Wireless Carrier/Service Fine, Phone Needs to Go
May 17, 2010 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I just realized, after calling ATT's tech line, that I cannot send pictures using my 3-yr old bottom of the barrel (then/now) Samsung flip mobile because of some damage done to it after taking a pretty nasty spill on my bike while the phone was pocketed. So, I'd like to regain this functionality and possibly upgrade. My budget is $500, for simplicity's sake. One of my options will hopefully give me....

I did a search (Google included), but couldn't seem to tailor it to find any relevant threads.

Background: I'm on a family plan that is almost a decade old and out of the initial 2yr contract commitment. I'd like to stay on the current month-month plan but would like, after a year or so to sort my credit out before leaving the family plan, to get one in my name. I am already paying the account holder for my usage, which amounts to $40-50 a month for the basics (that is, sans most smart phone services like a data, etc.) Given that I'd like to have a smart phone on the plan when I am the account holder, I'm considering buying one now and keeping it to use on the current plan and when I start service under my name.

>Bottom line: I want a new phone ASAP. If I can I'd like to buy an Android phone (used and not through an authorized dealer, if possible), transfer my sim card to it and use it without common smart phone functionality, until I hold an account in my own name. >The alternative being that I just use the insurance I currently have on my existing, but maimed, phone to get an equivalent replacement. Given that the replacement entails being without a phone for the claim and the phone to be evaluated by a third party company, in addition to a $50 deductible encourages me to upgrade, somehow. Specifically, I'd like to upgrade the phone now and the service approx. a year from now.

What are the possiblities for upgrading in these circumstances?
What should I be considering in addition the things I've stated?
What would you do?

Anecdotes of successfully transfering sims cards would be helpful, because it stands to reason I can simply buy a phone on the secondary market install my sim card and use it as the same kind of line on the family plan that my existing line uses. I'm not totally opposed to getting another bottom of the barrel replacement, but will confess that I want something shiny that'll capture sweet photos. :] Cheers!
posted by fook to Shopping (11 answers total)
I don't believe that AT&T will let you use an Android phone without upgrading your service. Also, their selection of Android phones are awful.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:23 PM on May 17, 2010

Best phone you're going to get from AT&T is the iPhone.
posted by floam at 1:26 PM on May 17, 2010

The good news is that AT&T is GSM. So you could buy any phone that fancies you off of eBay or a retailer of your choosing as long as it is either unlocked or only for AT&T use, pop the SIM card in, and not change your billing situation with AT&T at all.
posted by floam at 1:27 PM on May 17, 2010

Isn't it significantly more complicated than that? I think that AT&T is able to tell what phone you are using and block it from the cheaper plans if it's a smartphone.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:29 PM on May 17, 2010

I like to do what floam recommends but am afraid that what The Lamplighter suspects is the likely response from AT&T. For example, I'm considering the Motoblur because of a friend's recommendation. If, as it appears, it is GSM compatible, are there any drawbacks to using it sans, streaming data plans?

Is AT&T less likely to care if I don't get a smartphone calibure unit? Is there any surefire way for one to tell if a particular phone as been 'unlocked/jailbroken'?
posted by fook at 1:43 PM on May 17, 2010

I doubt AT&T would block your phone - sure, you may not have a data plan, but they'll either just not let you use data or they'll charge you per-megabyte rates for data. (check your plan to see which they'll do.) a smartphone and a featurephone really aren't that much different; the smartphone will just use data a lot more than a normal phone will. swapping SIM cards works just fine - I've done it many times, taking my AT&T SIM out of my iPhone and dropping it into my however-old Sony Ericsson T610 (which was originally locked to T-Mobile, but is now unlocked).

the easiest way to tell if a phone is unlocked is if it says some other service provider's name on it (in the US, the most likely one would be T-Mobile; Verizon and Sprint are the other two big ones but neither of them use GSM) but it works with your AT&T SIM card. reputable resellers will tell you the phone is unlocked as well. you'll also want to check to make sure the phone you want works on AT&T's network - it'll need to be GSM and it'll need to work on the frequencies that AT&T uses. (if it says quad-band in the specs, you're good to go usually for voice service. data is a bit different.) there are other AskMe threads about doing this.

also, keep in mind AT&T sells a Motoblur-based phone already: the Backflip. (Motoblur is the name of the UI and software stuff Motorola puts on their Android-based phones, not the phone itself.) eXpansys has this new and unlocked; you might be able to get it on eBay cheaper, or get a used one. if this was the phone you were thinking about, you can either get an unlocked one or a used AT&T-locked version; it won't matter either way.
posted by mrg at 2:12 PM on May 17, 2010

Isn't it significantly more complicated than that? I think that AT&T is able to tell what phone you are using and block it from the cheaper plans if it's a smartphone.

No, it's not. They don't block phones. They have one little burp, exactly one, which is they don't like people using iPhones with non-iPhone data plans. But even then they don't block you, they just send you an annoying SMS once a year asking you to call customer service.
posted by floam at 5:41 PM on May 17, 2010

Also, you don't need an unlocked phone - you just need an ATT phone. So if you're planning on buying used, just get an ATT phone. You can also get Google's Nexus One (better than the iPhone, IMO). That is unlocked and $579 new, if I recall.
posted by alaijmw at 6:16 PM on May 17, 2010

If you want an Android phone on AT&T, your only two options right now are the rather strange Backflip and the Nexus One. Personally, I would go for the Nexus One. It sells for $529 directly from Google. HOWEVER, Google is getting out of the online phone sales business in the near future. I don't know if this will mean that they will reduce the price of the Nexus One soon -- it would certainly suck to plop down $530 this week and have the price drop a couple of hundred a few days later -- but I doubt they will be having a sale anytime soon. One can dream, I guess.

From what I've read online, when you pop your SIM card into a smartphone (e.g., iPhone, BlackBerry, Android) when you're on a non-data plan, AT&T has the ability to recognize that you are using a smartphone and has been known to automatically enroll you in a data plan without telling you...they won't block you from using their network when they can milk you for all you've got. You are probably better off with the data plan anyways -- according to last month's bill, I used 4KB of data on my dumbphone, but AT&T rounded that usage up to 1MB and charged me $2.00. With a smartphone, I'm willing to bet your data usage will be much higher than a dozen MB per month if you use it to browse the web regularly and to do a lot of emailing, Twittering, Facebooking, etc.

Is AT&T less likely to care if I don't get a smartphone calibure unit?
Nope. Pretty much all of their dumphones these days have stripped down web browsers which allow you to still use the internet and get charged up the yin-yang for data usage. They also bank on texting as a great revenue source with dumphones.

Oh, and I guess I should add -- if you want to go with an iPhone, hold off. We're less than a month away from the unveiling of the newest model.
posted by puritycontrol at 6:49 PM on May 17, 2010

The Nexus One won't do 3G data on AT&T, will it?
posted by The Lamplighter at 9:10 PM on May 17, 2010

The Nexus One won't do 3G data on AT&T, will it?

Yes, Google released a Nexus One specifically for use on AT&T 3G.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:21 PM on May 17, 2010

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