T-Mobile Free 7-Day Test Drive Review

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I’m nearing the end of my contract, and I’ve been tempted by T-Mobile’s aggressive promotions like 4 lines for $100 and most recently free rollover data. But I worry about their coverage. Then I learned of the Free T-Mobile Test Drive where you can get an iPhone 5S shipped to you and try out their service with unlimited talk, text, and data for 7 days. All for free. You just have to return the phone to a physical T-Mobile retail store by the end of the 7th day or get charged $375 + tax. If there is damage like a cracked LCD screen or the Find my iPhone feature is left active, you’ll be charged $100.

I signed up online, agreed to the $700 hold on my credit card, and they shipped a phone out to me. 2-day shipping time passed, I started it up, but the phone didn’t work. Well, the phone turned on and apps worked fine on Wi-Fi. The T-Mobile service didn’t work. I saw bars and “T-Mobile” on the screen, but under the phone number setting, it said “Unknown”. All phone calls went to T-Mobile customer service. When trying to access the internet using 4G, it would only pull up a T-Mobile website stating that the phone was not activated on a data plan. Warning: this is a bit of a rant so you may want to just skip down to the bottom line.

Naturally, I called T-Mobile customer service. I was stuck in the usual phone tree hell, as there was no option for the 7-Day Test Drive and I wasn’t a new activation or an existing customer. I had no phone number to type in. Eventually I reached a human. I’ll call her Human #1.

T-Mobile Human #1: Hi, may I help you?

Me: Yes, I just received a phone from your T-Mobile 7-Day Test Drive promotion and I am having trouble getting the service to work.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your name? (I give it to her)

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your phone number?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your account PIN?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your account number?

Me: I don’t have one. I’m on a test drive. I do have my order number, though.

T-Mobile Human #1: Hmm… let me transfer you. I’ll need to put you on hold for a few minutes.

Me: Okay.

T-Mobile Human #2: Hi, may I help you?

Me: Yes, I just a phone from your T-Mobile 7-Day Test Drive promotion and I am having trouble getting the service to work.

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your name? (I give it to him)

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your phone number?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your account number?

Me: I don’t have one. I do have my order number, though.

T-Mobile Human #2: Okay let me transfer you. I’ll need to put you on hold for a few minutes.

Me: Umm… okay.

I’m not kidding, this actually happens AGAIN with Human #3, and then I get transferred to tech support.

T-Mobile Human #4: (All the same questions again…) Okay, what is the ICCID number under your Settings > General > About?

Me: 8914 2121 2121 1212 555 (not actual number but I did give it to him)

T-Mobile Human #4: Well your SIM is not showing up as activated on our system. I’ll need to transfer you back again.

Me: You know what, I’ve been on the phone for half an hour. I am already running late. I’m going to go.

I wait until the next day and hope the phone activates on its own. Nope. So I call T-Mobile again. This time the person (#5) is in a crowded call center and I can barely hear her amidst the noise. She has no idea what the T-Mobile Test Drive is. She wants to transfer me. I just can’t go through that again so I hang up. I happen to have an errand that runs by a T-Mobile store so I just decide to return the phone.

I walk into the store and tell them I need to return a Test Drive phone. Surprise, they don’t know how to do that. I should mention that this promotion has been running for over 6 months and T-Mobile boasted that over 12,000 people had already done it. The two young men take the phone and ask me what the phone number is. I tell them I don’t have one and the phone doesn’t work. They ask to look at the phone.

T-Mobile Human #6: Your phone isn’t activated.

Me: I know.

T-Mobile Human #7: So they sent you a phone that doesn’t even work?

Me: Yes.

T-Mobile Human #6: We don’t know how to accept this return.

Me: Well, the promo is on your website and it clearly says I can only return it at a T-Mobile store. So here I am.

T-Mobile Human #7: Uhh, we have to call the manager.

Eventually another employee came by that knew the proper return process. I asked if they could just activate the phone in the store, but they couldn’t. I made sure to get a receipt stating that they received my device back and confirm that I’ll be charged $0.00. So after dealing with eight different T-Mobile employees and wasting well over an hour of my time, I still have no idea how good T-Mobile’s coverage is in my local area. It could be great.

For my troubles, I did get to keep the Apple OEM earbuds that came with the phone. Yay. I guess they think it’s icky to share earbuds (and I agree) so they ship brand new ones to every Test Drive customer along with a refurbished iPhone.

Please, T-Mobile, if you’re going to run a a test drive promotion, you need to use it as THE perfect opportunity to show the best side of your company and gain a customer!

Bottom line: I like the idea of letting people test drive the network. I do suspect T-Mobile coverage can be good enough if you stay in major metro areas. I liked being able to order the kit online and have it arrive at my door. Returning at a physical store so they can manually check the phone’s condition was better than having me mail it in and praying it gets there safely with a fair inspection. This way I knew I’d be charged nothing when I returned the phone. But T-Mobile needs to make a special department or hotline for this promo as their customer service folks are uninformed. Hopefully, most other people who do this test drive get a properly activated phone and don’t have to deal with the same issues.

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  1. That sucks. I’ve been with tmobile for 10 years and love it. I must say customer service does suck sometimes, but that’s with all companies. With the 4 lines for $100 I was able to save $50 every bill and instantly add data 2 two lines. It’s great! Maybe order a test drive phone under Mrs MMB?

  2. I found Sprint customer service to be fantastic just before I left Sprint about 3 years ago (it had been awful for years and I was so sad to leave once it had finally gotten good). But I went to Verizon and I have to say their customer service has been fairly stellar, and I say this having been a customer that had over 3 defective Verizon cell phones from the start. T-Mobile used to have awesome customer service but I’ve heard it’s about as bad as Sprint was.

