Data-only SIM for smartphones?
January 26, 2010 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm sure I'm burning this week's question for a quick "no" answer, but just in there any way to get a data-only (no voice plan) SIM for smartphone use in the US?

I got the bug in me. Work issued me a Blackberry a year ago, and I'm hooked on having wireless data in my pocket. Trouble is that my job ends Friday, so the phone goes back, and I need a new phone. Boo.

When news broke that the Nexus One was coming, there was some speculation that with the unlocked phone, one could stick a data-only SIM card in it and use VOIP for phone calls. Speaking as someone trying to operate on a miser's budget (especially given that I'll be unemployed in four days), I can't justify any current smartphone plans I'm seeing. Too much dough. But a data-only phone plus VOIP just might be doable, if it indeed can be done.

Googling, I'm not finding any solutions. Evidently AT&T's Go Phone service used to have this as a possibility, but no more. Am I missing something? Do deaf people who need to stay in touch just get screwed into paying for a voice plan? Or is there a way to make this happen?
posted by middleclasstool to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The carriers offer voiceless smartphone plans for customers that can prove they're deaf. I don't know the specific requirements to prove you are deaf since I am not deaf and would not lie like that.

T-Mobile still has data-only plans (between $30 and $60/mth... the $300 is only 200mb, the $60 lets you tether if supported on the phone). Effectively what you buy is a plan with zero included voice minutes so if you use the phone you pay something like 20c a minute. Which is cheaper than spending $40/mth if you only use the phone for 5 minutes a month. And even ATT still had its Go Phone plan you wouldn't be able to use 3G data on it since the Nexus One's radio will only work with T-Mobile's 3G network.

I don't know how the Nexus One works with VOIP apps.
posted by birdherder at 3:10 PM on January 26, 2010

If you're deaf, AT&T (and I'd imagine the other carriers) gives you a special data-only plan. There's faxing of doctors letters and whatnot involved, so it really depends on how committed you are.
posted by Oktober at 3:10 PM on January 26, 2010

Have you tried phoning them and explaining that you don't need a voice plan, but you have a Sierra Aircard (or the contemporary equivalent)? This is a card that you stick in your laptop's PCMCIA slot, which gives you internet-by-cellphone-carrier (i.e. data only).

You may need to be transferred to a department that knows what it's doing (i.e. away from the front-line CSRs who answer the phone). But I am certain such a thing exists, although you probably need persistence and patience in order to have it bubble up from the bowels of the beast.
posted by ErikaB at 3:18 PM on January 26, 2010

Datajack is a new company that offers $40/month unlimited data via a USB modem on T-Mobile's 3G and EDGE networks. Some people have supposedly successfully used the SIM card from the modem in a few smartphones but I don't believe it is supported/allowed by Datajack -- check howardforums for some stories. They have been out of stock of the modems almost since they launched so they may be collapsing under the demand. Data is one of the only remaining profit centers for cell companies now and I think it will be another year or few before we see prices come down and the strings detach.
posted by ChrisHartley at 3:42 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have the Blackberry Unlimited data-only plan from T-Mo for around $35/mo (grandfathered rate). I do not have a voice plan, voice minutes are ala carte at $.20/min, as is text.

I use Google Voice for texting and only make occasional phone calls. Haven't tried VoIP.
posted by kenliu at 4:46 PM on January 26, 2010

birdherder wrote: I don't know the specific requirements to prove you are deaf since I am not deaf and would not lie like that.

Ooh me, I know this one!

For AT&T, it's called the Text Accessibility Plan (TAP) and it requires certification by a qualified professional - they specify that audiologists, "hearing health professionals," and speech/language therapists are acceptable. Also acceptable is a VR counselor, independent living center director, or a chapter president of NAD, HLAA, AGB, ALDA, or TDI. Also, in order to get it, you must first sign up with a regular plan, and then when you send in the TAP paperwork they waive it (including any charges that might have occurred while you were dawdling with it, provided you didn't use any voice minutes).
posted by etoile at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2010

I forgot to mention that T-Mobile does screw over some of its deaf users. If you have an Android phone with T-Mobile, you are required to have a voice plan. Blackberry, Sidekick, and other smartphone users have data-only plans available. Android phone users are the only ones getting screwed.
posted by etoile at 2:50 PM on January 28, 2010

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