Like many of you, I was really excited to see that Google was attempting to join the fray of online phone vendors. The news outlets reporting that this is a “revolutionary” look at how to sell a phone are missing two things: 1) Amazon has been doing this forever 2) Ebay has been allowing individuals to do this forever, and 3) Google is still planning to sell phones with subsidy from carriers (albeit poorly). Nothing revolutionary here, just revolutionary for them.
But if you’re like me, and you have a T-Mobile Family Plan, and you like T-Mobile’s customer service (I can’t count the times I’ve called and they’ve found a way to reduce my bill and simultaneously increase minutes or add this feature at no cost, or tweak that feature for improved service), and you have no qualms about re-committing to another 2 years with the old gal, then it felt like a slap in the <insert extremity here> when you realized in the process of checkout that you “didn’t qualify” for the subsidized price of $179. What the hell, Google? I am a customer in good standing for 22+ months. I qualify. All 3 of the people on my plan qualify. I have been your champion, Google. I bought a G1 despite the scoffs from my iPhone cronies, and despite eyerolls from my friends and family. And this is how you do me? Oh, I can’t stay mad at you. I’ll give it another try.
After numerous attempts at different combinations of the checkout options, I was almost ready to give up. I had called T-Mobile support several times, and each rep either had different spotty knowledge, or advised me to contact Google, but didn’t have a number they could give me.
Possibly the most frustrating part of getting the Nexus One if you are a T-Mobile Family Plan subscriber is dealing with the hoops you have to jump through to be eligible in the eyes of Google’s ridiculous eligibility checking process.
The problem with Google’s checkout system here stems from two things. First, T-Mobile does not allow a single account to contain a mixture of Family Plans and Individual Plans, unless one of those plans is a data-only plan. This means that when you go through Google’s checkout, and it detects (from your SSN + Passport/Driver’s License) that you already have a T-Mobile account, you can’t simply “add a new line with a new number.” Nice of them to give us an explanation of why the @%&$ not. Oh, right. They don’t.
Second, Google’s software apparently doesn’t know how to interface or interpret T-Mobile’s account information for Family Plans. This actually doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever. Fine. This time they tell you that they can’t upgrade a whole slew of accounts when you fail the eligibility check.
Ok, so without any more bitching about the difficulties of a) obtaining this knowledge, and b) acting upon it, I give you “The Guide” to getting the Nexus One for $179 if you already have a Family Plan with T-Mobile and are otherwise eligible for an upgrade (customer in good standing for 22+ months).
This knowledge comes after talking to 5 different T-Mobile reps.
The steps to get the subisidized price if you are a 22+ month “good standing” customer with a Family Plan of any kind (legacy, myFaves, Even More, etc):
- If you have a Family Plan (myFaves, Even More, etc.) you *must* split all the lines on the Family Plan off to individual Even More plans. T-Mobile doesn’t allow one person to have multiple types of lines on the same account, and doesn’t allow one person to have multiple accounts.
- Wait 2-3** hours for Google’s system to replicate account data from T-Mobile. **estimated
- Now that all your lines are on individual plans, you can use the steps on Google’s site to modify an existing individual plan and then upgrade your phone.
- Once you have received and activated your new phone on your existing number, it will convert your plan to the $80/mo Even More plan.
- At this point you can call T-Mobile and have them add all your lines to an Even More Family Plan (not the Even More Plus Family Plan).
- And if all this fails, she gave me HTC’s support phone number: 888-216-4736
Good luck to those intrepid enough to follow this guide. It wasn’t fun, and I’m still nervous about it.
UPDATE: It appears I was a bit hasty in writing my guide. The steps above actually lead you to be able to upgrade your existing line with a $150 discount on the Nexus One, dropping the price from $529 to $379. To get the $179 pricing, you must select “Add a new individual line of service with a new number to my T-Mobile account.” This will add a new line to your T-Mobile account, which you can then add back to your Family Plan, and remove your old line.
