Thursday, May 3, 2012

HOW TO: Use your iPhone with Straight Talk prepaid wireless service


Unlimited talk time, unlimited text messaging, and unlimited data on an iPhone for just $48 per month, including tax? Is this some kind of dream? No. This really is possible. Oh, and did I mention that you can do this even with your iPhone that's locked to AT&T?

So here's the deal. Straight Talk Wireless is a brand from TracFone Wireless that is sold exclusively through Wal-Mart stores. Up until a few months ago Straight Talk worked like pretty much any other prepaid wireless service provider: You buy a phone from them, and then buy airtime cards to refill your service each month. The plans are very competitive with Straight Talk offering a fully unlimited plan for just $45 a month. Add in your local sales tax and the total monthly cost is right around $48 in most areas. A good deal indeed, but of course Straight Talk doesn't sell the iPhone and you had to use a phone that you purchased from Straight Talk, so previously you were stuck choosing from their limited selection of Android or BlackBerry models.

In February Straight Talk began offering a significant new product: SIM card only service. This new service allows you to purchase just the SIM card directly from Straight Talk and use it in a GSM phone that you already own. The killer feature here is that since Straight Talk uses the AT&T GSM network they actually offer a SIM card that is fully compatible with AT&T locked iPhones. That's right, no jailbreaking or hacking required. The SIM card is available in either a standard size, or the micro size found in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, making this service compatible with all models of the iPhone.

This will even work with the iPhone 5 if you are willing to modify the Straight Talk SIM card. See my other article for the iPhone 5 specific steps.

Make sure to check out my comparison of Straight Talk to the "Big Four" cell phone carriers to see just how much money Straight Talk can save you!

How to switch
If you're interested in this service it's very easy to get started. First visit Straight Talk's SIM Card Website to purchase your new SIM card for $15. The website will ask you what type of phone you have (choose AT&T if you have an AT&T iPhone, or unlocked if you happen to have purchased an unlocked iPhone at full price directly from Apple). You will also need to choose either a regular size SIM card or a micro SIM card. Choose the micro SIM card for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S and the regular SIM card for any earlier models of iPhone.You can also go ahead and buy your first month's service card at the website for $45.
What you need to get started

Once your SIM card arrives simply pop out your AT&T SIM card (a paperclip works good for ejecting the SIM card tray on the side of the iPhone) and replace it with the new Straight Talk SIM card.
The trusty paperclip at work
Bye-bye AT&T!

Next you'll go to Straight Talk's website to activate your SIM card. During the process you will be asked to enter the code from your first monthly service card. You also have the opportunity to port an existing phone number over or have Straight Talk randomly assign you a new phone number in your area code.

Once the activation process is completed you'll be able to make and receive calls using your new service. You'll notice that the usual "AT&T" text in the upper left corner of your iPhone screen will now be replaced with "HOME". This indicates that you are using the Straight Talk service.


Updating your cellular data APN
[Update: There is a way to set the cellular data APN without using a profile. See my update at the bottom of this article.]
At this point your phone will be working for voice calls and text messages, but there is one last step that's needed in order to get mobile data services working. The cellular data APN setting on the phone needs to be changed to "att.mvno". This should be an easy change under the iPhone's network settings menu, but on AT&T iPhones this option seems to be disabled, preventing you from changing it. There is an easy fix though. The iPhone allows you to install a "profile" that will update the cellular data APN. This is a simple process and you can even get the necessary profile file online.

To get the profile that will update your APN settings just visit www.unlockit.co.nz from your iPhone. You can do this by connecting to a wi-fi network (since you don't have wireless data services working yet). Choose the Custom APN option and then choose Straight Talk from the list of carriers. Then click "Create Profile". Your iPhone will prompt you to install the APN Carrier Settings profile. You can choose more details to see exactly what settings will be changed (in this case it will be changing your APN name to "att.mvno" and adding a shortcut to the website, which can easily be removed, on your home screen). Once the profile is installed you can start using the wireless data services.

SUMMARY
This is a great plan and is by far the least expensive service that will work with an iPhone. To top it off you get the same AT&T service that you previously had. Straight Talk Wireless operates as an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) to multiple network operators. In this case they are acting as an MVNO to AT&T. What this means is that they are buying AT&T network usage in bulk and then reselling it. Straight Talk doesn't actually operate their own cellular towers and network, they just piggyback onto AT&T, so you literally are getting the same service at a much better price.

