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AT&T Will Force Your Data Plan For Your Unlocked Out-of-Contract "Smart" Phone (clickboom.me)
200 points by joelrunyon on Feb 3, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments



AT&T are scum and this sort of stuff is standard practice with them. You shouldn't be giving them your money if you can avoid it.

If you've got a GSM phone with the right radio bands, I suggest taking a look at the $30 plans here: http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/monthly-4g-plans

For CDMA I believe Sprint and Verizon offer prepaid plans without contracts at around $50 for talk/data.

The key is that IMO, a prepaid plan makes the terms of the arrangement clear, and if the carrier decides to try and overstep their boundaries, you can cut them off. They don't have the ability to take you to collections or withdraw from your account or increase your bill behind your back.

Of course, if T-Mobile tries to screw with you as a prepaid customer, they've got some leverage since your only alternative is AT&T. Not so great. Still, better than nothing...


I love T-Mobile, and not just for their sane plans and prices. They are also, you know, nice to me. Every time I have called their support they have been friendly, competent, and helpful. I have never gotten even 1 of 3 from any of the other carriers.

Seriously T-Mobile, come up with more excuses for me to give you money.


> their support they have been friendly, competent, and helpful

I've been a tmobile customer since 2007. In the middle of last year I took my line from a family plan into an individual plan. That involved speaking to 7 different people (several of whom contradicted each other as they then forwarded me to the next one) and being hung up on 3 times (as they messed up the transfers).

Then the bills I started getting were truly bizarre with numerous unspecified additional charges and credits. (My very first bill had 5 regulatory fees!) At one point when I called in again, the rep took 80 minutes to figure out the bill (ie what the various numbers were for) and then another 30 minutes dealing with the ones that shouldn't be there. It didn't help that what customers are shown on their bills and what the reps get to see are not the same, and took about 15 minutes to establish that.

Around the new year they sent an email saying that you could make impossible to have slamming, except of course they took about 7 paragraphs to say that. They said it could be disabled on the website, so off I went. I couldn't figure it out since there was absolutely no setting with text remotely similar to their email. Their rep couldn't find it either and had me call back again during business hours where another person first picked 2 other settings that couldn't possibly be it, before finally settling on "Block Content Downloads" as being the setting which doesn't match up its description.

TLDR: I would be pleased to encounter the same competence you did, and would be far more pleased if things worked so I never had to call in the first place. Whenever people talk about how good someone's support is, they never seem to express the negative that they had to call in the first place.


To piggy-back off this: My family left T-Mobile because we didn't get reception in the 1st floor of our house. The last monthly bill was for 8 days of service out of 31, so it should have been prorated, but wasn't - they charged us for the whole month, despite automatically detecting the date we ended service. The rep said that this was just how their "system" handled mid-month terminations.

My point is not that T-Mobile sucks, but that all cell providers will provide delightful fair service to many, and cheat and piss off some. Take it with a grain of salt when someone says that one company is "scum."


Yeah, I switched to AT&T from T-Mobile and T-Mobile charged me for the whole upcoming month even though I made sure to switch over on the last day of my billing cycle. It was cheaper for me to just pay it then fight it...


Same here, I canceled my plan mid-month and T-Mobile sent me a bill for the whole month. However, I gave them a call and they simply took the entire month off, I didn't even have to pay for the days of the month I used. I called them again a month later to make sure I don't have any outstanding balance, and my account was all paid off.


It's funny how nice these corporations seem to act when breaking into new markets. Ask an european about T-Mobile and he will tell you pretty much the same stories that you tell about AT&T.


It is my goal to support the most desirable company in any market. Don't think that I would hesitate for a second to change carriers if T-Mobile stopped being nice, competent, and helpful and AT&T stopped being jerks and offering reasonable plans and policies. Vote with your wallet and all that, and right now, T-Mobile is the only cell phone service provider that I am aware of that doesn't suck in my market.


The tragedy - at least in my experience - is that in the long run they're really all the same. "Trust us, we want only your best! (your money)".

