January 9, 2018

6 Major Differences between Tracfone Smartphones and 'Dumb' Phones

How Are Smartphones Different from Regular Tracfone Devices?

Updated 1/9/2018

tracfone smartphones vs non smartphones
Tracfone Smartphones vs Dumb Phones
Should you buy a smartphone from Tracfone? What will change if you switch from a regular Tracfone device to a smartphone?

We answer these questions and more with an explanation of how smartphones are different than 'dumb' phones and some things to consider before upgrading.

Let's start with a basic but important question:

What is a Smartphone?

The basic definition of a smartphone from the dictionary is, 'Any phone that performs many of the functions of a computer, such as accessing the internet, and capable of downloading and running applications.'

So a smartphone is just a small computer that also has calling and texting capability included.

There are two main operating systems for smartphones - Android and iOS. Only Apple smartphones use iOS (such as the iPhone 6, iPhone 7 etc.), and the rest of smartphones use the Android Operating System (such as Samsung, LG, Motorola, ZTE, etc.).

Android OS allows users to have access to over a million  different applications through the Google Play Store. These 'apps' provide added functionality, and many are free to download and use. There are apps for nearly anything you can think of, ranging from music and radio streaming, to games and entertainment.

Apple's iPhone devices also have a similar selection of apps that users can install on their phone.

For more about Android OS, here is a link to the Wikipedia page on Android.

And for our recommendations on some great apps for your phone, read our List of the Best Android Apps for Tracfone Users.

Now, we want to mention here that there are three categories of phones form Tracfone at this time:

Three Types of Phones for Tracfone:
  • Tracfone Smartphones - cell phones that use either Android or iOS and are sold by Tracfone
  • Non-Smartphones - All other phones from Tracfone (visit our Cell Phone Reviews page to see them) often called 'dumb' phones. 
  • BYOP Phones - A program from Tracfone that allows you to 'Bring Your Own Phone'. (follow the link to learn more about this program) including iPhone and Android devices.
So there are a few different types of phones to choose from, but we won't get into that. We will focus just on Tracfone smartphones, and comparing the difference between them and all other phones offered by Tracfone.

So let's get to the main question, how are smartphones different from regular Tracfone devices?

6 Key Differences Comparing Android Smartphones vs 'Dumb' Phones from Tracfone

A list comparing the major differences between phones with Android operating system, and all the rest that are available from Tracfone. Use this list to help choose whether an Android phone may be right for you. Note, Apple iPhone's use a different operating system compared to Android phones, but have basically the same functionality as far as apps and smartphone capabilities.

tracfone android
Find Apps for Android
1. Access Over 1 Million Applications with Smartphones
Androids are called smartphones because of their increased functionality with access to standardized applications (apps). These apps can do many of the same things that computers programs do, including web browsing, photo editing, games and much much more.

Apps for Android phones are available from the Google Play Store and many are free or just a few dollars. There are over a million applications and they do quite a number of different things.

Access to applications gives Android phones almost unlimited functionality because you can always download and install a new app to do something you couldn't do before.

Non-Android devices from Tracfone are usually limited to the features that come with the phone, like an alarm clock, web browser, etc.

Visit the Google Play Store to see some of the apps available to use with Android.

2. Minutes are Split into Three 'buckets' for Android Phones
One of the major differences between Tracfone's smartphone devices and their non-Android phones is the way minutes work. 

android tracfone
Use the same prepaid card for Androids
On the non-Android phones (such as the LG 840G or LG 306G), when you add a 60 minute card, you get 60 minutes (or 180 if you have Triple Minutes for Life) for talking, texting and web browsing all in one 'bucket'. Also, texts cost only 0.3 minutes each.

For Android smartphones (like the LG Fiesta or Samsung Galaxy Luna Pro), a 60 minute card will be split into three 'buckets' and give you 60 minutes calling, 60 texts, and 60mb data (and these will all be tripled to 180 with Triple Minutes for Life). So you get the same number of calling minutes (180), plus texting and data (180 of each)!  

Note that Tracfone stopped including certain smartphones with Triple Minutes for Life (follow the link to learn more). Phones running Android 7.0 or newer, or some devices released after April 1, 2017, might not have triple minutes  so be sure to check on that if you are buying a new phone.