I've listed some pros and cons below that may help you decide if switching your iPhone to Straight Talk is right for you.

PROS:
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data for just $45 a month plus local sales tax.
  • You can save even more and buy an entire year's worth of service for $499 plus local sales tax.
  • Will work on a locked AT&T iPhone! - No need to jailbreak or hack your phone.
  • Operates on the AT&T network so your service area should be exactly the same.
  • You can port your existing number to the service.
  • You can setup "auto-refill" to automatically add another month of service to your account each month and charge your credit card - No need to go to the store and buy a physical airtime card each month.
  • No contract

CONS:
  • Visual Voicemail is not offered with Straight Talk. The voicemail option on your phone will function like a standard phone and simply call the voicemail service where you can listen to your messages one by one.
  • Currently MMS settings cannot be updated on an AT&T locked iPhone. Regular text messages will still work fine, and you can use iMessage to send picture and video messages to other people with iDevices, but MMS messaging to other cell phones will not work. This doesn't matter at all to me but some people might use MMS a lot if their friends don't also have iPhones. [Update: There is a way to get MMS working, see my update at the bottom of this article.]
  •  You have to have an iPhone already. This means either buying an iPhone at full price from Apple ($649), using an older out-of-contract iPhone, or breaking your current contract with AT&T (and paying the early termination fee). In the long run you will still save money even if you buy the phone at full price, but this may be a turn-off to some people who would rather just pay a higher monthly rate and get the phone at a lower cost to being with.
  • If you use a significant amount of wireless data each month you might not be able to use Straight Talk. Although the plan is sold as "unlimited data" it is mainly intended for web and e-mail usage. If you go over 2GB per month playing videos, music, etc. then Straight Talk may warn you and eventually cancel your service. This is another area that doesn't really matter to me as I think the majority of iPhone users come in well under the 2GB per month mark.
  • Will not work with locked Verizon or Sprint iPhones. 

UPDATE: Set the cellular data and MMS settings directly on the phone
There is now a way to get your MMS messages working and at the same time you can "hard set" the ceullar data APN on your iPhone so you don't need to use the profile method I mentioned above. Once you do this you will have full MMS and data ability using Straight Talk.

I have tested this method on an iPhone 4S. It may not work on earlier models. If it doesn't work on your phone you can always use the cellular data APN profile method I described above, you just won't have MMS working.

To do this you will need a working SIM card from another carrier (not AT&T or Straight Talk). A good source is T-Mobile. I actually found that the SIM card from a Verizon iPad works as well. So if you have or know somebody that has either a Verizon iPad or a T-Mobile phone then you're in business. Note that the extra SIM card is just used to make the settings change. Once you are done you no longer need the extra SIM card.

Here are the steps to follow:
  1. Start your iPhone with your Straight Talk SIM. (If you previously installed the cellular data APN Profile then you will need to remove it before continuing.)
  2. Open an app (such as notepad).
  3. Go into your Settings -> General -> Network menu. Make sure you have Cellular Data turned on.
  4. While still in the Network menu eject your Straight Talk SIM card and replace it with your extra SIM card.
  5. You will see a new Cellular Data Settings menu appear. Select it.
  6. Once the new menu opens swap your Straight Talk SIM card back into the iPhone.
  7. Double-click the home button and switch to the app you started earlier. Wait a few seconds, and then switch back to the Settings application. You should see the data fields update with information.
  8. Enter the correct settings for Straight Talk into the appropriate fields:
    Cellular Data
    APN: att.mvno
    Username: <blank>
    Password: <blank>

    MMS
    APN: att.mvno
    Username: <blank>
    Password: <blank>
    MMSC: http://mmsc.cingular.com
    MMS Proxy: 66.209.11.33:80
    MMS Message Size: 1048576
    MMS UA Prof URL: <blank>
  9. Once you have entered the settings just exit the menu back to the Network menu. You will notice that the Cellular Data Settings menu has now disappeared.
  10. At this point your iPhone should be working with Straight Talk data and MMS services. To be sure you should toggle Airplane Mode on and then off to resync the signal. Test out your data and MMS (make sure that you have WiFi turned off so you know that you are actually using the Straight Talk data services).
  11. Reboot your iPhone and make sure everything still works once it turns back on. If so you're good to go!

