When you’re looking for a new phone plan, you may find that your particular needs require you to switch carriers. While it sounds simple in theory, there are several steps to keep in mind that will help you avoid pitfalls and get the prices and service you want.
The best way to switch cell phone providers involves taking some time to prepare and nail down the right information. Let’s go over the process and some tips on covering all of your carrier switching bases — including what you can do to trade your old phone for cash in record time!
Beginning Stages: How to Prepare for Switching Cell Phone Providers
Before you start comparing plans and prices, it’s essential to prepare your current phone for the switch and determine precisely what you’re looking for in your new coverage. Here are some ideas about where to get started:
- Back up your data: There’s a chance you’ll need to get rid of your old phone to transfer to another carrier successfully. To make sure you don’t lose anything significant, use your cloud-based service of choice to back up the photos, contacts and other content on your current phone. Unfortunately, some items, such as stored voice mail messages, won’t transfer, so you’ll want to give important ones a listen before canceling the coverage on your current phone.
- Own your phone: If you bought your cell phone on an installment plan and are still paying it off, you’ll likely need to pay what you owe before you’ll be able to make a switch. Check with your current provider if you’re unsure. You may be able to exchange the phone for reimbursement, and there’s always a chance your new carrier will offer some credit to help cover the cost as an incentive.
- Learn the details of your needs: List all the things you’ll be glad you remembered when the time comes to select a new plan. Look at your usage information and analyze how much data you use every month. If you’re replacing your phone, you may want to list the hardware features you enjoy the most. Doing so now will help you narrow down your options later.
- Hold off on canceling your current plan: Despite having to deal with your frustrating service provider a little bit longer, you definitely don’t want to cancel your plan before making sure your new one is finished being set up. Canceling your service can leave you without a functioning phone until all the data is transferred, which may take longer than you anticipate.
Finally, you’ll want to start doing your research. The best time to learn everything you can about available phone plans is before you commit to one. You should consider a few different factors, including coverage, carrier compatibility, plan details and cost.
Measuring Performance: How to Change Your Wireless Carrier and Ensure Adequate Coverage
One of the predominant reasons anyone switches carriers is because they have difficulty getting service when they need it. Make a list of your most frequented locations, including your home, work, the houses of friends and family and where you spend your leisure time, among others. Then, refer to the list as you measure coverage in one or more of the following ways:
- Check official coverage maps: The top carriers have ever-evolving maps that you can look at to see whether you’ll be able to have suitable 4G LTE in your region and compare speeds between provider options.
- Test out someone else’s phone: Another strategy if you already have a new carrier in mind is to borrow the phone of a friend who uses that provider and take it to the places you have listed to personally track both voice and data signal wherever you go.
- Use crowdsourcing data: Various services out there provide information on the performance of top operators. Consider looking up your location on sites like OpenSignal, RootMetrics or Sensorly to see unbiased, real-world measurements.
Of course, there are many other ways to see if your signal strength will be reliable. Talk to local experts, visit electronics retailers or perform web searches to get second and third opinions. Once you feel like you’ve gathered sufficient information, take a look at how your phone will interact with the network you’re leaning toward.
Swapping Networks: How to Check Carrier Compatibility and Adapt to Get the Provider You Want
Switching your service provider is a bit more complicated than the push of a button. Unless you want to buy a new phone, you should look into how to transfer the phone you have to a new carrier. Certain phones will swap easily from one carrier to another, while other devices may only work with a particular network.
Understanding CDMA and GSM
The two radio networks that wireless carriers use to bring cell service and data to your smartphone are CDMA, which stands for Code Division Multiple Access, and GSM, which means Global System for Mobiles. On a global scale, GSM networks are more widely used.
CDMA carriers in the United States include Sprint and Verizon, while AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM carriers.
If you currently use one of these four service providers, WhistleOut offers a quick Phone Compatibility Tool that can help you check which network your phone will switch to. Historically, most phones supported either CDMA or GSM but many newer phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S9, support both network types.
