When I upgraded from iPhone 4S to iPhone 6, I was on AT&T. As a “reward” for upgrading, after being a loyal customer (“We want to thank you for being the best part of AT&T”), AT&T charged me $40 and then increased my monthly data plan by $15. And locked me into the full plan for 24 months. I had a hellish experience but was able to cut my monthly costs drastically by unlocking and then switching to T-Mobile. Here’s how I did it…Yes, I did the equipment upgrade at an Apple Store. No problem with that, and I got hooked into the new AT&T plan at that time. (The 24-month plan was better financially than the alternative.) But I quickly discovered T-Mobile was getting really competitive with AT&T, and had a plan with unlimited calling (in the US), “unlimited” data (slows down after 1GB, but otherwise not capped), data included (no charge) in Europe, and cheap calling throughout Europe and most of the world. I can tether my iPhone at no extra charge — it just uses the 1GB faster than the phone would by itself. So how would I get there?
First, I had to get the iPhone unlocked (by AT&T). Those of you in the US know how difficult this can be.
To begin, I was able to get a payoff quote ($325) to buy out my AT&T 24-month contract, and I immediately did that. Talked to AT&T as soon as my payment cleared (7 days) and they said the phone was mine. (It cost me basically $50 less than if I had bought an “unlocked” phone from Apple, which was not actually available at the time.) Just had to go through AT&T’s unlocking process to change carriers. “No, there is no way the rep on the phone can start the process” they said — I had to start it by going to a web page. So I did that on a Saturday. They said they’d send an email, to which I would respond, and then unlocking would begin. 48 hours later, no email had arrived. I checked online and it said “you didn’t respond to our email.” So I initiated the process again. 48 hours later, same thing, no message, no process, so I called them. “Ah, yes, I can start the unlock for you,” said the rep, and she did that. “You’ll be unlocked in 48 hours,” she said. So 72 hours later I called them to see how it was progressing. “Not unlocked yet.” I asked when it might happen, the new rep said “it takes 5 business days minimum, and it can take longer.” They had told me 48 hours. Well the rep promised something she had been promising hundreds of customers, but she wasn’t authorized to promise (according to the supervisor “They should know this.”).
Well there’s certainly no technical reason an unlock takes 5 business days. This is just how AT&T wants to play it. They want to hang onto your phone, and charge you, as long as they can. So I waited 5 business days (7 calendar days) and got an email saying “We can’t unlock your phone, sorry. Contact us when your contract finishes.” I called them and they said, “Your phone isn’t paid off, so we can’t unlock it.” Turns out that my payoff $325 was not treated as a payoff (even though they sent me an urgent notice to pay the “payoff” amount). So the rep got that credit processed correctly this time. Can I expect my phone to be unlocked right away? Well, no, “You have to wait 5 business days, minimum.” So I waited again, and this time it was unlocked on the 7th day.
I ported the phone to T-Mobile within an hour of receiving AT&T’s notification! Happy as a clam! I am now posting this article from my computer, sitting in a cafe, using data through my tethered iPhone 6 on T-Mobile. Works like a champ!