Thinking about upgrading to the new iPhone 5? Well, before you sell that old iPhone or give it to your child to play with, listen up.

A few months back, the minutes expired on my pay-as-you-go (PAYG) phone. And while I love the ‘ol PAYG phones, I kind of got tired of carrying around two phones. (Totally petty, I know.) It wasn’t actually two phones per se, it was one cellphone and one old iPhone, which without a phone plan, was just a newer iPod Touch. You see, I have a hand-me-down iPhone 4. Frankly, I don’t actually NEED a smartphone, I just need a working cellphone, which is why this conversion works for me. The WiFi and other features of the Apple products are just a bonus. And it’s grown on me. Anyhow, since the minutes were expiring on my cheap PAYG phone, I asked my Tech-savy husband if I could just convert my iPhone 4, i.e. ‘fancy iPod Touch’, into a bona-fide PAYG phone. His stern answer: NO. Not one to back down so easily, I did what I do best. I researched online. Within five minutes, I found an old blog post explaining how to do such a thing. But that blog post was for converting the iPhone 3 into a PAYG phone. The size of the SIM cards have changed from the 3 to the 4 and 4s, so I had to dig deeper.

In a nutshell, I needed to find a PAYG plan from a company that sold a phone with a removable SIM card. The phone doesn’t matter whatsoever since I’m not planning to use it anyway. I just needed the SIM card and a PAYG plan. Many of the smaller PAYG phone companies that have helluva good minute and text plans don’t have SIM cards in their phones. What they have, I don’t know. It’s really a pity, though. Last year, I had a PAYG phone from Platinum Tel that cost me all of $85 for an entire year of calls and messaging. Talk about a steal! However, I was willing to pay a bit more just so that I can use my iPhone. Plus, that old phone had a tendency to drop calls which kinda sucks.

Anyhow, it was narrowed down to two, almost three phone companies: AT&T, Verizon, and almost, but not yet Virgin Mobile. Some of these companies offer PAYG smartphones now, but you have to pay for the smartphone. If you already have one, you can’t get on one of these plans (nor would you want to because they are priced higher to include the cost of the phone). No company that I know of has a PAYG plan in place for old, used iPhones. Nevertheless, using this method got me exactly that: A PAYG iPhone. It should be noted that the ‘smartphone’ part of this phone is only available when connected to a wireless network. The phone and messaging work anywhere and everywhere. But if I want to hop online or check the weather, I need to be near and connected to a wireless network. Do I wish it was a working smartphone 24/7? Absolutely. But as a full-time stay at home Mom and a part-time photographer, there is no way I can justify paying hundreds of dollars a year for a cellphone. The hub’s company pays for his phone, so we don’t need a family plan. I do realize that family plans are BIG money-savers, so if you have a few people in your family that need/want smartphones, that is probably the way to go. Except, of course, that you have to BUY a new smartphone.

So, deciding that AT&T had the best plan for me, I set off to buy a GoPhone. I went to the local AT&T store and somewhat told the surly girl working there my intentions. She quickly told me that no, it wouldn’t work for the simple reason that the SIM cards are different sizes. Besides, these companies would make a whole lot more money on smartphones if converting the old iPhones DID NOT work. After walking out of that store empty handed, I headed over to the local Walmart. At last, I found a like-minded dude working in the electronics department. This guy seemed to know his stuff and was surprised and impressed by my idea. Right away, he pointed out the differently sized SIM cards, but then followed it up with, “But you could buy a SIM card cutter and cut it into a Micro SIM.” This blew my mind. Just. Bang. I said, amazed, “You mean you just cut the card? And it doesn’t damage it?” At this point I was getting excited. I thought that finally, my plan just might come to fruition and (bonus!) I could rub it in my husband’s face! (Say Uncle!) Well, I bought the cheapest AT&T GoPhone at Walmart but I didn’t want to buy a SIM card cutter just to cut one measly SIM card. So yet again, I ran home and researched online how to cut the SIM card myself. With scissors. MacGyver-style. This is what I found. An adorable Australian college student with a template and instructions. Man, I LOVE the internet!

Here is the video:

Following his instructions, I cut that new SIM card (also called a Mini SIM) to Micro SIM size and popped it in my old iPhone 4. Poof! After activating the phone, it was a working, functioning PAYG non-smartphone iPhone 4. Now, it’s worth noting that I’m not a big phone-talker. In fact, I hate it. I don’t have that filter found in normal people wherein they stop talking before making an ass of themselves. So naturally, I prefer the thoughtful process of email and texting. Ah, texting. The plan that I have now, after experimenting with a few plans that proved to be not generous enough in the minutes/texts per $ area, is the $9.99/month for up to 1000 texts. And phone calls are 10 cents per minute. I rarely make/take calls on my phone, so it’s a deal for me. They have plans that have unlimited texts/calls for around $50/month, which is way more than I want/need.

While I realize that this plan is not for everybody, I do think it is ideal for me. I also think this plan is ideal for tweens or teens that want the latest gadgets, but no money to afford them. Plus, you can buy an AT&T gift card that can be used toward the minutes/text of a plan. So you don’t need a credit card to start a plan. Perhaps baby-boomers that want a phone but don’t necessarily need a smartphone could benefit from this too.

If you have any additional questions about how I did this or if you know how I can cheaply convert this phone to a bona-fide smartphone, I’d love for you to leave me a comment. Thanks! -KW

UPDATE 2/8/13: Platinum Tel now offers ‘BYOP’ or Bring Your Own Phone plans. You can buy SIM cards from them to use their plans with whatever phone you already have. Yep. I’m heading over there as soon as I run out of money on my current AT&T plan. Horray for PTel!!!

UPDATE 2/25/13: PTel’s SIM cards are the big ‘ol mama-jamas. So I used the video mentioned above to cut it. I decided to go with the Real Pay-As-You-Go plan and then bought a hotspot from Virgin Mobile. Figured that way I can use the WiFi for my phone, the kid’s Kindle Fires, and a future iPad that I’m toying with the idea of buying. That hotspot was on sale for $83 and change, then costs $30 per month (no contract) for 4G of data, which is more than enough for our needs. I could easily bump it up to $40/mo. for 5G and so on, but 4G should be plenty for now. Next task: Come up with a creative name for my hotspot… Oh, it is ON!



One Response to “Converting an old iPhone into a Pay-As-You-Go”

  1. Thorin N. Tatge says:

    Thanks! This account is probably enough to tip me over the egde into going with PTel’s Paygo plan with my iPhone 4. They now sell Combi SIMs, so it looks like I won’t have to go through the trouble of cutting a micro out like you did. :-)

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