No contract / pre-paid Lumia on T-Mobile agreement?
February 27, 2014 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Can I buy a Lumia 521 from the Microsoft Store and bring it to a plan on T-Mobile? (Yes, it's another "Help me with a cell phone / phone plan!" question. Sorry.)

I'm finally looking to move to a smartphone, and have 5 lines to take care of. I'm looking at T-Mobile because their no-contract agreements seem like the best value, especially if you bring your own phone.

Since I don't currently have smartphones laying around, I was considering a bunch of Nokia Lumia 521s from the Microsoft Store for the extremely reasonable price of $79 each.

That compares rather favorably with the $126 if I were to buy it from T-Mobile, especially when I'm buying 5.

What I can't figure out is whether that will work.

If shopping phones on the T-Mobile site, the Lumia 521 is listed. However, if I choose a plan and say that I'm bringing my own phone, the search there doesn't list any Nokia models at all. I'm sure that the 521 works on the T-Mobile network (Microsoft lists it specifically for that network), but is there any sort of catch that would keep me from buying the phones from MS, getting SIM cards from T-Moble and going on my merry way?
posted by Ickster to Shopping (5 answers total)
Best answer: As they offer it, there won't be any problems. You just need to get the right SIM card for it. That's the only reason T-Mobile asks. I don't know why their website doesn't include it in their search there, but it will work over the network.
posted by inturnaround at 2:12 PM on February 27, 2014

It seems like it would work just fine, but the truth is that the Lumia 521 is a pretty crummy* phone. You're much better served getting the Moto G. That being said, they do start at $179, which tacks on another $500 to your order.

*Windows phone by itself is severely behind both Android and iOS, it's lacking lots of good apps, and often the apps it does have are months behind their counterparts on the other phones. On top of that, the Lumia 521 is pretty underpowered and is noticeably laggy when doing pretty much anything.
posted by Oktober at 2:12 PM on February 27, 2014

T-Mobile may charge you $10 for each SIM starter kit; there's a SIM included with the Lumia 521s that they sell in their branded boxes through their own stores and in resellers like Best Buy, but I don't know if that applies to ones sold through the Microsoft Store.
posted by holgate at 2:18 PM on February 27, 2014

Best answer: Yes, any GSM, UMTS/WCDMA/HSPA/HSDPA/whatever they feel like calling it today, or LTE phone that supports the bands T-Mobile uses will work on T-Mobile provided you get the right SIM card for it. The reason I generalize this rather than referring to the phone you asked about specifically, is that you may not need to upgrade all 5 lines in one whack if you're currently using GSM feature phones.
posted by wierdo at 2:20 PM on February 27, 2014

Response by poster: I was looking at the Moto G for a long time, but when I discovered the Lumia would be $500 bucks cheaper, I bolted. The cost isn't the entire issue either--I'm no huge fan of Microsoft, but right now I trust them more than I trust Google. (That's a sad statement; 10 years ago, Google could do no wrong, and now they're just another evil corporation, one that makes Microsoft look good in my books.)

Anyway, I know the 521 isn't all that hot, but my needs aren't that great. Internet, maps, e-mail, calendar, music--that's about all I really need, and it's all I'm willing to spend on my kids. I figure if I really can't live with the Lumia after a while, I can spring for an upgrade on my own. For now though, it's going to be such an improvement over the crappy broken down 2-year old feature phone I have that it'll be hard to feel like I've sold myself too short.

The reason I'm looking to upgrade all 5 at one shot is that I'm currently on Sprint (contract just ended) and it's essentially impossible for me to upgrade just a couple of lines (say, my wife and I) without ending up with another 2-year contract and a $200+ monthly bill. As I see it, I can fork over ~$450 now (with SIM purchase), get 5 new phones, and reduce my bill for by about $20/month vs. what I'm currently paying Sprint for 5 lines with no data.
posted by Ickster at 2:35 PM on February 27, 2014

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