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AT&T Makes Eligibility Transfer Process Clearer

AT&T has posted the specific set of steps you need to take to activate an iPhone 4 if you used the eligibility of another person on your family plan. While eligibility is transferrable, an AT&T spokesperson told me, it was initially unclear how you would activate your phone. (See "AT&T Allows Eligibility Transfers in Family Plan," 9 June 2010.)

The instructions are straightforward: charge your iPhone 4 fully, call AT&T, enter the right prompt code, and talk to a representative. (You could also visit an AT&T store, but that's likely more fuss.) Whatever you do, do not attempt to activate the iPhone before getting AT&T to handle the phone number swap. If you do, then you must go into an AT&T Store to get the iPhone 4 micro-SIM reprogrammed.

I received my iPhone 4 early - it arrived mid-day on Wednesday, June 23rd - and I called AT&T at about 5:30 PM (Pacific). Within a minute, I spoke with a customer service rep who was crackerjack, even though she hadn't processed a single iPhone 4 call yet. (Neither the early phone delivery nor the great rep were special treatment: I ordered my iPhone under my wife's name, and called the general AT&T number on the page linked above for assistance.)

There were a couple of minor hiccups. To process the SIM card registration swap, you need the ICCID, the SIM's internal ID code, and the IMEI, the phone's mobile ID (distinct from the phone's own serial number). While Apple provides a host of ways to get those numbers - see this support note - I wasn't able to use any of them.

Because the iPhone wasn't activated, I couldn't use the Settings app to get the two numbers, and I didn't want to pull out the micro-SIM if I didn't have to. Instead, I found that unlocking the unactivated phone revealed both the emergency call display, and a tiny information button (an i in a circle). Tap that i, and the ICCID and IMEI are displayed. I read this to the AT&T rep.

She updated the number registration in the system, but I still didn't see the AT&T network identifier in the iPhone 4's status bar. After she confirmed that the SIM change had taken, I plugged the phone into a USB connector on the computer to which I sync with iTunes. After following the first couple of steps, the correct phone number appeared automatically in iTunes, and the iPhone 4 lit up with an AT&T signal.

The process can work, and it was relatively simple, although it took about 20 minutes total.


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Comments about AT&T Makes Eligibility Transfer Process Clearer
(Comments are closed.)

I'd rebel against this by calling them with a 1/2 charged phone or maybe 20% left.
Can we get a link to the info?
Glenn Fleishman  2010-06-23 11:11
Terribly sorry. That link is up now.
Chris B  2010-06-25 13:15
Unfortunately, a message in iTunes creates more confusion about this. If you click on the "Not the correct phone number?" link, the message that appears says that if you wish to use the iPhone with another number, you should first complete the activation using the original number and THEN you should call AT&T to swap service.

I won't be receiving my phone til mid July, but I saw this when a friend was activating his phone. I think I'll stick to yours/AT&T's advice to contact AT&T first before activating.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-06-25 13:59
Yes, I've seen stories of that already. AT&T and Apple did a terrible job coordinating explanatory text and messages.
In my experience selling earlier versions of the iPhone, the ICCID and the IMEI numbers are located on the box in bar code and number format along with the UPC and serial number. Sales people scan all four of these numbers when selling the iPhone and activating it in the store. I presume it is the same for the iPhone 4.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-06-28 23:19
Yes, and you can learn my foolish secret in the comments. I opened the iPhone 4 box and nested the lid - then forgot I'd done so. I looked through all the materials, and couldn't find the number. Then, of course, after I did the whole phone-based extraction, found the box later and spotted them.
Fred Taub  2010-06-29 14:47
I pre-orderded my iP4 using the Apple Store app. Took less than 5m to download the app and place my order. I included my non upgrade-eligible number in the order. When I picked up the new iPhone at the local Apple Store (home delivery not an option when ordering from the app), I gave the Apple clerk my 2nd ATT number, which was eligible for the full subsidy. No problem.

I charged the new phone overnight (didn't really need it) and called ATT in the morning to transfer the new phone to my number and transfer my 3GS to my GF's number. Thirty minutes later, GF's old Razor was disabled, the iP4's micro SIM was toast, and the ATT rep told me my only recourse was to go to the ATT store and be prepared to pay $25ea for new SIMs. Sheesh.

Expecting the worst, I went to the ATT store. Had a great rep there, got SIMs in old and new iPhones replaced and set to proper phone #'s. No wait, no fuss, in and out in 10 minutes. No charge.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-06-29 15:30
That's a happy ending. Obviously, the rep on the phone did something wrong. I took the minimal approach and had my iPhone 4 activated first, then waited a couple days before having my wife's number swapped to my old 3GS.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-06-30 12:23
Yeah, this whole situation is very confusing (even to AT&T, clearly), but I have to say, the AT&T reps I've dealt with have been universally good.
I am also not sure if AT&T has the right instructions or if Apple has it right. I tried calling and got everything moved from the number I used to purchase my iPhone 4 to the number I want to use it with, and gave my IMEI and ICCID. When I tried to activate in iTunes I got a message saying that my SIM was invalid and I would have to go to and AT&T or Apple store and get a new SIM card.

I'm not sure if anyone else has run into this issue, but it may just be best to take your new iPhone to AT&T to activate it on another line and avoid the hassle.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-07-14 06:35
I took my phone to the AT&T store, where they gave it a new SIM and had to do quite a bit of account tweaking to get everything right.