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TracFone&Virgin Mobile

Whose towers/systems do TracFone and Virgin Mobile use? What would be a better phone for a 13 year old?

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Depends on cost vs. location

I used to use pre-pay in the past and have had both Trac Fone and Virgin Mobile.

Trac Fone has very very good coverage, in fact their coverage rivals many "regular" plans. But their cost per minute tends to be expensive even for pre-pay.

Virgin Mobile is among the least expensive pre-pay plans when you calculate on a per-minute basis, especially if most of your calls are over 10 minutes long. But their coverage is your basic "cities and highways" coverage (though this does cover almost any major highway or mid-size and above urban/suburban area).

So if you live in or find yourself in rural-ish areas often, you're probably better off with Trac-Fone. Otherwise, you'd probably be best with Virgin Mobile. There are other pre-pay plans (T-Mobile's "Easy Speak", Verizon's "Go Plan"), but Trac-Fone is in my view the best for coverage and Virgin Mobile for costs.

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Virgin Mobile

Virgin mobile uses Sprint PCS towers.

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True, but it is still not exactly Sprint PCS

It is in the sense that it will work in the same places that it will for someone with a "regular" Sprint PCS plan, but unlike that, you do not have the option for "analog roam" for a fee in other areas like you normally do with Sprint PCS (I have had Sprint PCS in the past as well as Virgin Mobile....in fact in a FAQ section as a way to sidestep the coverage issue yet sound hip to the young audience they target Virgin Mobile says on their website "roaming is for buffalo").

If you go on TracFone's website and compare it's coverage to that on Virgin Mobile's website (trickier, instead of a national map you have to plug in your zip code and you see your general area) you'll see that TracFone's is really extensive.

But again, Virgin Mobile is cheaper, especially if you make lots of calls that are over 10 minutes or if you really only use your phone for emergencies and are not in rural areas a lot, so which is better depends on your needs in that sense.

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