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I want to upgrade my cellphone but keep my old plan
March 26, 2007 5:32 PM   Subscribe

I have a $29.99 per month cellphone plan that Cingular doesn't offer anymore. Can I upgrade my phone and keep the plan?

I have an awesome cellphone plan. I pay Cingular $29.99 per month, plus taxes, for 250 weekday minutes and more night & weekend minutes than I ever use. Cingular stopped offering this plan to new customers long ago, but has allowed me to keep it, even when I've upgraded my phone and signed new two-year contracts twice. Now it's time to upgrade again. I e-mailed Cingular in January to ask about the iPhone, and whether I would be required to buy a data plan if I decided to upgrade to an iPhone when it became available. In typical e-mail customer service fashion, they ignored my question (I've since decided I don't want an iPhone anyway) but what they did say is "You will have to change your plan. The Preferred Nation plan you are on is an old TDMA plan and will not work correctly with the new phones." I replied saying that's clearly wrong, as I've had GSM phones for years, and my plan has worked fine. They replied, "You will need to change your plan if you upgrade your phone... Our technology has changed over the years and the plans we offer now are more compatible with the phones that are being offered."

In my experience, most of what customer service reps tell me is wrong, and I believe I probably can keep my $29.99 plan. But when I go to extend my contract, how can I be sure? I don't want to get stuck with a more expensive plan that I can't do anything about for the next two years. If I really can't keep my plan, I'll switch to Sprint, which does currently offer a $29.99 plan, but with 50 fewer weekday minutes.
posted by Dec One to Technology (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Call them, escalate to supervisor, and you'll get an actual - if not desired - answer.
posted by dbiedny at 5:41 PM on March 26, 2007


Also, explain that you've been a longtime, loyal customer, and would love to stay with them, but need to make a decision about changing carriers now.
posted by dbiedny at 5:43 PM on March 26, 2007


You can always buy whatever phone you want and put the SIM card from your old phone into your new phone and...presto! But then you would have to pay full price for the phone. At Cingular, my free upgrades have always the ugliest, biggest, featureless phones. I have had to pay full price for better ones.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:49 PM on March 26, 2007


You should go into the Cingular store and talk with someone. They can bend the rules and will probably give you a deal if you drive a hard bargain.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:50 PM on March 26, 2007


If you go to the website you can keep the plan you have now.

I found that in order to actually use the features of the newer phones I had to add a low value data plan so I could get data to my high end phone. YMMV


In my experience, the website shows you what your actual plan is anyway. you at least will know what other features cost.
posted by Megafly at 6:21 PM on March 26, 2007


i have a Verizon plan that they don't offer anymore and no one ever said anything to me when I upgraded my phone - they just continued me at the same rate. I don't see why Cingulair would be any different.
posted by clh at 6:22 PM on March 26, 2007


i have a Verizon plan that they don't offer anymore and no one ever said anything to me when I upgraded my phone - they just continued me at the same rate. I don't see why Cingulair would be any different.

Same thing with Sprint. I asked the guy at the counter to run through some different plans. He told me to just keep mine as it is if I was happy with minutes/features because it's such a good deal.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:23 PM on March 26, 2007


I am going through this right now. I got a two-year contract with AT&T, then Cingular bought them, and Cingular has not yet provided a contract similar to ours at the price we got, so we are still on the terms of the contract that expired a year ago.

Buying an unlocked phone through a third party is not a bad way to go. I calculated that we save more money by paying full-price for two brand new phones every two years and keeping our current service plan than by getting two freebies by signing a new contract. A lot of the Hong Kong vendors have reasonable prices, but keep in mind they usually strip out the manufacturer's batteries and accessories -- if you want all original equipment you might not necessarily save much. There are a few AskMe threads about this. thread tag "cellphone" tag "cingular"

This is what I've learned so far:

1. Cingular doesn't care that you're a long-term customer. AT&T's contracts were lower than Cingular's. They want you to sign a new contract. They can't force you to, but they will do what they can. I've found the clerks in full-service stores to be pretty mellow about my plans and helpful with my questions. The clerks at mall kiosks are not.

2. You cannot buy whatever phone you want and pop the SIM card in. For one thing, your new phone has to be compatible with Cingular's network. In theory any GSM phone advertised by Verizon, T-Mobile, or Cingular can work on a Cingular network if you have an existing AT&T or Cingular SIM card to put in it, but if you have doubts ask somebody knowledgeable. On top of that, you will have distinct issues if you buy a Motorola phone. More on that in a bit.

3. If you go to the store for anything more than basic account handholding or tech support, you will be told to dial 611 and talk to Cingular's phone banks. This has little to do with what the clerks are willing to do and a great deal to do with the limited ability they have to do anything to your account. (Not all their stores are full-service: Check Cingular's store locator.)

4. If you buy a Motorola phone (for now, this only applies to Motorola phones), you will have to contact Cingular to request a subsidy password (Wikipedia's ranty, but reasonably accurate, entry). The clerk in the store will not be able to provide this. Cingular's service rep at 611 won't provide it either. He/she will ask if you paid full price for the phone, where you bought it, and possibly whether it's in a Cingular-branded box -- I infer that they may refuse if you might not have purchased through endorsed channels, and you will have to pay to get your phone unlocked through greymarket channels or warez (there are several Motorola phone users forums which can provide information on both options). They will email you a password between three and five business days assuming you're deemed to meet the approval process. That is, unless they bungle your request, in which case you have to phone in and request again and wait another week. Which is why I haven't used my new phone yet.
posted by ardgedee at 6:51 PM on March 26, 2007


From my cell phone company customer service days many moons ago, as long as you don't switch to another plan you can probably keep the one you have. But if you do switch, don't expect to get it back.