I can only second kevingadd's advice to try and not tie yourself to one with a longterm contract. The fewer customers they have locked in, the more careful they have to be about not pissing them off.


T-Mobile is my favorite cellular provider in the US by far and I used them for years before starting work (company pays for phone and Verizon has the best network).

They made having a smartphone affordable and made it easy to upgrade by reselling your unlocked phone online (recouping most of the unsubsidized cost).


Second all of that. Also their data plans are nice, if you exceed it (which I do sometimes via tethering, which also just works with T-Mobile), you're not cut off just rate-limited, and to a rate that's still fine for browsing websites, just not for watching Youtube.


At this point it isn't even about the data anymore, it's the simple fact that they're "choosing a plan" for me, without any input from me. Absolutely baffling.

I'll check out those options. Thanks.


If you're out of contract, why can't you just ditch them for another carrier? (or at least threaten to - it may make them more amenable to your very reasonable requests)


> If you've got a GSM phone with the right radio bands, I suggest taking a look at the $30 plans here: http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/monthly-4g-plans

Keep in mind the top $30 plan (unlimited data) requires you to activate a new phone that you have to buy from Walmart.


It does not require a phone from WalMart. I ordered a new SIM card from t-mobile.com and activated it with the $30 plan. However, you cannot get it in T-Mobile stores.


I tried to do the same, but I can't activate the plan because my sim card is not activated. If I go into a store, they can't activate the Walmart Plan. How did you do it?


"I can't activate the plan because my sim card is not activated"

When you order the sim from T-mobile directly, you can activate it. You can purchase it online from them for 99 cents.


They let me activate it in the store. Just ask politely and they'll do it.


Not accurate, actually, though I understand your confusion. I ordered a SIM from them a few weeks ago (on the website) and then activated my phone with one of those plans. No Walmart.


Went to T-Mobile store friday, they sold me a microsim for my nexus 4 and told me to go to the walmart down the street to activate the $30 plan. I tried calling customer support but they also told me to go to walmart to get the plan.

I get to walmart and they tell me I have to buy one of their shitty phones to activate the plan. I call customer support again and asked if I could return the sim I bought at the store, and they said "it depends on the store."

Lied to and pissed off customer here. Just ordered a sim online and we'll see how that goes. I'm going to try to get a refund for this card anyway.


The 99cent sim on their site works fine.


I've got that plan on my Nexus 4, bought from the Google Play store. It's not Walmart exclusive, it's only available at Walmart or T-Mobile's website.


This is not true at all. I am on the $30 plan on a Galaxy Nexus purchased through the play store. You can order your sim card for the plan from T-Mobile now as well as Walmart.


Yes, however you can order the (micro, if applicable) SIM activation kit online for $0.99 and free shipping. If you can't wait then your only option is picking up a SIM card kit from a T-Mobile store for $20.


T-Mobile stores no longer sell SIM card kits; you must buy them online.

You can also regularly get a T-Mobile prepaid phone of some variant for $20 at Walgreens, which comes with the "Activation Kit" (SIM card and secret number) as well as a terrible GSM-only phone you can throw away.


They do sell SIM cards, I was at a T-Mobile store yesterday. I don't understand the rationale for selling SIM cards in-store at 20 times the cost of buying online.


If you are charming like me you can get a SIM card at a T-Mobile store for free (did so last week in SF). Everything is negotiable.


I picked up a SIM card for my new Nexus 4 in-store a couple of weeks ago. Just walked in, told them what I needed, was promptly given a card for $0.


As much as I'm happy with my T-Mobile experience I'm not sure I'd call them nice. According to Consumer Reports Verizon is the clear leader in customer service overall, with T-Mobile and AT&T not that different for most people.

What separates T-Mobile is that they're much less evil. Things like making pre-paid cards easy, giving you a discount if you're not on a plan, not going to bat in Congress for SOPA etc. They may be stupid or unfeeling sometimes, but they never seem to be actively opposed to one's freedom like the other big carriers are.


