Net10 phones


in Economics, Geek stuff, Travel

Given the exorbitant roaming rates, using my Fido phone in New York City seemed like it would be very unwise. On the Greyhound from Albany, however, a Colombian woman recommended that I pick up a $30 phone from Radio Shack, which comes with 300 minutes of talk time.

The LG phone itself seems fine, though maybe not super well built. The service, unfortunately, is useless. I was told when I got the phone that it would be two days before I could make or receive international calls. This is so they can run some sort of security check. After two days, the phone was still useless for calling Canadian numbers as well as my friend’s UK cell phone. I checked out the Net10 website and was told that you need to apply to activate international long distance. I did, and was told I would receive a text within 72 hours that activated the service. I am still waiting for that.

In short, my plan to spend $30 and get a working cell phone for a week (which I could then give away) turned out to be a total bust. Perhaps some of the other companies selling these disposable ‘burner’ phones would have been better for my purposes.

These disposable phones certainly demonstrate something about technology and economics. A couple of decades ago, a phone this small couldn’t be had for any sum of money. Now, they are sold for $30 along with 300 minutes of airtime, and used as a disposable commodity. I wonder what specific innovations permitted the drop in cost. Of course, there is also good reason to wonder what negative externalities go uncaptured in the price paid for the plastic package, little phone, and charger.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt August 6, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Do you still have your E71? You could’ve bought a TMobile or AT&T SIM card and popped that in your existing phone.

Milan August 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

In retrospect, that might have been a better move.

Net10 does have a 1-800 number that supposedly allows international calls, but it doesn´t seem to work either. At least, it has refused to dial all the Canadian numbers (cell and landline) that I have tried.

Tristan August 8, 2010 at 1:05 am

“Of course, there is also good reason to wonder what negative externalities go uncaptured in the price paid for the plastic package, little phone, and charger.”

We don’t pay, or I should say, we don’t pay a fair amount, for the direct and indirect military destruction required/produced by our need to continuously source raw materials from poorly governed areas of this earth:

“An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.”

“In the case of these new high techs, it is Coltan that is at stake –the minerals columbium and tantalite, or Coltan for short. Tantalite is a rare, hard and dense metal, very resistant to corrosion and high temperatures and is an excellent electricity and heat conductor. It is used in the microchips of cell phone batteries to prolong duration of the charge, making this business flourish. Provisions for 2004 foresee sales of 1,000 million units. To these properties are added that its extraction does not entail heavy costs –it is obtained by digging in the mud– and that it is easily sold, enabling the companies involved in the business to obtain juicy dividends.

Even though Coltan is extracted in Brazil, Thailand and much of it from Australia –the prime producer of Coltan on a world level– it is in Africa where 80% of the world reserves are to be found. Within this continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo concentrates over 80% of the deposits, where 10,000 miners toil daily in the province of Kivu (eastern Congo), a territory that has been occupied since 1998 by the armies of Rwanda and Uganda. A series of companies has been set up in the zone, associated to large transnational capital, local governments and military forces (both state and “guerrilla”) in a dispute over the control of the region for the extraction of Coltan and other minerals. The United Nations has not hesitated to state that this strategic mineral is funding a war that the former United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright called “the first African world war” (and we understand by world wars, those in which the great powers share out the world), and is one of its causes.”

. August 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

“There’s a good chance that an element you’re carrying around in your pocket right now helped escalate the horrific civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has raged for a decade and a half now.

It all traces back to the expansion of modern electronics to all corners of the periodic table. According to a recent story in the Guardian, electronic chips in the 1980s used about a dozen elements. Today, that figure is closer to 60. One of those newly useful elements is tantalum, Element 73. Tantalum is dense, heat-resistant, and noncorrosive, and it holds a charge well—qualities that make it vital for cell phones. (Its cousin on the periodic table, niobium, also works, though not quite as well.) And as cell phone sales increased worldwide from practically zero in 1991 to 1 billion in 2001, the demand for tantalum skyrocketed, too.

