AT&T Causing iPhone Buyer's Remorse

Reader Stefan wants your advice:
I did it. I succumbed to the lure of an iPhone. I love Apple products, but I now get the distinct impression that they are forcing us to get into bed with the devil, also known as AT&T. After purchasing an iPhone (the 4GB leper version for $299) at an Apple Store, I took it home and attempted to get it working.

When the time came to dump Verizon (who I’ve been with for many years and have found to be a fairly good company) and sign up with AT&T, I followed the instructions and I entered my credit card information. Their website informed me that they could not accept my credit card information at this time (even though I have an excellent credit history) and I would have to go to an AT&T store to sign up.

BUT, until then I could set up a pre-paid account. Since I needed my phone for work in the morning and they had already ported my phone number from Verizon, I purchased a pre-paid plan right then and there.

Now every time I make a phone call a message pops up on my phone that says that call costs you $4.37 or $6.22 or whatever. This of course adds up quickly, so I went to the AT&T store right away to sign up for a monthly plan.

But they informed me that I would have to stay with the pre-paid plan for one (30 day) billing cycle and that there was no way to change that. They reiterated the phrase “no way” several times and went on to say that they have a parade of people everyday who complain bitterly about this.

This means that AT&T will most likely get more than twice(!) the amount from me that Apple got out of me for the phone, and it’s all profit. I’m now filled with hate for AT&T and can’t help but think that Apple is partly responsible for not giving us a choice of carriers. If I could, I’d go back to Verizon and my old inelegant phone in a heartbeat.

Does anyone know what can be done about this

Our instinct is to tell you to return the phone and port your number to the carrier that you can negotiate the best deal with using our cellphone shopping tips…

…but we’ve never heard the Apple siren song so we’ll turn this one over to the comments. What should Stefan do?



Edit Your Comment

  1. wishlish says:

    Sell your iPhone, don’t get an account with AT&T, and buy an iPod touch for your media. You’ll lose the phone bit and Google Maps, but it’ll work in any wifi area for the internet, and you can get Verizon back.

    I won’t buy an iPhone or an iPod touch because I’m not a huge fan of the interface. I love my iPod. I do have my eyes set on that sweet 160 GB iPod classic.

  2. mikecolione says:

    If he returns it, he takes a 10% hit since the package is open, or try to resell it on ebay. He can port back to verizon by going to the verizon store.

    I’ve had to deal with this issue repeatedly, and always make sure to tell the customer not to activate on the pre-paid option. To avoid this, we do pre-approval credit checks in the store and all you would have to do is type in the pre approval code.

    He should have had patience and went to the store in the morning if he couldn’t make it that night.

  3. philipbarrett says:

    I’ve been with AT&T for over 3 years & will not buy a iPhone because I do not want to be locked into another contract with them. What does that tell you?

  4. RottNDude says:

    A Consumerist reader who willingly signs up for AT&T and then bitches when they turn out to be the evil, inflexible behemoth everyone knows them to be. Return the phone, keep your excellent Verizon service and buy an iPod touch. That way, you get better service with a superior network, still have your slightly-neutered Apple toy, and AT&T gets to fuck off.

    Perhaps someday someone will figure out how to get the iPhone to use another phone for Internet access via Bluetooth DUN, or as an audio gateway. This would allow you to use a “host phone” on Verizon, Sprint, et al. to do all of the voice and data features (except Visual Voicemail)

  5. autogeneric says:

    Not to be contrarian, but I thought in light of all the AT&T bashing I’d share my experience today with Erica, the lovely AT&T rep I spoke with this morning. There are two recently activated iphones on my account, and we got our first bill today. (I should say I’ve been a cingular/att customer for 5 years) We went waaaaayyyyy over our minutes, not $2000 or anything but expensive none the less.

    So I called At&t to try to wrangle with them and to up my plan to avoid overages in the future. I got the rep to have a laugh, clearly stated I was a long time customer blah blah blah and I would like to move to a higher plan and could she help with this one.

    Erica credited me back my entire overage, changed my plan and said any prorated charges this month would also be credited back on my next bill. Call At&T customer care, treat the rep like a human being and enlist their help…I was certainly pleasantly surprised, actually better service than Cingular ever gave me.

    Before I get flamed, I do not work for AT&T it is just always my experience that if you call CS calmly and politely, and have a clear goal in your mind about how exactly you’d like a problem resolved, you will always save alot of money

    Don’t get wrong, I would have threatened to unlock my phone and go to T-mobile, but today it didn’t come to that.

  6. InThrees says:

    Take your loss – return the phone, eat the $29 restocking fee (is that all it is? that’s cheap to be let out if you can get out)and go back to what you know is good, or shop around as suggested.

    The iphone is way overhyped. It does things that 2 year old phones did… 2 years ago. Yes, all of them.

  7. SimonSwegles says:

    Keep the iPhone. You bought it because you knew it would make you happy. Just download the free unlock software and get the hell off AT&T. There are more networks being added to the unlock list daily.