Telcos like AT&T are scum and they have a thousand shady ways to get money out of customers. But I don't think this is one of them.

There is no way to use a smartphone without using data. Smartphone OSs use data in the background for so many things, for even voicemail. So, in this case, I think they are justified in adding a data plan. It is near impossible to use iOS or android without data, even when using them without any apps.


>> There is no way to use a smartphone without using data?

Er, turn off mobile data and rely on wi-fi. Calls and texts still work and your phone will behave as if you are roaming abroad (i.e if you crack and turn on mobile data, prepare to open your wallet).


Reading that i think that the worst offender is the iphone that keeps phoning home. Not that at&t is not wrong as well. just that the iphone manges to screw the user even more.

if apple hadn't bent over so badly to allow telcos to screw the customers with the whole tethering fiasco (which is still going on. unbelievable. all you sheeple giving out free money) they wouldn't even know you had a special needs phone.


If you turn off data on the iPhone it does no phoning home.

If it did phone home when data is turned off explicitly then I'd have been completely and utterly screwed by AT&T for the month I spent in Europe.


right... doesn't that void the purpose of having a smart phone to begin with?

what if i need to use data and plan to control how much i use? As i did on all my travels for the first day or two until i could secure a local SIM card.


Well, the phone does not phone home per se but AT&T analyses the IMEI number. In Sweden if you try to use data without a balance it simply does not work. What AT&T is doing is simply wrong, throwing services down OPs throat.


Before you get a chance to go to settings app and turn off mobile data, the OS probably already made 10 data requests to check 20 settings. It is data call. Whether the telco should count that as data and charge for it is a different question.


So.. change the setting before you put the sim in?

And if they don't have data in the plan the carrier by default just doesn't forward the packets


Ah, but why do that when you can just charge usurious rates for those who don't have the "benefit" of a data plan?

AT&T (and most of the wireless industry) are merely toll-gate operators - they are very good at making sure you pay for any usage - even the usage you didn't want to make (ie, receiving an MMS on your non-data flip phone that you didn't intend - sorry, that's $2).


That must be possible I guess


The first thing I did with my galaxy nexus was turn off mobile data, and I haven't turned it back on since. It's not that hard.


So? It's not necessary. It's not like your phone wont work without service.


If you turn off the data your phone is as good as a dumb phone it can not use data at all unless you are on a wifi network.


> it can not use data at all unless you are on a wifi network.

Which is >95% of the time for me, and many people.


If you turn the data off on say, an iPhone, it's as good as say, an iPod touch with calling capabilities, which is really all a lot of people want.


I would love a phone that only made cell calls and texts and used wifi for everything else. I suspect most people would too.


AT&T are scum and this sort of stuff is standard practice with them.

"Them" is almost all wireless companies, what Verizon does, AT&T follows soon and vice-versa so consumers cannot penalize them. Startup costs are in the tens of billions and you have to fight incumbents so they essentially have a monopoly (or duopoly, or...)


AT&T is a company providing a service for a price. They are not scum.

I've used AT&T for many years. I'm not always delighted with every policy - the now changed policy of refusing to unlock out of contract iPhones was a particular bone. However I have almost always been satisfied with the service and have had no problem contacting them to correct billing issues.

Why people feel entitled to services at the price they choose is beyond me. Telecom is a competitive market. Just because someone somewhere can get cheaper service doesn't mean you deserve the same.

In the last 15 years we've gone from Dewey decimal to better than Hitchhiker's Guide. Stop your bitching and appreciate what you have. Your ungratefulness is likely to bring a well deserved meteor strike leaving you with fewer telecom options.


> Why people feel entitled to services at the price they choose is beyond me. Telecom is a competitive market.

Because it isn't a competitive market. Wireless telecoms have been granted licenses to spectrum by the FCC so they can run their businesses. There's a limited amount of spectrum and it's hard for new companies to get any of it. The wireless telecoms industry is anything but competitive.


There are at least 3 major nationwide providers competing against each other on service and price. There are also many secondary local providers and providers renting networks from the national providers.

How is that not competitive?


