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How to manage the logistics of a cellphone provider switch? Added Difficulty: Christmas Gift
November 20, 2012 5:54 AM   Subscribe

We are switching from AT&T cell phone to service to Verizon, and I'd like to perform the switch smoothly while also using one of the new phones as a Christmas gift. Your advice on the proper procedure would be welcome.

We are going to be adding my family's three lines of service onto my parents' two lines of service (so we can split the data cost more efficiently) and porting our existing numbers in the process. As part of that switchover, we will be upgrading my daughter to an iPhone, and we'd like that phone to be one of the gifts she unwraps on Christmas morning.

How can we allow her to continue using her AT&T dumbphone right up until Christmas (or at least within a day or two of the holiday) and the switch over seamlessly to the new iPhone once it is unwrapped?

I'm willing to lose a few bucks on the transfer, so if it means temporarily porting her number to a "burner" cellphone that could work, if that is feasible when going to Verizon.

Any ideas?
posted by Rock Steady to Technology (14 answers total)
 
The best place for these answers is going to be a Verizon store. They are very happy to do whatever they can to setup new services, and can give you all the options available. I would recommend a direct/corporate store, not an authorized retailer, if at all possible. Direct stores can have more options/flexibility both before and after your transaction. You can find a listing of stores on the Verizon website, but Google will probably serve you just as well. If all else fails (or you just don't want to leave the house) call their customer service center, they have a dedicated sales department there too. 1-800-922-0204.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 6:22 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You should be able port her number to AT&T GoPhone, and put the GoPhone card in her AT&T phone (you can usually buy the GoPhone SIM online or at the AT&T store, or buy a burner phone at RadioShack/Best Buy and put the SIM that comes with the phone in her old phone), or you might be able to just switch her to an AT&T individual plan.

But part of your plan is to port her number ON CHRISTMAS, basically, right? That seems a little dicey. Last time I ported my number I did it on a Friday afternoon which turned out to be a mistake because it got hung up on some nonsense and they couldn't fix it until the next business day. I don't know, I suppose enough people get new phones for Christmas they ought to have a way of dealing with this.

I'm taking it this is not a surprise, right? Because porting her number (potentially twice) without her knowing about it would be uncool.

You know what you should probably do is ask Verizon.
posted by mskyle at 6:23 AM on November 20, 2012


I can't think of any way to get around the fact that porting someone's phone number causes a 'dead zone' of at least several hours where neither phone works.

One solution would be to port her number to a Verizon dumb phone before Christmas, then register the iPhone under a new phone number (this would be one extra line), so that both her old phone and new phone can work at the same time. Then you'll have to go into a Verizon store to switch the number registration on the iPhone and cancel the extra line, which might have an associated fee.
posted by muddgirl at 6:53 AM on November 20, 2012


Step one should be to ask in a store, yeah.

Ideally, you'd be able to just keep using the AT&T dumbphone under Verizon, but since AT&T is a GSM network that seems unlikely. The second-best option would be to port her number to Verizon, order the iPhone under that number (in order to get the on-contract discount), but get a prepaid "burner" that you activate in her name until Christmas, at which point she unwraps and activates the iPhone. That would have to be arranged in detail with VZW customer service, because of the potential complexity of buying a phone under contract but activating a different phone for that line.

One thing to set your mind at ease a bit - I've had to activate new VZW phones for an existing line repeatedly, and the process is simple and pretty much instant. The only "dead zone" will be in transitioning your service over from AT&T.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:59 AM on November 20, 2012


To be clear - the 'dead zone' occurs when porting a number from one carrier (AT&T) to another carrier (Verizon). Switching between phones is relatively painless, but requires either a phone call or a trip to the store - since Verizon is CDMA you can't just switch SIM cards the way you can on AT&T.
posted by muddgirl at 7:01 AM on November 20, 2012


You're not going to have an hour or two of porting going on, they can assign a temporary number to the iphone and have it work right out of the box while you call or go in the next day to have the porting done, this way the old phone works fine.

