Phone switcheroo

So beyond having been sick as a dog, I have a telephone story for you!

As I told you last week, I came up with what I think is a workable plan to replace both my home phone and my pay-as-you-go mobile with a monthly mobile phone plan that’s no more expensive.

Since I already have a perfectly good phone, I ordered a SIM card from Fido. I’d take the Rogers SIM card out of my phone, replace it with the Fido SIM card, and I’d be golden. That was the plan.

The SIM card arrived on Thursday last week. I called Fido, had it activated, and started the number transfer. Since I was getting rid of my home phone, and I had that number for more than a decade, I decided to transfer it to my mobile. I wouldn’t have to tell anyone my number is changing…because is isn’t.

The activation went fine and before I hung up with the Fido rep, I plugged in the SIM card and my phone asked me for the ‘subsidy code.’ I asked the rep and she didn’t know about any such code. After a brief wait, she came back and asked if I’d purchased the phone for use with another provider.

Snag.

I don’t know why it didn’t even occur to me. I quickly learned that every mobile phone you buy in Canada is ‘locked.’ If you buy a phone to use with Rogers, you can’t then take it with you and use it with Fido, Telus, or any other company. This is not the way mobile phones work. It’s a purely artificial means the providers use to dissuade existing customers from going elsewhere. “I can move my number…but I’ll have to buy a new phone. Maybe I’ll just stay, after all.”

So I had to buy a new phone. I called around and one kind soul told me about a place that would unlock phones. I went. This whole mess took most of my evening, but $35 later, I had an unlocked phone. I could now put any SIM card in it. Success!

Kind of. An indicator was appearing in the display that I’d never seen before. I had to download the manual to find it. The phone was roaming. Uh oh. I can feel the money flying out of my pocket. I called Fido and explained that I had a roaming indicator even though I was at home. It came out that I was using an unlocked phone. She said that was likely the problem and they didn’t support unlocked phones.

Further, when I initially signed up, the $15 value package I wanted wasn’t available as a selection. The guy who helped me said it should be an option so I’d better call in once I got the SIM card and make sure to order the correct package. I’d completely forgotten about this because of the phone locking discovery. I mentioned this to the rep I was talking to and she said the value package wasn’t showing up because the phone was unlocked. The system knows about my phone and only displays the appropriate options.

Great. So I went and bought a phone. What else could I do? I bought the same damned phone, but with a Fido lock on it. I popped the battery in, plugged in the SIM card, turned it on, and look! I was still roaming. I walked back to the Fido booth where I’d just purchased the phone and asked about it. She got on the phone and found out that there was a slight incompatibility between the Motorola RAZR and the Fido network. The roaming indicator always appears. Nothing to worry about.

Later that day, I called in about the option package. Fido-locked phone in hand, I explained that I have the $20 monthly plan and I want the $15 value package added. There was a moment of silence. She explained that I cannot have the $15 value package because it includes unlimited browsing and they do not allow that on smartphones, like the Blackberry I have. Blackberry?! I explained that in fact, I have a plain old RAZR. She was surprised and asked me to read the phone’s IMEI code. She entered it, and then the system knew what phone I had. I ordered the correct value package without incident.

Then I started thinking. Neither problem was caused by my using an unlocked phone. I mentioned to Don that I was dying to put the SIM card back into my old phone to see what would happen. So of course I did. I left it in the unlocked phone and all seemed well. I called two days later and asked them to tell me which plan and options I had in place, and they told me what I wanted to hear.

So what did I do? I returned the new phone. I bought it because they told me it would solve the problems I was having. It didn’t. Back it went.

So everything seems fine. I’m a little uneasy with Fido because unlike Rogers, they do not allow you to log in to your account on their site, and view your calls with the associated charges. Even the reps can’t view this information. You have to wait for your bill.

I’m also disappointed in how on multiple occasions, I was given conflicting information by different people. I couldn’t return the SIM card but when I asked another person, I certainly could and the first person was wrong. I asked about the iPhone and was surprised to learn that Fido doesn’t offer it without a data plan. When talking to someone else, they assured me that they certainly do offer it without a data plan if that’s what I wanted, and the person who told me otherwise was wrong. So now I’m always sceptical about everything I’m told.

With these caveats, everything seems okay so far. That said, I’ve found that if you want a service you can call up, place your order, and expect to have it implemented as requested, Fido’s not the provider you should be looking for. I was more determined than usual and hoped that once everything was properly in place, I would have no trouble.

The phone number switch happened on Monday so everything is done. My home phone is no more. When someone buzzes me from my apartment lobby, my mobile phone rings! This is definitely taking some getting used to so I’m not really confident in deciding on a verdict yet.

As it stands, my reaction is very mixed, but I’ll let you know after the first month.

I just better not get a bill for $600 because I’ve been roaming the whole time!

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3 Comments

  1. Jonathan
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 16:24 | Permalink

    Rick if you ever get locked out of your apt. just ring the door bell and buzz yourself in with your phone! woo how cool is that!

    And keep this under your hat… I’m pretty sure Rogers owns Fido. Oh the irony!

  2. Dee
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 14:58 | Permalink

    Man, you are one determined consumer! I’m a lazy consumer who wants to do little price comparison and even less leg work once a product is bought. I need to decide on home phone, cell phone, internet and cable for myself for next month and your (mis)adventures have discouraged me! Maybe if I order it all up from Rogers they will throw in the services of an in person geek for a day or two to set it all up and explain it to me? Hey, a girl can dream…

  3. Bradley
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 10:29 | Permalink

    “I asked about the iPhone and was surprised to learn that Fido doesn’t offer it without a data plan.”

    They were both right, kinda. You can’t purchase an iPhone in the store without getting a data plan, it’s not an option. However, if you order your phone online or get it from somewhere else…

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