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OT: buying a used/new cellphone and the unlock/compatibility nightmare

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  • OT: buying a used/new cellphone and the unlock/compatibility nightmare

    Caveat: the following story came from my own actual experience, I am *not* repeating Internet rumors.

    I spotted a very clean new Samsung S7 Edge the other day for a price in the mid-$100 range. Good deal, at least around here. My carrier is T-Mobile. First problem: it was a locked AT&T phone. After 3 days I got AT&T to unlock it. However, I had to request this from them and had they said no I would have been out of luck.

    First unpleasant reality: getting a phone unlocked can be difficult and may be impossible

    At last I put in my sim card and booted it up. Wow, the software is ancient, from February 2016. I tell the thing to check for software update and it comes back with "your software is up to date". Uh-oh. Another three days of misery commenced in me trying to flash a newer OS. Epic fail. Finally I took it to Best Buy's Samsung counter where the guy flashed the latest AT&T specific Android version. He told me I would have never succeeded in flashing it myself, even though it seemed to me like I should have been able to make ODIN work. He also told me AT&T will only upgrade your phone if it is both an AT&T phone and has an AT&T sim card installed. Oh.

    Second unpleasant reality: An unlocked phone on another carrier may not upgrade normally.

    Of course, up and running with a new Android version on a new phone, I worked for quite awhile setting things up. Jeez, it seems like there is a ton of AT&T-specific software on there. Not only can I not uninstall it, I can't even disable it.

    Third unpleasant fact: even though your phone is on a new carrier it still has a ton of functionality from its native one.

    The first time I went somewhere with my new phone, I noticed I couldn't get mobile data to work even though I'd turned it on. That REALLY sucks. T-Mobile wrote on one of their support pages that they do not guarantee that mobile data will work with a non-T-Mobile phone. Eventually, I found a workaround, hope it holds up. I soon also realized wifi calling didn't work, and subsequently found out it will never work if you don't have a T-Mobile phone (on the T-Mobile network, anyway).

    Fourth unpleasant fact: you can have very serious connectivity problems with an unlocked phone on another carrier.

    Oh, and along the way I found out it is technically impossible to make an AT&T phone look like a T-Mobile phone just by loading T-Mobile firmware. That does not and can not work, period.

    That's where I am at present. Wonder what the next nasty surprise I'll find is.

    Moral of the story is think twice about using an unlocked phone if it isn't from your carrier.

    Just thought you guys might like to know about this.

    metalmagpie

  • #2
    The mobile phone industry is anything but helpful. I've had cell phones since the days when you had exactly two choices of carriers and a choice of one or two phone models from each one. All of them put up as many barriers as they can to keep customers.

    MM's experience is not unusual with T-Mobile. When I had their service they could not guarantee any particular level of service 3 blocks from away from their tower.

    When I had AT&T they told me it might take days to port my number to Sprint. It took 5 minutes. When Verizon screwed up my mother's account it took me a week to get it fixed, spending as much as 6 hours at a time on the phone. They should not be allowed to sell expensive extras to 80 year old senior citizens.

    In essence, they all do that kind crap.

    On the positive side, an neighbor needed to borrow one of my old phones. I gave him a Verizon Galaxy S4 (4 years old) that he set up as prepaid on Tracfone. Not only did everything work, it was even able to to an OTA upgrade of the OS. I suspect that Tracfone uses the Verizon network in this area.

    Dan
    At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and left over parts.

    Location: SF East Bay.

    Comment


    • #3
      That's Android and pretty much every other OS except for iOS.

      There is:
      -whoever writes the OS (Microsoft [well, not anymore], Google, BlackBerry, probably some other small ones)
      -whoever makes the hardware and adapts the software to work with it
      -particularly in the US, but also happens elsewhere, the carrier decides that regardless of what the manufacturer has produced, the carrier knows better and tells them how to alter the OS just for them.

      This is why updates are either non-existent or really late in coming for Android and other phones. The OS vendor, the phone manufacturer and the carrier all have to work, essentially for free (as they get no more money from the end-user, other than the carrier) so you can get an update, when all of them would prefer you buy a new phone instead.

      Apple largely succeeded in telling the carriers to f-off, you'll sell what we give you.

      Comment


      • #4
        "Thread: OT: buying a used/new cellphone and the unlock/compatibility nightmare"

        Umm? I wouldnt do that. Buy a used phone. JR

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm going back to my $5 flip phone & a $29 Amazon tablet. The flip phone fits in my watch pocket on my jeans & the tablet works great. I pay $10 a month thru puretalk USA Get great service, talk to someone in Atlanta & have about 10,000 minutes I'll never use & they never expire. The phones run 10 days left on 24/7 so I charge once a week.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by dave_r View Post
            That's Android and pretty much every other OS except for iOS.


            -particularly in the US, but also happens elsewhere, the carrier decides that regardless of what the manufacturer has produced, the carrier knows better and tells them how to alter the OS just for them.
            US customers get shafted more than rest of the world combined
            Carrier locked phones, crappy "custom" software versions, stupid high data fees and incompatible carrier frequencies with phones bought from another carrier.
            Location: Helsinki, Finland, Europe

            Comment


            • #7
              Why do people do this ? That is; buy an old phone and then jump through hoops, do handstands and all sorts of hacking voodoo just to save a few bucks?

              There’s a place to save money and a place not to.
              Gary


              Appearance is Everything...

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by goose View Post
                Why do people do this ? That is; buy an old phone and then jump through hoops, do handstands and all sorts of hacking voodoo just to save a few bucks?

