The Seven Best Nexus 4 SIM Cards in the United States

2013 06 21 00.11.10   The Seven Best Nexus 4 SIM Cards in the United StatesWant to get the absolute best cellular plan for your Nexus 4? As all American cellular users know, carriers charge budget-breaking prices for smartphone plans. The only way to save money is through cellular wholesalers who lease broadcast spectrum from the major networks and sell to the little guy at a substantial discount. Yeah, I know it sounds like a scam. It’s not.

Just buy the prepaid SIM card from an Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) and cut your cell bill in half.

Here’s what you need to know: The Nexus 4 only works on two major American networks: AT&T and T-Mobile. Therefore you need to buy a SIM from an MVNO (or from T-Mobile’s prepaid division), that leases spectrum from that particular network – I’ve marked each MVNO by network. If your area is outside of coverage, then you won’t be able to use a Nexus 4, without setting up a SIP phone, such as Talkatone and Viber.

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The Best Nexus 4 SIM Cards and Prepaid Plans

Because the Nexus 4 is a GSM only phone, this list only includes Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks and T-Mobile’s official prepaid service.

It’s also important to point out that AT&T generally provides better coverage and data speeds than T-Mobile. On the other hand, T-Mobile plans cost less and offer larger data caps, ranging from 2GB to unlimited.

The most important considerations of any prepaid plan are six-part: (1) the monthly costs, (2) the SIM card costs, (3) how much data you are allocated before your download speeds are reduced (throttled), (4) amount of talk time and (5) text messages and (6) other miscellaneous restrictions or issues.

I analyze all plans contained within this article by these six factors.

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Straight Talk on the T-Mobile Network ($45/month, $4.99 SIM card)

As the name suggests, Straight Talk provides one of the most straightforward prepaid plans. It also permits customers to pay up to a full year in advance, which lowers the monthly payments to $41.50 per month on its $45 per month plan.

  • Monthly cost: $45/month or $41.50 if you pay a full year up front.
  • SIM card cost: $14.88 at Walmart.
  • Data cap: Straight Talk has waffled between offering truly unlimited data and randomly capping it. There’s a great deal of confusion regarding the size of its data cap, ranging from 2 gigabytes to unlimited.
  • Voice minutes: Unlimited.
  • Text messages: Unlimited.
  • Other restrictions: No data roaming.

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T-Mobile Prepaid ($30/month, $10 SIM card)

T-Mobile prepaid plans provide the best value out of all the prepaid plans. Also, it’s possible to convert the lavish 5 gigabyte data cap into voice minutes, at the expense of call quality, by using apps such as Talkatone.

  • Monthly cost: $30/month.
  • SIM card cost: ~$10 at Amazon for an activation kit.
  • Data cap: 5 gigabytes at 4G speeds, later throttled.
  • Voice minutes: 100 minutes.
  • Text messages: Unlimited.
  • Other restrictions: No data roaming.

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Ultra on the T-Mobile Network ($19/month, $1 SIM card)

Ultra’s more expensive unlimited plans do not compete on favorable terms with either T-Mobile or Straight Talk. However, it recently introduced an inexpensive lower-rung plan that provides relatively good value for those who use their phone infrequently.

  • Monthly cost: $19/month.
  • SIM card cost: ~$1.00 on Amazon.
  • Data cap: 50 MB at 4G speeds.
  • Voice minutes: 250 minutes of talk.
  • Text messages: Unlimited.
  • Other restrictions: No data roaming; SIM size requires conversion.

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Ptel on the T-Mobile Network ($10/ 2 months, $4.99 SIM card)

Ptel offers acceptable unlimited plans, but its best value comes from its “pay-as-you-go” plans. It takes first place in lowest cost per month, at $10 every two months to maintain service – this payment accrues in your account. Using the phone subtracts money from your account in the following rates: 10 cents per megabyte of data; 5 cents per minute of pro-rated talk; 2 cents per text message.

  • Monthly cost: $10 every two months, with other plans available.
  • SIM card cost: $4.99 for a combi card from Ptel. Note: 3FF is the same as microSIM.
  • Data prices: 10 cents per megabyte.
  • Voice minutes: 5 cents per minute.
  • Text messages: 2 cents per text.
  • Other restrictions: No data roaming; pro-rated talk minutes, meaning that Ptel doesn’t round up for each minute that you use; account balances expire after a year for all plans, except the $100/365 days of service plan.

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Net10 on the AT&T Network ($50/month, $1 SIM card)

Net10 recently began offering prepaid service to any GSM phone. For the AT&T network, if you pay up front, it offers the best value and largest data cap.

  • Monthly cost: $50/month or potentially $45/month if you select automatic payments.
  • SIM card cost: ~$1.00 on Amazon.
  • Data cap: 1.5 gigabytes and then throttled afterward.
  • Voice minutes: Unlimited.
  • Text messages: Unlimited.
  • Other restrictions: No data roaming.

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Good2GO Mobile on the AT&T Network ($50/month, $5 SIM card)

Good2GO offers a reasonably well priced plan on the AT&T network. It doesn’t have any drawbacks and is one of the most vanilla MVNOs available.

  • Monthly cost: $50/month.
  • SIM card cost: $~5.00 on Amazon.
  • Data cap: 1 gigabyte.
  • Voice minutes: Unlimited.
  • Text messages: Unlimited.
  • Other restrictions: No data roaming.