You can't take a unlocked GSM phone onto Verizon or Sprint. You can't take a Verizon phone onto Sprint. You can't take a Sprint phone onto Verizon.

The only carrier you can choose with GSM is T-Mobile. But wait, they use the 1900MHz 3G band, so if you've got a phone that doesn't use that band, you're stuck with EDGE data.

LTE won't change this, they've chosen different bands.


You can however sell your phone and buy one for a different network. iPhones in particularly have a very high resale value, and regardless the phone you bought maintains its market value and is resalable.

Telecom networks are extremely expensive to build. Having more than a few on the same technology would be wasteful, and consumers benefit from a diversity of technologies in the long run in addition to some level of network compatibility.

But seriously, don't like your network? Sell your phone on eBay and buy a different one that works on a different network. How hard is that?


"Competitive" is not binary. Yes, 4 networks is better than 1, but it's not like you have 30 choices.

Even with MVNOs, there aren't many real options. If Verizon were GSM it'd be a lot better, but as of now you are really locked in.


Your phone is freely salable. You are not locked in.


>Why people feel entitled to services at the price they choose is beyond me

Did you read the article? ATT detected he had a smartphone and upgraded his plan to include data, forcibly. That's like GM saying, oh we've detected your car comes with OnStar and are activating the OnStar plan. If you don't like it, you're more than free to sell your car.


The phones are slightly cheaper, but the point stands. Good analogy.


Except you can switch to a different provider. You are not forced to do anything. If AT&T wants to have this requirement, that's their choice, just as it's your choice to use T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint.


You can't switch to Verizon or Sprint with a GSM phone.


> Your ungratefulness is likely to bring a well deserved meteor strike leaving you with fewer telecom options.

I was perfectly happy with my previous contract. If I'm being "ungrateful" for the privilege of getting charged extra for a service I didn't agree to, then I guess we have different definitions of gratefulness.


You keep saying your got "a service <you> didn't agree to", but, of course, you did agree to it. You didn't understand what you were agreeing to, but you accepted all of AT&T terms and conditions as you signed up for their service. And this is hardly news, as AT&T forced data plans on smart phones on Sept 6, 2009.

http://gizmodo.com/5342749/att-forcing-data-plans-with-all-s...

They have a humorous justification: to keep their customers from having massive data bills by accident. Yeah, right...

The key to having a WiFi only smartphone on AT&T is stealth. You must keep a dumb phone around to switch to as necessary, and then you can sneak a smartphone on the network that has never been seen by AT&T as a smartphone. For example, you might buy a T-Mobile (only) unlocked smartphone and then put your AT&T SIM card into it. Be sure to disable all the data network interfaces first thing, as they may give you away. You can buy a dumb phone to AT&T to verify for $15 on sales from GoPhone, or any number of other prepaid phones.

I would be interested to know if now, ab initio, AT&T is able to detect that a specific IMEI number is a smartphone. I think the worldwide range of IMEI numbers is too vast for that to work, and thank goodness T-Mobile didn't merge with AT&T.


You have a choice. Switch to T-Mobile.

Regardless, calling AT&T scum is out of line. You are not mandated to purchase their services.


I never called them scum. Not my words.


Its not competitive when everyone is locked in 2 year contacts. Want a true competitive market, get rid of contacts and force people to buy their phones.


There are thousands of people each day signing up for NEW 2 year contracts. The telcos compete for those new and renewing customers.


"Why people feel entitled to services at the price they choose is beyond me."

Sometimes, it's crazy, but people expect real competition versus oligopolists that mostly collude between themselves and show zero concern for regulatory action.


I pay about $14 a month for 800 talk minutes and 300mb data. There is real competition in a few countries, we should expect that in the free market USA.


Totally agreed. Deregulation and competition are pretty at odds.


> the now changed policy of refusing to unlock out of contract iPhones was a particular bone

> Telecom is a competitive market.

Can you appreciate the dissonance between these two statements?


That AT&T changed their policy due to competitive pressures? Not very dissonant.


