Technology, Philosophy, & Sometimes Both

Thoughts on the World by Jack Umano

T-Mobile Activation was Painful (But, I’m Loving the Nexus S)

with 3 comments

As you might have guessed after my rant about iOS slowness and my rant about iTunes bugginess, I have decided to ditch my iPhone and go with Android.  I just got a “Nexus S” and am loving it so far.  More about Android later.  First I had to activate my new phone.  The Nexus S is currently only usable on T-Mobile in the US (but it’s coming to Sprint soon).

Activation on T-Mobile was a nightmare.  Maybe this is part of the reason they have remained a small provider in the US.  Or, maybe the cause-effect is backward.  Maybe the activation process is left abysmal because the company knows that all their process will soon be swept up by AT&T.

Here was my process:

  • Call T-Mobile and ask for activation of a cell line.  I ask to not have a contract since the Nexus S is unsubsidized by T-Mobile.
  • The T-Mobile representative sets me up with a Flex Pay account.  I guess he assumed that since I didn’t want a contract, I would want to have a “paid in advance” account.  He never told me about any options here.
  • I ask if I could use the SIM card that came in the box with the phone.   “Sure!” he says (probably he didn’t want to say anything that might cause him to lose the sale).  He says I would get an email with my new phone number when our call was over and I should call in to set up that number with my SIM card.
  • Wait for that email – it never comes.
  • Call T-Mobile and explain it all.  This rep says keeping your current SIM is never the process and it cannot happen that way.
  • Wait for the new SIM card to come in the mail four days later.
  • Finally, the SIM card comes and I got the phone started.  I try to set up voicemail with Google Voice and it doesn’t work.  Researching points to the fact that it won’t work with a Flex Pay account.
  • Call again and explain it all to another rep.  They say, “Ok, start by tapping the icon that says, ‘voice’.”  They are reading from a manual on how to set it up.  They obviously paid no attention to the explanation that I had tried to set it up already.  I explain about the Flex Pay not working with voicemail on Google Voice and they put me on hold and eventually come back and say, “you’re right, it won’t work”.
  • The T-Mobile rep forwards me to new representative to change my account into “pay by bill” instead of the pre-paid Flex Pay account.  Explain my whole situation again to a new rep
  • It is not possible to change account types.  They forward me to another rep, explain it all again.  Now we’ll set up a new account and cancel the old one.
  • Starting back at square one, I set up an entirely new account.  I ask if they could credit me for the amount that I prepaid for the other account.  They say, “yes.”  But, now I have to wait for them to mail me another SIM card.
  • The new SIM card finally comes and we’re back in business again.  The data connection works for only a few hours and then stops.  I get a message on my phone that says I don’t have a data plan.  Calling in, the rep says, “Yeah, that just happens sometimes with new setups.”  -Huh?
  • The previous reps said I would need to call in to get the credit for the Flex-Pay account applied to my new account.  I call in and they can’t find any note on my new account (which the rep said he would put there).
  • The rep looks for the old Flex Pay account.  I don’t remember what the old phone number on the Flex Pay account was since I never used that number.  They do a search on my last name and still can not find the old account.  Eventually, he finds it and says the problem was the old account had my name in caps.  Huh? -their search didn’t match caps in a name?
  • There is a note on the old account.  But, this rep can’t apply the credit.  Sends me to the billing rep.
  • After explaining it all again to the billing rep, they can’t do it.  They send me to the Flex Pay Customer Service  rep.
  • Explain it all again and finally, this rep says he does it.
  • Two weeks later, I get a bill for the Flex Pay account.  Arrrrggg!!!!!  They have now billed me for the canceled account when I already pre-paid it and that amount should be sent to my new account.
  • I log in to my T-Mobile account to see if the amount has been added to my account and there is no billing information.  The billing info box is empty.  So, I have no idea what’s going on.
  • A month later, they appear for now to have it all straightened out.

I had at least 3  multiple hour phone calls.  I got passed around to probably a dozen reps.  All together, I spent probably 10 or 12 hours on the phone with T-Mobile.

Now I wonder what I’m going to do in a year when T-Mobile doesn’t exist.  Will AT&T start supporting this phone?  Will I have to switch to Sprint?

Looks like I’ll be starting over…again.


Written by Jack Umano

April 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Technology

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for posting this. I just had my first very frustrating call to t-mobile to activate the Nexus S and it was pretty similar to your experience. So, you saved me a lot of frustration, I think.

    There seems to be no info about the “pay by bill” plan anywhere. Do you have a link to any info?

    Also, the Google Voice voicemail issue is only if you are using the t-mobile number, right? If I get a prepaid plan, and only give out the GVoice number, I can recieve calls and get gvoice voicemail?
    Again, thanks for the info!


    April 14, 2011 at 4:10 am

    • I believe their prepaid option is called “flex pay” (FAQ here: Although, here is a page about prepaid plans that doesn’t mention the words “flex pay”: So you might want to ask them if there’s some difference.

      Yes, I believe the only issue with Google Voice voicemail and flex pay is that a flex pay account will not allow forwarding of the voicemail. So, if you never use the t-mobile number, I think you’ll be fine. I found that in some situations the google voice call quality wasn’t good enough and I had to call using my regular t-mobile cell line. In that case, people do see my t-mobile number.

      Let me know how it all works out,

      Jack Umano

      April 14, 2011 at 4:33 am

    • When I mentioned paying “by bill” I just meant any of their regular plans where they bill you at the end of the month. I.E. not pre-paid.

      Jack Umano

      April 14, 2011 at 4:40 am

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