What You Might Not Know…Before You Finance or Purchase That Cell Phone!

Posted by Mark Morton on 1/30/2018

After working in the cell phone industry for a combined 40 years my business partner and I felt that it was important, if not imperative, to share our perspective with both our Corporate and Consumer customers about the potential chaos, confusion and risk to customers as a result of either leasing a new cell phone or signing a term/contract agreement for a new cell phone that seems both too tempting or appealing of an offer to pass up.

Even though we work with numerous enterprise clients and their employees we attend many events that are focused on the general public. Additionally, we also work very closely with hundreds of current and past carrier representatives that still work, in some capacity, in the cellular industry as it relates to the buying, selling or upgrading of one’s cell phone devices.

The goal and mission of The Mobility Marketplace has always been to provide a single source for our customers to purchase both a dependable and reliable replacement cell phone that is not only economical, but at a fraction of the cost associated to buying or leasing a new device.

Regardless whether you are an individual or a small, medium or large enterprise business there has always been the question as to what do you do when your cell phone is: Lost, Stolen or Damaged? Most all cell phone providers today, i.e. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, no longer give away or subsidize cell phones. The old days of getting a free or very reduced/subsidized price for the latest and greatest device is, for the most part, a thing of the past.

Not to say that some very large enterprise or government agencies still negotiate some type of discounted equipment rate; however, these negotiated rates rarely take into consideration the issue of providing a free or subsidized price for phones that are Lost, Stolen or Damaged.

So, you are still probably wondering…What Is It That I Don’t Know Before I Finance Or Purchase My Phone?

The Mobility Marketplace has evolved from being just a source that provides dependable and reliable replacement cell phones to one of the industry’s fastest growing cell phone Buyback (recycling) companies.

Around 4 years ago, due to the lack of available product and along with the inconsistent quality and/or reliability of available wholesale cell phones, we moved into the cell phone Buyback(recycling) business.

As a result, this allowed us to buyback phones from leading government agencies including small, medium and large enterprise businesses and individuals and then repurpose these phones as a source for the same type of customers that might be looking for alternative options for replacing cell phone devices that have been recently Lost, Stolen or Damaged.

So back to… What Is It That I Don’t Know Before I Finance Or Purchase My Phone?

Most individuals or corporate clients probably are not aware of GMSA, which is a leading reporting agency of devices that have been reported as being lost, stolen or perhaps are associated to an account that has an outstanding balance due from its account holder. These reports are referred to in the industry as “Black Listed” devices and are basically in many, if not most, cases deemed useless devices as the carriers usually will not permit these devices to be activated. These reports are possible by way of the unique identifying number on each and every cell phone known as the units IMEI, ESN or MEID which is used by your cell phone provider/carrier to identify your cell phone and to activate your device on its network. Additionally, this is the same number that is reported by the carriers to GSMA for devices that have been lost, stolen or when a customer owes an unpaid balance on their cell phone account.

However, up to this point, most of the carriers have been somewhat flexible with how they handle devices that are reported as being associated to a user’s account that has an unpaid balance. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have generally allowed these devices to be activated back on to their respective networks. The reason for this is possibly they see the value of still receiving some recurring monthly revenue on a device, while they still pursue any balances that might have been associated to such device by its previous owner. Sprint on the other hand has been stricter on this policy and tends to not allow these types of devices to be activated if there is any type of associated balance due, regardless of the revenue the device still could be generating from its next owner.

So finally, this is What It Is That You Don’t Know Before I Finance Or Purchase My Phone?

If you decide you want that new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, but cannot afford to pay the full retail price of $699-$1299 and decide to opt in to that attractive, additional (as in additional to your monthly service plan payment) monthly financed-to-own installment payment for 12-24 months you must pay off the complete balance of your installment plan before you actually own the device in case you are thinking about selling your old device to someone else.

Additionally, some installment financed agreements (with no option to own) are for a 12-24 month period in which after the term period you are required to trade in your device for another new lease device. Keep in mind on this type of lease you do not and will not ever own this device and therefore can never sell it (legally) to someone for some money.

So you may be thinking how would anyone know if I have a leased phone or one that has a balance on them?

Over the past year or so most all carriers and independent leasing companies are starting to report to GSMA these units with outstanding financial obligations. And most major cell phone recycling centers use equipment that automatically and very easily will verify/detect a device(s) being traded in to determine not only if this was a lost or stolen unit, but are there any outstanding financial obligations associated with the device(s).

Furthermore, it gets worse. So, you trade in that seemingly excellent condition iPhone 7 32gb device and were hoping to get the advertised trade in offer they gave you of $250-$350, but instead you only received $25 or worse they give you $0 that is correct ZERO dollars…by now you will be pretty, how do I say this nicely, TICKED OFF.

Typically, once you have traded in your device(s) regardless if you use your current cell providers internal trade in program or you use one of the national recognized trade-in/recycling/buyback programs the above is the response you will receive. And to make things worse you probably will not even be given a chance to resolve the issue, much less speak to some that can help you resolve.

Still it gets worse…so you finally pay off that device(s) or you switch cell phone providers and are waiting to pay your final bill, it might take 90 days to clear that device from the Black List even after you pay your final balance and you know there is no outstanding balance due.

(SEE THE BELOW CONDITIONS THAT VARY FROM PROVIDER TO PROVIDER WITH HOW THEY HANDLE BALANCES AS IT PERTAINS TO UNLOCKING YOUR PHONE…YOU WILL SEE THE PART ABOUT FINANCED PHONES AND THE CONDITIONS THAT MAY APPLY)

So how and what is The Mobility Marketplace doing to differentiate itself from the rest of the industry?

