SIM Card Shuffle

simcard

For the past 5 years, I have been an owner of two iPhones – first was an iPhone 3GS which served me decently for about 2 and a half years until I dropped it onto a concrete sidewalk and the screen cracked. There were other issues with the phone as well, such as the phone not making any sounds and then losing any ability to vibrate.

As a result, I bought an iPhone 5 which came with a new 2-year contract. Literally on the day the contract was fulfilled, I applied to have the phone unlocked, and it was unlocked pretty much straight away.

unlocked

What can you do with an unlocked iPhone? Switch carriers and maybe save money. Am I dissatisfied with AT&T? Not at all. However, some carriers have great offers and do allow you to bring your own device to them and will sell you just the SIM card.

Currently, I pay around $87 per month for AT&T’s base voice plan – 450 minutes anytime (with rollover), 5000 night/weekend, 200 SMS and 5GB data with mobile hotspot. This pricing also includes a discount that I get with them through an affinity program with my job.

I’m all for saving as much money as possible, which is what I was thinking when I started to look into service with T-Mobile. At first, the offer looks really good –

tmobileplan

So, here’s a quick pro/con list of switching to T-Mobile –

  • Pros –
    • Including taxes, I’d save around $15-20 per month on my mobile service
    • 3GB plan includes hotspot
    • Data Stash – essentially rollover data. If you don’t use all 3GB in the month, what’s left over carries over for the next month.
    • No worries about overages – if I go over on data, my speed is throttled. Right now, if I use 5.0001 GB of data, AT&T will (as a courtesy) add $10 to my next month’s payment for the overage and give me a 6th gig of data to use.
    • International roaming – if I am in, let’s say, Australia, I have unlimited data through my T-Mobile SIM. No real need to buy a local SIM unless I want to have a local number for the time I’m there, or if I want to take advantage of a full-speed network
    • Unlimited Music Streaming – I have subscriptions for Google Music and SiriusXM radio. If I’m out and about, that can be a lot of data. With T-Mobile? No worries!
    • Upfront cost? $15 for the SIM card itself and I don’t need to buy a new phone or worry about a contract.
    • Unlimited talk and texts. I’m not a big phone user, nor do I send many text messages (literally my Messages App is 99% adverts from different stores like the local gas station who sends me coupons for $1 free petrol every week ;)), but this is something that is awesome to have the ability to do.
  • Cons –
    • Smaller network – if you compare the coverage maps of T-Mobile and AT&T, you’ll see that the TMO network has more gaps and less 4G LTE coverage. This isn’t a major issue since I don’t do a lot of travelling, but it’s worth noting
    • No LTE Coverage at my house – This is an interesting one since their coverage map says that yes, I can get LTE coverage, but there’s a caveat at the bottom –
      lte
      What they mean by newly-expanded 4G LTE is that you have to have a device capable of receiving signals in the 700MHz LTE Band 12. My iPhone 5 only supports bands 2, 4, 5 and 17, so there’s no LTE at my house.

If you look at this, the pros well outweigh the cons, and it’s a no-brainer to switch my phone service over to T-Mobile. Add to that the fact that based on their plans, I recommended we use their service to get Internet at my church since the cable company doesn’t get out that far and the phone company would only offer 3×1 service (which is just a little bit more than 10% of the download listed by the FCC as the minimum for broadband service, 25Mbps), so I bit the bullet and ordered the SIM for my phone as well as the hotspot for my church.

Hilariously, I didn’t get my SIM card as planned as the folks at UPS decided to deliver it not to my house, but to a business in the city. I thought it was weird that it was delivered at a “Dock”. Thankfully the UPS guy was able to ring his office and get it dispatched to me, with only a 4 day delay.

I get the SIM card and then I put it in my phone. After seeing the No SIM message, it says that it’s searching for service. I’m doing this in my living room, I should note. I’ve gotten decent coverage with AT&T – not 5 bars, but, as TMO put it, “satisfactory” coverage indoors. I was already a bit apprehensive on the coverage on my phone after the experience with the hotspot. So, it was no surprise for me to see this message –

noservice

I had to walk outside just to get a basic signal, and that didn’t even have data available, it was just a normal cell signal. Interestingly, there was the option for me to select a carrier –

carriers

But none of them would allow me to connect. This is because T-Mobile have it set up that if you are in an area where they have radio spectrum, you cannot connect with other cell companies. Thus, even though AT&T signal may be available at my house, I can’t use it because T-Mobile has wireless spectrum.

Then, I decided to take a kit along – a plastic bag, the SIM card and its holder and a “SIM extraction tool” – better known as a paperclip – with me to work. And that was where I learnt another lesson.

 

I tried making a call to one of my favourite test numbers (it’s an automated system so no actual people, and it’s a toll-free number). When I dialed, I noticed that the data coverage disappeared altogether. This is just not something that I am used to, since with AT&T while I’m on a call, I still have data. It may not be LTE speeds, but it’s still useable.

Now the pros and cons are a bit different. Of course, the main pros of the money saving and the rollover data and the international roaming options are there, but now the cons list is changed – NO service at my house, smaller network, no simultaneous data and voice.

I still have the SIM card on hand, but I am now to the point where I am going to return it back and say thanks, but no thanks, it’s not a good fit for me right now. 🙂

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