It was time for a smart phone upgrade so I looked into the Straight Talk Bring Your Own Phone Program. It was a bit challenging but it was very successful. Now, I have a much more capable phone, 4G service, and service that is still one-half the price of the plans from the big three carriers. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is an amazing phone with a 13MP camera, also a front-facing camera, GPS, super-fast quad-core processor, and easy to use Android 4.4. Combine that with 4G service from Straight Talk via AT&T or T-Mobile and I am more ready than ever to go mobile.
- buy a Samsung Galaxy S4 Unlocked GSM phone – $230 on NoMoreRack
- confirm your phone is supported
- buy the Straight Talk Bring Your Own Phone SIM Card Pack – $20
- install the SIM card – break out the the Micro SIM from AT&T or TMobile card
- activate service or if upgrading an existing Straight Talk phone, transfer your service
- set your phone to GSM – Menu > Settings > More settings > Mobile Networks > Network mode
- set the phone’s Access Point Name – Menu > Settings > More settings > Mobile Networks > APN
Next, we’ll walk through the summary above and dive into the details of each action.
Buy a Samsung Galaxy S4 Unlocked GSM Phone
There are 2 major phone protocols – GSM (AT&T and tMobile and many others) and CDMA (Sprint and Verizon). Straight Talk supports both, but only a few CDMA phones.If it is time for an upgrade, try the Samsung Galaxy S4 Unlocked GSM phone – $230 on NoMoreRack. The S4 is a great phone with a large 5 inch screen, a 13MP camera, and Android 4.2 or Android 4.4 operating system. It can give you 4G service if available in your area. You can put a Micro SD card of up to 32GB in the phone if you want to hold a bunch of photos.
Confirm Your Phone
After you get a new phone, or if you already have a phone, you can confirm your phone is supported. The IMEI is the serial number of the phone which determines if you can connect to the Straight Talk network with the phone. If your phone is CDMA compatible, you won’t need a SIM card – just an activation. Otherwise, you will need to add a SIM card to the phone.
Straight Talk BYOP SIM Card Pack
The Straight Talk Bring Your Own Phone SIM Card Pack contains what you need to activate the phone. The pack has SIM cards for AT&T or TMobile if your phone is GSM. It also has the activation kit for CDMA if your phone is CDMA.
Install the SIM Card
Check the coverage maps for AT&T or TMobile to determine which service you prefer.
Open the back of the Samsung Galaxy S4. You’ll find a slot along the edge of the back cover and you can use your fingernail to pry open the cover. Turn off the phone. Remove the battery. The SIM card slot is above the battery on the right. The slot on the left above the battery is the SD memory card slot.
Open the AT&T/TMobile Packet 1 from the SIM card pack. For AT&T, use the gray credit-card sized card. For TMobile, use the red credit-card sized card. The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a Micro SIM card, so, break the standard sized SIM card from the credit-card sized card. Further, break the Micro SIM card from the stardard sized SIM card. Insert the Micro SIM card into the phone’s SIM card slot. The gold contacts must be facing the phone. The notch must be up away from the battery. Push it in to lock it. Push it again to unlock and remove it. Replace the battery. Replace the Cover. Turn on the phone.
Activate/Transfer Your Service
Visit http://straighttalkbyop.com and click Activate/Refill. If you already have service, you can Login, and choose Transfer during the Activation process. During the activation process, you will enter the 15 digit underlined SIM card number from the credit-card sized card. Also, if you are activating service, enter the service PIN found under the silver scratch off on the service plan card. You do not need to activate service if you are transferring from another phone. The activation may take 2 hours to 2 days.
Set Mode to GSM
Since your phone is GSM and we put in a AT&T or TMobile SIM card, you must tell the operating system to use GSM mode. Some phones are both CDMA and GSM compatible so the operating system lets you choose which to use. With your phone on the home page, choose Menu (left of main button) > Settings. Then, choose ”More settings’ (Wireless and networks) > Mobile Networks > Network mode. On the Preferred Network Mode panel. choose GSM/UMTS and then select Automatic. Also, on Mobile Networks panel, turn on Mobile Data.
Set the Access Point Name
The Access Point Name (APN) will allow you to send pictures and video in your messages. So, these settings must be correct for that to function. Visit apn.straighttalkbyop.com for full instructions. With your phone on the home page, choose Menu (left of main button) > Settings. Then, choose ”More settings’ (Wireless and networks) > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names. Make a new APN as follows:
- choose Add (+), then enter values for:
- Name = straighttalk
- APN = tfdata
- MMSC = http://mms-tf.net
- Multimedia message proxy = mms3.tracfone.com
- Multimedia message port = 80
- APN type = default,mms,supl
- leave all other values as is
- hit the menu button and choose save which will return you to the APNs panel
- enable the straighttalk APN
- turn off the phone, wait a bit and turn it back on
Some issues that popped up while I was upgrading:
- cell phone service doesn’t work – don’t forget to set the Network Mode to GSM/UTMS (see above)
- text messages don’t send pictures – don’t forget to set the APN (see above)
Use Your Phone
Now that you have a Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Straight Talk network, you should be able to:
- get 4G service – you see a H+ indicator on the S4 status bar – that is 4G service.
- connect to the internet using wireless – even without cell service, your phone will work wireless at your home or restaurants
- send messages – if your APN settings are correct, you can send photos or videos in text messages.
- take photos – the S4 has an awesome camera and display. Add a Micro SD card to hold more photos
- call your mom – that will be nice