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, The Mobility Marketplace has a combined 40 years of working to resolve and stay ahead of the issues and challenges our customers face.

Thus, we have put together a program that allows us and our partners to work with you to unlock your phone to make sure your balances are paid and applied to your account immediately. Further, if you are not wanting to mess with the hassles, as mentioned above and possibly wait an additional 90 or more days before your device clears all reporting agencies so that you can sell it, we will still pay you a reasonable amount for your devices that still have a balance, albeit not as much as a paid in full device would receive as a favorable option for our customers to choose from.

But most importantly, we will always be in constant communication with you with open dialog trying to help you with your options…as oppose to feeling like your phone has been lost in some black hole and no one can be reached to discuss or to help you with some type of resolution for your situation.

We are always available via phone or an onsite visit to discuss your particular situation or to consult you on your best options.

Written and Authored By: Mark Morton

COO/Co-Founder The Mobility Marketplace

Read below the UNLOCKING requirements by carrier:

AT&T Unlocking Requirements:

  • Your device isn't reported lost or stolen, or involved with fraud.
  • You must complete your contract or installment plan (including early termination fees). Or, pay off an installment plan early and then make another unlock request in 24 hours.
  • Your device isn't active on another AT&T account.
  • If you upgraded early, wait 14 days to unlock your old device. Business customers wait 30 days. Your service must be active for at least 60 days with no past due or unpaid balance.
  • AT&T PREPAID? (formerly GoPhone®) devices must have at least 6 months of active service.
  • If you're military, we'll ask you to email your TCS or PCS (Temporary / permanent change of station) documents for eligibility. You won't have to complete installment plans or contracts.
  • If you have a business-owned device, your company must authorize you to unlock it.
  • If you meet the above requirements click here for next steps or follow the STEP-BY-STEP below this link: https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/#/unlockstep1 

STEP-BY-STEP How to check wireless contract or installment plan end date

How to check service agreement/contract end date:

  1. Go to Account & services. If prompted for a security passcode and you forgot it, learn how to reset your security passcode.
  2. Select My wireless.
  3. Scroll and select the device you want to manage > Manage device & features.
  4. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find your service commitment end date

Contract renewal or extension

  • If you have an existing one or two-year contract, once your contract term is completed you'll continue on a month-to-month term.
  • Rate plan changes don't extend the length of a contract.

How to check Device Installment plan end date:

  1. Go to Upgrade your device. If prompted for a security passcode and you forgot it, learn how to reset your security passcode.
  2. You’ll see one of the following:

  • Upgrade ready - You're not on an installment plance
  • Trade-in ready - Select See upgrade options to find your installment plan end date

T-Mobile Unlocking Requirements:

We provide mobile device unlock codes free of charge within two business days (or provides further information about timing) for eligible devices. 

Device eligibility is determined as follows:

  • The device must be a T-Mobile device.
  • The device must not be reported as lost, stolen or blocked to T-Mobile.
  • The account associated with the device must be in good standing.
  • You have requested no more than 2 mobile device unlock codes per line of service in the last 12 months.
  • The device must satisfy all the Postpaid or Prepaid Unlocking terms outlined below.

Unlock Eligibility for Monthly Phones and tablets

  • The device must have been active on the T-Mobile network for at least 40 days on the requesting line.
  • If the device was financed using T-Mobile's Equipment Installment Plan (EIP), then all payments must be satisfied and the device must be paid in full, unless otherwise specified.
  • If the device is on an account that has a service contract term, then at least 18 consecutive monthly payments must have been made or the account was migrated to a no contract rate plan.
  • If the device is associated with a canceled account, then the account balance must be zero.
  • T-Mobile may request proof of purchase or additional information in its discretion and certain other exceptions may apply.

If a device meets the eligibly requirements, contact T-Mobile Customer Service to request an unlock code, and steps to unlock your device. 
Exceptions for Military Personnel and Business and Government Accounts may apply in certain circumstances. Contact T-Mobile Customer Service for more details.  

Sprint Unlocking Requirements:

Sprint will unlock a device from Sprint's network under the following circumstances:

  • The device is SIM Unlock capable
  • The device must be or have been active on the Sprint network for a minimum of 50 days
  • Any associated Service Agreement (or any Minimum Service Term, where applicable), Installment Billing Agreement, or Lease Agreement has been fulfilled including, but not limited to, payment in full of any applicable: 1) early termination fees, 2) accelerated installment or lease payments, and/or 3) end-of-lease purchase options. Because leased devices are not owned by the user, the end of lease purchase option must be exercised and paid in full before the SIM unlock is completed.
  • The associated account is in good standing
  • The device has not been reported as lost or stolen, associated with fraudulent activity, or otherwise flagged as ineligible to be unlocked

Verizon Post-pay Unlocking Requirements:

  • We do not lock most phones or tablets that are activated with our post-pay service, either during or after the term of your service contract or Device Payment Plan installment sales agreement.
  • We do not lock our 4G LTE devices, and no code is needed to program them for use with another carrier.
  • We do not lock our 3G devices, other than our non-iPhone 3G World Devices. The simple code to program such 3G devices for use with another carrier is either “000000” or “123456.” If the user guide for your device does not provide instructions to access the programming menu, you can contact us at *611 from your Verizon Wireless phone, or (800)922-0204, for assistance.
  • The SIM cards used in our non-iPhone 3G World Devices are locked. We will unlock those SIM cards at your request.