Straight Talk has confirmed on its Facebook page that it will offer a SIM-only option for the first time along with its sister brand in Net10 within the next few days. The dedicated page for the offering is now live and features options for regular full-size SIMs as well as the increasingly popular microSIMs used in newer smartphones, including the iPhone. Read more for all the key details and the full breakdown of the service.
The offering also marks a shift for Tracfone as the service provider typically bundles service with its SIM capable phones while binding them together with questionable legalese and locks that would prevent usage on unlocked phones. The new offering may in fact be a response to the increasing popularity of purchasing Straight Talk Nokia smartphones with unlocked SIM cards that would work on unlocked or AT&T branded phones. The new service is also similar to the SIM-only option offered by competitor Simple Mobile which works exclusively on T-Mobile’s network and has the advantage of also being compatible with both networks, unlike the aforementioned Simple Mobile.
The terms also indicate that Tracfone is taking advantage of the new UMTS roaming agreement signed between AT&T and T-Mobile in the wake of the blocked AT&T/T-Mobile purchase and merger to offer the new service option. Minor caveats to this option begin with the exclusion of Tracfone-branded hardware, BlackBerry and branded SafeLink, NET10 or Straight Talk phones. The BlackBerry exclusion makes sense as Tracfone does not hold a license for BlackBerry services and would need to either negotiate directly with RIM or sublicense via carrier partners for access to BlackBerry service.
With the forthcoming launch of SIM-only service on Tracfone, the provider may at last be taking steps to end its legally nebulous practice of locking SIM cards to hardware with equally questionable legalese while offering a solid alternative to contracts with the potential bonus of 3G roaming.
As the service requires the purchase of the $45 unlimited service plan and a credit/debit card, Straight Talk and Net10 are clearly targeting enthusiasts and current SIM swap users that are looking to keep using unlocked smartphones without the repercussions normally associated with such usage, which include account termination for using the SIM in an unauthorized device.
Now that Tracfone is offering SIM only service, this will undoubtedly force carriers to compete with their own prepaid services, though it remains to be seen whether they will respond in kind. A request for comment on the extent of AT&T and T-Mobile compatibility has also been sent to Tracfone’s PR company and the post will be updated with any additional confirmation received. The service will launch next Tuesday for both Straight Talk and Net10 at the prices listed in the above linked images while the support pages list manual data/MMS settings for each network.