[EDIT 2/4/10: I've revised this article to include updated information where appropriate.]
Tracfone service is available on two types of phones. The first type is referred to as a CDMA phone. These phones use network coverage provided by Verizon (in most cases) as well as Alltel, US Cellular, and sometimes other smaller, regional carriers.
[Note: this information applies equally to TracFone and Net10 handsets. Throughout this post, wherever I refer to TracFone, it also applies to Net10.]
Of the phones currently available with Tracfone service the following models, among others, fall into this category: LG 100c, LG 220c, and LG 290c. It’s not really important to know about the technology behind the phone, but for the purpose of Tracfone use you need to know that this type of phone generally receives a signal in more areas (especially rural areas) than the other type. However, in the past the drawback was that most of the older phones with CDMA technology charged double the amount of minutes for calls made or received from outside the phone’s home calling area. The newer CDMA phones are charged the same rate from anywhere inside the U.S. and are labeled on the packaging as “Single Rate.”
On the Nokia 2126 model, there are actually two different phones with similar model numbers. They are both CDMA phones, but the 2126i is a little newer and does NOT charge for roaming. The 2126 (no i at the end of the model number) charges DOUBLE for roaming. Obviously, this is an important distinction. Also, LG 3280 and 200C, and the Kyocera K126C are among those CDMA phones that do NOT charge double for roaming. The 2126i (single rate) can be hard to find; it is now out of production, and is/was rather coveted by Tracfone enthusiasts.
The other type of technology used in Tracfone handsets is referred to as GSM. This type of phone will be charged the same airtime rate regardless of where you are when you make or receive a call – as long as you have service. I point this out because, as I noted above, the coverage of GSM networks is not as comprehensive in certain areas. Coverage for these models is provided by AT&T and T-Mobile.
Here are links to the maps of coverage provided by CDMA and GSM, respectively:
You can also access TracFone’s coverage map by clicking here and entering your zip code.
For most recent phone models, the letter at the end of the model number indicates the type of technolog – g is for GSM, and c is for CDMA. For example, the LG 410g is a GSM model, while the LG 220c is a CDMA phone.
Finally, below is a list of all handset models available for use with new Tracfone service. Those in bold are CDMA phones (they are not in bold because they are necessarily better or worse, just to indicate they are different):
Motorola: W370, C261, V170, C139, V176, V60i, C155, C343, v120, w370, w376g, w377g, w260g, w175g
LG: CG225, 1500, 3280, 200C, 100c, 220c, 290c, 410g, 600g, 300g, 400g
Nokia: 5100, 1100, 1112, 1221, 2126, 2600, 3390, 2285
Samsung: t101g, t201g, t301g, t401g, r451c