This means you've got some overlap with the old at&t plan (where her phone still is), but you can move everyone else along to the new plan and get the new iphone working on the new plan.

Be aware, you will likely have to pay for temporary phone # activations with VZW, at least this was my experience, and I get a pretty nice employee discount for working for one of their other divisions.

As far as these things go, this is pretty standard, the risk is that AT&T doesn't play along and somehow screws up your daughters account.

As far as the number porting when you do it for her phone it should be pretty much instant, however I believe if you go the temporary phone # route you're going to need to hop in to a wireless store to get a new SIM and then its a matter of 15 minutes for the port to go through, basically a reboot. If you don't go in to the store and the phone has a temp number you're going to have to wait 12 hours I think. Ask a store manager, they will know and handle this for you.
posted by iamabot at 7:38 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


iamabot: You're going to have an hour or two of porting going on, but they can assign a temporary number to the iphone and have it work right out of the box while you call or go in the next day to have the porting, this way the old phone works fine...

Be aware, you will likely have to pay for temporary phone # activations with VZW, at least this was my experience, and I get a pretty nice employee discount for working for one of their other divisions.


iamabot, that sounds ideal, but what are you talking about when you say "pay"? On the order of $20 or like $200?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:43 AM on November 20, 2012


Warning . How old is your daughter? getting a teenager an iphone can mean huge data overages.

I would get her an ipod touch instead and get her a new dumb phone on Verizon. She can text all her iphone friends with imessage on the ipod touch and still use all the apps but will be limited to wifi only.
posted by majortom1981 at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2012


iamabot, that sounds ideal, but what are you talking about when you say "pay"? On the order of $20 or like $200?

Speaking from my most recent experience, adding my mom to my account from AT&T to my family plan and adding an iphone 5, it was 35 bucks per line activation fee, which you may have to pay anyway, then there is the cost of bridging the old AT&T plan up till you do the port out. The port out generally cancels the AT&T account. I wasn't clear on the fee when I did all my movement with plans and devices last month and it really bugged me when I missed it, but it appears to be a standard non negotiable thing even for employees of the corporate mothership and applies to all new lines for all phones, tablets, etc.

I revised my post a bit, it was a wee bit contradictory, the porting is generally like a 15 minute process *unless you have a temporary phone number assigned*, if you get the temp phone # assigned it takes an overnight cycle to re-provision to the ported number or you can get a new sim from the store and it's instant.

Talk to a store manager or employee (go to an actual Verizon Wireless retail store, not a kiosk in the mall and ask to speak with the manager or a senior service representative and explain what you want to do), they will provide you with all the details.

As far as the shared data plans, I'd have to go look but I am pretty sure you can limit data per phone # as I'd considered doing this with my mom, who is rather notorious for data usage and might as well have that iphone grafted to her hand.
posted by iamabot at 8:17 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Folks, please don't edit your comments for content, just make a follow up comment and make things clear, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on November 20, 2012


I don't see any reason for bothering with a temporary phone number. I switched from AT&T to Verizon when I upgraded from my iPhone 4 to the new iPhone 5.

You can arrange to port over the existing number in advance with Verizon when you purchase the new iPhone. The number will not be ported over until the new phone is activated. This happens when you plug it into iTunes for the first time to set it up.

It should be fairly seamless. My number ported over almost instantly, and that was on iPhone 5 launch day.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:17 AM on November 20, 2012


Fleebnork: You can arrange to port over the existing number in advance with Verizon when you purchase the new iPhone. The number will not be ported over until the new phone is activated. This happens when you plug it into iTunes for the first time to set it up.

Oh, hmm. What happens to the other numbers to be ported? They port one at a time upon activation?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2012


What happens to the other numbers to be ported? They port one at a time upon activation?

That is the way it worked when my wife and I both upgrade to iPhone 5s. I ported mine on my lunch break and she did hers later that evening.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:52 PM on November 20, 2012


For future reference, we purchased the phones and had temporary phone numbers assigned to them, and then ported the numbers over at our convenience later. Worked perfectly, A+++++ would switch carriers again!
posted by Rock Steady at 6:00 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


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