This started happening about 1.5 years ago on AT&T. Any smart phone that AT&T "knows about" will get a ~$30/mo smartphone data plan added the moment you insert your SIM card into it. You'll get a text message ~30 minutes later saying so.

You can get around this by using a phone that hasn't previously been on AT&T's network. For example, I have a Galaxy Nexus, iPhone 2G, and Nexus One that have all gotten past this check and I've kept my $10/mo data plan. My iPhone 3G, 4 and Atrix 4G were all previously locked to AT&T and so have caused this message previously.

Once you do this you can put your SIM card back in a "dumb phone" and ~24 hours later you should be able to remove the smart phone data plan from your account via the AT&T web interface.


http://venturebeat.com/2010/12/21/fcc-net-neutrality-is-a-go...

I wonder if this is legal because of the net neutrality ruling on mobile networks that the FCC put out a couple of years ago.


I was told by AT&T that my new phone "required" a data plan but they never actually turned it on.

... no, I just checked. They've been billing me $30 a month for a data plan. BASTARDS!


I've never heard of this before, but it's absolute crap. I'd take five minutes and fill out the the FCC complaint form at http://www.fcc.gov/complaints (choose Wireless Telephone > Billing, Service, Privacy ... > Online Form). Send them back a letter with the bill (including the reference number that the FCC gave you). The correspondence will be handy if they ever try to cut you off or send you to collections.

It's amazing how Slamming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_slamming) refuses to die.


It's not "for all intensive purposes", it's "for all intents and purposes"

http://grammarist.com/eggcorns/for-all-intensive-purposes/


If I hadn't read this comment, I'd twitch for hours—thank you.


I never knew that. Fixed. Thanks.


The article you stated states that "for all intensive purposes" is common usage, although not correct. At some point, it becomes accepted usage.

Kind of like when you try to say that hackers only tinker with things. Words and meanings change.


Hackers generally aren't in the business of turning meaning into gibberish, which is what these 'eggcorns' are.

Imho, it's worth resisting nonsensical cargo-cult language, even if only as a matter of principle.


I agree with this, and I'm definitely not a prescriptivist, but I have to ask: what, exactly, is an "intensive purpose" in this context?


I've had this happen to me. I agree it's presumptuous and toeing the line but just so you know I've always been able call them and have the data plan turned off for good on that line.

One of the arguments I make with them is that if I have kids on my family plan who go off to school and pop their feature phone SIM card into their friends smartphone, I can't be expected to deal with that headache - and if AT&T isn't going to recognize that the person who pays the bill should have the final say in the matter, and they don't offer basic parental controls, I'll take my business elsewhere.

It's worked at least three times on three different lines off the top of my head.


I spent about 60 minutes on the phone with them today and they didn't back down (they'll take it off if I use a dumb phone, but they'll still charge me for this month).

I'll try your line of thought. Thanks.


Chargeback. Your credit card company takes a dim view of people who try to bill you for things you haven't ordered.


Be careful about that. If you chargeback and the large company fights back, you could be in a world of pain with the phone company AND the credit card company!


Have you red your original contract? Is this something covered in it?


Pro tip: If you legitimately fail at reasonably resolving an issue like the OP, try filing a Better Business Bureau complaint. You'd be surprised. I filed one against Verizon last month and got a call a week later from their "executive team" offering me exactly what their support agents said was "impossible, against policy and regulation". Got a $550 account credit :)


A little known aspect of the tough as nails deal that apple cut with at&t for a lengthy US exclusive deal was that that apple got a not insubstantial piece of every iphone subscriber's service fee from at&t. Not far below $10/mo/subscriber when the iphone first rolled out as I understand it. This is why AT&T has had a variety of fee recouping schemes on the iphone over the years. This is where all the verizon iphone rumors came from every year after the first year or two - the deal got renegotiated yearly after the first two and both parties were playing big time hardball, though I am under the impression the subsidy amount dropped dramatically by the end. I think they still have some obligations to pay on some subscribers that predate the loss of exclusivity.