                There’s a place to save money and a place not to.
                Probably because many people do not want to be locked into contracts, yet cannot afford paying through the nose for a new phone which is not under contract. Or, maybe, people would prefer to have a freedom whenever they want to switch a carrier (leading to better performance and loyalty to customers among the providers). Many different reasons...
                Last edited by MichaelP; 11-04-2017, 12:58 PM.
                Mike
                WI/IL border, USA

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                • #9
                  Mine were $5 new from Best Buy w/free shipping so a friend wanted 4 & then picked then up so I was stuck with 4 extra. $3 for a new Sim card, how much simpler can I get.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by goose View Post
                    Why do people do this ? That is; buy an old phone and then jump through hoops, do handstands and all sorts of hacking voodoo just to save a few bucks?

                    There’s a place to save money and a place not to.
                    Uh, the latest Samsung Galaxy costs what, $700? That's a whole lot more than $150. The used cellphone market is thriving in this country. Because you don't choose to use it don't beat down those who do.

                    metalmagpie

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      And the part I did not mention...

                      If I buy a used radio for my Ford pickup, I don't expect it to work without extra effort when I chose one made for a Corvette.

                      If you want to buy a used phone, buy one that is meant for the carrier that you are using and you will find it works as advertised with no hassles. ** Buy a Verizon phone to use with verizon, an AT&T phone to work with AT&T.

                      Apple is no cure either. Buying a used AT&T iPhone will not do much good if you have Verizon for a carrier. They use different frequencies and standards. Last I checked they are not generally compatible.



                      Dan
                      ** as long as the phone was not reported stolen.
                      At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and left over parts.

                      Location: SF East Bay.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Our daughter has an iphone 5s. It started having issues charging. She went online and found out that the charging port is famous for failing on that model. I wanted to buy her a new phone. She said there were lots of how to's on how to replace the port. I basically told her I didn't want to mess with going inside her phone and trying to replace the jack. I told her to order a new phone and use my account to pay for it. What does she do.....she ordered the part as a kit with all the tools to do the work for 14Euros. This morning she is in my office at my conference table with her laptop, phone, my magnifying lens light and lots of papers spread out over the table. She made drawings where each screw went and placed each screw she took out on the drawing. Some of these screws are not 2mm long and less than 1mm in diameter. There were a bunch of them as in over ten that had to come out. She had the phone in pieces. She watched videos of the procedure and read texts while she was doing the surgery. This 15 year old girl had her phone put back together and working in short order. I sat there and watched. She even had the knowledge to ask me if I had a magnetic screwdriver that would fit these screws, which I did actually. I was impressed to say the least.
                        Location: The Black Forest in Germany

                        How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Black Forest View Post
                          Our daughter has an iphone 5s. It started having issues charging. She went online and found out that the charging port is famous for failing on that model. I wanted to buy her a new phone. She said there were lots of how to's on how to replace the port. I basically told her I didn't want to mess with going inside her phone and trying to replace the jack. I told her to order a new phone and use my account to pay for it. What does she do.....she ordered the part as a kit with all the tools to do the work for 14Euros. This morning she is in my office at my conference table with her laptop, phone, my magnifying lens light and lots of papers spread out over the table. She made drawings where each screw went and placed each screw she took out on the drawing. Some of these screws are not 2mm long and less than 1mm in diameter. There were a bunch of them as in over ten that had to come out. She had the phone in pieces. She watched videos of the procedure and read texts while she was doing the surgery. This 15 year old girl had her phone put back together and working in short order. I sat there and watched. She even had the knowledge to ask me if I had a magnetic screwdriver that would fit these screws, which I did actually. I was impressed to say the least.
                          That's awesome. Don't you love it when your kid ignores what you tell them and then goes on to show you that they were "right" all along? In a good way, of course.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by metalmagpie View Post
                            Uh, the latest Samsung Galaxy costs what, $700? That's a whole lot more than $150. The used cellphone market is thriving in this country. Because you don't choose to use it don't beat down those who do.

                            metalmagpie
                            Then why are you posting about your problems? As I read it, after a whole lot of work and frustration, you’ve now got a semi-functioning smart phone, a phone which best days are behind it in battery life, and which prospects of reliably connecting with your carrier remain questionable. In short a Samsung phone at best worth far less it’s retail value at ten times the effort of walking into a T-Mobile kiosk.

                            Failure in apples to apples comparison, NOT a new Samsung Galaxy, not comparable what you have nor the price of new retail. Not worth the effort in my opinion.

                            I lease my iphone 7 for $18 per month. Annualized that's $216. I can upgrade every year. I don't want to own the dam thing, I don't want to take it apart, I don't want to fiddle with SIM cards, I don't care about resale value. I just want the phone to work, reliably, for personal and business use. I just don't see your savings.
                            Gary


                            Appearance is Everything...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Black Forest View Post
                              Our daughter has an iphone 5s. It started having issues charging. She went online and found out that the charging port is famous for failing on that model. I wanted to buy her a new phone. She said there were lots of how to's on how to replace the port. I basically told her I didn't want to mess with going inside her phone and trying to replace the jack. I told her to order a new phone and use my account to pay for it. What does she do.....she ordered the part as a kit with all the tools to do the work for 14Euros. This morning she is in my office at my conference table with her laptop, phone, my magnifying lens light and lots of papers spread out over the table. She made drawings where each screw went and placed each screw she took out on the drawing. Some of these screws are not 2mm long and less than 1mm in diameter. There were a bunch of them as in over ten that had to come out. She had the phone in pieces. She watched videos of the procedure and read texts while she was doing the surgery. This 15 year old girl had her phone put back together and working in short order. I sat there and watched. She even had the knowledge to ask me if I had a magnetic screwdriver that would fit these screws, which I did actually. I was impressed to say the least.
                              Good story. As well, I've found crap gets into the Lightning port, preventing plugs from being completely inserted. The cable will work (ie, can still sync with iTunes on a computer), but the phone won't charge. Get the crap out and it's back to working.

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