iPhone is Cingular: How Do I Switch?

Steve Job’s keynote speech at Macworld has sent a flood of questions to our tipline asking for help switching to Cingular, the only carrier with the much-anticipated iPhone. The iPhone will ship in June, so you have several months to get ready for the switch, if that’s what you’re determined to do. Your immediate goal should be to get yourself on a month-to-month contract.

Bear in mind we are not advocating that you switch to Cingular, a service which has tendency to suck and hate its customers…

1) Do not sign a new contract. If you’re with another carrier, or you’re with Cingular but want an iPhone, the best thing to do is refuse to sign a new contract. You will go month-to-month and nothing bad will happen. You’ll keep your old phone, everything will be the same. Just say no!

2) If you just signed a new contract with whomever, and you are still in the “grace period” (typically 30 days) you can get out of your contract. Check with your provider.

3) Phone carriers entice you to sign contracts by providing you with free or discounted equipment. You can purchase a phone outright and activate it on a month-to-month basis. The best way to do this is not through a store associated with the phone company, but by buying a phone on Amazon.com or Ebay, etc. Stores associated with phone companies are in the business of selling 2 year contracts, not phones.

4) You do always have the option to cancel your current contract and pay the fees, or take a look at our canceling strategies below. There’s no “magic” way to get out of a contract, unfortunately. This is going to be a lot of work. If you’re determined to cancel, a good way to do it is by arguing that you can not get reliable service. Keep in mind that canceling without fees is very difficult. If you succeed, please tell us about it.

To sum up: Your number #1 priority if you want to switch to Cingular in June is to avoid signing a contract between now and then. If you are already on a contract, you will probably need to wait until that contract is up, then refuse to sign a new one. If you try to cancel your contract, be prepared for a fight.

If you are on a month-to-month basis now, do not just switch to Cingular and sign up for a contract. Wait, or activate your own phone with Cingular without signing a contract.

Cingular has confirmed that the iPhone will NOT be sold without a 2 year contract. If you have TMobile, you might be able to unlock your phone and activate it with Cingular, if you are not on a contract.

There has been some speculation that the iPhone will be able to be unlocked and used with T-Mobile. We can not confirm or deny this. Good luck! And remember not to sign a contract.—MEGHANN MARCO

RELATED: HOW TO: Unlock Your Phone
Cancel Your Cell Phone by Dying
Cancel Verizon by Moving to Cambodia
So You’ve Decided to Join the Army Just to Cancel Your Cellphone

We Poke Sticks At Wired’s Cell Phone Cancel Tips

UPDATE: Cingular Confirms iPhone Will “Require” 2 Year Contract


Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I was just reading up about this item….a beautiful piece of electronics. I’d love one. It makes my phone look like a piece of crap children’s toy. I have Cingular already, and often I find dealers that let me get phones at the lowered “with contract” price every year or two…but frankly, the price looks too high for me. Hell, I only have an iPod Nano 2GB! I can’t afford this! But it is a cool thing to drool over.

  2. drrew says:

    As bad as Cingular has been to other people, their stupidity can sometimes work in your favor.

    At the end of my previous contract, I got a nicer phone which required another two years. Well, I got the new phone, but their system has never updated to show that I also agreed to the two more years. As far as they’re concerned, I’m month to month and they continually send me messages alerting me that I can update my phone if I’ll just sign a new contract.

    This all happened several months ago so I don’t think their system is all of the sudden going to find my agreement, they just simply lost it.

  3. Mr. Black says:

    The best way would be sticking w/ your current plan and buying an unlocked iPhone (which no-doubt will exist) else it means this phone is a USA exclusive which is a pretty slim thought.

  4. Dammit. I thought for sure this iPhone would suck like the Rokr. Boy, was I wrong. Now I have to wait a brutal year and a half for a shot at this thing. Maybe there will be an improved 2.0 version by then.

  5. GRCAMPBELL says:

    Don’t do it. Cingular is teh suck. Trust me. My want for this phone is obly tempered by my hatred of Cingular (Soon to be AT&T)

  6. Namrepus says:

    It runs on standard OSX. Someone will figure out a hack or something to unlock the phone and allow it to run on any carrier pretty quickly.

  7. aDEADguy says:

    I have a feeling that it’s not ‘standard’ OS X. They haven’t said what kind of embedded processor it’s using (ARM, Power, etc.) so you don’t really know anything.

    He says “it’s os x” but maybe they just mean the kernel or something plus scaled down functionality.

    Plus, many of the functions they revealed (visual voice mail, etc) will require software changes on Cingular’s side. These changes would probably make it somewhat incompatible with networks that didn’t get the changes they need to make from Apple. So even if you got an ‘unlocked’ version, it wouldn’t probably work as seamlessly as it should.

  8. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Also, some people don’t realize that this is a GSM phone. So if you see “unlocked” versions of this phone showing up on ebay later this year, don’t buy it and expect it to work on your current Verizon, Sprint, or Nextel service.

