Help: Cheap cell phone for kid, how to get a sim card set up, etc?

Okay, kid’s getting his first cell phone for his birthday. It’s a fun, tiny IndieGoGo project called the Micro-Phone. No fancy features, but the size of a credit card.

Now, I’ve always bought my phones on contract from carriers, so I’ve never dealt with buying sim cards separately, etc.

What I think I want to do is pick up some kind of “pay as you go” card where I can buy him a chunk of minutes and refill it as necessary–this is mainly for emergencies. I’ve seen the refill cards for Virgin Mobile, etc, but haven’t really figured out how you do the initial setup here.

Any pointers on getting rolling, and tips on carriers, etc? We’re on AT&T for our contract phones, if it makes the most financial sense to just latch him onto our plan with basic service.

I’m pretty sure that adding a voice line to AT&T will be like $10 if you already have a compatible plan (some networks seem to have different individual and family plans, and others did so back in the day, so no idea what yours might be like).

StraightTalk offers AT&T SIMs, so at least the kid would get reception in the same places you do, but the service is actually sold by ST (on behalf of AT&T, who sell ST their extra capacity, so it’s all the same in a roundabout way except the ways that it’s different and this is getting confusing now sorry).

IIRC, buying the cards in-store usually comes with some sort of little manual or what have you on initial setup, which generally involves calling a number and validating your info somehow (e.g., punch in a # from the card).

I just went through the exact same thing. So far I’ve been really happy with puretalkusa.com (at&t MVNO)
http://blog.arogan.com/2013/09/the-10-month-cell-phone-plan.html

That Micro-Phone is GSM so that means you’ll need to stick with AT&T or T-Mobile or one of the many MVNO’s out there that run on one of those networks.
Sprint/Virgin Mobile and verizon are CDMA so those are out.

Ended up only being $10/month to add him to our existing AT&T account, so I went that route.

I didn’t give him our old iPhone because AT&T will throw a data charge on your plan if they detect you’re using a data-capable phone. (God I hate phone companies.) Let me know how your plan goes, ARogan. If you’re able to use an iPhone with just voice on PureTalkUSA, next upgrade cycle we might pass down our iPhone and let him use Wi-Fi for data and cell for voice.

Did you get the ‘Tracking’ model? GPS supported for the $10 additional line fee?

Yes, I did get the tracking model, but the software to support that feature won’t be out until the latter part of October.

My old iPhone is over 1 year off contract. The sim wasn’t even active for the last year. I then unlocked it on top of that so that iPhone is pretty removed from any sort of at&t billing or services at this point. Now, if the iPhone is still under at&t contract then yeah I wouldn’t go trying to use it with an MVNO until the subsidy is completely payed off. So far he’s used 56 min and 9 text. No issues.

If it was only $10 to add him then yeah that’s about as cheap as it gets and simple. I guess that is a big advantage of the Micro-Phone since it’s not a smart phone they can’t force a data plan on you.

Though having an iPhone does have its advantages. I’m still trying to get him to use the PIM stuff more like entering assignments and stuff into the calendar instead of you know just playing Balloon TD 5 all day on it.

Testing out h2o which is another at&t MVNO.
https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/pageControl.php?page=planMin

picked up a micro sim from amazon for < 10 cents:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005XB7RH0

Activated it, charged up $10 on it, install iphone app, install data apn profile to get data working (the app makes this easy to do).

So the big difference here is everything draws money from your $10 bucket (which expires in 90 days).
5 cents/min calls
5 cents/text
10 cents/MB

I really like how data is rolled in there. Nice feature for find my friend/find my iphone for a bit more security especially for kids. The disadvantage of having it all draw from one bucket is if your kid watches a few youtube videos on 3G it could empty the account and then he won’t even be able to make or take a call. I guess it comes down to how much you trust your kid to control himself.

There is an h2o app to check balances and recharge.

I like how after every call it flashes how much you spent on that call, remaining balance, and expiration date. So there should be no surprises. I’ll probably recharge $10 every time he hits $5 balance.

So for $10/month - 3 months you actually get everything in very tiny portions. Heh.

Puretalk also just added a 150MB data plan that also rolls over for an additional $10/month. Both sims are still active so I’ll test H2O for a bit, check how fast his account drains, and then decide which to keep.

Update time:

H2O is cheap…too cheap for our use case. Also, we got a lot of strange phone calls with H2O which never happened on pure talk. Their web site is pretty horrible with confusing verbiage and very unclear/lack of usage/charge reports. Everything about H2O screams sketchy. But hey it does work and it is about the cheapest thing out there for very low usage situations if you can live with all the annoyances. For me I’ll pay a bit more and use puretalk which is very clear and straightforward.

If you need a dirt cheap basic GSM phone (for kids and such) the Samsung a157v is pretty great for $13-$15 (goes on sale once in a while for < $8). Fry’s, walmart, and I think best buy all carry this locally. It takes all of about 5 min to unlock: http://funtelligent.blogspot.com/2013/02/how-to-network-unlock-at-gophone.html
Then you can use whatever sim card you want (puretalkusa, h2o, etc). This phone uses a full size sim card so use adapters if you need to up size a micro or nano. For just talk and text this is a really nice phone at a really good price.
If you want to add your own wallpapers just format a jpg or png file at 128X160 resolution. For ringtones a 30 sec or less mp3 file will work. Just plug in a micro usb cable, select transfer on the phone when prompted, and copy the media to the appropriate folders. You have around 107MB of free space to play around with.

Both my kids have a Samsung a157v now (long story short I had to take away the iPhone 4 from my older kid and dropped the data. Well, he still has it except it no longer has a sim card in it, and he uses it like an iPod touch and it NEVER goes to school). I called up puretalk and converted my $10 flex plan to a $15 family plan. They shipped me a new sim card for free. It was a regular/micro sim depending on which size you punched out. I kept my 1300 minutes I had left in rollover. For the extra $5 a month I pay I also get another 60 min that goes into my family pool which I can easily allocate between the 2 lines on the website. So for $15 total a month I get 190 min for 2 lines with rollover. That really is a fantastic deal. They also track texting differently now. Instead of separate buckets for minutes and texting, every 3 texts = 1 min used. I guess I’m ok with that since my kids don’t really text that much (at least yet). It does simplify things.

Can you not block Youtube with the parental controls?