Sunday, September 15, 2013

Walmart Family Mobile Unlimited No Contract Plan goes Back to School - and gets a Passing Grade!!!

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The Walmart Family Mobile plan passes the cheap and frugal test...

Last month, I wrote a blog post telling everyone about Walmart's postpaid no-contract mobile phone plan called Walmart Family Mobile. This mobile plan is powered by T-Mobile and has great features that include unlimited talk, unlimited text and 5 GB of 3G high speed web data for only $39.88 a month with up to 5 additional lines for only $34.88, all with no long-term commitment.

The Walmart Family Mobile Plan also comes with an option for Unlimited Talk and Text (no web data) for $29.88 a month with up to 5 additional lines for $24.88 each a month.

My son and I has been trying out the Walmart Family Mobile Plan service for the past month with a new Walmart Family Mobile myTouch smartphone and on our unlocked GSM smartphones as he goes back to school and I go back to my full schedule of driving him between school and his after school activities.

So, did this bargain mobile service pass the grade with my busy family? Read on to find out ...

Plan Price - Grade: A+++

I did a little research on the Walmart Family Mobile Plan and found out the plan has gone through lots of feature upgrades over the past year. The plan has been upgraded from offering 500 mb of 3G high speed web data a month to now offering 5 GB of 3G high speed web data per month (slowing to 2G speeds for the rest of the month), and all for the same low price.

And in addition to 5 GB of 3G high speed data, the plan also offers unlimited talk and unlimited text all for the same low price of $39.88 with additional lines for only $34.88 per month. I love when a service is improved and upgraded at no additional cost to the users, don't you???

I only had to pay for the cost of the phone and the SIM card to begin...
To start, the most that you have to pay for is the cost of the phone ($129.88 for the myTouch smartphone) and the Walmart Family Mobile Plan SIM card ($25).  After that, you will only have to pay the monthly cost of the service plan.  As the receipt above shows, I was able to pick up a new Walmart Family Mobile smartphone, a Walmart Family Mobile SIM card, and some school uniform polo shirts for my son all in one trip to my local Walmart.

Activation was easy, but the SIM cards are not free...
Service Activation  - Grade: A-

The Walmart Family Mobile activation kit is priced at $25 and contains instructions and Walmart Family Mobile Standard and Micro SIM cards. Activating only one line is not that big of an expense. But someone activating 5 lines would have to pay $125, which is something you need to keep in mind if you plan to activate this mobile plan for multiple members of your family.

Activation is very easy and can be done either in store at the Walmart Customer Service department or online by visiting the Walmart Family Mobile website.

I had difficulty getting a 313 area code during activation
One issue that I had during online activation was that I had difficulty getting a 313 area code. I live in Detroit, which has a 313 area code. But based on my home zip code, the menu options only presented me with a 248 or a 810 area code, which is for the Detroit suburbs. In order to get a phone number with a 313 area code, I had to use my work zip code. I am not sure how Walmart is assigning the area code for phone numbers, but in my case, something in the Walmart formula needs to be fixed.

T-Mobile Voice Service - Grade: A+

T-mobile voice calls placed using the Walmart Family Mobile Plan were crystal clear in the Metro Detroit areas where I live and work. We experienced no dropped calls and everything worked great with call reception.  

The 3G data speed is great for streaming music and podcasts
T-Mobile Data Web Speeds - Grade: B+

The Walmart Family Mobile Plan comes with 5 GB of 3G high speed monthly web data, which slows to 2G speeds after the 5 GB of data is used for the month. There are very few no-contract plans that include this much high speed data per month, so the Walmart Family Mobile Plan is a unique bargain for those who consistently use their smartphones to connect to the Internet.

But there are some limitations.

My son loves to stream Netflix and Hulu Plus movies on his smartphone and he had issues using the Walmart Family Mobile Plan with the video stopping repeatedly due to continued buffering. Because the Walmart Family Mobile Plan uses T-Mobile's slower 3G data speeds and not 4G data speeds, streaming video was problematic. So this 3G data plan is currently not great for people who love to stream video.

I on the other hand am not into streaming video, but I love to stream music from my Google Music account and the Walmart Family Mobile plan was perfect for me. I stream music and podcasts on my daily 45 minute exercise walk and I experienced zero issues with the service. My music sounded great with no buffering.

I also used the data connection with the Walmart Family Mobile Plan to tether my smartphone to my laptop and iPad and the 3G data speeds included in the plan worked great for surfing the web and writing new posts for my blog while on the go.

The ability to use the Walmart Family Mobile Plan's 5 GB of high speed data as a FREE hotspot for my laptop and iPad is a great bargain since most contract and no-contract plans charge extra for or do not allow hotspot tethering.

