It’s practically impossible to get Apple’s(s aapl) iPhone 5 on the cheap without a contract, but at least there’s another option for the commitment-averse to save money on the monthly service bill. Straight Talk is officially supporting the iPhone 5 now with its $45 plan advertised as unlimited talk, messages and data. The price of admission for a 16 GB iPhone 5 with Straight Talk(s amx) is $649 at Walmart(s wmt) stores, but the retailer is offering no-interest special financing for the phone: $25 per month.
You’ll need a Walmart credit card for the financing deal and although the Straight Talk service is month-to-month, there’s a bit of a contract feel to the transaction. At $25 a month, you’ll be paying Walmart for 26 months to pay off the iPhone 5 purchase. Still, for those that don’t have the $199 up front for a contract-based iPhone 5, it provides an ownership opportunity for Apple’s smartphone with a lower monthly service bill.
Based on my own usage of Straight Talk, I find the service to be a good value. Straight Talk buys wireless service from the major U.S. carriers at wholesale prices and then resells it. With this iPhone 5 deal, for example, you’d actually be using AT&T’s(s t) network but paying Straight Talk’s prices. Coverage and speeds would be the same as if you had bought the iPhone 5 directly from AT&T, with one major exception.
There’s no mention of Straight Talk offering LTE service. That means if you buy an iPhone 5 and use a Straight Talk nano SIM card, you won’t be using AT&T’s fast LTE network, but its HSPA+ service. In other words: Don’t expect your iPhone 5 to surf the web or download apps at 30 to 40 Mbps. Instead, you’ll see speeds about one-third as fast. Provided you can live with that and don’t mind that Straight Talk’s “unlimited” service has a soft cap of around 2 GB per month, you may want hit up your nearest Walmart.
For those that already own an iPhone 5 and want to switch service to Straight Talk service, you’ll have to wait. I checked Straight Talks’s site for ordering SIM cards and see only the standard SIM and micro SIM available; no nano SIM cards just yet.