Wow. Just, WOW!
Just when I thought I was ready to move on past TracFone because I was growing bored with their phone selection and dwindling number of promo codes, they have shocked me with the announcement that they will now carry Android phones. One phone – the Samsung Galaxy Centura – is already available (more on that farther down in this post), and three more phones appear to be on the horizon.
[Update: the Centura is now available from TracFone directly. However, I also strongly recommend the LG Optimus Dynamic II over the Centura, or if you are interested, you might also consider a used iPhone on TracFone’s Bring Your Own Phone program.]
The most shocking thing about it is that you can use this phone with the same type of airtime cards you’ve always used with TracFone. In other words, they will NOT be charging a steep minimum monthly payment as do Net10 and Straight Talk. Use minutes, text, and data as you need them, and the unused balance will roll over as long as you keep your service active. This is precisely what loyal TracFone users have been waiting for.
One thing that is still unclear is how, exactly, an airtime card will be applied to these new phones, and how airtime balances will be tracked. For starters, it seems clear that there will be three “buckets” of airtime on the Android phones – one for minutes, one for texts, and one for data. The biggest question in my mind is how a normal airtime card will be divided up among these buckets.
Most of the information that I have found seems to indicate that Android phones will grant a special “triple-triple” privilege. Under this possible scenario, for example, a 60-minute card would be tripled into 180. But 180 of what? Everything that I’ve seen seems to be saying that it will be 180 minutes. AND 180 texts. AND 180 mb of data.
Again, this is a POSSIBLE outcome, but I have not seen it tested yet. On one hand, it seems a little too good to be true when you compare the value of the triple-triple minutes vs. regular triple-minute phones. But time will tell.
This does have some drawbacks, of course. First, the “bucket” system could be a negative for people whose usage is skewed heavily toward one of the three buckets.
For example, say you add a 200-minute card, which delivers 600 units to each bucket. If you talk very little, but send 10 texts and receive 10 texts every day, your “texting” bucket would be used up in a month (20 used a day, multiplied by 30 days = 600 texts). You would therefore need to add an airtime card. Put more simply, this could be more complicated to manage than the old phones.
Next, the phones are quite low-end, and there is not currently a way that users can bring a non-TracFone device to the service. The phones available from TracFone might be sluggish when running some more advanced apps.
Of the four phones listed on TracFone’s website, three are listed with single-core, 800 MHz processors and 512 MB of RAM. For comparison, the current top-of-the-line Samsung device, the Galaxy S4, runs on a quad-core, 1.9 Ghz processor with 2 GB of RAM. So the early TracFone Android models will be able to do a lot less than the high-end phones. Still, you’ll be able to do a lot more with them than even the very best feature phone previously offered by TracFone.
Only one of these Android devices is currently available for purchases, and only from limited sellers. The Samsung Galaxy Centura first appeared for sale via the Home Shopping Network and HSN.com on September 20th.
The Centura is currently listed at $149.95 in a bundle that includes
a 200-minute airtime card (which will triple to 600 in each bucket),
a $25 Google Play Store gift card (use this to purchase apps, music, movies and books),
a car charger and
a protective case.
Click here to check out this deal from HSN (and you can try coupon code 135235, which might get you a discount if you are a first-time buyer from HSN).
A few days later it showed up on eBay from the well-known seller ShopCellDeals. There, it is currently available for $119.99, but this price is for the phone alone, with none of the extras available from the HSN deal. To check out the details of the eBay deal, click here.
I personally have ordered a Centura for myself, and will be posting a review on it as soon as I can.