TracFone's Straight Talk starts BYOD iPhone program

América Móvil's U.S. MVNO TracFone Wireless said its Straight Talk brand will start accepting customers who want to bring their GSM version of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone to its service. This new bring-your-own-device program will be offered in addition to TracFone's existing deal with Walmart, in which it sells CDMA versions of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4.

According to a Straight Talk blog post, customers can use an AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) or T-Mobile USA-compatible GSM iPhone or an unlocked GSM iPhone with the TracFone service. They just have to purchase a Straight Talk SIM card and airtime bundle--both standard and micro-SIM cards are available. Customers can then activate their SIM cards by following the provided activations instructions.

The new BYOD program is distinct from the pairing with Walmart. On Jan. 11 Walmart began offering "a no interest fixed-monthly payments special financing offer for only $25 a month with a Walmart Credit Card" to help customers pay for the iPhone. Straight Talk sells the iPhone 5 for $649 for the 16 GB model only, and the iPhone 4 for $449 for the 8 GB model only. Straight Talk offers the phone with two plans: $45 per month for unlimited voice, text and data, and $60 per month for unlimited voice, text and data and unlimited international calling to around 1,000 international destinations.

However, on its website, Straight Talk makes clear that these CDMA iPhones are not compatible with SIM cards. "Although your Straight Talk iPhone may contain a SIM slot, DO NOT insert a SIM card into it," the company wrote in a FAQ. "Your Straight Talk iPhone works on a CDMA network; inserting a SIM card could alter your settings and stop it from working properly."

While the purchasing options for Straight Talk iPhone service are becoming clearer, the actual terms of service are still cloudy. According to TechNewsDaily, which did not cite its source, the Walmart Straight Talk plan has a soft data cap of 2 GB and is not truly unlimited. Other reports, including in PC Magazine, also have noted the 2 GB soft cap. Once customers hit the cap they said that Straight Talk begins throttling users' speeds or cutting off service altogether. 

A TracFone spokesman has declined to respond to repeated requests by FierceWireless over the past week for more information on the Straight Talk iPhone plan. Among the questions that are unanswered are whether or not LTE is supported on iPhone 5; if the iPhone can be used as mobile hotspot; and if data speed is throttled after users reach a 2 GB soft cap.

For more:
- see this Straight Talk site
- see this Straight Talk blog post
- see this TechNewsDaily article
- see this PC Magazine article

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