The following was originally published back in 2017, but updated to reflect some recent changes…
Everyone is aware of cheap cell phone service with Republic Wireless. Today I’d like to review another affordable cell phone service, available through Walmart. Yes, Walmart Family Mobile offers affordable service for those not wanting to spend a tiny fortune to have a cell phone each month. I’ve been using the service for the last 4 months, and here’s what you need to know.
Some of the details from the Family Mobile Plan. Service is provided by TracFone Wireless, which operates on the T-Mobile network. Looking at the displays in store, you would be led to believe this is T-Mobile service, but looking at the fine print is where you find the details about TracFone.
Also, this is a prepaid service. For those who don’t know, prepaid service can be a great way to save money over the traditional post-paid service. You also don’t need to get a credit check and ding your credit score a few points.
Here are the details on how you get service with the Family Mobile Plan. You can pick up a phone in store or bring your own phone. If you bring your own phone, make sure your phone is either an unlocked GSM phone or a phone locked to T-Mobile. Also the phone will need to be 4G capable in order to use the data. I tested a couple of phones and talk about how they worked later on. You will also need to purchase the starter kit in store, which includes the first month of service and sim card. Or if you are just curious about the service and want to just try it out, I would suggest ordering the SIM card online and have it shipped to your nearest store for free. While in store just pick up the cheapest prepaid card to test out the service. After that, you just need to go through the painless activation process.
A few things unique about the Family Mobile plan versus Republic Wireless, you have greater options when doing going the bring your own phone route. So, if you already have a phone that you like, you don’t need to buy a new phone. Just make sure it’s an unlocked GSM phone or a locked T-Mobile phone. Only certain phones will be eligible to be brought over to Republic Wireless. Here’s an old guide I put together on unlock requirements for different providers.
The other difference is the amounts of data for the plans. On the Family Mobile plans, you have unlimited data, unlike Republic which does cap you on data. The catch on Family Mobile is you have a specified amount of data at 4G LTE speeds and after you hit your data cap for the time period, you are throttled to 2G speeds, but hey it is unlimited if you are in a bind. With family mobile, you have 4 pricing tiers to choose from. Initially, when I started 2 months ago, the plans were:
$24.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (1GB at 4G LTE, then 2G)
$29.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (2GB at 4G LTE, then 2G)
$39.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (5GB at 4G LTE, then 2G)
$49.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (13GB at 4G LTE, then 2G)
The plans have actually been updated within the last months, offering an even more competitive pricing for the higher tier plans. The current pricing is as follows:
$24.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (1GB at 4G LTE, the 2G)
$29.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (3GB at 4G LTE, then 2G)
$39.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (14GB at 4G LTE, then 2G)
$49.88/mo for unlimited talk, text, and data (Unlimited 4G LTE, with 5GB for hotspot)
Here are screenshots comparing Republic Wireless vs Family Mobile:
As you can see from the above screenshots, Republic Wireless wins at the 1GB data plan level. However anything about 1GB of data the Family Mobile plans take the cake.
So How Is the Service?
Well, it works just like my old T-Mobile service that I still have active. Calls come in clear, text messaging works like it should, and the data connection works like it should. The only issue I am experiencing is with MMS messages. I have recently been unable to download the picture messages. I am still tinkering with the settings on my phone to try and get this working.
I am using the $24.88 service, which after taxes and local fees comes in at $26.97 per month. For phones, I tested an old IPhone 4 that was unlocked from AT&T, a Microsoft Lumia 640 locked to T-Mobile, and a Microsoft Lumia 640XL unlocked from AT&T (my favorite phone picked up for cheap).
No surprise, dropping the SIM card into the IPhone 4, everything easily worked. No tinkering in settings needed.
For my 2 Windows phones, some tinkering was required to get things working. I had to go into the settings for the SIM and add and Internet APN, and an MMS APN. I’m still having issues with MMS, however the data connection is rock solid.
If you are not into trying to unlock your phone and play with settings, there are a limited selection of phones available though the Family Mobile plan. I would suggest reading the reviews however.
Update 12/30/2017. Thanks to James in the comments below. Tether has been blocked out. So the below paragraph doesn’t apply anymore. It will be updated if things change…
Something, I am thinking about doing is getting the $49.88 unlimited data plan. This would allow me to not have a traditional internet service at home, which is slow. I can set up a hot spot through my phone and connect my computers at home to the internet that way. The only drawback, the fine print does limit the amount data used for tethering purposes. They were thinking ahead on that one. Still, with the ability to cast your phones screen to your tv and my Windows phone can be used as a PC, this may still be a viable option. Tethering has been brought back for the unlimited plan, but is limited to 5GB per month.
Something else worth knowing, you can get a $5 discount if you need to have another line. You have to pay for both lines at the same time online to receive the discount.
It’s also worth mentioning, you can change your data plans at any time. Going on the road and need more data one month, just switch to a more expensive plan for a month then switch back. (I plan on doing this when I hit the road for a couple months).
Looking to save a few extra bucks a month, there is currently a promotion running from 2/1/2019 to 4/30/2019 where you can sign up for auto pay and save $2.50 per month for as long as you stay on autopay. My dad and I are both using the service under 1 account, this saves $5 per month, so adding the auto pay brings the monthly savings to $7.50, bring the monthly cost per line to $22.91 per line for the 1gb plan after taxes and fees.
For anyone looking for alternatives for affordable cell phone service and need data, I think Family Mobile is a service worth looking into as an alternative to Republic Wireless. The wider option of phones that you can transfer to the service is an upfront savings over having to purchase a phone at Republic. Also, if you are needing larger amounts of data, the Family Mobile plan wins out on the cost. So, this is another option for people looking to save on their cell phone bills.Follow me on the social medias: