Switching from AT&T Wireless to H2O Wireless
Mar 2018 update: I ported from Cricket Wireless to H2O Wireless on another line today, and had new gotchas about SMS and data, which I am adding at the end of this post.
I didn’t want to make any sort of endorsements to any business in my writing, but I figured since this is pretty much a personal blog at this point, I will simply write everything directly as I want to.
Recently I had the (unfortunate) experience of having to deal with customer service on both AT&T Wireless and H2O Wireless, in an attempt to make a switch. I was surprised about how little information you can find online about making a switch like that, so I hope this post can reach at least *somebody* who is trying to do something similar and could find this useful.
My specific scenario is as follow:
- We had an AT&T family plan of 3 lines.
- We are trying to move 1 line out to H2O wireless (because that person has very little usage of talk/text/data but kind of need to have one still, making paying for even the smallest plan of AT&T not worth it).
- Contract is long over.
- We want to keep the number, so we have to do a “port in” request.
- We want to use a pre-paid plan on H2O wireless.
If this sounds similar to your scenario, read on!
This is a section I wish I could’ve found answers via Google before I went through all this, so here is it to save your time and pain!
- Do I have to cancel via AT&T first? How do I cancel?
No. When you successfully submit the “port in request” and it gets done, your AT&T line will be automatically cancelled.
So you don’t have to deal with AT&T’s cancellation specialist who will try to sell you on staying.
- Do I need to unlock my phone?
In most cases yes. Unless the provider you’re switching to is an AT&T reseller who lets you use locked AT&T phones. (H2O Wireless claims to be one, but to be safe, I unlocked my phone anyway before switching. No harm in doing that.)
- How do I change a SIM card on an iPhone?
Use a paperclip. It’s honestly really as easy as sticking a folded paperclip in a hole, let the card slot pop out, change the SIM card, and push it back in. You don’t even have to turn off your phone to do it.
- There’s SIM, micro-SIM, and nano-SIM. Which one does my iPhone use?
Use this page to figure out.
Also, a SIM card and a micro-SIM card typically get sold as one nowadays. It will basically be a micro-SIM card that is contained within a SIM card adapter (similar to micro-SD and SD cards). It can be easily popped in and out of it.
Step 1: Unlocking the phone
It also happens to be a pretty old phone (iPhone 4, very old at the time of this writing), so unlocking the phone was a little involved. Here are the steps involved:
- Visit AT&T’s Device Unlock request page. Go through the process (which involves filling out your account info, phone info like IMEI number, etc. Pretty easy, nothing you can’t easily find on your phone already.)
- They send you a verification email, where you have to click a link to verify.
- Assuming your phone qualifies (basically, contract is over, phone is not stolen, and you’re still an AT&T customer), it will be processed in 5 minutes or so, and you will receive a success email.
- The success email will lay out the steps you have to take which is basically: Plug your phone into your computer, get on iTunes, do a backup & restore.
If your phone is all updated already, this would be pretty quick. For me, our iPhone was outdated and we had to upgrade iOS, from 6 to 7. The iOS download and upgrade was what took a long time.
Also, if you want to save your apps and apps data, like WhatsApp message history, be sure to sync apps also.
On Photos, we backed up the photos manually (because we hate the iTunes photo sync), but it turns out the photos weren’t deleted anyway and was kept on the phone, even through a backup and restore process.
Step 2: Order from H2O
To start the H2O Wireless sign up process, you need to order a SIM card from them.
Go to their site, and order a SIM card (either the SIM+micro-SIM hybrid, or the nano-SIM), pick a pre-paid amount ($10 in my case),
In total it will cost $30. The card costs $10, the pre-paid airtime is $10, and then $10 for shipping.
(I found out after ordering that you can find a pre-paid SIM on Amazon for $1 and free shipping, so you could actually save $20 there. I made a dumb mistake by not searching on Amazon/ebay first.)
Step 3: Once your SIM card arrives, submit Port In Request
This step is tricky.
First, here is the H2O Wireless’s port in request page.
MOST of the fields here are simple, except the “Account Number” and “Account Password/PIN” fields. These are not what you think they are.
If you regularly use AT&T Wireless’s online log in, you might think this is your login account number (which is usually your main line’s phone number with area code) and login password. NO, THAT’S WRONG.
If you make the same mistake like me, you will fall into a spiral of customer service calls that will take days to resolve; each customer service agent will tell you a different thing.
