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Switched my iPhone 3GS from AT&T to PureTalkUSA

May 16, 2012 by debbie T | iTunes & iPhone

A few weeks ago, I never realized that there were other options for my older (out of contract) iPhone 3GS, but when the news broke that AT&T was now “unlocking” iPhones, I learned that there was money to be saved on my monthly bill!

So, after I completed the unlocking process for my iPhone 3GS, and a couple of weeks of online research, I decided to switch my monthly service from AT&T to PureTalkUSA.

Why did I choose Pure Talk?

Well, reason #1 was price. For $44, I would have unlimited talk and text and 300mb of data each month. AT&T only offered me 200mb; I had no trouble sticking to that allowance, so I knew 300mb would be plenty. PLUS, I’d be saving almost $20/month on my bill!

Another important reason was that PureTalk is an AT&T MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) which basically means they are an AT&T service reseller, buying the service in bulk and setting their own fees. I knew my network access/speed wouldn’t be compromised because it would still be AT&T.

I had considered trying T-Mobile’s prepaid service, but unfortunately at this time, TMo’s network runs on a different frequency, which would drop my service down to Edge/2G. Our home is in an area that doesn’t have good Edge service, so it would be really difficult to use my cellphone inside/around the house.

I did hear that TMo is in the process of upgrading, so eventually, they will be on par with AT&T as far as 3G access on the iPhone. I will definitely consider them in the future, but for now, Edge is just too spotty and slow for me.

For those curious to see my “notes”, here is a link to my cell provider comparison spreadsheet:

Setting Up With the Pure Talk

I ordered my free PureTalk simcard online, and it shipped quickly, and I received it in a matter of only a couple of days.

The sim card arrived with an instructional letter, which included important info for activation, like account and sim numbers. I couldn’t complete activation online, because I was porting over my old cell number; I called PureTalk’s customer service, and the process was quick and easy. The rep informed me that I’d receive an email when AT&T released the cell number; worse case scenario was 48 hours, but it rarely ever took that long.

I was thrilled to receive the email in only about 90 minutes! Yay.

So I removed the AT&T sim card and popped in the Pure Talk sim, and rebooted. It was so cool to see the “Pure GSM” text on my iPhone screen.

Setting up for Mobile Data Access with Pure Talk

Setting up text/talk was very easy, but mobile data access was a different story.

In order to set up the iPhone for data, the APN settings need to be changed to PureTalk’s specific configuration.

iPhone: Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network

I was at a dead stop because on my iPhone, the Cellular Data Network menu was unavailable!

can't find apn settings on my iphone

Thankfully, there was a safe, legal fix (doesn’t require a jailbreak).

Using a wifi connection on iPhone, browse to http://www.unlockit.co.nz – choose your cell provider, and save the new APN file to your iPhone. Keep that file there until you switch to another provider.

Happy With PureTalk

So, it’s only been a week or so, but I’m happy with PureTalk’s service so far. My cell/data access has been the same as with AT&T.

I’m on the fence about their customer service at this point. I have contacted them by email with two separate concerns, and received only one response in a timely manner. I did not receive a response to my second inquiry, even though a help ticket was opened.

Thankfully my question wasn’t incredibly important, but still, it would have been nice to receive an answer.

I will probably continue to use PureTalk, as I don’t think any other MVNO would be any better.

UPDATE 2013-07-28: I’ve been using PureTalk for over a year now, and it’s been great. They text me every month when they charge my credit card and I’ve had no problems. Wireless service is probably not as strong as if I were a direct AT&T customer, but it’s fine on my old (slow) iPhone 3GS. I like saving $money!

There are 9 comments

  1. Hi, I bought an AT&T iphone today and used the directions above to change my APN for Puretalk. The data still isn’t available. Any other suggestions??

    Comment by Darlene on June 12th, 2012
  2. Do you have pure talk listed as the provider on the phone? Mine shows “pure gsm” on the top left on screen. you don’t have it in airport mode, do you?

    Have you ever used an iPhone before? I’m wondering if there is something up with the setting somewhere.

    Comment by debbie T on June 13th, 2012
  3. The Cellular Data Network menu still doesn’t show up, but data works.

    Comment by K on June 24th, 2012
  4. this worked for me but no mms capabilities on an iphone 4 using io6, still trying to figure this out

    Comment by Brad on October 23rd, 2012
  5. Brad, I don’t have MMS either. I just use email when I want to share photos.

    Comment by debbie T on October 23rd, 2012
  6. Well I am in the process of switching from ATT to PureTalk. Their Unlimited+ plan is still $44 but now includes 1 GB of data. I am switching two phones and it’s going to save me $70 a month! Thanks for the tips and the push I needed to finally leave ATT. I’ll let you know how the switch works out once I get both phones activated and have tried the service for a while.

    Comment by Joe on August 2nd, 2013
  7. Oh good for you Joe. Happy to hear you’re making the switch. And yes you are right, thy do now offer 1gb. They keep increasing the data! I am usually on wifi so I only use about 100mb but 1gb is usually plenty for the average person.

    Good luck! And post again when youve used them for a little bit.

    Comment by debbie T on August 2nd, 2013
  8. Hi, everyone I have been with Pure Talk for 5 years and they are the best provider I have ever had. Thank you for your post because it fixed my problem with my Iphone . I just got it from daughter and tried to get it to work but had no luck except for talk and text but know it works fine I will keep looking for away to make mms work and will post my findings. Good luck

    Comment by Archie on October 18th, 2013
  9. Thanks for your comment, Archie! glad you got it figured out! I still am loving puretalk too and I’m saving even more money now that I switched from the unlimited plus plan to just plain unlimited. I use less than 100mb of data and it’s perfect for me now that they added data to all plans!

    Comment by debbie T on October 18th, 2013