I’ve talked about Straight Talk before, as I reviewed the service this past June after comparing services in order to save some cash on my monthly phone bill. I also bought the Nokia E71, which I thoroughly enjoy owning and have had no issues with since purchase.
Now, Straight Talk is offering refurbished Nokia E71 handsets for $99.99 directly via its website along with other phones, which represent a savings of $100 over buying new, but it comes at a cost as the popularity of the offering is exposing problems with Tracfone’s fulfillment and processing systems while also exposing information on its bundling practices that isn’t meant for the general public. Read on for the report.
Straight Talk began offering refurbished Nokia E71 and 6790 units on August 5th with little fanfare or promotion. During that time, people began to spread the word that the refurb E71 at $99 was the best deal around for the capable smartphone, as the next lowest price for the phone before then was available on partner Walmart’s own site for $169.99, a savings of $30 over the standard $199. 99 pricing.
Then, reports started to surface in the days since Â that activating the phones was not possible and after some additional investigation, it’s been confirmed that the refurb E71s are being shipped with Straight Talk SIM cards that are not compatible with the phone and meant to be used on Straight Talk GSM non-smartphones, of which there are thirteen models. Since those SIM cards are incompatible with the E71, customers have been forced to contact customer service for the correct replacement SIMs, with many being stuck without a working phone until the new SIM arrives since they cannot be activated without it.
In addition, the following information that has been confirmed regarding Straight Talk’s SIM cards is not meant to be public knowledge and explains how the operator tiers services. Straight Talk bundles service by shipping GSM phones with a specific series of SIM card depending on the phone and what type of capabilities it has. The G series of phones denotes GSM phones but does not specify which carrier the devices are programmed to acquire service from until the cover is popped on the phone and the SIM is pulled out to check the series number. The G series non-smartphones are shipped with theÂ TF64SIMC4 SIM card and are believed to be programmed to access T-Mobile’s network, though no official confirmation has been issued regarding this assumption.
That series of SIM card will not function on the Nokia E71 or 6790, registering an “Invalid SIM” message when attempting to activate the phone and has forced customers to contact Customer Service to obtain compatible replacement SIM cards, of which the correct series is theÂ TF64PSIMC4 SIM card which is only meant for the aforementioned phones and is also proving popular due to the fact that it can be placed in other unlocked GSM phones and still maintain service, while theÂ TF64SIMC4 SIM card series will not register in any other GSM device other than the phone that it was bundled with after initial activation.
As of today, Straight Talk is still shipping refurbished E71s with the incorrect SIM cards and is fortunately addressing the issue, albeit preferring to quietly deal with them as they arise through their presence on Facebook and their outsourced call centers in Central/Latin America and the Philippines. Â The refurb Nokia E71 is still available to order from Straight Talk, but without a disclaimer warning potential customers about the incorrect SIM issue nor has the Facebook portal issued an official statement, with customer complaints mounting by the day. Caveat emptor if you decide to take advantage of the refurb E71 offer, but take a small comfort in the fact that Straight Talk/TracFone are attempting to make good on the mistake, which is better service than most virtual operators and prepaid services are willing to provide.