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Straight Talk vs. LightYear

February 10, 2011

Comparison:  Straight Talk vs. LightYear

I had a number of Straight Talk users respond to my last post.  No question there are lots of happy, loyal S.T. users.  And obviously S.T. has a quality “unlimited talk & text” plan for $45.  I say “talk & text” instead of “talk, text, web” because they DON’T have a quality web (or “data”) plan.  More about that below.  There are 4 areas we’ll compare:  coverage, fones, service plans (data), and cost.

Straight Talk has great coverage on the Verizon and AT&T networks.  LightYear runs on Sprint’s “nationwide 3G network,” so coverage is very good there, too.  That debate could take hours, but we’ll leave it now.  Many sites and surveys (JD Power, Consumer Reports, etc.) analyze coverage and consumer satisfaction more thoroughly than I’d ever want to.

I have an entire page comparing prepaid fones for all the major prepaid companies:  LY offers more smartphones than any other prepaid company, by far.  ST has the weakest selection, by far:  two old Nokias for $250 each.

Service Plans
Based on S.T.’s own website info, not to mention looking at their actual fones, it’s easy to see you get an entirely different experience with LY data compared to ST data.  If you read the ST Terms & Conditions, you’ll see you don’t get anything CLOSE to “unlimited everything” for $45.  Comparing S.T. to LightYear is like comparing a Toyota Tercel to a Lexus LS.  If certain people don’t surf the web or use apps on a fone (just like some people don’t care for A/C, stereo, power windows, or automatic seats), then this category may not mean a thing to them.  But the entire industry today is all about the things a fone can do for you, which means apps on smartphones.  Specific examples follow.

With LightYear, you can:

  • talk and text all day, non-stop
  • do conference calls
  • download as many programs as you want
  • send & receive international texts
  • tether a laptop (run the internet off your cell)
  • watch movies online
  • stream internet radio

THAT’S unlimited everything service.  I list all of those features because they aren’t available on ST.  For the proof, take a look at S.T.’s limitations directly from the S.T. site:

No sending/receiving international text messaging:
Straight Talk Service does not allow international text messaging.  Attempting to send international messages could result in Service deactivation.”

You can’t watch Youtube or Netflix or stream Pandora radio on your S.T. fone?
6.  STRAIGHT TALK UNLIMITED TALK, TEXT AND MOBILE WEB ACCESS PLAN INTENDED USE:  … The Straight Talk Unlimited Plans MAY NOT be used for any other purpose.  Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following: (i) continuous mobile to mobile or mobile to landline voice calls; (ii) automated text or picture messaging to another mobile device or e-mail address; (iii) uploading, downloading or streaming of audio or video programming or games; (iv) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing; or (v) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections.”

And I guess you can’t even do a 3-way call or talk business on Straight Talk:
Specifically, Straight Talk Unlimited services are provided solely for live dialogue between, and initiated by, two individuals for personal use and as otherwise described in this policy. Unlimited voice services may not be used for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, conference calling, monitoring services, data transmissions, transmission of broadcasts, transmission of recorded material, interconnection to other networks, telemarketing, autodialed calls, other commercial uses, or other connections that do not consist of uninterrupted live dialogue between two individuals.”

If you don’t want/need data, apps, real surfing, and don’t use your fone for business, then ST’s $45 unlimited talk & text is clearly the best choice and a great deal.  If you want any kind of smartphone experience, then spending another $15/month for LY is truly a bargain when compared to Verizon or AT&T’s unlimited data rates.  Plus, LY gives you one month free in your first year, effectively reducing $59.99 to $55/month the first year.

And one other fun fact: customers get free service from LY when they refer 5 other customers who pay for service.  Read it yourself:

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