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Prepaid iPhone on Straight Talk?

Here’s one interesting outcome from the new SIM-only deals from Straight Talk and Net10: it could, and probably does, mean that users can activate iPhones. Andrew Berg of Wireless Week cites Walter Piecyk of BTIG, an analysis firm, who talks about the disruptive possibilities of such an offering. “We are unaware of any way to use an iPhone on prepaid,” writes Piecyk. That’s true generally, though there are the tech-savvier among us who have figured out ways. Yet there might be a few problems involved with this.

Here’s a key line in Berg’s article: “Piecyk writes that Straight Talk does not appear to cap or throttle its data.” They might not appear to, but there have been more than a few stories of Straight Talk users getting their accounts cancelled for excessive usage. This includes not only voice and text services, but also data. If users can, in fact, activate an iPhone on Straight Talk, they’d still be subject to Straight Talk’s whims. They could easily get booted for excessive usage.

Another issue, from the article:

“The disparity in pricing between Straight Talk’s $45 per month and AT&T’s is simply too great to ignore and Straight Talk is clearly indicating that the customer will be using the same network,” notes Piecyk.

While Straight Talk might use AT&T’s network, it does not have AT&T’s roaming capabilities. It is not the same network at all, then. While Straight Talk does borrow from all networks, it’s unclear how roaming will work in this instance. Chances are, however, that users will have a much more restricted network.

The deal might seem too good to pass up, and in many ways it is. This is an easy way to get an iPhone on prepaid. But it’s not all candy canes and rainbows. There are restrictions on Straight Talk that simply aren’t there on AT&T. It’s not as though users will get the same service for half the price, which is exactly what Piecyk implies.