57 comments :

  1. so the tmobile microsim HAS to be active?? one website says it doesn't have to be. WHen I try the SIM swap, I get hit by the "activation required" screen. Please help

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  2. The t-mobile sim I used has NOT been activated yet and it worked fine. Trying the service for a bit before I switch...so far so good...these setting work, good luck

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  3. Anyone know if this works with the iPhone 4? Also I input the EXACT mms settings described above? (no regional specs or anything?)

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Update! It works for iPhone 4. Just follow the steps above!!
    For all you readers my iPhone 4 is ATT Factory Unlocked. Call ATT give them your IMEI and see if its eligible.
    Heres how I I got it to work:
    I used a non activated T-Mobile sim (it never even picked up the T-Mobile Towers, just said "searching"). Also the sim was a regular sized sim and I just traced it and cut with a razor blade (be careful).
    -I justI tested with some of my non-iphone friends and family and the pictures were able to send and receive!
    Works great!
    Thanks a lot Josh!

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  6. I hope that this will work for me!

    But, any ideas on how I can get ahold of a Sim card if I don't know anyone with a TMobile or Verizon Sim??

    Thanks

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  7. Great post! I just got Straight Talk for my iPhone 3GS and just successfully tested the MMS function over 3G after following your updated instructions on changing the APN manually (I had a T-Mobile SIM to spare). Rockin' awesome!

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  8. I just did the t-mobile sim card trick with my Iphone 3gs and everything works works.

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  9. I have an iphone 4, I am trying to use this method with a t-mobile sim that has been cut down, and it says no service....not working. Any ideas? Do I need to get myhands on an active sim?

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  10. Excellent tutorial! I used this on an iPhone 3G, with a T-Mobile SIM from Amazon ($1.90). The 3G does not allow multi-tasking, so I was unable to "Open Notepad..." (steps 2 & 7). However, after the T-Mobile SIM was in, I gained access to the "Cellular Data Settings" menu, swapped SIM's, entered the settings, and when I backed out of the menu, all the settings held even though the menu was gone. Thanks Again!

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  11. Anyone know if this works a pre-paid tmobile sim card or the walmart plan with uses tmobile?
    Thanks!

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  12. The iPhone has to be unlocked. This is a huge misconception that I've seen all over the internet. I have an iPhone 4 and purchased a Straight Talk AT&T compatible SIM. I'm running 5.1.1 and am jailbroken and untethered (but not unlocked). I added the APN profile change and still get no service. The only way I could get it to work on Straight Talk was with Gevey Sim. I'm sad to see misinformation out here about Straight Talk's service.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @John S. Wilson Straight talk has AT&T as well as T-mobile Sims, the T-mobile compatible sims won't work on AT&T locked iPhone. The AT&T sims work fine in the AT&T locked iPhone

      Delete
    2. The iPhone doesn't have to be unlocked to get the basic APN stuff done. I just this AM did my kids' phones using unlockit.co.nz. The kids' phones are still locked, though AT&T has unlocked them, they haven't done the save/restore thing that completes the unlock yet. I ran out of time before doing the t-mobile hack to get MMS running, but they definitely had data services running.

      BTW, t-mobile will sell you a SIM for $10 with 3 days of tmobile service on it at any mall in the US. I bought mine to see if T-mobile had 3G service in my area (nope, unfortunately).

      Delete
  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. I have a locked AT&T 4S Iphone. I have followed exact instructions above using a TMobile, cut to size, unactivated SIM card that I purchased from Amazon. I swapped the card, saw the Cellular Data option, selected it, changed it the settings and I still have no data or mms once I exit out of Network. Does this indeed work with a LOCKED phone? It's not working for me. I've tried multiple times. HELP!

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  15. Seems to work just fine. Used old AT&T sim that was lying around and cut it to size. :o) Iphone 4 model...

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  17. I can't get MMS to work with this method, but I do get data to work. Rebooting the phone makes he data stop working.

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    1. It took me 6 times to get BOTH data AND MMS to work. Now I can browse and send MMS.