The email rep is probably bullshitting you, but it's also possible that the data plan billing codes can't be put on older phone plans in their billing system. It has nothing to do with the phone technology and everything to do with forcing an upgrade.

Sorry to say it, but you're not the kind of high-volume user the company is really all that afraid of losing. They do the math. Going to a store near the end of the month and trying to catch a desperate sales rep is probably your best bet. Or just switch companies. I worked in cell phones before you could port your number to another company. That was a lot of leverage that the cell companies don't have anymore.

I've found the clerks in full-service stores to be pretty mellow about my plans and helpful with my questions. The clerks at mall kiosks are not.

Again, from my experience, the stores were company owned but the kiosks were more like franchises. *Always* go to a store if you're going to do this in person. Almost every shady deal I ever got bitched at about originated at a kiosk.
posted by Cyrano at 7:03 PM on March 26, 2007


No one seems to have noticed that the original question was about a TDMA phone/contract. This person does not have a SIM card.

A lot of the recommendations still apply, but TDMA is old technology, and you're probably going to have to upgrade to a GSM phone (with a SIM card) by now.

Whatever you do, don't sign a contract. Just buy a GSM unlocked (or Cingular-specific) phone on ebay. And get a SIM card from Cingular, pop it in, and you're good to go.

I'm a long-term Cingular customer who is prone to over-paying for minutes, and in the process racking up thousands of Rollover minutes. Twice in the past 3 years, I've noticed that I had >10,000 Rollover minutes, and called Cingular to have them put me on a minimum plan ($30 or $40) in order to burn off my Rollover minutes. Both times I've done this, I've been told that I will "lose all Rollover minutes because of switching plans". Both times, I've kept all of my Rollover minutes. I've done this by asking for the rep's supervisor, then his supervisor, then his supervisor, etc., until someone told me what I wanted to hear: You can have the cheap plan, AND keep your Rollover minutes.

You just have to be persistent.

But do buy a phone on ebay (even fancy RAZR phones are <$100 now). I haven't had a Cingular contract for about 6 years, because I've never received a phone from them. Since converting to GSM, I've been through 4 phones, my current being a sweet Treo 680. I'm ready (and able) to switch to T-Mobile in an instant, but have never had to do that.
posted by Bradley at 7:30 PM on March 26, 2007


YES. I did. You need to be persistant. It is not on the Web Site. It is not in their stores. It is in their system. Be persistant. I recently bought my third phone on that $29.00 plan. Each time they insisted it no longer exists.
posted by Gungho at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2007


By the way it is called the Nation 200 plan.
posted by Gungho at 7:36 PM on March 26, 2007


Bradley, read the whole question. The original poster did have a TDMA plan at one time (and the plan initially was for a TDMA phone). But it says right there (in the part where the OP was correcting the customer rep that didn't read) that s/he had been using GSM phones for years.
posted by toxic at 8:18 PM on March 26, 2007


I have a Cingular phone plan (that I don't believe they offer anymore, but it's not the one being mentioned here) that originated when I had a TDMA phone. About a year ago I upgraded to a new GSM phone and was able to keep my plan. I had to add a package on for text messages, photos and web access, but the actual phone plan itself stayed the same.

I did all this at a mall store (not a kiosk, and not through e-mail), if that helps. And I don't know if switching to an iPhone would change it either.
posted by Lucinda at 8:34 PM on March 26, 2007


Listen, I've got a friend in the same boat as you. She's got a fantastic old plan from AT&T that Cingular doesn't want to honor, and a busted-ass phone that she wants to replace. So, just for giggles, we took the sim card out of her busted-ass nokia (at least 4.5 years old), and put it into my unlocked Motorola C115. Worked flawlessly. After it had found the network, we made an outgoing call, and accepted an incoming call.

So basically, all you need to do is find an unlocked GSM phone at a reasonable price. If you go to motorola's online store, they've got a link for "unlocked GSM phones," and prices range from $100-$500. What I'd recommend doing, however, is searching out the phone you want (making sure there's a GSM model), and looking for it on ebay or craigslist. Phones go out of style long before they lose functionality, and there's a flourishing market for secondhand phones and phones that aren't part of the current crop of "popular" models.
posted by god hates math at 9:06 PM on March 26, 2007


Don't bother contacting customer service at Cingular. They're idiots, and you run the risk of having some dope mess with things and bump you off your current $29.95 plan and then not be able to get you back onto it. (Trust me, I've seen this happen.)

My S.O. has a similar situation -- she has a plan that she originally got through her university, a few years ago, which is no longer available. If she got a new phone through Cingular, they would force her onto a new plan.

They fed her the same line of horseshit that they're trying on you -- confusing nonsense about newer plans being part of "technology upgrades," etc. etc. It's crap, don't believe it.

But since che already had a GSM phone, she just went and bought a new (unlocked) phone on eBay, popped in the SIM, and away she went.

She's still on her cheap plan, and now has a new phone.

Whatever you do -- stop telling Cingular about it. Just swap your SIM; there's no reason for them to know anything about you getting a new phone.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:38 PM on March 26, 2007


I just bought an unlocked C135 (for about $35) exactly for this purpose. I posted about it in a recent ask.meta thread.
posted by null terminated at 9:41 PM on March 26, 2007


I got the same response from a Cingular rep when I had the same problem. She said that I had to get a new account because their airwaves were "too fast" for my current plan. She couldn't explain it better than that...

I purchased an un-locked phone, switched in the SIM card and have been doing fine ever since.
posted by one_bean at 8:00 AM on March 27, 2007


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