I have always been a fan of T-Mobile and have seldom been critical of them but when its well-deserved, and taking a cue from Verizon, they are going to hear from me know. I have been a T-Mobile customer literally since day one that they started operating in California – just over 12 years. I have a Blackberry Bold which, despite a bit of mockery from a few close friends wondering why I don’t have a more sophisticated phone like the Samsung Galaxy or even the iPhone 5 (the answer is the QWERTY keypad by the way), I absolutely love the phone. In fact, I like it so much that just last week I bought another phone from T-Mobile as a back up and so I can put my Italian SIM card in when I go to Italy. Since I know that I am in good standing with T-Mobile (bills are paid as is the phone), I assumed that I would have no problem getting the unlock code from T-Mobile. Wrong. Here’s my story.
So last week, I called T-Mobile and asked for the unlock code for my Blackberry bold. The customer service rep viewed my account and told me that I could have the phone unlocked and that it would take anywhere from 24 hours to 14 days. Why possibly so long? Accordingly, if it is not in the system (whatever that means and again, we are talking about a T-Mobile phone), it would take longer to hunt down. I am not leaving for another month so even two weeks is not a problem. Nonetheless, after several days and no email from T-Mobile, I decide to check in to make sure that there are no hiccups. I called in, explained to the rep the situation and he told me that I should have received an email explaining that I need to use that phone for 7 days in order to qualify for an unlock code. I explained to him that it is a secondary phone and he assured me that he would resubmit it and that I should get the code within 24 hours and rarely does it take two weeks. In fact, after 24 hours, I did get this email:
“Thank you for taking the time to contact T-Mobile. We have received your SIM Unlock Request. Unfortunately, this subscriber is not eligible to receive the unlock code at this time. In order to be eligible, the subscriber must complete 7 days of active service on the line. Please submit a new request 7 days after this device has been in use.”
So, I called back and asked if there is any way to get my phone unlocked to which she said only if I do use if for 7 days, even for secondary or back up phones. So, I guess at this point I can in theory put my current T-Mobile SIM in my new phone. That means transferring the contents and maybe the memory card and setting up my email accounts and maybe downloading my personalized settings and maybe a few of the Apps that I actually use such as Pandora. Alternatively, I can “break the law” and get an unlock code online for a few bucks.
So why do they make it this difficult to unlock your phone? I think that it is pretty clear. People have caught on to the fact that there are MUCH better alternatives to paying T-Mobile and the other providers by getting a local SIM card or a roaming SIM like the National Geographic Travel SIM. T-Mobile charges $15 per MB for data roaming. $15!!!!! My prediction is that people are going to start to stay away from these subsidized plans that give you a phone for cheap but then lock you into a 2 year commitment and start buying their phones and doing what 90% of Europeans do and get pay as you go. That way, if you aren’t happy with the service. You can always jump ship.
In fact, after 12 years with T-Mobile and a couple of recent billing issues much more significant that my petty unlocking situation described above, I am seriously thinking about an alternative option. My only problem is that the decision I have to make isn’t about finding the best carrier but finding the least worst.