Another part of that deal was that the phones were unsubsidized, and the data plan was a lot cheaper than AT&T's other data plans ($20 for unlimited, everything else was $30 at the time). I am pretty sure that Apple sacrificed all of the monthly revenue from AT&T when they moved to the more conventional US subsidy model with the iPhone 3G.


It's not clear if he's referring to a prepaid plan here. Prepaid definitely is the safest bet - essentially no surprises, and little ability for them to rip you off. I use prepaid AT&T (T-Mobile seems to have less coverage where I go) when I'm in the States, and the data is optional.

On prepaid it used to be that the available/required plans depended on the IMEI used to activate the SIM. So if you bring a crapphone and activate then switch the SIM into your iPhone you should be set and not need an upgrade. Not sure if that's still the case and they only periodically audit or what.


I use the AT&T prepaid service as well (GoPhone) on a factory unlocked smartphone; I don't use the data, but have the ability to turn it on if I need to.

As it turns out, one can just get a GoPhone sim at an AT&T store and get it activated then and there (no need to take a dumbphone or your smartphone there at all). The sim costs 99 cents. I have been using this sim for the past 6 months.


The last time I checked, you couldn't use a GoPhone SIM in an iPhone, period (though this could have easily changed, especially now that T-Mobile is deep into their refarm). Easily the #1 complaint of international iPhone users visiting the US.


Correct. Some of the bundled packages have SIMs on plans that are IMEI locked and you can't pop them into better phones and have them work. A friend and I got burned on that.


That's why I got prepaid. 10 euros a month off it for 250MB internet, 2-3 euros for calling and texting. Cheaper than any plan, even plans without calling and texting.

Oh no, prepaid is always more expensive! they tell me in the shop. They then walk straight over to their computers to show me, and they show me something slightly more expensive. What a joke, these subscriptions. Right now all my carrier has on me is my rough location (must be kept by Dutch law), call history, and phone number. Good luck billing me for using a Galaxy Note II.


my rough location (must be kept by Dutch law)

That's creepy, and would make me not want to carry a phone at all.


Where do you live that carriers don't keep a history of where your phone has been?

Every once in a while I read a news story where a suspect's cell phone was connected to the nearest tower to a dumped body, around the time the coroner thought the body was dumped.


I live in the US, and I'd be surprised if the carriers don't keep such data for a while. That's bad on its own. The part that's extra disturbing is that your government would require it.


I still have a hard time believing it, but it seems to be true. It was said in a Dutch documentary about the "panopticum", and it's mentioned in the privacy policy of my carrier.


This has been happening for at least several years now. I haven't tried it myself (I want a dataplan), but I hear that one way to avoid this is to have a smartphone that they don't sell, because they identify it by matching the device id to their database of smartphone ids, which is only populated with devices they sell? I'd be interested in hearing if this is true or not.


AT&T doesn't consider my Nokia N900 a smart phone. I'm pretty certain AT&T never sold the N900, so this could support your theory.


Apparently I've been "getting away with it" on my Galaxy Nexus (on which I turned off data instantly). So there's a data point for you.


    <a href="http://Impossible HQ" class="network_link">
        Part of the <span>Impossible HQ</span> network.
    </a>
Nice...


This is the same company that claims that how they measure your usage to determine DSL data caps is Proprietary. I think the time to put them under full regulation has come again.


I'm using T-Mobile in much the manner the author describes and not having any problems. This is exactly the kind of reason why their attempt to buy T-Mobile failed.


This is not an issue with prepaid plans, either carrier or MVNOs (Straight Talk, Net10, etc). You pay in advance for the features you want (data or not, etc), and that's what you get. No surprises, no automatically signing you up for anything, and no contracts.

We've been using these on our Galaxy Nexus and other unlocked Android and iPhone devices for a couple years now with great success.


Straight Talk is a great alternative. They use AT&T towers and only charge $45/month for unlimited call/text/data. Works on my iPhone.


Do you get visual voicemail with that plan?


No unfortunately.