    I agree with not switching to Cingular right away. Usually, you won’t qualify for an equipment upgrade until your current contract is up. So if you sign up for Cingular service now, you won’t be able to get the iphone for 12 months. Well, you can.. but you won’t get the promotional pricing, if any. Besides, Cingular gives preferential pricing/treatment to new customers. So it’s in your best interest switch later when the phone is actually released.

  9. Gizmodo says:

    will the phone be for sale in apple stores as well? i have a $200 gift certificate to apple that i was saving to buy an ipod. i waited until macworld thinking they’d unveil new ipods but lo and behold they unveiled a phone that i’d have to probably get through cingular…meh.

  10. Falconfire says:

    Well, you can.. but you won’t get the promotional pricing, if any.

    There is none, the iPhone is 500-600 dollars outright.

  11. d0x says:

    If this comes to Verizon then Apple can expect some more of my money..until then my ipod video and KRZR k1m are more then enough to satisfy me.

    The only place I use my ipod is the car and thats to catch day old replays of Stern because Sirius only runs a show for 24 hours. I’ve used the ipods video features maybe twice and I see no reason to ever do so again…mobile video has no place in my life.

    My Cell phone works just fine, its small, nice looking, a bit slow but otherwise good so I see no reason to upgrade and there is no chance in hell ill switch to Cingular.

  12. bigroblee says:

    Cingular doesn’t suck any more or less than the other cell phone companies around, nor do they hate their customers any more that the other companies. In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work at Cingular as a customer service representative, and have some idea of their internal workings. What I would suggest is paying full purchase price for this phone and starting service with Cingular with no contract, then you would not have anything to complain about down the road if you find yourself unhappy. However, I’m sure many people will jump in to get the discounted rate on the equipment, then call up wanting out of their contract with no ETF (Early Termination Fee) when the next hot phone comes out only on Verizon, or T-mobile. I actually left Cingular over issues with the customer service, and will soon be working at Verizon, but this time in Data support so I will not have to deal as much with billing issues or customers stating “I never had a contract” and so on.

  13. ignar says:

    In general, I think signing up for a long term contract is not really a bad thing. Often times, the discount you get by signing up a contract is more than the early termination fee. Also, the voice/data plans are often better for a long-term contract than monthly based plans. If you get a phone $250 cheaper upfront let alone generous monthly allowance, what’s the problem of paying $200 ETF later?

    That said, if you want an iPhone in June, you absolutely should not sign up for Cingular between now and then.

    T-Mo and other GSM users might be able to use iPhone if it’s unlockable, but expect to pay quite a bit more than $499/$599 since those prices are after Cingualr 2-year contract discount.

  14. TedSez says:

    I have a month-to-month contract with Verizon and an aging Audiovox phone. Should I stick with Verizon (which has given me fine service) and maybe trade up (or down) to the latest cheap KRZR, or should I stay in the month-to-month zone so I can switch to Cingular and grab an iPhone when it’s available?

  15. Someone will figure out a hack or something to unlock the phone and allow it to run on any carrier pretty quickly.

    I doubt it. Advanced features like the nifty random-access voicemail won’t work without provider-side software.

    Gawd this thing is hot. Got my RAZR* in March 06…which means I only have to wait another 14 months for my iPhone.

    *Four months later, the RAZR’s crapypy software had me fed up and I switched my SIM into my older Sony Ericsson 616!

  16. Tony C says:

    A copyright law was passed at the end of last year that requires carriers to unlock mobile phones that are tied to a single provider.


    “5. Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.”

  17. kerry says:

    FalconFire –
    That is the pricing with a 2 year contract. They didn’t list any pricing without a contract, and rumor has it they will not offer this phone without a 2 year contract, period.
    On another note, Cingular is also supposed to be announcing iPhone-specific plans (perhaps like Sidekick unlimited or Blackberry plans), and not all the features would work on a different carrier (they totally changed the Cingular voice mail system to make their random access VM work). Unlocking this phone for use on another network will probably be difficult for at least a couple years (if and when the partnership with Cingular dissolves).

  18. x23 says:

    during the Keynote today i was completely amazed at the iPhone. the still images really do not do it justice. (be sure to watch the Keynote on the Apple site whenever it gets posted.) there wasn’t a single feature that wasn’t amazing. so very very very very awesome.

    until they said “Cingular”.

    you see… they said “US Launch June 2007” but what they actually meant was “49 State Launch June 2007”. misleading to say the least.

    i live in Alaska, which based on my yearly tax filings, is part of the “US”. i brought this point up in various numerous wordings to the Apple booth lady who kept saying “Cingular only.” until she just started ignoring me.

    looking at their site later today it still says the same line that it has said for years now:

    “We are expanding our coverage every day but unfortunately this is one of the few areas we haven’t reached yet.”

    so what is my best plan to get one?

    1) wait for others on Cingular accounts to buy them… then make Cingular unlock as required now… then sell for $1200 on eBay? i’d rather not… as that will take at *least* a year to get cheap enough. (based on how long it took the 8125 to drop in price)

    2) use my brothers Boston address to sign-up on Cingular… then “move” to Alaska a few months later… OH SNAP! no service! i’ll be getting out of my contract now! (right?)

    3) something else i can’t think of right now since i got in line for the Keynote at like 5:30a and am very tired.