UPDATE #2: Apparently, when you switch to an individual plan, you can choose the lowest-end $39.99 plan with no SMS and no Data, and the Google checkout process then gives you an “upgrade” price of $279. This might be worthwhile for those not wanting to lose their current number.
UPDATE #3: The steps I listed above, when splitting to the $49.99 Even More plan, actually get you to a subsidized “upgrade” price of $379. If, when you split to individual plans, you choose the basic $39.99 Even More plan, with no SMS and no Data, you get a subsidized “upgrade” price of $279.
To get the full subsidy of $179, you must activate a NEW line of service with a NEW number. This is the route I chose, because with Google Voice the number I give out to people would change anyways.
T-Mobile said (3 separate reps confirmed this) that once you have committed to the 2-year $80/mo. Even More plan that Google bundles, you can add that line to an Even More (*not* the Even More Plus) Family plan, which carries over your 2-year contract commitment, without penalty. For those uninitiated into T-Mobile’s new “streamlined” plan system, “Even More” means a higher monthly, subsidized phone upgrades, and contract commitments, while “Even More Plus” means lower monthly (since you’re not filling the coffers for your next upgrade), no subsidized phone upgrades, and no contract commitment.
This was a bit of an ordeal, and a lot more hassle than it should have been. My next phone purchase will be unsubsidized (now that T-Mobile and others have rate plans that are lower to reflect the fact you’re not “pre-paying” for that upgrade subsidy).
On another note, I’m really not sure why HTC doesn’t just set up their own online store and sell phones directly. I’m not clear what value Google is adding here as the distributor.
UPDATE #4: Google is now issuing a $100 refund if you went through this process and bought the Nexus One using the “upgrade” option for an individual plan to get the price of $379. That brings your cost to $279. I thought Google folks were supposedly good at math? :O
UPDATE #5: After all this nonsense, I found out today from T-Mobile that step #5 DOES NOT WORK the way they told me it would. You can’t just call them and have them add all your lines to a Family Plan. Doing so within 120 days of your Nexus purchase will cause you to pay an ETF to Google, equal to the price difference between the $179 price and the $529 price.
I started with 3 lines on a MyFaves 1200 Family Plan and was paying about $190-200 a month. I split this into 3 Even More 500 lines with Android data on 2 of the lines (my wife inherited my G1). Total cost per month at this point was roughly $200 still ($49.99 x 3 plus tax). I then bought the Nexus One for $179 ($229 with tax), which added a 4th Even More line for another $80/mo. Total cost per month now at $280ish.
Now, at this point I could have cancelled one of my out-of-contract lines, saving $49.99/mo for that line, dropping the monthly down to about $240/mo for my 2 old lines + the 1 new line from Google (3 lines total).
Instead, I cancelled the Google line, dropping the monthly back down to $200/mo, retaining out-of-contract status on all 3 lines, and eating the $350 that Google will charge me now. Had I kept their line for another 120 days though, that’s 4x$40=$160 to keep that subsidized price, plus I am committed for another 2 years. At the same time, we are now signed up for the Even More Family 1500 plan with unlimited text/data/tmo-to-tmo/nights&weekends.
So at this point, I have the option (if I can explain all this math to my wife), of just buying her an unsubsidized phone upgrade for her and the other person on our plan, and drop to an Even More Plus 1500 Family Plan, which would cost us $125+tax/mo, for a total of about $150/mo. So basically in a year’s time, we will have saved $600 on our phone bill, and that will buy each of them a very nice phone. Wish me luck explaining this to her.
Sorry to get everyone’s hopes up. I think Google has shown that they can f*ck things up as bad as any big company out there (at least on a first try). Hopefully they will learn from it, and/or HTC will get into direct handset sales instead (like they should have this time anyways).
MORAL OF THE STORY: Save your pennies and just buy the effing thing unsubsidized. That or don’t have family. Your choice.