That's too bad. As silly as it sounds, dial in voicemail is one of those things I don't think I'd ever willingly go back to.


I've got a xiaomi M1 which i picked up in China, it's only sold in mainland china and i've never had any problem telling AT&T that it's a dumb phone. No messages or anything. Maybe it's just an obscure enough phone. Miui is a pretty well maintained distribution of android.


I think AT&T has a database of IMEIs of known US smartphones. You used to be able to get around the scans with an imported Nokia, for example. I used to have a Nokia X6 that never got picked up for the two years I used it.


Yeah they did the same thing to me. That was the last straw for me after 12 years with ATT/Cingular/whatever it was before that. I switched to T-mobile, even though it was a bit of a hassle to unlock my phone and their coverage is not as good in my area.


I just went through this. Verizon also will not let you have a smart phone without a data plan.

My search for phone service without a dataplan lead me to h20wireless prepaid. I expect my yearly phone bill to be $100 now. (I rarely call or text anyone)


I've been using republic wireless for about a year now. $19 a month for unlimited everything.

For people who don't know, it's a hyrbid wifi phone that also allows for unlimited 3g, talk and texts on sprint's network when you're not near wifi.


Wow, just looking over it, that looks great!

How long has it been around for? I've never heard anything about it.


Right around a year (I got into the first beta slot). They are part of bandwidth.com, who does the backend voip infrastructure for lots of other big companies.


Regarding getting a working "dumb" phone, you should get an import if you don't find them in the US. You said you travel a lot, right? There are low-end phone models made for developing countries and such. Nokia has lots of 1xxx series phones that only offer the very basics. Here in the UK, I had no trouble finding a refurbished Nokia 1100 for 17 pounds on Amazon, while used ones go for 11. Apparently, this particular model has been discontinued, but wikipedia has a whole list of all Nokia models, some still in production. And if you still want colour screens, there's the 2xxx series.


This has been AT&T's practice for a while. The big carriers want to make huge monthly fees by charging people for the privilege to use a smartphone on their network.

You have a few alternatives: Get a GSM phone that AT&T can't recognize, i.e. one that wasn't made for AT&T. Alternatively you could switch to one of the prepaid carriers that allow smartphones at no extra fee. These options may not last forever though.

(I discuss a couple of prepaid options here: http://www.zappable.com/2012/07/smartphones-for-cheap-ii/ )


AT&T are one of the worst mobile companies in US. Avoid them as a plague.


This happened to me 3 days ago—I got a friend's old iPhone 3GS a few months back and hadn't had data. It was great, but now AT&T decided I need data and gave me the $30 plan rather than the base $20.


If the American people had any sense at all, we would drive AT&T out of business tomorrow. This story is no exception -- they live to do this kind of crap.

They boss the consumer around, but it is the consumer who truly holds all the power. Luckily for them, we consumers have been lulled into inattention, and somehow we put up with this crap.

Edit/Addition: We need to ban together, drive AT&T out of business, and serve notice to the corporate world that they fucking work for us, not the other way around.


Have you looked into ting? (ting.com) They currently only have android, and they are just using Sprint's network but they are month to month and it is super easy to turn off data.


Super pleased with Ting. They won't work with OP's AT&T phone, but their service is good-enough. Especially for voice, where the Sprint service roams on Verizon.

After a 2-3 month trial, I've switched everything to Ting (and bought stock in Tucows). Ting's rate plan and philosophy, or something similar, is the future. Just so long as Sprint doesn't kill them off....


For those wanting smartphone functionality without smartphone prices, I suggest using T-Mobile prepaid. I have a Nexus 4 that I use without a data plan. 90% of my life is spent within the comforting rays of wifi and I use my phone for email, web browsing, etc. When I'm out I can make voice calls when needed.

The best part, though, is that you can purchase data access for $3 a day. So when I travel I usually turn on the data so I can stay connected and look things up.


Id suggest 86-ing them and go to Straighttalk. They're an AT&T MVNO and for $55 you get unlimited service and data.