Texting - Grade: A-

My son hates to talk on his smartphone so his method of choice for staying connected with family and friends it through texting.  If you or your kids are like my son, then you will love the unlimited texting feature of the Walmart Family Mobile plan. With some kids logging hundreds of texts per day, a plan like the Walmart Family Mobile plan can save a parent lots of money per year over having to pay more with some contact plans to have unlimited texting.

Although my son had no issues with texting using this plan, I did encounter a plan limitation.

I like to signup for coupon services that text deals to my smartphone. Businesses like Target, Payless, and AMC Theaters all have texting plans where I can signup to have deals delivered via text right to my smartphone. When I tried to signup for these texting services using the Walmart Family Mobile Plan, I found out the plan blocks this feature. So frugal folks who love to use the coupon texting services should take this into account when thinking about signing up for the Walmart Family Mobile Plan.

Walmart has rolled back the price of the myTouch smartphone to $129.88!!!
The myTouch Smartphone - Grade: B

The $129 Walmart Family Mobile myTouch smartphone is one of many smartphones that Walmart offers to use with the Walmart Family Mobile Service, in addition to being able to "Bring Your Own Phone."

The myTouch is a good phone for the price and includes the following features:

- Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) OS
- 5 megapixel camera with LED flash and auto focus
- 4" 480 x 800 pixel LCD display (same size as an iPhone 5)
- 4GB internal storage
- Bluetooth enabled
- microSD slot with up to 16GB expandable memory
- Talk time: 7 h
- Standby time: 348 h

The myTouch is an excellent phone for people looking for something simple and easy to use with not a lot of features to trip them up and just enough storage for a few apps, music and photos.  The myTouch also can be used as a hotspot for tethering the plan's data connection to a computer or tablet.

At $129, the myTouch is a great mid range Android starter phone. And I looked up the price of this phone on eBay and it is currently selling for around the same price that Walmart is offering, so I know that the $129 Walmart roll-back price is a good deal.

But if you are looking for more advance features like Google Now (Google's version of Siri), more on-board memory, a more powerful processor for playing lots of video intense games, and a more powerful camera, check out the other smartphones offered by Walmart Family Mobile Plan which include the Samsung S3, Samsung S4, and the iPhone 5.

The Walmart Family Mobile SIM card works great on my Nexus 4
Bring Your Own Device - Grade: A++
One of the great features of the Walmart Family Mobile Plan is that you can just purchase the SIM card and use it in an unlocked GSM smartphone.  Both my son and I own unlocked GSM smartphones so we both tried out using the Walmart Family Plan SIM card in our phones and the service worked flawlessly.

All I had to do with my unlocked Nexus 4 smartphone was switch out the SIM card and reboot the phone and the Walmart Family Mobile Plan service was up and running immediately. This is great for someone that already owns an unlocked GSM smartphone and is looking for a cheap mobile service to use with the already paid for phone. I know many people who have upgraded their smartphones and have the old one just sitting in a drawer. Now they can get an old smartphone unlocked and give it to a child or parent to use with the bargain Walmart Family Mobile Plan.

Never miss paying a bill with text reminders....
Paying the Monthly Bill - Grade: A

Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill?  Well I have and it is not a great experience. So I love when companies send me reminders when the bill is due.

Walmart Family Mobile is a postpaid service, which means I was billed after using the service, versus prepaying for service up front. My first bill was generated three weeks after activating service, and I received a text message notifying me of the amount due and and the bill's due date. The bill includes the monthly recurring cost of the rate plan, any paid features, and applicable taxes and fees.  The bill can be paid in store, by phone, and online at the Walmart Family Plan Account Management website.

Walmart Family Mobile passes the Frugal and Cheap Test!!!

Overall, the Walmart Family Mobile Plan definitely gets great passing grades for the low plan price, low price smartphone options, clear voice calling, the ability to use the data connection as a free hotspot for other devices, and the ability to use the plan with most unlocked GSM smartphones.

If the Walmart Family Mobile plan was upgraded to use T-mobile's 4G HSPA or 4G LTE high speed data and allow deal texting services, this plan would be close to perfection.

If you live and work in an area where T-mobile 3G service is good, the Walmart Family Mobile Plan is one postpaid no-contact plan that is worth checking out.

Also check out all the photos from my Walmart Family Mobile Plan Shop on Google +  which included my back-to-school shopping for my son.  For more Back-to-School shopping ideas at Walmart, check out this month's SoFab Back to School Digital Magazine which also includes an article on the Walmart Family Mobile Plan.


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