The lack of triple minutes does not affect smartphone only cards, which do not triple anyway.

It is also possible to buy only texts for your Tracfone, and buy extra data too.

And Tracfone offers Smartphone Only Airtime Cards which may be a better deal for some users.

So prepaid minutes work a little differently, but for most, this is very beneficial.

3. Touchscreens on All Tracfone Smartphones
Not everyone likes to use a touchscreen, but all of the smartphones from Tracfone have touchscreens at this time. This includes both Apple and Android devices.

Most smartphones these days only have a touchscreen, it has become the standard, and most touchscreens have a good response and sensitivity. But if you prefer the feel of buttons under your fingers, then you might want to stick with Tracfone's like the Samsung S390G or Motorola EX431G which both have full QWERTY keypads.

Additionally, you can visit our Tracfone BYOP page to learn about how you can bring a smartphone to use with Tracfone, including some phones with sliding keyboards. Visit the BYOP page for a phone list and all the details.

4. Android Phones are (generally) Newer
Most of the newest phones from Tracfone are all Android or Apple iPhone devices. Although Tracfone does often release phones that are already a few months to a few years old, they are much newer than any non-smartphone devices from Tracfone.

If you're looking for a newest phones from Tracfone, Android is where you should look. Keep up with the latest Tracfone cell phones in our recent post.

5. Android Phones are (generally) More Expensive
Because the Android phones from Tracfone are newer and have more features, they also tend to be more expensive. Typically the phones will be priced above $100. There are a variety of online stores that offer some great deals, including deals with minutes. So shop around when searching for a phone.

But not all of the Android smartphones are expensive, you can even get the LG Optimus Dynamic for $20 on Amazon right now. Just don't expect too much out of a cheaper smartphone.

6. Smartphone Only Promo Codes
When Tracfone released smartphones they initially did not accept promo codes.

But now there are promo codes for the new smartphone-only airtime cards, and some promo codes for regular airtime cards also work on smartphones.

View our current list of promotional codes for Tracfone that also include several for smartphones.

Bonus Point! You are Charged for Every Text You Receive on Android Phones
On smartphones with Tracfone you cannot choose which incoming texts you read (and are charged for). You are automatically charged for every incoming text, whether you read it or not.

On older 'dumb' phones from Tracfone you can choose not to read a text, and thus not be charged for it. So be aware of this, and if you receive a lot of spam texts, you may want to change your number when changing to an Android phone from Tracfone.

This concludes the list of key differences between Android smartphones and the regular cell phones offered by Tracfone.

We hope these points will help you choose if an Android phone is best for you. If you have any questions, or additional points to add, leave a comment below!


.Join us on Facebook where we have a growing community of Tracfone users and are able to respond to messages directly if you have special questions.

Learn 4 Ways to Check Your Airtime with a Tracfone Smartphone if you're worried about keeping track of your minutes.

Also take a look at our 10 Tips for Boosting your Cell Signal.

Thanks for visiting, and we hope this information was useful!


David said...

Another difference you should note is that on Android, you are charged for all incoming text messages whether you read them or not. On the feature phones, you are not charged unless you actually read them. This is pretty important when you get lots of unsolicited/spam messages.

TracfoneReviewer Team said...

Good point, it has been added to the post!

Unknown said...

Another thing: one may not be able to choose from all of Google Play offerings, as not all of Tracfone's Androids have the same OS version, so may be somewhat limited. That having been said, there are so many offerings that there is almost bound to be a comparable substitute if one's first choice requires a newer version than a given Tracfone may have.

Anonymous said...

i had an android for about 2 months and decided the phone had passed me w/ that technology and severely downgraded to an LG440g. and i'm happy, but, it has 3g service and is pretty pointless and i can't help think that is why the battery life is not so good. i'd spend and extra few bucks for unlimited internet on my 440g but having a minute phone and using the internet simply don't fit logically. i'm presume one day tracfone or even net10 will offer a nice cheap plan for non android unlimited internet users.

Anonymous said...