  19. Charles Duffy says:

    @Tony C

    That “law” (actually a rulemaking, not a law) doesn’t require carriers to unlock handsets; rather, it prevents them from using the DMCA to shut down people who *do* unlock handsets.

  20. Mr. Gunn says:

    Let’s see….fanboys are gonna get it first, because that’s what they do. The media is going to publish more glowing reviews featuring phrases such as “killer app”, “breakthrough product”, and “slick engineering” in order to pump up their stock price, but they won’t buy one. They will hold out for free evaluation models like they did with the ipod. SUV-driving RAZR owners are going to get it next, because their whole game depends on having a gadget to show off and the gadget guy for the NYT loves it(see above), never mind that they don’t even know how to use their current phones. This will get it on the radar screen of people like our mothers and fathers, who think you need an ipod to play mp3s. Cingular service will be all but unusable for the next year or so, as all these folk demand replacements for their phones because the screen gets scratched or the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to or they brick their phones by installing some hacked firmware, making Cingular CSRs far more cranky than they are already.

    I know if I got one, they’d have left out some industry-standard but deemed-unnecessary-by-apple features of the interface. I haven’t read the specs yet, but if I had to guess:

    You have to dial by selecting a contact using the touch-screen. There’s no dialpad, software or otherwise.
    Your phone automatically syncs with itunes when you plug it in, hopefully to your computer.
    You have to hack the firmware in order to drag and drop files on to it.
    They just expect everyone to use a bluetooth headset, so the actual microphone/speaker is crap, but people will play their music through it anyways, and then demand a replacement when the speaker breaks.

    Next product for Apple – the iPot. Automatically flushes when you stand up. Sealed tank without handle. $75 service call charged by apple authorized plumbers. Skinnable seats. It will change the way you poo.

  21. kerry says:

    Grady –
    You should probably take a look at the specs before you make assumptions.
    It has two software keypads, QWERTY and traditional dial pad.
    You can always turn off automatic syncing with iTunes for any device.
    You will probably have to hack something to install applications. I’m sure it will be usable as a portable drive, though, as it’s intended to function exactly like an iPod. (You’re thinking of Microsoft with this one, not Apple.)
    Microphone and speaker are supposedly very nice, much better than average, according to the tech blogs who tried it out.

  22. x23 says:

    “I know if I got one, they’d have left out some industry-standard but deemed-unnecessary-by-apple features of the interface. I haven’t read the specs yet, but if I had to guess:”

    you shouldn’t guess… you should watch the keynote when apple posts it to see the interface in action. it is easily leaps and bounds ahead of any other smart phone on the market. so far ahead it isn’t even funny.

    you can dial using the contact list… using phone numbers parsed out of email / webpages / google maps … or use a normal dialpad. seeing as the entire face is a buttonless touch screen i don’t know why any random interface couldn’t be made per app if needed… just as on a touch-screenable WM device. the onscreen thumbpad + predictive text looked very smooth and accurate based on the demos. much nicer than stylus keyboards.

    they made no demonstration on whether or not the filesystem is accessible… i would guess yes as it functions as an ipod. nor did they show how to install or uninstall apps. this is something i am concerned about. seeing as it runs a version of OSX i am wondering how you install/uninstall apps that are not mere .app bundles… but place things in random UNIX-y places.

    it has GSM / WiFi / BT like most other smart phones (well… except the Treo).. so i don’t know what standard it is missing that other phones have.

    based on the media hype so far… “fanboys” can basically be described as “everyone who has seen it and has at least a basic understanding of it”.

    you should read up before commenting.

  23. The Reviewer says:

    Holy crap people it is not worth it to switch. The phone costs too much for what is in it. Do not fall for this one. Not yet.

  24. BulldogNation says:

    Another idea: Resellular is offering their “get out of cellphone contract” service free till the end of this month. I already posted my contract. It’s worth a shot.

  25. stayputnik says:

    Anyone wondering about installing programs, the website says you can install widgets, so I think anything you can put on your Dashboard can be used on the iPhone. In fact, the weather program they demo on the iPhone website looks exactly like the widget I have on my MacBook. So I don’t think there’s really any hacking necessary to install programs.

  26. NeonGen says:

    You can say whatever you want about Cingular, but the bottom line for me has been: my bills never exceed the expected by more than a couple of dollars and I talk ALOT, and although the signal is never perfect, im never in the situation where I have no service (there is always at least one bar of service). Ive been royally screwed by Sprint ( I mean ROYALLY) and Verizon is expensive and their phones suck. Ill stay with Cingular until they decide to screw me over like Sprint did; in the mean time im a very satisfied customer.

  27. moviespo says:

    Ipoddy 8.0 will be released in August. Someone will figure out how to unlock the phone or you can wait for your carrier to pick it up.

    Great phone but I would not break my current contract with t-mobile and pay the $199. fee for breaking my contract and then pay $599 for an iphone.

    All good things come to those who wait. Plus there may be a recall like when the i-pods first came out…Wait for the second batch. You might get trampled on while waiting in line like the folks did when waiting for the playstation.