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    2. Are you on iOS 6, and which iPhone are you using, the 4S?

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  18. I had to do this 4 times to get everything working on my LOCKED AT&T iPhone 4S on iOS 6 Official Release, but it's working!

    One thing I noticed the last time around: APN for both switched back to "Phone" before I finished entering everything. Look at those before you back out of this section. I'm guessing the iPhone was just a little slow to start pulling data from the SIM card regarding APN settings.

    I also found some information on Apple's forums about this topic. One user said to make sure you don't leave "MMS UA Prof URL" blank.

    Enter this for MMS UA Prof URL: http://www.apple.com/mms/uaprof.rdf

    I think if you make sure APN doesn't switch to "Phone" before you exit, you should be good to go. I'd recommend staying on this page for an extra minute or so to make sure. If it changes back to "Phone," simply reenter att.mvno again for APN.

    Note: I used the Verizon (LTE) micro-SIM card from my 3rd Gen. iPad. It took some playing around to finally see the APN carrier settings pop up. Don't give up. Be patient and keep working at it.

    Note 2: DO NOT use the APN changer from unlockit.co.nz! If your MMS is working, but data isn't, installing that profile will disable MMS as well. Just keep trying the SIM swap and APN settings mentioned at the end of this article, but don't forget to add the line I mentioned above.

    Good luck, everyone!

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    Replies
    1. I'm using a 3gs. Where is MMS UA Prof ? I don't see that setting.

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  19. FYI, a T-Mobile SIM is pretty cheap, so if you consider doing this for others and making a little cash on the side, just order a SIM from T-Mobile and dont activate. I actually got one for $.99 (thats 99 cents!) plus like a buck for shipping (think it was actually $1.99 total) . THe rep said it was on "sale" but this was after asking about coverage and thinking about switching over and possibly becoming a contract user, but it's prob that price anyway or not much more. Turns out I have a great use for the card after all.

    I want to report a crime, one of the crooked ass AT&T reps explained to my mother how we never use much data and that she could save like $10 a month by changing plans and it wouldn't effect anything. The reason I am on my parents cell plan is that we were all grandfathered in with UNLIMITED data. The reason our data usage was low is that my sister and I attended college in a town with no 3-4G and we were always in range of wi-fi from the university or at home. I hope that rep gets hit by a bus and lives. He didn't dare mention how he was screwing an entire family forever. So T-Mobile here I come, that is assuming this Straight Talk deal is much better. Still think T-Mobile's rates are pretty good. Check out both before swapping.

    I got a buddy on Straight Talk and was so confused that after I unlocked his iPhone 3G S we could get voice service but not data. No I see the issue. At first I thought that it hadn't unlocked, so I restore it once again. Called AT&T and verified that we got it unlocked, it just didn't work. I hope this method does for me.

    Thank you so much for putting in the time to make this post!!

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  20. Will this updated method work on an unlocked 4s on ios 6.0? Everythiing but the MMS is working great with the Straight Talk plan.

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    1. I would think so. You may have to do it a few times. It took me a few times to get the MMS working. Make sure u send an MMS to someone who isn't using iMessage to make sure it really works. Did u do the sim swap method?

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  21. Does not work on iPhone 4 on Straight Talk, swapping with Verizon/Vodafone SIM. Can't do step 3 because there is no network menu. Swapping sim in general menu does not make network menu appear.

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  22. Not working on 4s with iOS 6 I'm afraid. Data is fine, but no mms.
    @S_C_B...you just repeated the procedure several times and it started working?

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    Replies
    1. Yep, several. I think the iPhone is just stubborn to accept the new settings. Try again then turnon airplane mode for a minute then turn it off.

      Now that its working on mine, I can switch between my android phone and the iPhone without having to reprogram my iPhone.

      Delete
  23. I downloaded that and my 3g still doesn't work.

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  24. It will let me edit the settings but I can't get them to stick on my Verizon iPhone 5. My iPhone sim slot seems to be unlocked but iTunes does not say so officially like my older unlocked iPhones.

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  25. Just wanted to confirm that my AT&T LOCKED iPhone 4S is working on StraightTalk. Thanks for the blog post!

    My steps varied just a bit:
    1) My factory-reset iPhone required device activation. A borrowed & deactivated AT&T SIM did the trick.

