If you are looking at new phone plans you might be thinking about staying with your current provider because your phone was purchased from them when you started your service.
This is a problem for a number of people because not only might you be missing out on better plans but you might move to a location where service isn’t available from your original provider.
If you move to an area were cell services is no longer provided because of the limitations of your phone you will need to purchase a new one. There are 4 major providers in the USA: Verizon, TMobile, Sprint and ATT and under these providers are companies that are called MVNOs or resellers of the larger providers.
Better deals are often found on the smaller companies but sometimes those deals can come with a catch. The very small companies might not offer technical support or they might make you wait days to contact them by the internet and that only works if you have another way to access the net once your phone isn’t working. Larger resellers are like store brands. Walmart has had a few brands of phone companies they partnered with but often those deals are not as good as they seem up front. Unlimited Data normally means a small amount of 4G Data and then 2G Data that can even be limited. If a company is offering unlimited 4G data that data plan often has a cap of 50 Gigs or less and then anything can happen once you hit that cap but they might start charging you large fees or maybe even cut you off. Tethering your phone to a device like a laptop or computer is often not allowed under unlimited plans unless you pay extra.
All of these reasons can make you look for a new provider but if you have a quality phone then will you need to buy a new one? Can you keep your phone number? These and other questions will arrise once you have found a new plan.
FCC Rules went into effect January 1st 2016 to help people with phones locked to providers. Previously only some providers would unlock your phone but today if it is technically possible all providers should be required to either unlock your phone or provide you a credit because they can’t. The catch to this new rule is you have to use your phone on the original provider’s network for at least 12 months, you must be paid up and your phone must be activated.
Companies like Tracfone were hold outs because they counted on customers using their phones to pay for the cost. Many phones were highly discounted. There really isn’t a $9 Android phone out there you can buy unlocked and new and it can take months for them to make the cost of providing low up front cost phones to people. However even Tracfone has been required to comply with the FCC Rules. I checked one of my older Android 5.1 Phones with them and they were offering me a full $7 as compensation. Thats pretty bad considering I have used them for over a decade but at least it wasn’t a iPhone 7 that I was getting $7 for.
How do you get your provider to unlock your phone?
Ok so the process is normally pretty similar and it requires a few steps to get it done.
First you want to contact your new phone service provider and see what will be required to use your old phone with them. They may say just put in your phone serial number and the system will change you over. This happens when your new provider is a reseller or a member of the same system such as you are moving from Sprint to Boost or you are moving from Boost to Virgin and they all use Sprint’s Cell Towers and system. If you are moving to a different provider then you might need to install a sim card to be compatible and in the final situation your phone just won’t work with your new provider and you will have to buy a new one.
Once you find out that you can move to the new provider you will need to get a release code from your current provider for unlocking. Normally this means that you will have to submit a support ticket through a special webpage so this means you will need to find that page with help from your provider. If they don’t list it in their website index you will need to email them.
Once you do that then you will have a code to provide to your new cell company. They will use that code to submit to your old provider when they activate your new line. It is for validation and security.
Keeping your old phone number can also be tricky but one thing you don’t want to do is cancel your old plan before you activate your new one.
Once your phone has its plan deactivated you lose your phone number and it will be automatically assigned to a new customer. So if you want to keep your phone number you must allow your new phone company to grab it from your old phone company before you close your old account.
Buying unlocked phones can be an expense but if you price one that is just like yours then you can see that the discount that your phone provider offered you was pretty good. Normally you can get a new midrange phone for under $50 and highend models for about $200 or less and those high end iPhones that are sold new and unlocked can cost you three to 5 times that much.
If you want to keep your phone number than don’t turn your old account off until you have made a few calls from your new provider.
And don’t throw that old phone away it can still be used for 911 Emergencies or as a media player or it can be used as a VOIP phone for free over WiFi.