09 May 2013

How To Switch From AT&T to T-Mobile

Just recently I made the switch from AT&T wireless to T-Mobile using my own iPhone 4s. Beyond some administrativa, all I had to do was purchase a T-Mobile SIM card and I was ready to go.

Somewhere back around 1999 or 2000, I switched to Voicestream Wireless (switching away from Airtouch Wireless). Sometime after that, T-Mobile acquired Voicestream and I stuck with this service until 2008 when I switched to AT&T so that I could get an iPhone. I always had great customer service from T-Mobile and I had excellent roaming in Europe where I traveled often at the time. Now that T-Mobile is supporting the iPhone I have decided to switch back. Given that T-Mobile recently announced its lack of requirement for a contract and better rates than AT&T, this only made it easier to drop AT&T.

I did experience some headache with the whole iPhone unlocking requirement, but it only cost me about two hours of time. Given that my iPhone from AT&T was a GSM phone, there was no requirement for me to purchase a new phone. I could have purchased a new iPhone 5 but based on some friends telling me that the battery life on it is pretty miserable, and the fact that there is not a compelling reason to upgrade, I decided that I don't really need it. (In fact, I have been toying with the idea of switching from an iPhone to an old school cell phone. The cost savings to be had by doing this is amazing. But, in the end, I opted to stay with my iPhone 4s.) Once the iPhone starts providing an embedded NFC chip, I might consider upgrading.

Here are the necessary steps to switch from AT&T to T-Mobile:

  1. Unlock your phone - You must submit a request to AT&T to unlock your phone. This can take a few days so make sure to allow for ample time. This is where I had trouble but because I was outside of any contract with AT&T and I was in good standing, the operator I dealt with was able to unlock my iPhone 4s instantly while I was on the phone with him.
  2. Unlock your account - Remove any password from your AT&T account so T-Mobile can take it over.
  3. Transfer your phone number - If you plan to keep your phone number, then just transfer it to T-Mobile.
  4. Purchase a T-Mobile SIM card - If you are utilizing the BYOD plan (Bring Your Own Device), then you need to purchase a SIM card from T-Mobile. The cost is only US$10 so no big deal.
  5. Sync your iPhone - Before making the SIM card change, make sure to sync your iPhone with iTunes so that everything is backed up.
  6. Swap the AT&T SIM card for the T-Mobile SIM card - Pop out the SIM card slot and swap the SIM cards.
  7. Re-sync your iPhone - After inserting the T-Mobile SIM card, a message popped up on the iPhone stating that the card was not activated. After re-syncing the iPhone via iTunes, this went away and I immediately received a welcome SMS message from T-Mobile.
  8. Set up your voicemail - The last thing to do is set up your voicemail and you should be good to go.
  9. Request to have visual voicemail enabled - For whatever reason, visual voicemail must be manually enabled by T-Mobile and you need to call in to request that this take place.
Now I'm on the T-Mobile network and I have no contract whatsoever. Furthermore, the plan I signed up for is only US$50/month with unlimited talk and text + 500mb of data. I can upgrade to unlimited data at any time for an additional US$20/month which I will probably do (and it provides tethering capability). I'm just curious to know if I will actually exceed 500mb of usage/month before I make that change.

I'm hopeful that this information will help others understand the steps to making this switch.


  1. Yes! Thank you for the information! You answered all of my concerns beautifully.

  2. The steps are clearly laid off. No questions asked!

  3. This is excellent information! Thank you!!!!