  8. Karl says:

    @SimonSwegles: Only one other network in the US supports GSM: T-Mobile. That being said, you’re not under contract with AT&T, so you could just unlock your iPhone and port yourself over to T-Mobile. I think the only thing that wouldn’t work is the visual voicemail.

  9. There are about 800 stories on the internet right now about how to unlock the iPhone. Read a couple of them (I recommend starting at engadget).

    Instead of signing a 2 year contract with AT&T, get a plan through T-mobile. Presumably you should be able to do that without a contract, since you are signing up with your own phone.

    Besides T-mobile, there might be local GSM carriers in your area that have good plans, but expect high roaming costs if you go out of state.

    As far as Apple forcing you to get in bed with the Devil…that wasnt really their choice. They tried Verizon first, and were turned down. The exclusivity contract was a way of bribing AT&T to carry the iPhone at all. The major carriers were generally opposed to Apple entering the cell market, for fear they would fuck with their business model the way they did to the music industry with the iPod and iTunes. Lots of new 2-year contracts was the bait Apple used to get AT&T to give them access to wireless bandwidth.

  10. RottNDude says:

    T-Mobile is shit (at least in the US) so I would not advise the “unlocking and switching to them” thing.

  11. thedannimonster says:

    A few comments:

    First, never get desperate for time or a cell phone when entering into a new service. That’s a recipe for disaster, as T-Mobile so politely taught me.

    Secondly, you can unlock your iphone. I don’t know the details of this, but the following website has a link to the free unlock as well as a constantly running update on known issues, fixes, etc. []

    Third, I agree with the previous poster that mentioned calling tech service and asking politely. Plus, if you call once and it fails you can always call again and hope for a tech in a better mood.

    Fourth, I would disagree with posters telling you to look towards T-Mobile. Of course, that is a personal opinion, but I have had them for four years and have had nothing but problems. Specifically- the plans are great but signing up for them (all three) has been a personal hell. I have been promised mail-in-rebates that turned out to be expired (with no expiration date on the form- I had to report them to the BBB to get my money back on that one), have received “free” phones with new contracts that they later billed me for, and was once promised by several different techs that my phone would work in the Republic of Ireland when they don’t even service the country. That cost me a lot of money when I had to sign up for a local pre-paid plan at the last minute.

  12. hoo_foot says:

    “that call costs you $4.37 or $6.22 or whatever.”

    If Stefan can’t be bothered to figured out his own phone bill, then I have no sympathy for him.

  13. BrockBrockman says:

    In my experience, AT&T isn’t any worse than any other carrier (which isn’t saying much). Did you try using a different credit card after the first one didn’t work? Just curious.

    I might keep trying to change the pre-paid plan to the AT&T contract plan, maybe at different stores or via the customer service phone number. It seems the website’s inability to accept your credit card was an AT&T error, not yours. You might get lucky and find one of those decent AT&T employees that actually cares, and can try taking the steps to help you.

    I don’t necessarily buy the AT&T store’s “no way” explanation.

  14. Alx2056 says:

    I work at an AT&T retail store and I know that there are two ways to sell the iPhone.
    The 1st way to sell iPhone is with a credit check for new customers. This takes care of any issues with credit, and a deposit can be paid in store.
    The 2nd way is for pre-existing customers, and the iPhone is sold without a credit check.
    I assume that the above iPhone was incorrectly sold using the 2nd option.

  15. Scooter says:

    There is no conceivable reason why AT&T would need to pull this. I wouldn’t doubt that it’s a well-known complaint at this point, and the fact that they haven’t done a thing about it speaks volumes on what they think of their customers.

  16. weave says:

    @Karl: It is not true that GSM is only T-mobile or AT&T in the U.S. This is true for NATIONAL providers, but many areas have GSM service provided by regional operators, like Einstein PCS in Wisconsin and Chinook Wireless in Montana.

  17. BrockBrockman says:

    Wait a second, I thought that you could only buy an iPhone if you signed up for a contract plan? How is it they let you sign up for a less-than-two-year plan?

  18. Transient says:

    The iPhone is a complete pain in the butt to deal with. Every call I answer every day asking anything about the iPhone summons up great disgust. Whether all of the barricades and garbage are because of AT&T or Apple is still unknown to me.

  19. Buran says:

    @philipbarrett: Then don’t — buy the phone, get the prepaid plan (enter all 9s in the SSN boxes) and then swap sim cards.

  20. unsunder says:

    I had some problems getting my number from at&t working in the beginning too. Later I also had a problem adding a feature in the middle of them month. Both problems customer service said was impossible to solve.

    I called Randall Stevensons (i think thats is name)office. The contact info was recently posted on this site. Tell them your general problem. Tell them that so far customer service couldn’t solve your problem and that you’re wondering if someone in Mr. Stevensons could help you out.

    I did this in both instances and I quickly got a return phonecall from someone willing and able to help me out.

    Plus I got a full credit for my first months bill including activation.

  21. Perspex says:

    My friend couldn’t get decent service on campus with his iPhone and AT&T, so he unlocked it and signed up for a plan with T-Mobile, saving him 60 bucks a month.

