As someone who tries to be thrifty, I routinely look at recurring charges and see how I can save some money. I’ve been using AT&T for cellular service for many years on various plans with various discounts. Last year I added a teacher appreciation discount (my wife is a teacher) and brought the rate down a little. I’ve been eyeing other carriers and MVNOs for awhile and gave Visible a try as they supported the Apple Watch and there were only a handful of MVNOs that supported the watch. That test didn’t go so well at the time as my phone was unusable when I went to Costco. They have since changed offerings and I would be tempted to try again.
This week, AT&T sent email saying that if I didn’t switch my AutoPay to use a debit card or bank account, they would charge me $5/line ($20 total) which got me thinking about switching again. My credit card rewards pays me 2.5% so on a $132 bill gives me about $3 per month which effectively increases what I pay. I decided to revisit carriers and discovered today that Consumer Cellular started supported the Apple Watch. I saw it on Apple’s website and then called them to verify. What I didn’t realize until later that they only support the latest versions of the Apple Watch (Series 8, SE 2, and Ultra) and not my 3 year old Apple Watch Series 6.
I was so excited about potentially saving $50 per month ($600 per year) that I ported my number over, added the eSIM and went through the process to get setup. There were a few hiccups as I entered the wrong PIN for the port (you have to request a time limited one from your carrier) and I had to call Consumer Cellular. Each time I called, I was connected to a rep quickly and was able to easily communicate with the US based support. Each person seemed empowered to actually handle my issues. After a little bit, I was up and running on my phone. I tested out mobile hotspot and discovered that I had been assigned an AT&T eSIM giving me basically the same coverage as I already had. Unfortunately things started going down hill when I tried to activate my watch. I called again and finally realized that they didn’t support my watch; I immediately asked for a port out PIN as I don’t want to give up my Watch for running (I don’t like being tethered to my phone).
I went to AT&T’s site and started the process to add my phone back to the account (my wife’s phone is the primary one on AT&T and I hadn’t ported it out as I wanted to make sure everything worked well before subjected her to a switch). After I put in the order (it says I’ll have to pay a $35 activation fee which I hope isn’t correct), I received an email that I had to call to finish the port. So I called and explained the situation and spoke with an outsourced rep. The rep wasn’t able to help; I went through this a number of times as well as the online chat.
After I think 4 hours of getting hung up on, transferred, having to explain the situation over and over, going through phone tree hell, and receiving strange error messages on the website, I finally called again and was connected to a very nice US based woman who was sympathetic and understanding. She asked why I went with Consumer Cellular and I told her; she asked about coverage and I said it was identical to AT&T which kind of surprised her, I think. She was very patient and did everything she could do and unfortunately had to transfer me to another department and I ended up “outsourced” again. None of the outsourced reps seemed sincere about helping me and read from their scripts. I have trouble understanding accents and that made the experience even worse.
Throughout this ordeal, I was about ready to just forget the phone number that I’ve had for over 25 years as I was so frustrated with AT&T. While I created my own mess, dealing with AT&T makes my blood boil. Eventually I was able to get my phone reactivated, but am still stuck with no cellular on my watch. That’s a problem for another day.
I wasn’t planning on getting a new Apple Watch this year as my Series 6 works fine. However, after this experience with AT&T, I am definitely getting the next watch so that I can jump ship and goto Consumer Cellular. Not only will it save me money (about enough in one year to pay for the watch), I won’t have to deal with AT&T’s archaic website, outsourced support, and high rates.
I can’t wait to say “good riddance” to AT&T.