Today the news broke about AT&T locking the new Apple Universal SIM once a customer activates it. Over Twitter T-Mobile's charismatic and always pugnacious CEO John Legere tweeted:
@WaltBTIG iPads bought in Apple Store with apple sim, if activated on @ATT it locks, if @TMobile it doesn't..it stays flexible. #keepflex
Upfront I've been a fan of what Legere and his team have done with growing the business, outfoxing AT&T on a merger deal, acquiring spectrum, buying up MetroPCS, refarming their spectrum to be more universal and roaming friendly, offering all kinds of "FREE" connectivity, staging promotions, pulling pranks and basically providing value to the customers. Under Legere T-Mobile's numbers are up and candidly, his style is refreshing in a industry that is stodgy at best, and where innovation on all levels comes from outside.
But, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and today, with his comment above Legere kicked sand in the face of AT&T while not yet having his own house in order. Here's why...
After picking up my new Apple iPad Air2 and reading about the AT&T move to lock the SIM and Apple's reaction to say "you can buy another Apple SIM" with the teenie weenie issue of them not really being available yet for sale (minor and created by AT&T's move no doubt) I made the decision to simply go with T-Mobile, thus giving Legere and the team there another net add (new subscriber addition.) I got home, went through the activation sequence, got to the cellular data page, selected T-Mobile, and then went to the Doubler Your Data option, as an already existing subscriber to T-Mobile with a share plan.
The Double Your Data deal means that for $10 a month more I can add 5GB to my existing plan and use that on the iPad vs. pay $30 per month through January, and then pay $40 a month for the same 5GB of data, but it seems to do that, you need a T-Mobile SIM...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The double your data plan would be in line with the Tweet above as to me the flexible nature of the Apple SIM is I can go just about anywhere, get LTE data without having to stand in line, buy a local SIM card, get top up, etc. But even with Mr. Legere's best intentions aside, if you're a T-Mobile customer you can't add the iPad to your existing T-Mobile account with the Apple SIM and get the deal. No matter what you try to do or who you talk to.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. After three attempts of going through the on device activation, and receiving a sorry message, I followed the instructions/directions and called into T-Mobile support. The first person said to take advantage of Double Your Data he needed the phone number associated with the SIM. Well, given that it wasn't activated I couldn't provide what I don't have so he transferred me to activations, which operates out of a call center over in India or somewhere.
Once on the line with activations group they (wrongly) told me I already had too many devices on my share plan and they needed to refer me to another department to remove one. Forget the fact that I really didn't, and that one of the lines was a non-revenue on demand device that is long out of service as it was a 4G non LTE device that was replaced when T-Mobile upgraded to LTE and a new number created. That was back in the era where net adds meant higher valuation when Legere and the team were trying to sell T-Mo...but I digress again.
Once we agreed which number to deactivate I then was told I had to have the transaction approved by the Customer Retention Department. There I was transferred to a nice lady, now the 4th person I spoke to in Salem, Oregon who complained about my call quality. Funny, but I was on my iPhone6 using T-Mobile's WiFi service here at my house (100 megs of connectivity), and the issue wasn't the my call quality, but the fact that the call has been bounced all around the globe and back on T-Mobile contact center network. I even switched off WiFi and it only improved a bit, with awful latency, delays and packet loss, and that happened while the call was on T-Mobile's own LTE network to their switch, not because the network is bad here (it's not) but because the way the call was being handled, routed, and the way the media gets degraded with each handoff. When she called me back the call quality was perfect..But I digress more.
As she removed the on demand number from my account, she then said "I can't do anything about activations and wanted to transfer me back to that group, but after hearing that I had an Apple SIM--which she, like most of the people I spoke to at T-Mobile had no clue about, checked with an inside support person who instructed her to send me to Apple to get it resolved because the issue was the Apple SIM not T-Mobile's platform..well he was half right. It was good to send me to Apple because there I got someone who was a good sounding board and looking to eliminate the Apple SIM from the problem..as was I.
Over at Apple, Will became as perplexed as I, but we walked through the onboarding/provisioning process and I suggested when we were out of options that we try activating it as a Pre-Paid SIM on T-Mobile, which meant creating yet another account. With that, it makes T-Mo's PrePaid numbers and subscriber numbers look better, even though it really means one subscriber has two accounts, vs. another device on the network, but from an existing subscriber. Yes, I do remember that course in college too call stat 101, which those of us also named "how to lie with statistics"...and I never took it.
It worked, and T-Mobile now has me paying $30.00 vs. what should be $10.00. I then was transferred back to T-Mobile and spoke to Ceasar who insisted he knew what the problem was, that I didn't need to have taken any devices off (I know) and that he would explain to activations about it and the problem would get handled by them.
Honestly, at this point I felt like I was in the middle of "Who's On First" skit by Abbott and Costello. The call went back to Asia and there no one had a clue, but one person of the 12 or so people I must have spoken to said "we don't think the Apple SIM can be used with an existing account." Now this was two and a half hours into the ordeal when I should have been enjoying dinner with friends. At that point I asked for a supervisor in the USA, got transferred another know nothing in Asia, who then transferred me to someone who couldn't hear me in the USA, and where the DTMF tones also didn't work likely due to the number of transfers and the shift of the call off net to Apple and back most likely.
So I called back, worked my way up to a supervisor, explained the ordeal and got a very sincere we're sorry but still no resolution but was still being given a lot of partial knowledge from a "supervisor". I then said "how about this. Until you guys can figure it all out, how about a $20.00 credit on my monthly bill" which he did along with the promise of a Manager level call on Monday.
To me, he was the first person who came close to understanding the problem, but even his solution was also counter to Legere's slam at AT&T. To correct the situation at first he wanted me to put a T-Mobile SIM in the iPad so I could link it to my account. That's not really in line with "flexible" and the Apple SIM or T-Mobile's own value proposition that they have spent the better part of 18 months or so driving home externally as well as in theory internally.
Like I said, "people in glass houses......"
To me, Legere's comment about flexible today applies if you want to pay more for that opportunity, to make his subscriber growth in pre-paid look good, but in reality I don't think that's the way he really wants to go.
My honest view is he really wants to offer the flexibility that the Apple SIM brings to the market, but his company has let him down by not removing the offer for double data on the activation page or having the mechanisms in place to make it so. But the big falling down is the number of people working at T-Mobile who have so many different ideas of wrong, took so many of the wrong steps and all the way thought they are being helpful.
This whole ordeal isn't over yet. But I for one don't like the idea of paying more than I have to.....especially when the online offers and claims made indicate I don't. Neither should you. Call up T-Mobile and ask for your discount if you have the same problem....