We just returned from a one month vacation trip to Florida. In order to be able to use the internet when on the go, and also to be able to make and receive phone calls we decided to use a prepay card from VerizonWireless (VZW), as they seem to have the best 4G (LTE) coverage. The SIM is normally $45 for a month, including unlimited texts and calls and 1 GB of data, but we got it from Walmart for about $37, plus we received a free one-time bonus of 1 GB data when we activated the SIM via phone.
Our customer experience was pretty bad, and I want to share with you what kind of problems we had so that you can avoid those if possible.
The phone I intended to use was an iPhone 6 Plus. This cell phone is among the cell phones that have the most LTE bands available in the world, and I explicitly checked to make sure that VZW’s bands are covered. But when I tried to use the phone it couldn’t attach to the network. I got in touch with VZW, and it turned out that they only let phones use their network (with their own VZW prepay SIMs, that is!) that have been sold by or for VZW. But after talking to them for a while and letting them know about my disappointment (because in Europe this doesn’t seem to be common) they agreed to make an exception and have my iPhone authorized to use the network.
Even after four days (they said it should take 48 hours max), more than 3.5 hours talking to or chatting with their support, and even changing the SIM in a nearby VZW store, my iPhone still didn’t work, so I looked into other options. It turned out that you can buy simply 4G cell phones here real dirt cheap, so I bought a Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen) for less than $50. This phone immediately worked with the SIM I had.
I logged onto their MyVerizon prepay Desktop Home page to check and update some settings. This portal was another really bad experience, something which you really cannot ask your customers to use. The issues I encountered were the following:
- After I had entered my address here in Florida (we lived in the house of relatives), there was trailing characters in the street address which I didn’t enter, and which I could not remove by any means.
- Furthermore I couldn’t change my device from the original iPhone 6 Plus to the new Motorola Moto E — all changes (including IMEI which was verified to be “valid” and “known” to VZW) seemed to the accepted, and change of device was confirmed, but when I went into the main menu and back to “Device” the iPhone was still listed.
- In addition I couldn’t change my Voice Mail PIN, probably the reason why voice mail was not available for my SIM during the whole month of our stay.
As an alternative to the bad web portal I installed the “My Verizon Mobile” Android app, but that was disappointing, too. There was absolutely no way to tell the app not to ask for the password again — a bad thing as I normally use “strong” passwords which I cannot easily remember, so how to use the app when on the go?! More issues encountered were
- “Usage” details permanently give me “An error occurred while processing your request;”
- in “My Features” I couldn’t activate the “Block Premium Messaging” option (even though changing the switch produced a confirmation that said the change was successful); every time I return to this menu item the setting is back to allow premium messaging;
- in “Settings” > “Contact Info” I couldn’t make any changes, as the app declared my email address invalid (as it contains a “+” in the so-called “local-part,” which is the part left of the “@”). That was of course nonsense, as RFC-2822 allows such email addresses, I constantly receive mail on such addresses and VZW’s web portal allowed it as “valid;”
- changing my Voice Mail Password (PIN) was also impossible in the Android app. I always got an error message saying “We are sorry, but we are not able to process your request at this time. Please try again later.”
What I must admit, though, their staff were always very friendly and tried to help — but what can you do if your IT systems let you down?!
The main reason I write this blog post is to let people from Europe know about the limitations they might encounter when trying to use their own phone with a local prepay SIM. But I also want to let VZW know my frustration with their bad self-service tools. This is not how you treat your valuable customers!!!