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AirVoice Wireless on the AT&T Network ($55 and $40/month, $5 SIM card)

AirVoice provides a good middle ground between Net10 and Good2GO. It offers well-priced plans in both the 1 gigabyte and 500 megabyte data brackets. Its international SMS and calls also provide a good deal.

  • Monthly cost: $55 and $45/month.
  • SIM card cost: $4.99 from AirVoice.
  • Data cap: 1 gigabyte ($55) and 500 megabytes ($45).
  • Voice minutes: Unlimited.
  • Text messages: Unlimited.
  • Other restrictions: No data roaming; $10 credit/month for international calls; unlimited international SMS/MMS.

How to Insert a Nexus 4 SIM Card

After getting a new SIM card, you may need to cut it down to insert it into the Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 only accepts a microSIM card (3FF). Many prepaid carriers offer miniSIM (2FF), unfortunately, which doesn’t fit in the Nexus 4. Cutting it down requires only one of the following methods, in order of efficacy:

Out of the four methods, the most accurate will be using the SIM card cutter. Using some of the other methods may result in a damaged SIM card, or improper fit. Either may cause additional issues, such as a diminished call quality, battery drain or worse. Exercise caution when cutting your card.

Pros and Cons of MVNOs

Pros of MVNOs

  • Cheaper.
  • No contracts.
  • No overages.
  • No credit checks.

Cons of MVNOs

  • No data roaming: The only real shortcoming of MVNOs is that they do not offer data roaming. The major carriers have agreements with each other that allow them to share data connections. If you are an AT&T customer and you roam outside of your coverage zone for data, T-Mobile lends them their broadcast spectrum. Unfortunately, carriers charge quite a bit of money for access to their networks from competitors and MVNOs, which operate on razor thin margins, cannot afford it.
  • This means you get reduced data connection coverage as opposed to signing a contract with a major carrier. Given that most cellular users don’t frequently venture outside of the coverage of AT&T or T-Mobile, it’s not that big a sacrifice – especially considering the hundreds each year saved by switching to an MVNO.

To read more about the benefits of MVNOs over the big four carriers, click here.

Conclusion

Getting a great monthly rate, with a good cellular provider will save you hundreds of dollars a year on your unlocked Nexus 4. Simply find out what major network works best for you and choose an MVNOs that leases spectrum from them.

In my experience, after carefully analyzing my data consumption and needs, the savings can add up to significant figures. I migrated to a ~$5/month pay-go plan with Ptel and saved about $240 per year in cellular costs!

If you’re seeking to protect both your wallet and phone, check out my article on the best Nexus 4 cases money can buy. Given its glass back and legendary slipperiness, protecting your phone should rank somewhere above saving money on a cellular plan.

Any other Nexus 4 owners satisfied with an MVNO or T-Mobile prepaid plan? Let us know in the comments.

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9 Comments -

0 votes

Lee

Can’t you also use the StraightTalk $45 a month with AT&T?

0 votes

Kannon Yamada

AT&T purchased its own MVNO and stopped allowing StraightTalk to sell additional AT&T SIM cards.

StraightTalk then started selling T-Mobile SIMs instead. However, if you have an AT&T SIM card you can use the service, although there have been some early reports that AT&T was interfering with Straight Talk customers’ data speeds.

1 votes

leo

How about Simple Mobile or go smart?

0 votes

Kannon Yamada

Thanks for the comment Leo!

I’m on the verge of booting Straight Talk off my list and adding GoSmart to it. ST has poorly stated data policies, but the $41.50 a month is the best for the amount of data. I took another look at GoSmart and they’re offering a similar plan as ST but it’s offered directly by T-Mobile, just under a different branding. Thanks for the suggestion!

Simple Mobile is definitely competitive with GoSmart in the T-Mobile MVNO market segment. Unfortunately, it’s owned by Tracfone, one of the worst MVNOs around. Straight Talk is also owned by the same company. I imagine that Simple Mobile will begin offering plans complementary with Straight Talk.

0 votes

Joe

Hello – Thanks for the article. To be clear – if I buy the Google Nexus 4 from Google, will I then be able to bring it in to Walmart and purchase the Walmart Family Plan or Straight Talk SIM card and then be good to go? It doesn’t need to be “unlocked”? I have heard good things about the Walmart plan, and believe it uses TMobile towers, but would appreciate your input.

Thanks very much for any information.

0 votes

Kannon Yamada

Hey Joe!

If you buy the N4 from Google, it comes unlocked, meaning you can put any SIM card in it. However, you must be careful about the MVNO (carrier) that you pick as well as the plan. Some plans and carriers do not allow unlocked devices on their network.

Straight Talk allows unlocked devices – I don’t know enough about Walmart’s family plan to make any sort of judgement, but it looks as if they allow unlocked devices. So in theory you should simply be able to plug the SIM into your phone and, after activation, it should work.

0 votes

Shawn

I am using the Nexus 4 on the Family Mobile network right now so yes you can go to Walmart and get the SIM card and use it that way.

0 votes

Krishna

How about Solavei ? 39$ for unlimited talk, text and data is a good deal. isn’t it?

0 votes

Andrew

I’m loving Straight Talk ATT unlimited for ~ $37 a month… I buy 6 months at a time on amazon when they hit $220 for 6 months… Use 3x Camel to monitor. :)