We now present the fourth installment of iPhone users suffering unacceptable issues with AT&T GoPhone prepaid accounts. And now, for the standard confusion-reducing boilerplate:
Contrary to popular belief, AT&T and Apple fully support iPhone’s use on prepaid. This has been a problem for both companies, since many of their own staff aren’t aware that this is an option. The process requires you to fail credit check inside of iTunes activation (which you can do several ways), and then you are put on a typical GoPhone Pick Your Plan account.
What problems have there been? It’s better to ask what hasn’t broken, rather than what has worked. Everything from basic activations, to EDGE data, has failed. Worse, these failures have specifically affected GoPhone customers… confusing support staff and even delaying resolution for days at a time. iPhone users on GoPhone accounts have suffered from at least three national EDGE data outages lasting over five days each. Each time, the problem has been a trivial fix on AT&T’s end, with the exception of the crusade it has taken for customers to let AT&T know there is a problem each time.
The latest problem stems from upgrading GoPhone accounts when a new iPhone comes out. AT&T is pointing the finger at bugs in iTunes on Apple’s end… but the bottom line is clear: You’re going to have to go on a crusade of your own if you want to replace a prepaid iPhone with a new iPhone. And, now that the 16 GB iPhone is now out, many will want to make the upgrade.
“We get these calls all the day, and we point them up to our supervisor, who passes it up the chain to Apple. Apple does nothing…” cited one AT&T customer care representative, who wished to remain nameless. PhoneNews.com independently verified that this representative works inside the help desk specifically for activating iPhone units on GoPhone accounts.
AT&T’s internal workaround is, by their own admission, not good for the customer to follow. A customer must first call the AT&T iPhone Activation department, as they are instructed to do with iTunes activation fails (actually, it claims iPhone cannot be activated on the account… even though an iPhone already was activated via iTunes on the GoPhone account). But, that unfortunately… is where things get worse, not easier.
A customer is then transferred to the iPhone-on-GoPhone activation help desk. The help desk then attaches the IMEI and SIM ID from the new iPhone to the existing account. However, iTunes still will refuse to activate the new iPhone. The customer must then go through the process of setting up a new account. AT&T says that it will process through Apple’s server, and that AT&T will cancel out the new account, and attach the new iPhone to the old account.
However, this did not work for our trial account. AT&T proceeded to set up a new account, and attached the new iPhone to the new account. AT&T representatives then spent the following hour reversing the new account’s creation. Finally, we were told to call back the original iPhone activation number… and be transferred back to the iPhone-on-GoPhone activation help desk.
After another hour, AT&T representatives had found the issue… our test account had passed the credit check, which prevented the new iPhone from attaching to a prepaid account. AT&T representatives also acknowledged that “in the real world, this would be ‘extremely frustrating’ for a customer”. We did not acknowledge, at this time, that we were not a typical customer, in the real world. Eventually, AT&T directed us to enter dummy data (after we went through three rounds of logical reasoning about the law and entering dummy data into the activation fields). After another hour, iTunes processed the activation and attached the upgrade iPhone to the existing account.
The cost to the customer? Four hours and a potential ding on their credit, which they will have to spend another four hours reporting to each credit reporting bureau as incorrect (else risking a ding on their credit scores).
With AT&T pointing the finger at Apple, and AT&T representative going as far as to implicate that Apple does not want to fix these problems… we have to ask, is Apple, and/or AT&T, tacitly forcing customers onto postpay accounts through a means of technical attrition? How much can Apple and AT&T legitimately stonewall GoPhone customers with outage, after outage, and then require four hours per account to upgrade them to a new iPhone?
Both AT&T and Apple declined multiple opportunities to comment on this story…