Edit: Or the below RP one year sim that has an expiration date of 300 to 365 days, though I'm not sure what it means. Upon purchase of this one year sim, an activation code is emailed to the purchaser, which hopefully will be valid for the expiration timeline. Probably best to call RP to confirm.
AFAIK red pocket states 90 days after purchase to activate a plan. A poster on SD (redpocketD IIRC) representing as a RP employee reiterated 90 days multiple times in multiple threads during the recent BF eBay sales.
I asked the eBay seller of the RP sim kit if one could still activate the sim 1 or 2 years after purchase, and the seller said, FWIW: "Yes you can. These are pre-loaded and will be ready when you are ready to activate it." This info coming from a small-time seller is next to useless one would think.
Mint sim has the trial sim kit for $1 on Amazon, so maybe Phoniac could ask Mint how long before the sim needs to be activated.
I saw this $5.40 GSM sim card (actually a Speedtalk Mobile one) on Amazon, and in the questions and answers section the seller states the buyer has one year to activate it. I've used a Speedtalk sim in the past without problems, save for relatively slow data speed, but just make sure to cancel or uncheck the auto-renewal.
"If you purchased a SIM card from us as a gift there is one Year expiration period on when the SIM card has to be activated."
I was watching one of the Jason Bourne movies the other day - the one where Bourne grabs a phone from a vendor's stall, opens the pack, slips the phone into the other guy's pocket, and then calls the guy.
How I wish things were just as easy in real life
No activation issues for our man Bourne, no emergency SIM cards needed. Heck, he just knew the phone number of that phone he grabbed too!
It used to be possible to activate a Tracfone entirely from the handset-- I think it now requires activation either online, or via a phone call, so it does require at least WiFi access.
The Mint trial SIM has to be activated via their app. The app can be pre-loaded on a phone whenever convenient, but still needs data access (WiFi or cellular) to activate.
I assume that there are still some pre-loaded SIMs that work like Bourne's solution, with automatic activation on loading the SIM, but I'm not aware of what providers might do that. (Auto-activation would obviously dictate a new number.)
A long time ago, when I had a Blackberry, it was possible to access a few websites without a data plan. I wouldn't be surprised if inserting a mint sim in a phone enables data for the mint app or their website.
I believe the Truphone Sim self activates no matter what GSM phone it is inserted in. In other words, it comes pre-loaded with the number and requires nothing to be done in order to activate voice and data as far as I can remember.