    2) Activated my StraightTalk micro-SIM. Inserted to iPhone. Restarted device. Phone works, SMS works out of the box.

    3) I used the iPhone Configuration Tool provided by Apple to setup & install a profile with the correct APN settings. "4G" data icon appears & web browsing works.

    4) As suggested, MMS does not work. I have a T-Mobile micro-SIM on order and will come back to update my post with results.

    5) My iMessage & FaceTime won't activate. I can send and receive iMessage via email address, but others do not see my phone number as being iMessage capable. Their messages come to me as SMS.

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    1. I was able to fix iMessage by following Youtube video instructions:

      1) Remove any associated iMessage EMails, then disable iMessage & WiFi
      2) Settings -> General -> Reset -> "Reset Network Settings"
      2b) This breaks the APN setup. Reconfigure StraightTalk APN.
      3) Turn iMessage back on. In about 20 seconds, my phone number appeared as a valid iMessage address.

      Other devices now see my phone number as a valid iMessage device. I was able to re-enable iMessage for my email address as well without issue.

      Delete
  26. Just so you know, the MMS hack sim swap no longer works. :(

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    Replies
    1. It DOES still work. It just takes a lot more messing around to get access to the APN settings. You MUST stay in this section for a few minutes to make sure "APN" doesn't switch back. It most likely will, so you'll have to change it again before you leave that screen.

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  27. When you say "hard set," does it keep your settings even if you update iOS? I have a feeling it doesn't. If so, then it's only because yours is unlocked. Mine, still locked to AT&T, will remove these settings when the iPhone install an iOS update. Damn Apple... Android doesn't do this...

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  28. I just did this on my new iPhone 5 that I had IMEI unlocked by an eBay seller. Works great! This was the easiest one I've done yet!

    PS: I used the Verizon nano SIM card from my new iPad Mini LTE.

    I did buy T-Mobile SIM cards in each size for doing more iPhones of all flavors. T-Mobile's site is selling regular and micro for 99¢ each and free shipping. I had to resort to a cut down for the nano SIM from an eBay seller. It should be here any day.

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  29. I just received my straight talk phone via FedEx. The SIM card was already inserted into the straight talk phone when I received it & it said to charge for at least 5 hours which I'm doing. A neighbor just gave me her old iPhone 3G because she upgraded to an iPhone 5. I have not activated the service yet. Will I be able to still swap SIM into the iPhone?

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    Replies
    1. As long as the Straight Talk phone and SIM you bought isn't for T-Mobile's network. If it is, it won't work.

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    2. The only phone's that you can sim swap are the Nokia E-71 and I can't remember number it's 6791,they are the 2 smart phone's ST put out that had unlocked SIM's Google it .You can not use any other ST phone's.Sorry I just remembered there is one other it also was a Nokia E-72 they were the first smart phone's that ST put out about 2 year's ago,My wife has a e-71 that she use's sim in an i3G I jailbroke it to get APN setting's but I wrote my on file to do so,it has been doing great,Good luck.

      Delete
  30. How do you know if ur ipone is not att locked?Does it mean my Iphone3 is a Iphone3g even thought it say 8gb on the back at the bottom?

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    Replies
    1. There was no iPhone 3. You either have an iPhone 3G or 3GS. The 8GB on the back refers to how much storage space it has.

      It may have been unlocked by a previous owner through AT&T or by other means (IMEI Unlock service), but they were all sold as locked to AT&T.

      Delete
  31. I have an iphone 4s with iOS 6.0.1

    On step 3. I do not have a 'Network menu'. I have a Net 10 micro sim, but i do not have that menu so im not sure what to do... PLEASE HELP! I miss having MMS!

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  32. A Net 10 SIM is essentially the same as a Straight Talk or AT&T SIM, at least in the eyes of the iPhone, since they all run on AT&T's network. You'll need a T-Mobile or Verizon micro SIM to perform the SIM swap. Even then, the Network Menu may not show up. It will if you have no service, or very briefly when the iPhone shows No Service before connecting to the network after inserting the SIM card.

    I bought T-Mobile SIM cards from their site for 99¢ each and free shipping. Go to their site and search for "micro SIM card". You should see the listing to buy one.

