Phone contract’s done. And soon I will own my own cell. Now what?
December 1, 2010 10:30 PM   Subscribe

I just bought a Garminfone (T-mobile version) over ebay, open box, never used, from a seller with a near perfect rating. It will arrive in a few days, and I have a few questions about how to proceed.

On the basis of extremely generous advice on “getting it all” on a cell phone from last week, and my own thoughts and needs, I scaled down my “phone greed” and prioritized. From everything I understand, the Garminfone is a great phone for niche buyers like me who want GPS options above all else: not only does it come with Garmin maps included (which don’t require a data plan to function), but it’s also a smart phone with an Android operating system, which means I have access to Google maps, too. The smart part works on wifi. And the phone part is supposed to work very well, too.

So….


* Are phones bought this way under warranty, and if so, by whom? (Tmobile? Garmin?) My guess is that may not matter too much since there seems to be a healthy market in used phones, and a very small but existent one in used Garminfones, and there wouldn’t be if they were unstable, right?

* Will the phone be locked? And if so, how do I unlock it?

* Will T-mobile know/care that I purchased this phone from someone other than them? Do I have to tell them?

(I will probably switch to mysimplemobile.com at some point, but for now I’m simply a disgruntled Tmobile customer who bought a phone outright because I was appalled that they were going to force a data plan on me were I to get the Garminfone through them, even though the Garminfone does not need them for mapping.)

* What about updates? How do I update the phone with or without T-mobile?

The Garmin uses the 1.6 (Donut?) version of Android, but apparently has just “leaked” 2.1 (or maybe 2.2) to test it before it actually releases it. (I hope I’m stating fact and not rumor when I say this, but I have read it a few places now. If, however, it’s rumor, my phone needs don’t revolve around apps, so it’s not a big deal.)

* How do I test this phone? I’m assuming, I just slip in my SIM chip, right? And then test its features, right? Or is there more to it than that?

* One final question: The phone comes with 2 GB microSD, which expands to 32 GB. Why would I want to expand it? Just for apps and such? Or for personal storage?

Also, hmm, it didn’t occur to me till just now, but sellers with long selling histories and excellent ratings wouldn’t sell phones like this with tiny bits of it stripped, like the battery and MicroSD card, would they? (Of course if they do, well, I’ll just have to chalk it up to lack of due diligence on my part….)


Thanks again for all your help!
posted by Violet Blue to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
"Are phones bought this way under warranty, and if so, by whom? (Tmobile? Garmin?)"

You can buy 3rd party warranties for fairly cheap. SquareTrade is one, I hear. Haven't used them myself but apparently they're doing quite well and

Violet Blue: "* Will T-mobile know/care that I purchased this phone from someone other than them? Do I have to tell them?"

Not one iota. You own the phone, and it's FCC certified and compatible with their network by design. I bought an n900 and it works just fine with tmobile.

Violet Blue: "* How do I test this phone? I’m assuming, I just slip in my SIM chip, right? And then test its features, right? Or is there more to it than that?"

It should work even without the SIM card, but you'd be without phone service obviously. One thing you might want to do is move your contacts onto the SIM card so you can pull them into the new phone rapidly.

Violet Blue: "* One final question: The phone comes with 2 GB microSD, which expands to 32 GB. Why would I want to expand it? Just for apps and such? Or for personal storage?
"

2GB isn't much space for music storage, pictures you take and videos you record. Given that most smartphones charge by microUSB ports, it'd be odd for them not to double as USB hard drives. So there's that as well.
posted by pwnguin at 10:49 PM on December 1, 2010


Oh, thanks for your fast response! It begets two more quick questions: (1) So T-mobile can't suddenly start charging me for a data plan, say, or otherwise change the agreement we have with my current Model-T-type phone, if I understand you correctly. Also (2) How do I move my contacts onto the Sim card in my four-year-old flip?
posted by Violet Blue at 10:58 PM on December 1, 2010


Will the phone be locked? And if so, how do I unlock it?

