TracFone and Net10 SIM Card Info

Lately Ive been receiving a lot of questions and comments on the issue of AT&T vs. T-Mobile SIM cards. So I decided to write up a little info on this issue to hopefully help clear things up a little.

[Note: This information applies equally to TracFone and Net10 users. However, to make for easier reading, I'll be referring only to "TracFone." If you're a Net10 user, just replace the word "TracFone" with "Net10."]

For those of you who don’t know, TracFone don’t own any networks – they just contract with the network owners, or “carriers,” to use the networks. There are three main carriers that TracFone works with: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon (who now also owns the former Alltel network). The former two carriers operate “GSM” networks, while Verizon’s network uses the “CDMA” standard. For more information on these two technologies, check out my old TracFone CDMA vs. GSM article here.

Here’s a simplified view of how the GSM phones work on TracFone: The GSM carriers require that each phone use a “SIM Card.” In the case of TracFone GSM phones, you will get a SIM card that is native to either the AT&T or the T-Mobile network. The type of SIM card determines which network your particular phone will give preference too, in case both networks are available.

For example, if you have a T-Mobile SIM in your phone and you’re in an area where both AT&T and T-Mobile networks are available, your phone will use the T-Mobile network. If you travel into an area with only AT&T coverage, you should be able to use the AT&T network. However, this is where things get a little murky for TracFone users.

Throughout the comments on this blog and on other forums around the web, TracFone users with T-Mobile sim cards in their phones have reported subpar or even unacceptable roaming ability. As far as I can tell, these problems seem to arise when a phone with a T-Mobile SIM is in an area with a strong AT&T signal, but weak T-Mobile coverage. Since the T-Mobile SIM tells the phone to give preference to the T-Mobile network, that’s the network you’ll be forced to use – even though the AT&T signal is stronger.

This issue is compounded by the problem that AT&T has a more comprehensive network, so it’s a fairly common problem to use an inferior T-Mobile signal when AT&T would be a better option. Further, users with T-Mobile SIM cards have also reported problems with the data capabilities of their phones, having trouble sending MMS messages and using the mobile web.

Add all these factors together, and the result is that for many (but not all) TracFone users with T-Mobile SIM cards, an AT&T SIM would actually provide better service. On Friday I’ll follow up with another article on this topic, discussing how to tell what type of SIM card is in your phone, whether you should replace your SIM card, and how to make sure you get the SIM card you want when buying a new phone.

9 thoughts on “TracFone and Net10 SIM Card Info

  1. Hi Patrick [and others with the LG600G]

    Talked TrcFone into switching sim cardsl however, today, a week later called again to find out that someone had slipped up [a supervisor, a that].

    They ported my “new” number into the system to accomodate the new sim card, however, they forgot to mail the sim card.

    Result, no incoming calls [re port] and no new sim card.

    Oh well. It happens.

    Then, I ordered a USB to LG600 cable from EBay. Cheap enough but no software included.

    When I get the cable, what do I need to know in order to move photos into my computer? The seller also mentions uploading, downloading ring tones, and data.

    Any suggestions, directions to your articles will be appreciated.

    Regards

    Gentle Ben

    • Ben –
      I don’t know if the USB cable will help you out with this model. I haven’t heard of anyone getting a USB connection to function for data transfer on a 600g. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous eBay sellers that spam their listings with a bunch of model numbers when they list accessories. I suspect that when you receive the cable and attach it to your phone, then connect to your computer, you won’t be able to accomplish anything except maybe charge the phone.
      I really hope you’ll be able to do data transfers, though. If that’s the case, please let us know.
      If it doesn’t work out and you’re still looking for a method of transferring data between your 600g and your computer, you’ll want to try bluetooth. Some computers already have bluetooth built-in; if your computer does NOT, you can pick up a “bluetooth USB dongle” for less than $5 on a site like ebay, dealextreme, or buy.com. That will allow your computer to communicate with the 600g via bluetooth.

  2. I’m thinking of upgrading to the W376g. It appears my current phone (W370)has an AT&T Sim card. On the Tracfone website the W376g for my zip code now appears to be on the T-Mobile network. Do you think there would be any problem activating/using a phone that I got with a different zip code so that I could get an ATT&T Sim? That way I wouldn’t have to bother with trying to exchange Sims.

  3. hey, i am thinking about getting the lg 900g from net10 but i want service from tracfone. so can i get the net 10 phone and buy a NEW tracfone sim card and have tracfone service on a net 10 phone?

    thanks, Matt

    • Sorry Matt, that plan won’t work. None of the TracFone, Net10, or Straight Talk phones are interchangeable among plans. Every phone can be used only with the service for which it was sold.

  4. I have had a Tracfone for over ten years and I am now thinking about switching to Straight Talk. I went through the At&t T-Mobile SIM card issue with my last Tracfone. AT&T works better in my area than T-Mobile so I want to be sure that the Straight Talk phone I purchase has an AT&T SIM card. I am looking at the Motorola W418g and I noticed at my Wal Mart the bar code number on the box had a P5 in it. Would P5 mean this is a T-Mobile phone? If I want an AT&T SIM card would the bar code number on the box have a P4 in it?

    Thanks for any advice
    Marsha

  5. I only wish I had seen this posting prior to my 4…YES Four hours battling with Tracfone (not to mention the accent) to get my new 19.95 tracfone switched from T-mobil to ATT. Not that I love ATT but I get coverage well, T-mobil in my area is VERY spotty and almost non existent in my home.
    They are sending me another T-mobil card…SIGH.
    T-mobil apparently refuses to release an ATT card for this phone.
    So I took your advise ordered another phone with a zip code that gives the ATT code in the address bar and I am awaiting my new tracfone and then switch over the phone # and min.
    And NEVER make this mistake again.

    Thanks!!!
    Steve

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