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  33. I can confirm this method [swapping the sim card to a T-mobile (deactivated purchased on Ebay)] with the addition of the

    "Enter this for MMS UA Prof URL: http://www.apple.com/mms/uaprof.rdf"

    line works for an unlocked (originally an AT&T phone) iPhone 4S with iOS 6.0.

    Just remember to restart your iPhone before trying to send a picture message. I didn't the 1st time and it would not deliver the picture to the phone number. I restarted and tried again and PRESTO everything works!!!

    Finally, an iPhone with all the benefits of an iPhone on Straight Talk pricing.

    Thanks to everybody who posted!!

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  34. my 3g sign isn't even popping up next to my service, and i have bars and everything i just don't get 3G at all, feel like theres no point for this phone anymore, please help!

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  35. This isn't working for me. I bought an AT&T Locked 3gs off eBay. Activated the phone to straight talk...voice works fine but no pictures in messages. I tried the profile thing above, but still not pictures in messages. I tried the T-Mobile Sim Swap and everything works as people say it does up to the point where you enter the APN settings. I never see the screen. I put the T-mobile sim in, it pops up quickly about having emails, but the "hidden" option never shows. The Straight Talk form says they can help you with this but have to take it off line, but I never hear from them.

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  36. Dear Josh Duglin:
    Is your AT&T iphone 4s locked or unlocked???
    ....sort of a huge piece of information missing in this article. In fact, kind of the "Holy Grail" of authoring information.

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  37. Ok, I got this working, it was definitely "quirky" and the MMS UA Prof URL was also important and I'm on a 3GS. It appears to me that your iPhone needs to be unlocked.

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  38. For those of you having problem's with sim swap,, First make sure you have everything else working that include's internet Talk and regular texting,, you shouldnt have to install the unlockit profile,Sometime's ST has to rehit your phone and they may suggest installing profile,If they do then make sure all the function's work first then to do sim swap remember to delete profile in setting's app,On my i4 I had the ST sim in then open note pad then go to setting's turn off wifi then go to general> cellular data> I leave it open in setting's and turn phone off and swap sim to t-mobile and power the phone up make sure that note pad is open and then go to setting's> general >cellular data> you should see a tab saying cellular data network open it at this point take the tmobile sim out and put the ST sim in then input the setting's above with the UAPROF info in,then back out of setting's and try sending a pic message to a few people,sometimes it takes a few tries but it does work also don't forget to try internet a phone call dont close the app's that you have opened previously,If you can't make it work there is a new jailbreak out that is so simple,you can then buy an app at Cydia called Tetherme it's pricey but it WORK's and if you dont want to spend the money you can look for EDITAPN it's free.

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  39. Ok i have an iphone. but i dont see where a sin card would go? Someone help me tje phone has been factory restored please help !

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  40. Well this was working...something changed and now I can't connect anymore. Worse, if you repeat this, you can no longer use these settings.

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  41. I continue to receive "activation failed". The activation server is telling me that the SIM is not from an authorized carrier and not supported under the activation policy that is currently assigned to the activation server. I have reset the phone, imported the APN settings and I have contacted ST to request porting over an existing phone number. My phone is a 4S that I purchased from my company after I was upgraded to a 5 a couple weeks ago. My wife is killing me about getting this switched over....Ideas?

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  42. It's been a year since I found this site and posted here. The iPhone 3G I performed this on ONE YEAR AGO is still on Straight Talk, still functioning with Data & MMS, no problems at all in 12 months. Going to perform this same feature on a friends iPhone 4S that is ATT LOCKED until May 2014. Ordered a T-Mobile Micro SIM and will perform these same steps to enable his MMS & Data. Will post again on the successful completion of the project.

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    Replies
    1. What happened with this? I have an iPhone 4s that is LOCKED to AT&T. I did the APN thing using www.unlockit.co.nz and my data and everything is working. With the exception og my MMS. I cannot send pics without using iMessage (which is currently "waiting for activation"). Please tell me how this "fix" worked or didn't work on your friend's iPhone.

      Delete
  43. I have a Sprint iphone and recently tried activating with Straight Talk. I must mentioned it is a locked phone. It's been 24 hrs and the phone has not yet been activated. Please help!!

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