  22. yg17 says:

    @RottNDude: T-Mobile is awesome here in STL. Beats the ever living shit out of any of the competition.

  23. dmc says:

    The story is fishy.

    Did Stefan mean credit check information, not credit card information? What exactly was AT&T unable to accept that made them deny you a standard monthly cell contract?

    If you can’t pass AT&T’s credit check, you don’t have good credit. Sorry but a cell phone is one of the easiest things to get approved for. Not being approved means you have a history of paying late.

    Lastly, his number wasn’t ported until AFTER he agreed to the pre-paid plan and all of the associated terms and conditions. He could have stopped before agreeing and worked it out at the AT&T store in the morning and his existing Verizon phone would have kept on working. The bottom line here is that your number is not ported until you have a agreed to allow AT&T to provide you services.

    I just don’t buy it.

  24. hypnotik_jello says:

    @RottNDude: never had any real problems here (in DC) with T-Mobile. I’ve been on them since 2000 (contract-free since 2001).

  25. killavanilla says:

    Drop the iphone. Sell it on ebay.
    Go to and go get yourself a blackberry pearl from t-mobile.
    Worth every penny and has many of the same features with better speeds, better functionality and lower cost.
    Use the difference in cost to get yourself a regular ipod with more capacity for less money.
    The iphone is cool, but there are better phones with more capability.
    Wow factor be damned.
    The pearl is awesome. You wont be sorry.

  26. theycallmetak says:

    Or he could make a Youtube video where he destroys the phone in a fit of rage sothey give him a new plan. Wah.

  27. dbeahn says:

    You wanted an iPhone. You went the least smart way and bought it at the Apple store, where they couldn’t do anything for you on the phone side of things – and let’s face it, that’s the expensive and important part. Then you “had to have” your phone for work, and rather than call AT&T (they’re 24×7 you know) you signed up for the pre-paid plan. I’m not saying “it’s your own fault”, but I will tell you I learned a while back (the hard way) that if I don’t see *exactly* what I want, how I want it, on whoever’s web page I’m on, I need to go to the store or call. Even if it means I have to wait, or that I have to explain to my boss that I just HAD to have an iPhone *right now* and as a result I need to hit the AT&T store on lunch due to a activation glitch on the website.

    I’ve never activated an iPhone with a pre-paid plan over the internet, so I don’t know for sure, but I’m betting somewhere in that pre-paid activation it says you must have it for at least one billing cycle.

    Your options are likely simple:

    1) Get rid of the iPhone and go to another carrier.

    2) Suck it up and wait the 30 days.

  28. Buran says:

    @yg17: AT&T works fine for me here in STL. It really depends where in a specific city you are.

  29. Karl says:

    @Alx2056: Apple stores don’t do a credit check at all regardless of whether you’re a new customer or not.

  30. ogremustcrush says:

    I thought about getting an iPhone now that they’re cheap and unlockable (DIE AT&T!). However, my Blackberry Pearl works great as a phone, so I decided to get an iPod Classic for my music. Holds a lot more stuff than the iPhone does, and the Blackberry is super reliable. You could also get an iPod Touch to get most of the benefits of the iPhone, but it didn’t have enough space for me.

    Oh, IMHO t-mobile works great. Their EDGE is super speedy compared to what I’ve seen on AT&T. Plus my pearl only cost -49.99 with the contract on Amazon ($.01 and a $50 MIR). Maybe I’ll get a 3g superlarge iPhone when they release one (and t-mobile gets 3g service…), but for now this is a great solution for me.

  31. ogremustcrush says:

    Oh, as for a speed estimate, it takes 22sec to load the consumerist home page in full html and all images on my pearl. Slow compared to a desktop, but quite fast compared to what I’ve seen listed for the iPhone.

  32. indydrew says:

    Ok, I did the same thing as this gal. Bought the $299 4gb from the apple store. Switched from Verizon, activated online. Zero problems, love my iphone, hate at&t. Haters can hate, the iphone rocks. Very happy with my purchase. Love my iphone.

  33. mconfoy says:

    @hoo_foot: your comment adds to the discussion how?

  34. jamar0303 says:

    I support the decision to sell the iPhone. If you need all that multimedia stuff, you can get a Sharp 903SH or a Toshiba 904T. I have the latter; the speakers and camera are quite high-quality, and the MP3 player software in the phone will arrange songs by artist as well as by album, with the option to make your own playlists. Also, you can add your own ringtones, programs, wallpaper and things like that. The Sharp 903SH is even better, but it costs twice as much (the 904T can be had for about $100 used, $250 new, the 903SH is about $350 used, $500 new). And it’s unlocked.

  35. RAREBREED says:

    I’ll never buy an iPhone. It’s more proof that Apple’s trying to monopolize the personal technology market. iTunes with their DRM garbage, an iPhone that only works with AT&T, and has limited usage of certain features, and people still rave about it! iPods, video iPods, iPod nanos, iPod shuffles… why not just make one tiny computer that makes phone calls with a giant hard drive?