It's $45, but you only get 2GB of data. They advertise 'unlimited' but if you go even a byte over 2 GB they harass you with automated phone calls and then 'throttle' you (down to less than 1 Kb/s, so basically disable your data access, as everything times out).

The California Department of Consumer Affairs doesn't seem to care about their abuse of the term 'unlimited', but we should here.


Just to be clear. I also use StraightTalk, but here in Colorado, they are an MVNO for Verizon. Carlos Slim's organization has been able to cut MVNO deals with all 3 large US carriers I believe, and it's easy to understand the leverage they have (i.e. want your customers to be able to roam in Mexico?). I've thought about getting a smartphone and fooling the network to believe I have a feature phone, but I have abstained and simply use an iPod Touch (w/ SIP client) + a feature phone. It simply seems like too much effort for me right now.


I can confirm this, the exact same thing happened to me. No notice, just decided my phone should cost an extra $80/mo


What in the world kind of data plan did AT&T force you onto that costs $80/month?


In my case, the SIM card had the most basic of boring voice plans, then it upgraded it to the Data + Text + Voice "standard" iPhone plan


Not related to AT&T's crappy move, but I found it interesting that I went the opposite direction and now own a data-only plan. I get my voice and texting using VOIP for nearly free, and the data only plan is much cheaper than smartphone or voice only plans.


Details please! Who's your VOIP provider?


Surely that is illegal? How can you be signed up to a contract you don't agree to?


By signing a contract that says they can do this?


They didn't sign or agree to anything. Or at least so it says in the article. Unless you mean they signed an agreement that they agreed to literally any terms - which would be an unenforcable contract.

Your use of the question mark is unnecessary and smacks of snark. Please don't do that.


I assume the GP meant that the clause was in the original contract the author signed when getting the sim-card he's currently using. That contract might have a clause to the effect that smartphone usage with that SIM costs extra.


Seems unlikely. It looks like they replaced the contract. I'd be interested in seeing the datapan contract to confirm this!


Since Android is open source...Can I change something in the source code and make it appear to AT&T a normal phone? Then AT&T won't know that I am using a smartphone? Is there no way to send a wrong IMEI number?


Yes, XDA developers has a lot of info about this. Also search Google.


Things like this are why you should avoid phone contracts. I'm been happy with StraightTalk. I have the AT&T variant and it has been quite good. Only downside is no service outside of the US.


Just a small point, but #4d4d4d on white, with that particular font, is unreadable to some people. And it's probably more people than you realise.


+1 ... this happened to some of the users on my plan as well. Was finally able to turn it off but it took a lot of drama.


If you are getting voicemail on an iPhone, you're using data.

The arguments here don't make sense -- you can buy a prepaid AT&T phone for $30 or less at any drugstore, target or wal-mart.


What's with the svbtle ripoff?


What's with the only comments where I hear someone complain about a website looking like another website only ever asking about svbtle? What's so special about that site? Or in sites looking similar in the first place?


Dustin Curtis posts here. He made an unfortunate post announcing svbtle, which annoyed a few people. One of them made a svbtle rip off.

(http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3742314)

(http://dcurt.is/codename-svbtle)

(http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3744237)


I wasn't aware it was a proprietary design. I found the posterous theme on GitHub - https://github.com/lipka/svbtle-for-posterous



This has been going on for years.

AT&T forces $25 dataplan on anysmartphone (even sans contract) http://www.wirelessforums.org/alt-internet-wireless/how-spoo...

Just change your IMEI number. Yes it is still legal in the US (who knows for how long though).


Joel, you said "They can opt me into a contract that I didn't agree to", but are you sure that you didn't implicitly/legally agree to something that says they can do that? Maybe their Terms of Service?


According to the TOS, they're supposed to notify you and give you a way to cancel in 30 days. I was notified but never given the chance to cancel.


That means that you had 30 days from when they changed the TOS. Not from when they started charging you.


Oh, it is in the TOS. It's shady and I think it's dumb that AT&T does it, but he definitely "implicitly agreed" to it.


Should have changed his IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity Number) too.




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