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T-Mobile, the master of small print, headache and “this but that”

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It’s time to finally share some of the experiences I have had switching a line over to T-Mobile over the last year. An experience that has been had since around May of last year. What is quickly becoming one of the most noticeable networks due to great marketing and of course the recent acquirement of the 600mhz spectrum, also doesn’t seem to make any attempts to hide its dark side.

They do have some really attractive pricing for some of their plans, especially with the bait of unlimited everything. From free tethering and other features like unlimited data through certain apps for those plans that do have bandwidth limitations, it’s easy to see that the feature offering beats out most of the competition./

However, the reality sets in once you have become a customer. A lot of this but that starts to take place, along with uninformed employees that don’t even know some of the small print themselves (doh!). It all began when we moved the phone onto the group/family plan, using a phone coming from AT&T. The process seemed oh so smooth, until it took a number of days to get everything working. First it was a waiting period until the line was switched over. This was normal, so nothing seemed out of whack. However, then things started popping up, like MMS wouldn’t work. One of the employees had to simply copy the settings from their phone onto this one to get it to properly work (ok, we found a solid representative of theirs). Then sooner after data was lost from the device and only phone calls could be made. After some phone calls, it seemed that the “data code” on the account “mysteriously dropped off the account,” and they had to add it back.

Then it was discovered that the phone worked quite poorly at the office, and even worse at my home. In fact, it didn’t work at all at my home.Despite supposedly having a tower one block away, T-Mobile has zero signal throughout half the neighboring block of homes. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if it would take proper advantage of Wi-Fi calling. However, since it is an unlocked phone that isn’t associated to any one provider (aka, you didn’t buy the phone from T-Mobile directly) and can only be bought from outside of the providers, such as from Microsoft directly, T-Mobile refuses to support the ability of Wi-Fi calling. The phone itself, a Microsoft Lumia 950XL, does indeed support Wi-Fi calling itself. So, an example in some of the things they don’t tell you when you transfer over.

They were nice enough to send out their version of a repeater, called the T-Mobile CellSpot. It connects to your network and piggybacks off of your internet connection, essentially reselling your internet connect back to you by still charging you all the same (remember when AOL offered you the ability to use it over a high speed connection?). Anyhow, it didn’t work. It took a number of months and swapping the unit out three times before they got it to work. It still falls offline every few weeks or so, forcing you to reboot your modem before it pops back online (despite everything else on the network working flawlessly). 

Finally, we were able to get the phone to act like a phone. It had data and took phone calls wonderfully. Of course, it is also riding on an extremely fast cable connection. Then out of nowhere, data drops on the phone again. After some time on the phone with T-Mobile, we found that a small change to the account caused the data to drop off the account again. They added it back and everyone had to reboot their phone. The data was back.

Soon after we took in another person into the account. Soon after, the data dropped off the account once again. They had to add it back on, everyone had to reboot their phones. Apparently, every time any changes are made to the group/family plan, the data codes are dropped from some or all of the accounts on the plan soon after. To this day, they still can’t figure out why it is happening.

Now, fast forward a number of months where only small little odd troubles occurred, like them not being able to get caller id properly matched to each phone (actually, it still isn’t fully matched in the group as my name isn’t Jessica). It’s been a year and I still don’t take the T-Mobile line too serious, and find myself using my other accounts/options available to me quite often. We decided to bring someone else onto the account that was looking to test things out to see how well it compared to their provider. We took advantage of the “buy one, get one free” special for the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus phones since it required adding a new line to the account. Another on the account was looking to get the S8 Plus anyway. We can figure out what to do with the free one later, because the person coming into the account had their own phone they wanted to use.

Upon going through all of the loads of information, the one handling everything over the phone with T-Mobile was told that everything will be received within the next business day or two. This of course was incorrect, causing panic because only one phone arrived. Upon calling T-Mobile again, they changed their words and said that only one phone would be sent out next day and the other is being sent out standard mail. It came around 10 days or so after the order. Keep in mind, that everyone has spent so many hours on the phone with T-Mobile over the last year–so this debacle was not taken lightly. Also, as you can probably guess by now, we had to also call them once more because the data (of course) had to be fixed yet again, and all phones rebooted.

Meanwhile, while all this is happening, the latest person brought into the account is now going to want to put their foot through a wall as well, as the rebate for the free phone was never processed. Upon calling T-Mobile (again), now they were saying the rebate cannot be processed until the they show in their system the new account being used specifically with the free phone. This was never explained originally. Who cares which phone is being used when everything works out to be the same either way (one phone is bought, one phone is free, and now we have another person on the plan because an account had to be added for it to work).

Since everything is being paid for, there should be no reason to ask the customer to jump through flaming hoops in order for them to give us what they promised. Instead, the person we added had to now take their phone that they were perfectly happy with, and transfer everything over to the free phone (and it was a new OS for them, which made it worse). Eventually the rebate was processed and they (the new person on the account) swapped back to their personal phone of choice, and lost nearly a month of history (messages, calls, etc) since they haven’t been using that phone this whole time. Only they didn’t opt to use the T-Mobile sim. They switched back to their old sim with their other provider because they didn’t want to deal with the headache they just got to sample. So now, it will have to be worked out to drop the new account that T-Mobile was so desperate to have, because they chased off the person who wanted it.

I have summarized things up as much as possible to avoid the long(er) read. I will be looking to see for myself what it would take to move the phone back off of the plan and possibly back to AT&T in the coming weeks. I have to admit, AT&T can be quite annoying with their constantly raised fees as they pressure their godfathered unlimited accounts onto limited plans–but, I found that I rarely ever had to call them about anything.

If you do plan on moving over to T-Mobile (whatever your reasons), all I could say is make sure to get everything in writing and possibly even record the conversion if you have the ability. Then sit back and get ready to have them on the phone frequently throughout your service. If you take part in any of their deals (such as the “buy one get one free”), make sure to ask them to read to you ALL of the small print. You will be surprised how many times even they stop to re-read a statement that they didn’t know affected the terms. Else, you may find yourself calling back to find out there is additional small print they didn’t reveal to you on the first conversation.

In years past, it was much easier when the provider simply offered you a free phone when you extended a contract or started a new one. Maybe my experience was different since it was always on networks other than T-Mobile in the past, but they never required that you actually use the new phone. All they wanted was for you to extend your contract. Anything beyond that they couldn’t care less about.

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About Author

James

Designer, Editor and Reviewer for Poc Network, ProAudio and Mobile Nations. James enjoys spending most of his time as an audio engineer and technician for the live music industry when he isn't running around the office here juggling an intense workload. He can also be found frequently in the nearby mountainous ranges, scrambling rocks and rappelling down large sections.

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