The idiocy that is cell phone carriers (ATT in this case)

Last year, I was able to have my phone unlocked for the trip to Switzerland. Now I find that ATT policy changed and they won’t unlock the phone until the contract is over in two years. While I can get my old, tired HTC phone unlocked, I am annoyed and will change carriers to somebody who doesn’t play this game with locked devices.

I am a little puzzled at the approach that would rather lose a long-term customer than unlock a phone for a few days — especially since I am not going to pay roaming rates in Europe in any case. I will either take my phone with me or buy a disposable in Italy, but ATT gets nothing in any case. I know that all cell phone carriers suck in different ways, and went with ATT for cell, land line and data for convenience. Now I am motivated to get rid of the land line, get different cell and data providers. Not sure how they can view it as a win.

Suggestions on replacement Internet and cell providers for Nashville are welcome.

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12 Responses to The idiocy that is cell phone carriers (ATT in this case)

  1. Willis says:

    that’s why i got a nexus 5 its compatible with AT&T and is unlocked for 350-400 only downside is doesn’t have international 4G its ether american 4G or everywhere else

  2. FireMission says:

    I agree, they are idiots. Several years back, I was a loyal Sprint customer, had been with them for over 10 years. But my wife’s phone started having strange problems, and eventually just died. I took it in to the Sprint store and tried to get them to replace it. Of course, it was several years out of date and was no longer made. I tried to get a replacement phone. The nearest comparable phone was $400. The salesman made a big show of going to ask the manager, then came back with “I can give you some DEEP discounts on accessories for the new phone.” WTF. Inside, I flipped my lid. Outside, I walked over to the manager and said “I’ve been a Sprint customer for 10 years, but if you don’t help me out on a new phone, I’m going to walk across the street to the Verizon store.” Manager: “you do what you have to do, sir.” So, I walked across the street (literally) and dumped Sprint for Verizon. It cost me a little to break my contract, but I ended up with much better phones and much better service, and have been (fairly) happy with Verizon ever since.


  3. JPD says:

    I have been with T-Mobile for 12 years. Before that ATT. Rural coverage in Texas is not great. However, willing to give that up for no contract, good customer service and cheap pricing. Currently signed up for $40 plan, with 500 MB. Since I use wifi locations to update, do internet, not a problem. If I go over, $10 for 1gb. Run my gps all day on trips uses little over the air mb. Works for me.

  4. Daniel says:

    Not sure about coverage in Nashville, but look into Ting. I’ve been very happy with them and their payment structure.

  5. AJK says:

    Take a look at Consumer Cellular.
    I’ve been with CC for two months and I’m very pleased with them.

    Consumer Reports says:
    “Consider Consumer Cellular, a highly rated national carrier catering to simpler wireless needs that bills monthly, even though there is no contract commitment; that’s less complicated than a prepaid arrangement. Consumer Cellular uses the AT&T network.”

    High points:
    Highly customizable if you don’t want unlimited-type features.
    Bring your own phone—which needs to be an AT&T phone or unlocked and running on a GSM network—by purchasing a free SIM card.

    Low points:
    Limited smart phone selection that contains some older or lesser-known models.
    No unlimited plans available.

  6. Rien says:

    I second the Ting motion. Every phone they sell is unlocked, or you can buy a used Sprint phone and have them activate it.

  7. Tim Allen says:

    Years ago I fired ATT as my long distance carrier, they put themselves back on my phone bill. I fired them again, they put themselves back on again. Later I got two cell phones from them with a poverty package plan. Every month for two years I was billed for a deluxe plan and had to call them and make them reduce the charges to the poverty plan I contracted for. Every month for two years I had to call them, wait on hold for 30 minutes to an hour, every single time I made them promise to fix the problem permanently. Every time they lied because every month I was billed for a deluxe plan. I will never, never do business with ATT again, they are a gang of thieves. If you or I tried to do what ATT does we would go to jail.

  8. Oddball says:

    For internet service, you’re pretty much stuck with Comcast. Good news is that I’ve had less issue with them than I have with AT&T. I would highly recommend buying a modem at Best Buy/Office Depot/etc instead of renting one. You’ll break even within a year of service.

    Oh, and if it turns out that you’re using more than 300GB/month and getting charged extra, Comcast doesn’t ask too many question if you ask for a business account (which is slower, but has no usage cap).

  9. Even if they won’t give you the unlock code, you can typically unlock it yourself if you know the IMEI (it’s on a sticker, usually under the battery) and the make/model of the phone.

    If you’d want help unlocking it, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to help.

  10. anonymous says:

    Now I find that ATT policy changed and they won’t unlock the phone until the contract is over in two years. While I can get my old, tired HTC phone unlocked, I am annoyed…I am a little puzzled at the approach that would rather lose a long-term customer than unlock a phone for a few days…Not sure how they can view it as a win.

    Why do you hate capitalism? You agreed to their terms of service (which probably include a clause stating that they can change their policies), and they’re making a profit off of you. If you don’t like it, you’re free to go with another provider two years from now. I’m not sure what exactly the problem is.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      Except that they AREN’T even making a profit — I will still use another service while traveling. So they could make money for providing nothing while I am abroad without reducing the utility of the phone to me. I like capitalism. I dislike stupid policies that harm both the customer and the provider.

  11. Paul Koning says:

    Someone is missing something.
    A traditional US cell phone deal is essentially a term payment plan. You’re not paying for the phone when you sign up. All you’ve paid is a down payment. The remaining payments are in your monthly bill over the next year or two. That’s why you’re charged a fee if you dump the carrier prematurely, and why you can’t have the phone unlocked until you have fully paid for it.
    You can find plans that don’t work this way, especially lately. If so, you pay full price for the phone, the phone is unlocked from the start. The monthly payment is reduced, because it no longer contains the term payments for the phone. If you compare the total cost over 2 years, you’ll find they are fairly close. (The new style may be a little cheaper.)
    You can also get service from small companies that resell capacity on the big networks, but packaged differently and typically more cheaply. So you get the same coverage as the big names, but you do business with a small company. Those tend to be service-only plans, so you buy the phone (paid in full) up front. You may get more flexibility, for example the ability to get low cost service if you don’t need much data (or any data). The WSJ had an article about these companies some months ago. Wikipedia has a list (rather long):
    I don’t currently use this approach, but I’ve been thinking of changing over. Especially if I end up getting a Blackphone.

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