With my Sony Xperia Z5 Compact arriving at my house, I set out on a Saturday to get it activated. I’d been an AT&T user from the beginning; still grandfathered into the unlimited iPhone data plan. I decided I’d give T-Mobile a shot - partially because I appreciate their “un-carrier” movement, and partially because it would be easy to bail if their service was terrible. And it would save me a fair amount on my monthly bill.
I was hoping to use the prepaid T-Mobile SIM I had laying around to get my service started without having to go into a T-Mobile store. Unfortunately, T-Mobile’s website didn’t give me any direction on what to do if I already had a SIM card, so I had to trek into the store.
Cell phone stores are some of my least favorite places - I try very hard to avoid them. It’s like going to the Secretary of State, or to the Comcast office. Lots of people who don’t want to be there on both sides of the counter. It takes forever. There’s usually nowhere to sit or stand.
This store is, as expected, a mess. The guy that helped me was very helpful though, and despite some initial miscommunication, I was able to get my number ported from AT&T to T-Mobile. It took a while, but I was out of the store feeling successful.
A major facet of my cell phone plan is to take advantage of wifi calling. Due to my house being in a valley surrounded by trees, it’s a giant dead zone for cell phones (and TV signal for that matter). For whatever reason, the iPhone 5 that I was replacing doesn’t support wifi calling, which is one of the factors in wanting to upgrade in the first place. I was saddened then, when I got home and realized that wifi calling isn’t available on devices that t-mobile doesn’t sell directly - apparently there’s some firmware required to make this function. Since T-Mobile doesn’t plan on selling the new Sony Z5 series phones (I ordered mine from Amazon), I’ve now purchased a phone that I can’t use wifi calling with.
My first reaction is of course denial, which led to 3 hours of research on rooting phones, unlocking bootloaders, and other unsavory ways to make wifi calling work. It’s technically possible, but it would require serious hackery that I’m not interested in pursuing.
What then I decided to do, was to port my number to Google Voice instead - not only can I have “wifi calling”, this would also let me send text messages from any device, similar to how iMessage works on iOS. Since Google Voice is a VOIP application, this means I’d still have to signup for another T-Mobile number to get actual cell service. So then, about 2 hours after porting my number into T-Mobile, I ported it out to Google Voice.
While the port to T-Mobile took all of about 10 minutes, this one wasn’t as fast. Google Voice says it should be done in 24 hours, but it might take up to 5 days. Either of those is a super long time to wait while your phone is in limbo.
About 15 hours after I commenced this process with no progress, I started to get worried. I fired up another Google Voice number I had (since this is the only way I could communicate from inside my home) to call T-Mobile support to see what was up. They said everything looked good on their end, so call Google Voice. Google Voice, however, has no customer service number. This makes contacting them…difficult.
So I waited, and sure enough, about 24 hours after my port request, I got an email saying my number was moved. Okay, step 1 accomplished. Now, the question is, can I re-signup for service without making the trek back into the T-Mobile store?
This was possibly the most frustrating customer service experience I’ve ever had - I was using my Google Voice account to call T-Mobile, and I had the hardest time explaining to people what I was trying to do. I just wanted to reactivate the service I just cancelled 30 minutes ago, but with a brand new number. This was made worse by the fact that there was about a 3 second delay on anything I said, which was incredibly terrible. I believe I counted 6 times I was transferred in my initial 45 minute call. This ended with the last rep actually initiating a request to port my number OUT of Google Voice, back to t-mobile!
At this point the rep was asking me to read some numbers on my SIM card, which was impossible due to the poor connection. He asked me to call back. I asked him if he had a direct line, and he told me just to call the number again, because clearly he was done dealing with figuring out what I was trying to do. Which in the end was fine, because calling back I finally got connected to a guy who completely understood what I was trying to accomplish, and even gave me some pointers to avoid further drama with the activation folks.
About 40 minutes into my second call, and on the precipice of ultimate success, the final activation guy wasn’t able to re-activate my existing SIM card. He says, “sometimes it just doesn’t work, it’s like 50/50”. Uhhh, okay? Thankfully, my old pre-paid SIM was able to be added to my now re-activated account, and I finally achieved a T-Mobile account, my second in two days.
Now that I have a phone that I can use in my house (thanks to Google Voice), I can finally get down to brass tacks on my Android experience!