Yes, unless the seller has unlocked it. There's a FAQ on the Garmin site (Google for "How can I unlock the Garminfone from T-Mobile?") which says you need to request the unlock code from T-Mobile, and it's at T-Mob's discretion whether they'll provide it. (This thread might also be of use.)
posted by holgate at 10:59 PM on December 1, 2010


(1) So T-mobile can't suddenly start charging me for a data plan, say, or otherwise change the agreement we have with my current Model-T-type phone, if I understand you correctly.

If you start pulling data from the network, there's a good chance that they'll charge you by the byte or something exorbitant like that. An example of doing something that would pull data from the network is Google Maps' directions.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 11:01 PM on December 1, 2010


Okay, that's a mighty chilling thread on locking issues. I kind of take that to mean I'm maybe best off not putting in my own SIM card??? In which case, should I retype my phone directory from scratch? Eek.

I don't currently have a data plan, and I have it on the authority of both another customer and a support person at T-mobile that the phone works just fine between a cell plan and its natural wifi capabilities.

So I guess I was wondering/worried that they would pick up a signal from the phone itself, somehow alerting them to the fact that I've gone and purchased a gaminfone without them.... Maybe I'm being paranoid....
posted by Violet Blue at 11:20 PM on December 1, 2010


You can try to disable the wireless APN when you receive the phone so it wont pull T-Mobile's data.

I'm not exactly sure how to do it on the Garminfone. Since its based on android you can try going into menu > settings > wireless & networks > mobile networks and change the settings in there.

T-Mobile will know that you have a Garminfone but they wont care. The phone will show up on your my.t-mobile.com account after a few days of using it with your sim card in. The only way around that is to buy a non T-Mobile branded phone.
posted by aGee at 11:47 PM on December 1, 2010


WRT data plans -- T-Mobile's network normally blocks data access for Android phones unless your plan is specifically provisioned for Android, so it's fairly likely that you won't be able to use data at all, even at ala carte rates. Non-web stuff simply doesn't work, and web requests get redirected to a page that tells you to upgrade.

Even so, i would recommend getting an app like APNDroid which will let you disable over-the-air data, because Android and its apps expect to use it all the time and if it turns out that you aren't blocked by the network, you'll probably end up with a big bill for pay-by-the-byte use or something.

Unlocking: If it's a T-Mobile branded phone and you put a T-Mobile SIM card in, the lock won't get in your way -- it's to prevent SIMs from *other* carriers from working. So you'll need to get it unlocked before you jump ship, but T-Mobile is usually pretty good about that provided you've had the phone for at least a month or two.

Moving contacts: How to put them on the SIM depends on the phone. Usually there's an option buried somewhere in the contacts menu to copy contacts to and from the SIM. It's worth noting that the SIM can only hold names and numbers, and only one number per name, so if your contact data has lots of people with multiple numbers, addresses, etc. you're going to have to do a lot of retyping anyway (but don't forget that with Android, your contacts will sync with Google so you can edit them in your desktop web browser too).

And yes, T-Mobile knows the model and serial number of your phone as soon as you connect it to their network... that's just how mobile networks work. But it doesn't matter -- as far as they are concerned you can use any phone that works, switch your SIM around between phones as much as you want, etc. So don't worry about that.
posted by robt at 12:03 AM on December 2, 2010


And if so, how do I unlock it?

T-Mobile has a generous unlock policy and will give the unlock code for many phones. Here's their guide to the process.
posted by zippy at 2:27 AM on December 2, 2010


If you have a T-Mobile phone and a T-Mobile SIM card (even if that SIM card is linked to an account that is out of contract), you DO NOT need to unlock the phone to use the SIM card.

The linked-to thread is a completely different situation than yours, Violet Blue.
posted by muddgirl at 8:32 AM on December 2, 2010


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