Hands-On with Mint SIM

Posted on December 18, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, iOS, Mobile with 25 Comments

Hands-On with Mint SIM

I signed up for the low-cost wireless carrier Mint SIM this week. This is an option you should be aware of.

I recently discussed my need for inexpensive secondary cellular lines for the smartphones that I test in Exploring Alternate Wireless Plans (Premium).

But if you’re not a Premium member, no worries: The short version is that I am trying to find cheap, pay-as-you go SIMs. But in researching this, I found that there were some very inexpensive options. Some of which looked like they might even make sense as a replacement for a primary wireless account at one of the big carriers like Verizon or AT&T Wireless.

Which is why I’m writing about this now. (As an aside, I am working on a theory that the bigger make the most sense for families, because you can save a lot with multiple users. But most of the big carriers are expensive for individuals, with starter plans in the ~$65 range, including fees/taxes.)

Mint SIM is one such option. And while there are absolutely some questions and doubts, just take a gander at this pricing chart first.

The cheapest plan provides unlimited talk and text, plus 2 GB of LTE data, for just $15 per month. That’s about $50 less than the big carriers. (Give or take.)

But if you buy three months of coverage up-front, right now, you get three more months for free. That means that you will pay about $7.50 (before taxes) per month for the next six months of service. Or a total of $45 (before taxes).

Yikes. That is incredible. That is, in fact, less than you’d pay for one month at a big carrier.

Mint SIM’s other pricing tiers are likewise incredible, and if 2 GB of data isn’t enough, you could choose between 5 GB and 10 GB monthly data options and still get the buy 3/get 3 months free deal.

OK. So I assume that I have your attention now.

If not, consider this: At Google Project Fi, which I love, I would pay $40 (plus taxes) for the same plan (though I would save some money if I didn’t actually use the 2 GB of data); the very cheapest that Google Fi could be in a given month is $20 (plus taxes), but that assumes no data usage at all. Mint SIM is normally $15, but it’s $7.50 for the first six months now.

$7.50!

OK, now really will assume that I have your attention. And that if you’re still here—e.g. you are not just paying Mint SIM that incredibly low sum right now—that you are wondering what the catch is.

Surely, there is a catch.

And there may be. Depending on your situation. Here are a few things to know, and it’s possible that one or more of these details might make Mint SIM a non-starter for you.

Mint SIM uses T-Mobile. If T-Mobile works well where you live, and where you travel, Mint SIM will as well: They’re using T-Mobile’s network. And only T-Mobile.

You need to bring your own unlocked phone. These prices assume that you are coming to Mint SIM from another carrier with your own phone. That phone will need to be unlocked, and it will need to work with GSM networking technology generally. For the best results, it needs to support T-Mobile’s network bands explicitly. You can check compatibility here.

There is no support for visual voicemail. iPhone users (and others, I think) should know that Mint SIM does not support visual voicemail: You’ll be going back to the old-fashioned way of calling voice mail and navigating through menus. (I don’t think this is horrible, frankly, but you may receive more voicemail than I do.)

You will need to do a few minutes of manual configuration, once. As explained in Mint SIM’s FAQ page, you will need to make some manual configuration additions in Settings so that group messages and media messaging work over Mint SIM. This is not difficult to do, it only takes a few minutes, and you’ll only do it once.

If you exceed your data cap, your data speeds will fall through the floor. Mint SIM drops you to 2G speeds at that point. But you can also buy data add-ons at reasonable prices: 1 GB of additional data is $10, the same price I pay at Project Fi.

International usage is tricky. Mint SIM lets you buy blocks of credit for international talk and text ($5 to $20) and charges OK rates. But there is no international data at all. This makes it less compelling to me. But I could also just use Mint SIM in the U.S. and then enable Project Fi when I’m abroad. I’m thinking about it.

Tethering works fine, but it’s not officially supported. What this means is that you can’t call or chat with Mint SIM to troubleshoot problems if they happen. It’s working fine on my iPhone.

My Mint SIM, um, SIM arrived on Saturday, and I quickly got up and running on my iPhone X: Like other SIMs, it’s a nano SIM inside of punchouts for larger SIM sizes, so it should work fine with any modern smartphone. As noted, you will need to configure a few things in Settings. Everything worked fine, immediately.

To test Mint SIM, I made phone calls and sent texts to my primary phone, a Google Pixel 2 XL that is running on Project Fi. And did so from a few locations around town, though that is admittedly not a great test of T-Mobile or connectivity in general. According to Mint SIM’s coverage map, this service should work fine everywhere around me where I live, and everywhere I’ve traveled domestically over the past few years. I’m curious what happens when there’s no coverage, however: I suspect you just can’t make phone calls or send text messages.

I also accessed the cellular data around town and consistently got LTE with three or four bars of signal. (Four being the highest.) Actually, it says I have two bars at home as I write this, but Mint SIM does support Wi-Fi calling if your phone does (as the iPhone and Pixel 2 XL both do).

Finally, as noted, I also enabled tethering and browsed the web briefly from a PC. This worked fine, as expected.

Anyway, I’m sure someone can poke further holes in this deal, but I wanted to get it in front of everyone because it does seem like an exceptional service. And a potential answer to those high prices that many of us pay for wireless coverage. It’s worth researching.

Thanks to everyone who mentioned Mint SIM in the comments to that Exploring Alternate Wireless Plans (Premium) article. I had never even heard of this service until last week.

 

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