can change that and see other phones. Change it to market=CO and see CDMA phones. Market=GSM4 is AT&T. Market=GSM5 is T-Mobile. Those two just come with the certain sim already. Also, the data settings will be correct, but they can be changed with some difficulty. You can order any phone from any page, but might need separate shopping carts between pages.

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    Thanks to both of you. Now that's the kind of info I was looking for.

    Tracfone "forum" isn't informative, especially when problems are handled by private message. No way to see a resolution

    While browsing other Trac threads, I found the shopcelldeals Ebay site. Definitely the way to go, although I'll check out HSN and a few others too.

    Before Sprint I was with ATT for 8 years or so (actually ATT Wireless, Cingular, then ATT Mobility) and a short stint with Verizon before that (too many dropped calls back then) so I've had both CDMA and GSM phones. I really liked the ability to swap a SIM from one phone to another. The last few years with ATT I bought used phones off Ebay to stay out of contract.

    Thanks for the model code deciphering and search help. That will help tremendously. Ted

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    One thing about Tracfones, you can't swap sims. Once activated, a sim serial number is locked to a phone serial number. If you experiment by swapping sims around, you will get sim rejected. There is something programmed between the two, and only CS can reassign things. If you need to change anything i.e. new phone number or new handset, you have to get a new sim by the way, so there will be a mailing delay. Then your balance can be moved over once the sim is ready.

    The Forum doesn't want peoples' details revealed to the world. Even informational type things are private message. I think they are afraid that their dumb answers will end up on Google. Google can't see the PMs. On Facebook, you can see informational things, but the technical things are shunted off to a support ticket i.e. dead end.

    It is possible to get assistance from the Forum and Facebook but it takes persistence. Eventually you will get someone to stick with it instead of just saying hi and disappearing, especially if you write too much wordy. I have used these platforms, but it's a leisurely pace. At least they don't rush you.

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    I should clarify that new GSM phones come with a new sim. There is some question if that sim is already locked or you can add it to your stash in your desk. The sims that come from the warehouse single are not beholden yet usually.

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    Good to know on the SIM swap. With ATT, swap was easy...number was tied to the SIM. I never contacted ATT about a switch, but my online account reflected the newer phone model. ESN must transmit automatically.

    Looking at coverage maps for Verizon, ATT, and TMobile, I was surprised Verizon was kinda weak a little west of me. I'm about 45 miles from Chicago...and Milwaukee...and Rockford, for that matter. Towards Rockford, in a void, they were only 2G (at least they admit it, lol)

    I get the privacy thing, but the automated answers from their techs are ridiculous. Serious delay in even viewing the PM's, and because of Bots, a 5 post minimum, with needed approval, to even see or send a PM. 3 or 4 "techs" ask repeatedly for the same info. Trac is just using different names to start the process. Several people posted higher level CS contact info that bypasses the Forum. Good info there...

    So far I like the Samsung S390G, (I had a similar phone, the Propel back in the day) and with your help, I can find it with a TMobile SIM or ATT Sim by altering the address bar. Very handy. Only 4 or 5 CDMA phones available, and nothing I liked. The S380C is almost identical, but no WIFI, for the same price. QWERTY and WIFI are nice things to have, along with 3G. If coverage at home lacks, it's WIFI to the rescue. A few places I go have limited signal indoors, so wifi helps.

    The S390S is currently at $49.99 with Triple minutes and 600 minutes (200 card) for 90 days. I just gotta decide which GSM carrier. I might see if I can find this retail too. Still gotta check the home shopping sites.

    Really, thanks again for your help and attention to my dilemma. Hopefully others will benefit too. Ted

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    If you order a GSM TF from shopcelldeals, HSN, QVC, or just about anywhere online, you are going to get an AT&T sim. The AT&T sim is what people want, so the merchants comply. If you want a T-Mobile sim, you'll have to shop in person somewhere that has it or order something directly from TF.

    You are looking for a deal that offers a phone, a lot of minutes, and one year of service time. That is the best deal usually. The Samsung S390G is generating complaints about pocket dialing to 911, which is obviously a concern. Maybe you would like the LG840G instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisme View Post
    If you order a GSM TF from shopcelldeals, HSN, QVC, or just about anywhere online, you are going to get an AT&T sim. The AT&T sim is what people want, so the merchants comply. If you want a T-Mobile sim, you'll have to shop in person somewhere that has it or order something directly from TF.

    You are looking for a deal that offers a phone, a lot of minutes, and one year of service time. That is the best deal usually. The Samsung S390G is generating complaints about pocket dialing to 911, which is obviously a concern. Maybe you would like the LG840G instead.
    While continuing my research, I ran into the 911 issue also. Doesn't look good, and Trac's CS sounds like a major pain to resolve any issue. The LG840 is generating some data usage complaints and Trac hasn't resolved that either.

    Maybe Tracfone isn't the answer. I was originally thinking Boost or Virgin, but their phones aren't the best reviewed.

    On one of the 911 complaints, someone mentioned Ting. Never had heard of it. Doing research now. Sprint Network, and I can use my current phone (on their okay list) . Can't find bad reviews, but they're a relatively new MVNO.

    I'm going to look for Ting threads in another sub forum.

    Really, thanks a bunch. Awesome resource here.

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    Yeah, MVNOs are a help. Maybe you can give your old phone a new lease on life. Happy hunting.

  11. #11
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    The newer models are charging more for data, it's based on the actual usage now and no longer based on how many minutes the web browser was opened.

    TracFone's TOS still states the phones deduct 0.5 minutes for each minute the web browser is open, which we know is not the case with the newer models.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisme View Post
    One thing about Tracfones, you can't swap sims. Once activated, a sim serial number is locked to a phone serial number. If you experiment by swapping sims around, you will get sim rejected. There is something programmed between the two, and only CS can reassign things. If you need to change anything i.e. new phone number or new handset, you have to get a new sim by the way, so there will be a mailing delay. Then your balance can be moved over once the sim is ready.
    And this is the benefit of having a CDMA TracFone. If the phone is deactivated and the person wants to use it again, there are no SIM cards to deal with.

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