Also need to say that once you go with a Tracfone android smartphone & then decide to go back to a non-android Tranfone phone, you will not be able to transfer/keep your existing phone number. You will have to get a new, different phone number.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Tracfone will be offering the Motorola Moto G in their smartphone lineup? This phone has received rave reviews since its release and its CDMA version would be a perfect fit for Tracfone.

TracfoneReviewer Team said...

I've looked into this and at least at this time I don't think it will work to use the Verizon Moto G with Tracfone. I am hoping that in the near future as Tracfone continues to add smartphones to their lineup they may add the Moto G.

Anonymous said...

Not too long ago, I read that the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. ruled that a provider has control of a phone for only 12 months. However, according to its website, the FCC does not regulate contractual agreements with cellular providers.

The Moto G was released by Verizon on January 9, 2014. I would assume that a two-year contract was required for purchasing the Moto G. If that's the case, the Moto G wouldn't be available for BYOP until January 2016--as the BYOP program is now.

If Tracfone is able to release the Moto G under its own name, that would be different, although Verizon would probably have to approve if they were to be used on Verizon's towers..

I've been hoping to see a smartphone with a 4 to 4.5 inch display and at least 1 gb RAM, but I'm not too convinced that's going to happen anytime soon.

So I just keep using my Samsung Centura, hoping something exciting comes along. It will probably happen sometime, but not soon. I hope I'm wrong.

Curmudgeon said...

One other MAJOR difference between Tracfone regular and android phones: Roaming.
We have a house in the mountains that cannot get a Verizon signal but there is a regional CDMA carrier with whom Verizon has a roaming arrangement.
My wife's BYOP LG L86C (android) cannot connect to this regional carrier; there is no roaming with this Tracfone android BYOP. Ditto my Droid X2 BYOP. Verizon towers only.

However, my lowly Tracfone LG501C will connect just fine.

In short, Android Smartphones on Tracfone do not get Verizon roaming privileges. Not Too Good!

Anonymous said...

yes, why do they not offer unlimited internet for cheap mobile cellulars phones?

Anonymous said...

I am new to smartphones and have always loved Tracfone for cost and good service. The upgrade to a smart phone would be likely only for Pandora when I run/exercise, digital calendar, and some mobile couponing at the markets/Target etc. Is this do-able with Tracfone? If so... what phone choice is best?

Anonymous said...

How can i get Skype for my LG 306 G ? I cannot download Skype, is there an app for and if, how could i install it ?
I can check my Skype account, but cannot make calls ?

Anonymous said...

I now use the small Samsung T105G for emergencies and rare long distance calls but use the public library computers for internet research. I want the ZTE Valet for free internet access but will I be able to actually read the screen? Are the hearing and ring volumes loader than the T105G? Any other phone suggestions? I've been researching this for 3 days and getting nowhere. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I have a cell phone with a valley area code. When I go to the mountain home, this cell is very limited. If I get an android will it be able to have good service everywhere?

Anonymous said...

Can I get shazam on this phone?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: The ZTE Valet does not have good built-in Wifi but the Huawei Glory 868C
does. The ZTE Valet does have a decent/readable screen. "Pinching the screen" allows for larger font size usually

Anonymous said...

LG Optimus Dynamic II also has good built-in wifi and a good/readable screen as well.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Pandora is an app available via Google Play as well as various digital calendars.
I use Publix digital coupons and they are added via your web acct using any internet connection which will depend on the signal quality you are getting at the physical location at the time. Most stores have free wifi these days but 3G covereage in my area usually suffices

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Shazam has an Android app available on Google Play. Streaming video/audio will depend on the signal quality/strength available at the physical location where you are located when attempting to stream. This would apply to either a wifi or 3G signal.

kate said...

My current phone the LG 840g came with built-in triple minutes. It had a fatal injury so I'm upgrading. For the Androids does one need to buy the triple minutes card (ggrrr) or is that perk included on some, or any ?

TracfoneReviewer Team said...

Yes, all the Android phones from Tracfone come with Triple Minutes for Life. Also be aware that minutes are split into texts, data and calls. And promo codes don't work with Android phones.

Anonymous said...