This should have been a boon for Congo, which has 60 percent of the world’s tantalum reserves, but the country was in chaos during that time. It sits next door to Rwanda, and one day in 1996 the ousted Rwandan government spilled into Congo seeking refuge. Their enemies pursued them. At the time, this seemed just to extend the Rwandan conflict a few miles west. In retrospect, this brush fire blew right into centuries of accumulated racial kindling. Tribes in Congo used the skirmishes that followed as an excuse to start attacking one another, and things escalated quickly. Eventually, nine countries and 200 ethnic tribes, each with its own ancient alliances and unsettled grudges, were warring in the jungles of Central Africa.

But the battles never would have gotten so intense without tantalum. Tantalum ore—especially a tantalum/niobium mineral called coltan—fetched around $200,000 per ton by the early 2000s, and buyers desperate to meet quotas often didn’t bother inquiring about the source of the goods they were buying. And unlike other mineral wealth in the region (gold, diamonds), gathering tantalum required little more than a shovel and a sturdy back. It practically oozed out of the ground in local creeks and riverbeds, a thick gray mud easy to collect and transport. A farmer could earn 20 times what he did before by “mining” tantalum, and many Congolese soon abandoned their farms for prospecting, upsetting Congo’s already shaky food supply. Most of the new miners didn’t know what the tantalum was for, nor did they care. They knew only that Westerners paid a lot of money for it—and that they, the Congolese, could use the proceeds to buy guns or support local militias.

The war reached its height between about 1998 and 2001—at which point cell phone makers finally realized what was happening in the jungle. And to their credit, they banded together and began to buy tantalum and niobium from Australia, even though it cost more. Congo soon cooled down.”

jrichard August 16, 2010 at 12:51 am

I use my Net10 phone to contact my relatives in Canada on a weekly basis. It is the only affordable way that I can stay in touch with my aunt and uncle. In order to activate this service you need to dial “*1” and hit the “send/answer” key to access the international call setup menu. Try this link for some help with your problem:

Wish you the best mate.


ed.ross August 29, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Just found out that Net10 is rated top of the prepaid providers for the second year running. Glad to hear my personal experiences and choices have been well-informed :) Sure that everyone’s experience isn’t the same but on the bulk of it, they still seem the best out there.

Will Powter October 10, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Sorry that you had probs with your Net10 phone. They have a Facebook tech support page and you can “like” that and ask for help.

Me, I dig the new 750 minutes for $25 deal they have which is amazing. You really need to give them another chance and check it out.

Milan October 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Just out of curiosity, are you paid to leave positive comments about Net10 phones on blogs and forums? You seem to do it a lot.

crispian October 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I have only had good service from NET10. I switched to prepaid after I realised that I was spending way tooo much money on my cellphone every month. With Net 10 I only pay for the calls that I make and that is 10cents per minute. This way I have saved myslef a lot of cash. I am a definite fan of the NET10 service

Jamie October 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm

This is what I wrote to Net10 Support: Per Case#1033986083, I just want to express extreme disappointment in Net10 & your lack of support regarding this matter. I am sadly disappointed and angry that I have purchased minutes that I cannot use, due to the Telephone Equipment not working and your failure to extend good customer service, you have taken my funds and are offering nothing to appease me. I am going to advise anyone I speak to regarding Net10 that I DO NOT recommend Net10 to them, as well going to the Better Business Bureau to lodge a complaint about Net10, additionally I will note my frustrations when given the chance to any website or blog available. NET10 DOES NOT SUPPORT THEIR CLIENTS.

Drew Angleson January 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Try the Samsung T401G from Net10. I’ve had it for about a year and it’s a pretty stable phone. It’s great for texting and I love it because of its full QWERTY pad.

Mallory February 27, 2011 at 9:57 pm

What makes Net10 so bad? I was thinking about going that direction but it seems like there are some complaints here. I need a new option with my contract expiring and I wanted to give this burn phone a chance. People seem pretty pissed, but I read something that they use the verizon network where I live. If that’s true, then I could be paying less for the same service and that would just be dumb not to do.

Rachel March 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Being on a contract definitely seems to be the second best option these days. You would think that you would get more benefits from “commiting” to one provider and “signing a deal” but I am starting to see that it is not as mutually beneficial as they make it out to be. With pre paid you know exactly what you are going to be paying each month and what is included – no hidden costs, cancellation charges etc and with a deal like this Net10 unlimited – everything is inclusive!

Milan March 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm

In my experience Net10 is quite a poor option. It was basically useless for me during my (brief) time in New York.

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