First, the “Account Number” is the number you can find on your AT&T monthly bill. (if you ever call an H2O agent, they might tell you otherwise. They might tell you it’s not a number you can find on your bill, and you have to call AT&T. They are wrong.)
Second, the “Account Password/PIN” is not a password you regularly use. It’s a PIN that you might set with AT&T strictly for these transfer requests. If you never set one, there is none. However, you may run into problems with submitting this form because they won’t let you submit a blank password/PIN!
You have 2 options:
1) Simply call AT&T or walk in to an AT&T store and ask to set up a PIN. You will have to say something like “I want to transfer my number to another service, and I need to set up a PIN”, so they know what you are talking about.
2) Submit the form with “none” or something in the PIN text field. If H2O can’t process it, they will email you, and ask you to call them back. You will have to get on the phone with them and explain that you have set no PIN.
Step 4: Wait, and maybe call customer service.
This really should be all the steps, but my number wasn’t transferred after the promised 24 hours. I had to call H2O again.
My first call was taken by (I assume) a lower level agent who just ended up submitting it again for me and hanged up.
I called immediately again and (I assume) a higher level agent took my call and spent 15 minutes on hold (after the initial wait on hold of 10 minutes, which every call had), and completed my transfer for me on the spot.
Step 5: Your old AT&T SIM card should lose service, now you can change it out.
Change it with a paperclip into your iPhone. (Here’s a YouTube video if you really need visual instructions)
Once the new card is in, you should immediately be able to make phone calls.
But to make data work, there 1 more step.
Step 6: Change your APN profile
You must be at home (or be at a place with Wifi, like office) for this step!
You should immediately receive a text message from H2O once your new SIM card is in, which instructs you to set up your APN.
I had no clue what this was before setting up H2O. Apparently data can only work once you set this up.
Click on the provided link in the text message, which is a link catered for your phone only. (it’s an internet link, so you need an internet connection to be able to do this step, which is why you need to be at a place with Wifi.) It downloads an iPhone APN setup file which will automatically run, and you can click the install button.
Once you complete this, your phone is ready to use data via H2O Wireless.
It takes research work to finish all of this, so I’m hoping that having done the research myself, by writing and posting this, someone will find it helpful!
March 2018 Update
I ran into a few more issues when porting my service from Cricket Wireless to H2O Wireless today, and would like to log them here for those who might find it useful.
First, I submitted the online port-in request last night in the evening, and it was processed some time today. This link shows you how to find your account number and PIN depending on your old provider. In the case of Cricket, it was available in your online account login.
When it was processed this afternoon, I saw my Cricket SIM turned into “Emergency call only” mode, so I know this is the time I can change out the SIM card.
After changing it, phone calls appear to immediately work on the new H2O SIM card. However, 2 issues: both text messages (ordinary SMS, not MMS) and data did not work.
After several hours with H2O’s support live chat, googling around myself, checking for settings like the “SMS center number” (which should be +13123149810 by the way, which appears to be the same for AT&T and all MVNOs under it), it turns out I just needed to wait several hours. (some forum users suggested to wait 3 business days even!) So, nothing special to do for text messages, you just have to wait. (apparently it works like DNS where you just have to wait for changes to propagate, as in which provider owns your number right now.)
For data, here is the tricky part. Two H2O support agents both sent me the same APN configuration I am supposed to use, which is also the same as what the “smart SIM” that H2O provided automatically set up for me. This did not work! After several hours of trying different things like restarting the phone, I came upon this link while googling. This is the APN setting that this page recommended:
Name: H20 APN
MMS proxy: proxy.mobile.att.net
MMS port: 80
Authentication type: PAP
Which is mostly the same as what H2O support agent provided me with, except that “Port” was “Not set” and “Authentication type” was “None”. It turns out I needed Port to set to 80, and Authentication type to set to PAP. This took me forever to figure out. It could also be phone-specific too. I currently use a Huawei Honor 6x. Your mileage may vary if you have a different phone, and maybe the H2O agent’s setting works for you.
Finally, I also ran into an issue at first in my H2O online account, I was not able to “Add a line” to my account to manage on the dashboard. The issue seems to have fixed itself once I was able to receive text messages, so it looks like the error (something like error code 03) was because the system was trying to send me an SMS text to verify me, but it ran into an error sending one.
That’s it! Hope all of this helps someone out there.