I have an LG501c and it connects in tons of places. Just got a Moto G (CDMA) activated with TracFone BYOP and I'm still testing what it will do. I got a new # so I could keep my tried and true LG501C because I know what it will do!

Anonymous said...

FYI - I had an online chat with TracFone rep yesterday to clarify a question I had about TracFone Android service before I upgraded my regular phone. I was told that if I decided to upgrade to an Android phone and later wanted to go back to a Regular TracFone that: 1) They could transfer my phone number back, BUT 2) I could NOT transfer my unused minutes from the Android phone back to a Regular phone. Just some info for anyone like me with a lot of minutes you don't want to loose. The phone number & minutes can transfer from your Regular phone to the Android phone with no problem, but going Back is different.

Anonymous said...

trry google hangout. You can call and do video chats for free in you on wifi

Anonymous said...

What does it mean "split into 3 separate buckets" on my Android. If I have 100 Min talk and 150 text and I talk 100 Min do I still have 150 text left? Thank You

Anonymous said...

If you transfer your minutes from a non-android tracfone to an android tracfone, and then decide you don't like it and want to transfer back to your old one, 1) they need to send you a new sim card, since the old cannot be reused. OR 2) if you buy a non-android tracfone to go back to...they absolutely will NOT transfer your minutes back to the basic phone. No matter how much money you spent and saved your minutes. I have seen Tracfone do this to elderly unsuspecting customers. It amounts to theft. Its wrong. I work in a retail store and I have started warning potential customers before they waste money and have been directing them to more honest prepaid companies and AWAY from the tracfone family.

Anonymous said...

I tried to upgrade to LG Optimus fuel L34C smart phone in hopes of using its advantages. Tranfone sells the L34C phone for my area zip code, but it will not work in my area. I found that out after trying two different android phones. Android phones will not work in my area because the Verizon home towers (home towers) are to far away from my address and I cannot roam with a Tracfone andriod phone because the other towers in my area do not support Tracfone android smartphones. . My existing good phone is a Samsung 380C and works great on Tracfone towers.in my area with roaming and home. The 380C is my basic phone. Tracphone support team doesn't really understand the problem that exists with smart phones. Tracfone users will not be able to roam with a android smart phone in this area (zip 54235) because it is to far away from Verizon home towers.

Anonymous said...

Tracfone's terms and conditions of service, 11. Roaming..."TRACFONE Smartphones and BYOP phones do not roam."

Eric said...

Carriers have much higher demands on their mobile data network than on their voice/text band. MVNO carriers can't get data bandwidth nearly as inexpensively as they can get cell bandwidth (if the carriers will let go of me then a given amount anyway) so they need to find a way to discourage or leash heavy data use. (Hence the numerous unlimited data, but 2 network speeds after a given amount. )

Anonymous said...

So after months of wondering did I really do that much texting on my new Android phone, I was able to piece together what I've been reading and what Tracfone just told me (1 text = 1 minute). A long-time Tracfone customer, I assumed 1 text still cost 0.3 minutes for ALL phones. So if I have it right, for a non-Android phone, a 60-minute card can provide 180 minutes (if you have a Triple Minutes for Life phone) which equals 540 texts. But for an Android phone, a 60-minute card gives you 180 minutes (same for talk and data) which equals 180 texts. Since I am a text user, I really goofed switching to Android! I just wish I had understood the difference before purchasing.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, the minutes are not split; but, tripled. For example, 60 minutes = 60 talk + 60 text + 60 data, which equals 180.

Maybe this is a new promo?

Anonymous said...

3 separate buckets. Yes, if you talk 100 minutes, you will still have 150 text remaining. From what is being published, each text received or sent counts, whether it is spammy or not.

Anonymous said...

If you do mostly texting look at

Anonymous said...

Anyone know of a messaging service that allows you to use your tracfone number instead og obtaining another one. System I use for my tablet is text+ and it works fine. Folks get confused trying to figure out two numbers to text me. Are they texting his phone or tablet?


Anonymous said...

I am ready to pull the trigger and get a Samsug S4 from the tracfone site called
"Saveontracfone.com." It's $249.00 which is reasonable for a new one.
Has anyone used this method with tracfone? If so, was your experience good?
I am not sure it is all what it appears to be so thought I would ask.
Quick response appreciated.


