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I have had my current cell phone for almost four years with T-Mobile, and I would like to upgrade. T-Mobile allows upgrades with an extension of your contract, but the prices seem to be much higher than those for customers who sign new contracts. With a two-year extension, the Samsung SGH-T509 will cost me $50, but if I were a new customer, I could get the same phone for free. With number portability, is there a way to just start a new contract with T-Mobile and get the lower price? My local T-Mobile salesperson tells me the offer is for new customers only and existing ones are not eligible.
A: Unfortunately, John, what you describe is very common. It's also one of the most disconcerting business practices of the major carriers. In short, they can treat new customers better than they treat current subscribers.
Although carriers are indeed afraid of customer churn--the loss of subscribers to other providers--they're also focused on attracting as many new customers as possible. That's why they offer so many rebates to new customers, even though doing so may mean that they're selling handsets at a loss. But in this process to attract newbies, many long-term, loyal customers such as yourself don't end up with the same deals. I'm not sure exactly why carriers do this, nor why they do a lot of things, but it isn't good customer service. I imagine that carriers have loads of statistics on their side that tell them customers are less likely to bail once they start service even when their contract expires. As a result they spend their time attracting new people.
Number portability applies only to customers transferring to between carriers; unfortunately, you can't use the program to close an old account and open a new one with the same provider. If you do choose to end your current service and open a new account also with T-Mobile, you'll lose your phone number.
Motorola Nextel i850
I've heard of some type of unlocking software for $150 that claims to be able to unlock our Motorola Nextel i850
so that we can use it with Boost Mobile. Apparently, the software can unlock any type of phone. Is this for real?
A: I'd be extremely wary of any product that promises to unlock any type of cell phone, particularly because only GSM phones can be unlocked for use on another carrier. The i850, however, uses a technology called iDEN. Though an iDEN phone technically can be unlocked, that doesn't mean you'll be able to transfer seamlessly from Nextel to Boost. But if you're determined to fork out the $150, I'd suggest getting a money-back guarantee.
But before you decide, you have another issue to consider here. While Boost and Nextel phones are similar, and Boost phones run on Nextel's network, prepaid carriers, such as Boost, tend to be selective about which handsets they'll support. Even if you unlock your i850, Boost, in all likelihood, will refuse to let you use it for its service. Boost would prefer that you buy a phone from Boost. Q:
I am one year and nine months into a two-year contract with Sprint. Suddenly, the display went out on my phone, and I am able to receive incoming calls only intermittently. I would like to change carriers at the end of my contract, so I don't want to get a new phone that forces me to sign a new contract with Sprint. Also, paying to have my broken handset repaired seems like a waste. Do you have a suggestion?
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Unfortunately, Jeff, you're in a bit of a jam. I agree that if you plan to leave Sprint at the end of the new contract, you shouldn't buy a new phone from Sprint that comes with service rebates. If you do that, you'll be locked into another contract, and you'll have to wait even longer to switch service providers. Alternatively, you can buy a phone at full price from the carrier, but that can be an expensive proposition ($100 or more) and a brand-new handset may cost more than it's worth.
Repairing your current phone is another option, but I'd urge caution if you go this route. Make sure you choose a reputable repair shop and make sure they can do what you want. But again, you'll have to decide whether the repair job is more money than it's worth. Consider carefully whether a new handset or a tune-up to your broken handset will cost more than the penalty for breaking your contract (typically $250).
A final option is to consider buying a used phone from a friend or online; this may be the best way to get a workable phone at a reasonable price. If you buy online, however, make sure the phone isn't tied to an account with outstanding bills. If that's the case, Sprint won't activate the phone with your number until the bills are paid. Also, you may not get your dream phone when buying a used model.