Unlocking Your Phone for Greater Flexibility
For a phone that will change smoothly from one carrier to another, you can either purchase a factory unlocked phone directly from the manufacturer — like a full-priced device from Google, Samsung or Apple — or unlock your current phone.
If you want to unlock your phone, the process will depend on the carrier you use. Contact your provider to learn their process. For the most part, they should be willing to help you unlock your phone, as long as you’ve paid for it in full, finished your contract with the provider or used your phone for at least one year on a prepaid service. Remember to make sure your unlocked phone is compatible with the provider’s network you’re switching to.
Crunching the Numbers: What to Evaluate When Facing New Phone Plan Costs
Although you’re leaving your current provider, chances are, you’ll continue to have to pay for their service through the end of your billing cycle. Additionally, you can expect some prorated charges from the new carrier.
If you aren’t 100 percent convinced that you need to drop your current company, you can contact them and ask about the cost of leaving, which may provoke them to scramble to make you a deal that encourages you to stay. At that point, it’s up to your judgment what provider and costs make the most sense for your situation.
When you’re looking at the cost of your plan, make sure you include minutes, messages and data and that you understand whether there will be charges for going over a certain amount in any of these areas. You also want to keep in mind the small activation fee that you’ll probably be required to pay upon switching to a new plan.
Avoiding Early Termination Fees
Networks no longer offer two-year contracts, but there may still be a chance that you have a commitment to your carrier that will result in Early Termination Fees if you decide to switch. Fortunately, you can work with your new carrier and see if they’ll reimburse you for those fees once you swap over. Without a contract, these are expenses you won’t have to worry about.
The only other reason you may owe your former provider before you can switch is if you haven’t paid off your phone yet. Make sure you pay the remaining balance in full before continuing.
Transfering Digits: How Can You Change Cell Phone Providers and Keep Your Number?
There’s a good chance you don’t want to have to memorize a new number just because you changed your carrier, so part of your transfer should include the option to port your number to the new provider. There are a few rules and restrictions involved in porting, but usually, the process consists of the following steps:
- You give your new carrier your phone’s ESN/IMEI number if you’re going to continue using your original device on the plan you’re buying. Otherwise, they will activate whichever new phone you’ve chosen.
- Your new company will contact your former provider to get the process going.
- If you’re switching phones, once the process is underway, you’ll only be able to make outgoing calls on your old phone and receive incoming calls on your new one.
The Federal Communications Commission introduced a regulation in 2004 that protects your right to keep your old number. Thanks to the competition between carriers, your new provider will probably do it for free. However, you may want to ask to make sure.
Since the process can take a few hours and leave you without a reliable connection, you won’t want to switch networks if you’re expecting an important phone call.
Keeping in Touch: How to Transfer Phone Contacts From One Device to Another
If you’ve bought a new phone, it would be an inconvenience to manually transfer every phone number you have stored in your contacts. Fortunately, thanks to various technologies, there are a few different ways to transfer contacts to your new account, including:
- Using the cloud: iCloud and Google Contacts have made it possible to store your contacts and other data in a way that lets you easily import from one device to another. Even transferring from one cloud-based storage system to another doesn’t have to be complicated. Essentially, you’ll either download a file from one and import it to another or sync your information between compatible accounts, like between Google and Android.
- Using a SIM or memory card: Phones on a GSM network have SIM cards, which can simplify the data transfer process. Depending on your hardware brand, there are unique steps you need to follow. Usually, if you can store your information on the SIM card and insert it into your new phone, all of your data should transfer with it. Newer, smaller SIM cards often don’t store your information anymore, so you should ask your provider when setting up your new phone what their recommendations are for your specific device.
After you transfer your data, you’ll be set to use your new phone as usual while enjoying more agreeable signal thanks to your new carrier. But what are you to do with your old device? Making sure you get a good return on your old phone is precisely what The Whiz Cells is here to help you do.