Anonymous said...

This is your Tracfone Smart phone coverage if you're note in a green area, you are SCREWED as these phones will not roam! It sucks big time!


Twitch said...

I was set to buy an android phone but then I saw a comment about the android phones not being able to roam... That concerns me since I frequently go fishing in hilly country where reception is already not the best. Generally NE IA or Northern WI, NW MI.. but this would leave me concern for anywhere I might travel on my fishing trips. Is this a legitimate safety concern?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone send me to a website that will give me the basics for using an android phone? In plain English, please? I have recently purchased from Tracfone two LG L38C (yes, I know - older models) but I still need to know what I am doing. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

WIFI Android question -- I just got a tracfone android. My big question is when I'm out, away from my home wifi, I am happy that I seem to always automatically be connected to the internet. Am I using up minutes for every minute I am using, say, facebook? How about when the phone is on, but I haven't yet clicked on the internet. Am I using up minutes? If so, would these be data minutes? I could not find anything out on this. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The Android 4.4 (KitKat) models seem to be the ones mentioned most often that don't work with certain apps.

Anonymous said...

Then Tracfone should remove this statement from the detail page of android phones

"Call nationally, internationally or roam at local call rates."

Anonymous said...

Go to your phones general settings, then to mobile network settings. To avoid accidental use of data be sure the toggles for 'Data Enabled' and for 'Enable Always-On Mobile' are set to OFF. Otherwise you will be using your data much faster than you would think (especially if you have not switched every app to update only via Wi-Fi). If you find yourself in an area without free Wi-Fi you can always go back through settings to temporarily turn the Mobile Data back on. One other hint that will help prolong your battery life is to always keep the Wi-Fi switch OFF until you want to actively use it.

Anonymous said...

To specifically answer your questions - You are not using minutes while online, you are using data. You are not using minutes by simply having your phone on, only when making or receiving phone calls. And the data from going online is not counted in minutes, it is counted in Mb. Some web sites use up a lot of data and some not so much. Try to use the mobile version if you can as they tend to use less data, plus they are formatted to be more easily viewed from your phone.
Just to be clear - When talking on the phone (as soon as you dial out, accept an incoming call, or listen to your voice messages) it counts by the minute and is deducted from your available "minute bucket". Text messages (no matter if you send or receive - even those from people you don't know or from spammers) each count against your "text message bucket". While you are online via Wi-Fi it doesn't count at all, however when you are online via Mobile Data each Mb counts against your "data bucket".
I hope this has answered your questions.

Anonymous said...

I have always found Google search to be most helpful. I entered a search for "LGL38C" and the first link was to the tracfone tutorials for that model. Here is the link:
The left side of the page shows direct links to each section so you can skip parts you already know about.

Anonymous said...

You can buy a "text card" for $10.00 and that gives you 1,000 texts.

Anonymous said...

FYI, as of November 2015 ScratchWireless has eliminated free cellular texting and free talk over wifi, so they are useless now. They also no longer support phone numbers outside of their Boston area numbers.

reubj said...

HUGE difference: Tracfone smartphones will NOT ROAM. Very frustrating if you live in a fringe area.

Anonymous said...

I recently purchased an Android Smartphone from QVC. I am being charged $6.25 per month on my credit card and do not know what the charge is for. I also want to know how I will know how many minutes I have for talk, text and data left. Please let me know. Thank you. beaultc@aol.com

Anonymous said...

But you're at least saving airtime minutes to offset a bit. Example 100 airtime minutes: send 3 texts uses a little less than 1 minute, but with android 100 minutes added to phone also gives you 100 min text and 100 gb data, so yes sending 3 texts costs 3 minutes out of your text bucket, but it doesn't touch your airtime bucket and you basically got the text bucket for free (i.e. 100 min non-android phone airtime = 100 min airtime & 100 min text and 100gb data on android)

Timmo said...

So, what happens when one of these Android Smartphones leaves your local service area???? Are they useless? Does anything work? This seems impossible. Is there a extra charge? Who would buy a phone that doesn't roam????

Paul said...

