Why is it so hard for service reps to give a straight answer? (Virgin Mobile, this is about you)

I use Virgin Mobile. Not exactly proud of that fact, but I can have an iPhone and I only pay $30 per month for my service. Right now, I’m still using an iPhone 5, and I desperately want to upgrade to the 6s, but that price thing I just mentioned is in the way. I would rather buy the phone outright and pay very little monthly than, say, pay more monthly to lease the phone (or even rent it, in some cases).

Virgin apparently only buys something like 2 or 3 of each model of iPhone at a time. I’m assuming that, because every single one has been sold out since the day they went on sale. For a while there, they didn’t even have a page for iPhones and I figured they dropped them entirely (would definitely switch if that were the case).

Since I can’t go the legitimate route and buy one directly from them, I feel I’m left to buy one factory-unlocked from a third-party. Not really a big deal. Like I said, I’m okay with the high initial cost, since it evens out over time.

What the hell is so hard about telling me if they will activate it? I decided to tweet to their customer support account (@VMUcare) to get some clarity. Can I buy a factory-unlocked iPhone and activate it with your service? All new iPhones use the exact same micro-SIM card, exactly zero of them have any carrier branding slapped on them, and Apple no longer restricts their usage to any one carrier. They’re all the same. What possible problem could there be?

Here’s where I start to pull my hair out.

vmo convo 1 better

Okay, so you technically can activate any old iPhone, but you will choose not to? The reason I asked about the 5 was because I know they support the device, because I’m using one on their service right now. I bought it from them (Radio Shack, actually), even though it’s no longer for sale through them. Just looking for a straight answer here.

vmo convo 2

The page they pointed me to is their page on CTIA / regulatory policies, which I’ve simplified below:

vmo policy 1

Okay, as long as it isn’t stolen, it seems like it should be allowed. The whole ‘on the account for a year’ thing seems like half of a catch-22 (catch-11?). You have to have it on the account for a year to put it on the account. That doesn’t make much sense, so I’m going to mostly ignore it.

vmo policy 2

A little further down is this table of supported popular smartphones with regard to their unlock service / policy. I noticed that the 5 and 6 use different unlocking protocols(?), so I figured I’d rephrase the question.

vmo convo 3

Luis C. being a goober and ruining the flow of the conversation. That Luis, always a troublemaker. Alright, #1, what the hell is a “Virgin Mobile phone brand”? Virgin isn’t a device manufacturer as far as I can tell, so it must just mean devices that have their logo on them. Except I have a device they sold me right here, on their network, and their logo is nowhere to be found. iPhones are, by design, free of any insignia that isn’t Apple. If they have ANY iPhones on their service, they don’t support only “Virgin Mobile phone brand”. If that phrase means any brand of phone they sell, then I can definitely bring any iPhone, or any LG, or Samsung, etc. Unless they block IMEIs outside of their supply. Which I suppose is possible, although really shitty. Notice above they didn’t have a word to say about that black/whitelisting IMEIs.

vmo convo 5

vmo convo 6

Back to square one. Still no direct answer. At this point, I have no answer to any of my questions, despite about 40 twitter reps replying all over the place. And no, I won’t DM you. If you are going to admit that you choose not to activate phones you don’t get a cut of, I want you to say that publicly.

If you only allow phones that you can get your hands on first, just say so. I get it, at least on a purely economical level. You want to get a piece of the pie any way you can. Maybe that’s how you keep your service price so low. Although, you’re owned by Sprint, so that could change at any moment.

If anything, this has made me want to leave VM more. I’ve been a more-or-less satisfied VM customer for several years. I even convinced my fiance and parents to get accounts for the low monthly fee. Is that going to change soon? Ball is kind of in their court. Sell more iPhones, or let me bring one. Or even tell me if that’s an option.


This post used to have ‘customer service’ in place of ‘service reps’ but I have gotten 20 spam comments a day on it. Here’s hoping changing the title helps.

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