Can I transfer my prepaid cell number to an iPhone?
June 9, 2008 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way for me to (1) port my cell phone number (AT&T, go phone) to an iPhone (with an AT&T two-year contract) and (2) retain my ~ $300 prepaid balance?

I'm really, really confused by the various googling I've done for this, and my results are getting confounded with threads about people trying to force the iPhone pre-paid option upon activating it. I also thought I saw I similar question to this a few weeks back, but I can't find it searching AskMe. If I'm missing something obvious I'd be very grateful for a link.

I currently have a prepaid GoPhone that I got through Cingular, which is now AT&T. It's basically $30 a month, and I use only a fraction of it. I went for the prepaid plan because it was my first cell phone and I didn't want to commit to a long-term contract.

Even though I don't use my cell phone much, I like having it available and I love my husband's iPhone (especially the Google maps integration). With the new announcements from Apple today, I'm tempted by the lower price tag and willing to sign on for a plan. I would ideally like to retain my phone number, and (secondary priority) be able to keep my almost $300 prepaid balance in some way.

I found a worrisome FAQ on AT&T's website that states that an iPhone must be activated as a new device and a new phone number for Go Phone customers. This strikes me as totally bizarre (not being able to move from one AT&T plan to another) and makes me worry about being able to move this number anyplace else. Is this just a general problem with prepaid phones?

I'm very willing to go to an AT&T store and ask in person, or to make phone calls. However, before I do this I'd like to have an idea of whether what I want to do is even possible. If it's not, I'd like to not waste my time on hold and getting annoyed with clueless sales reps. I accept that I might be poorly informed about the limitations of having a prepaid phone, in which case I would appreciate a lesson from the hive mind.
posted by handful of rain to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It is my understanding that all of the major carriers offer their pre-paid phones as a completely different service as their contract phones. I.e., they are handled by different divisions of the company, and I've even been told by company reps that they don't even necessarily use the same networks/towers.

It doesn't make sense, I know. But I don't think you'll be able to do the transfer.
posted by TSGlenn at 1:21 PM on June 9, 2008

As a general background issue, AT&T is in a revenue-sharing agreement with Apple for the iPhone.

This greatly complicates the idea of moving pre-paid minutes on another AT&T account as a credit to your monthly iPhone bill.
posted by tachikaze at 1:23 PM on June 9, 2008

As a general background issue, AT&T is in a revenue-sharing agreement with Apple for the iPhone.

Apple doesn't have anything to do with moving a previous AT&T account over to a new AT&T phone. They just make the phones. I would talk to a customer rep.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:28 PM on June 9, 2008

this may or may not help at all but, I had a prepaid account with Virgin mobile and when I signed on with Verizon I was able to take my number with me.
Is there anyway you could refund the balance instead of just moving it over?
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 1:42 PM on June 9, 2008

Before you do that, you should go through the posts over at TUAW regarding one author's attempts to just use their prepaid SIM in an iPhone.
posted by pwb503 at 1:50 PM on June 9, 2008

The concept you're talking about is "number portability", and you'll probably want to check out the number portability eligibility link here.
posted by daravida at 2:36 AM on June 10, 2008

Port the number, yes. Keep the balance, unfortunately, not a chance.
posted by CwgrlUp at 8:26 PM on June 13, 2008

Did 'handful of rain' ever come to a conclusion on this? I've been searching google for the same question and have not yet found an answer. TSGlenn seemed to have the closest answer to what I found to date. This is NOT a number portability issue as the number is already with ATT. I've also checking the number portability eligibility and it says it is not eligible, but since it is already an ATT number, it doesn't seem like much. I have a Go phone (prepaid) and the issue is with moving it to postpaid. The first ATT store said that they could only do it for something like $100 or 200 extra per phone. The second said they could but started working it and said no, they couldn't. Both said the "easiest" way was to get a new number. One said that it will not even work if coming from another companies pre-paid either. Does anyone know if this is true? I am not trying to use the iPhone as a prepaid phone, I just want to keep my number... have not found an ATT customer rep to let me know how yet. BTW, ATT had no trouble originally porting my Sprint number to a prepaid ATT account.
posted by tealeaf at 5:37 PM on September 6, 2008

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