In short, yes. They become useless. I have 5 bars at my house, but can't make/receive any calls/text because: the 5 bars are on another vendor's towers. They do have a roaming agreement with Verizon because my buddy's Verizon phone loves it here. But Tracfone won't allow the roaming so I have a well connected dud. Can only use it when I'm near the local town where Verizon has towers.

Timmo said...

Thanks, Paul. Appreciate the info.

Unknown said...

My data total is always incorrect. Never is usage deducted from balance. Frustrating to not know when I need to purchase. LG Ultimate 2 Android

Anonymous said...

Am very grateful for the useful answers on this site. Thanks everyone

Unknown said...

LG 306G is NOT an Android. It is not a smartphone. It is a JavaScript feature phone and no modern apps will ever work on it. It is good for making phone calls and text, and it has a semi-functional Facebook app preloaded.

Unknown said...

LG 306G is not an Android and it is not a smartphone. Modern apps will never work on a feature phone.

"THE PREACHER" said...

Can I connect Galaxy 5 tracfone to wifi if I run out of minutes?

Anonymous said...

Hi just purchased a regular LG328BG Trac fone and yes, it's good to save money BUT.....

Anonymous said...

I have hand tremors so using a touchscreen can be hard for me, i liked the old days when qwerty keypad feature phones were still an option, i won't buy used. I tried to find a flip or qwerty but most of the flips were lower functioning than i wanted although i like the format much better for taking calls than touchscreens. I now have 2 Androids & one LG 442 bg flip. The Androids are the Alcatel Pixi Unite & ZTE z353vL or Cymbal T flip with touchscreen. A friend got a keypad for their smartphone that works via bluetooth with Android OS, it was under $20 & could be an answer for people who want a physical keypad for their touchscreens.

Bluedestiny said...

I noticed something that was not included/distinguished in this article. This article states that the Android smartphones are all triple for life. I have seen a couple of comments on this board say the same thing. Then you used the LG Fiesta as an example (This is the phone that I currently have). Because of the fact that the Fiesta runs Android 7.0, it is no longer qualified for the triple for life. From what I understand, this has gone into effect with all Tracfone-branded phones that are Android 7.0 and up. These phones can only utilize the smartphone only cards (the all-blue ones). If you have a phone that runs Android 6.0 and lower, or a BYOB phone, your phones are still eligible for the triple for life. This is all that I wanted to point out. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thank you!

TracfoneReviewer Team said...

RE: Bluedestiny

Good point, I believe you are correct.

Bluedestiny said...

I meant to say BYOP (bring your own phone) instead of BYOB! LOL Auto-correct! :)

Anonymous said...

I have purchased my Tracfones from HSN and QVC. They always seem to have only old operating systems. In January 2018, they have no phones with Android 7 or Android 8...only phones with Android 4.4, 5, and 6.0.1. Why? Also, I don't use texting. With my first 2 Android phones I received no texting SPAM, but with my newer Samsung Galaxy Sky running Android 6.0.1, purchased February 2017 from QVC, I started receiving several SPAM texts every day. I discovered I could block almost all of them (except for rare messages from Tracfone, which I would want to receive anyway) by choosing phrases to block. I tried to block phrases such as "a" "for" "by" "and" ...and so on...simple words that would be in virtually every text...but I couldn't get this blocking function to accept these. If I put a space in front of them: " a" " for" " by" " and" ... the system would accept these to block and from June 2017 to now January 2018 I never received a SPAM text until this morning. This morning I finally received a SPAM text announcing that I have won 1,200,000 Euros! I'm rich!! I don't know how this one got through.

Anonymous said...

Where you compare 60 minute cards, are you comparing the 60 minute non-smartphone card to the 60 minute smartphone only card or is it actually possible to use a mix of smartphone only and non-smartphone cards on a smartphone?

I am using a Motorola Droid 4 with the BYOP option. This is the most recent phone with a slide out keyboard that works on Tracfone and can also run Lineage OS (and, therefore, the latest version of Android.) I am using F-Droid for my app store because I don't trust Google. I sideload a few apps by exporting them with apkshare from another device which does have Google Play on it. Unfortunately, this does not work with the Tracfone app because it insists that Google Play has to be installed or it won't run.