  3. If you’re curious about coverage, try http://www.opensignal.com. Great info including tower locations and distances. Data gathered from their phone app and overlaid with google maps.

    Their phone app is also informative, showing signal strength, etc.

  4. Hi Jonathan,
    I’m very happy with my phone service, pageplus. Uses Verizon towers, no contract, bought my phone an LG G2 on eBay, paying only $30 a month for 1200 min talk, 3,000 texts and 1/2 gig data (I don’t use much data) but I could have unlimited talk/text 1 gig data for $40 or 3 gig for $55… There’s lots of options besides the frustration of big corp who can’t seem to implement their ideas.
    Thanks for the rant, was fun to read, not so much fun to go through

  5. I agree with Patricia. When you can get Verizon service with simple plans and a nice discount, there is no reason to go anywhere else, Page Plus for me has been fantastic with my iPhone6. My customer service experience with PP is 10 times better than when I had Verizon. I can chat with a service rep whenever I want via their website. Never could do that with VZ or ever understand their convoluted pricing.

  6. I had T-Mobile for years and although it was cheap, it has the worst service and weakest signal of the major cell phone providers. They have no roaming agreements so once you are out of their coverage area, you have no service at all. I rarely had service in my home, so i had to use it connect to the wifi, as well as using the wifi at work most of the time. I kept it for so long because it was cheap until i was out of town and on an ATV trip, in which the ATV broke down and i could not make an out going call due to no service. My wife just left T-Mobile after our recent trip to visit family. She had 2G (edge) and GPRS service a lot of area (on the interstate mind you) so she used my verizon hot spot service. I have verizon and although it costs more, i at least have security knowing that i can make a call in case of an emergency.

  7. I used T-Mobile for a bit and while you are in a large city, coverage is good and data speeds are really good. But as soon as you go out of the city, coverage can be spotty. If you are OK with that, T-Mobile is a great option. I’m using Cricket Wireless now which has good coverage using AT&T’s network but your maximum data speeds are always throttled. But still plenty fast for everything you want to do online.

  8. Hey Jonathan! I’m Amanda from T-Mobile’s Social Media Team, T-Force. Sounds like a bumpy Test Drive on what should be an evenly paved road. I’d like to smooth out the road to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future for others that are wanting to Test Drive us, but also to see what I can do to turn this situation around for you. I’m going to reach out to you via Twitter. The tweet will come from @TMobileHelp. We hope to hear back from you!

  9. Its my understanding that the resellers have weaker signals than going direct to Verizon, etc. Can anyone verify that Page Plus is just as reliable as Verizon?

    • TJ, I cant speak for all carriers but can share our experience. I have PP as I said, my partner is on Verizon postpaid. We have identical phones. Just ran Ookla speed test several times, both phones had nearly identical pings of 85-95… Both phones had similar uploads and download speeds. The difference seemed to be which hand I held the phones in and where I stood in the room. Where we live Verizon has the best coverage with ATT close and T Mobile 3rd and Sprint, forget it. You could ask Verizon point blank if their prepaid plan is throttled? They offer unlimited talk text 1/2 gig data for $45 (goes to 1 gig if you have automatic payment) on prepaid. But I honestly haven’t noticed any degradation of service. Hope this helps.

  10. Thats too bad. We’ve been with T-mobile for several years now and I don’t recall ever having any problems with their customer service at all. Its unfortunately they screwed this up for you and they should manage that program better clearly. I wonder if its a brand new deal they just haven’t setup properly or if its so little used the support people just aren’t familiar with it?

  11. Have had t mobile for 8 years or so. Currently have 10 lines on our plan and we each pay 20 (or lower) a month for 2.5 gb and unlimited/talk text (might goto 1gb next year…but hopefully not). We just use cash app to pay the primary holder.

  12. Great write-up of something that sounds great in theory. It is no surprise that it went the way that it did, though I would have expected something slightly better. I used T-Mobile for a while and eventually had to leave after the countless situations with customer service. I usually had the experience of dealing with someone in a noisy room that could not speak clearly. As one person said, all companies have good and bad employees/experiences, but when every experience is bad it starts to show a company’s weaknesses. I am constantly tempted to go back to T-Mobile when I see their competitive pricing, but then I remember their lack of customer support. This is just another example of how they struggle to succeed.

  13. I’ve had T-mobile for >10 years. My experience with their customer service has been mixed. Sometimes they are terrific, and sometimes clueless. It has been better than the experience I had with both Sprint and Verizon in years past. My phone service is through my personal business, and sometimes local stores tell me that they do not have the authority to make changes to a business account. Importantly, some stores are company stores, and others are independent from T-Mobile. An independent store once promised me phone rebates that never materialized, but in the end I was too tired to fight them. My T-Mobile phone often doesn’t get good service at my own house, and the calls go through Wi-Fi. Call coverage is not what I would like, but not so bad that I have left. However it is frustrating to have poor or no service when my friends have good coverage, as recently happened on a ski trip. For me the bottom line is that your experience is likely an outlier, nonetheless T-Mobile has its share of problems.

  14. T-Mobile reached out, promised to take my feedback into account, and offered me another test drive. My previous experience was very frustrating, but I’m going to take them up on their offer as I really do want to test out their coverage and data speeds.

  15. Definitely sounds like a great idea in theory, however, the burden of having to go through all those issues would discourage me from the beginning. I totally agree that if T-Mobile’s goal is to gain customers, they need to do a much better job with their promotions and make sure everyone is on the same page.

  16. I applied for the T-Mobile test drive when they debuted the program. I got a confirmation e-mail and waited about a week. I hadn’t heard anything about the phone shipping, so I contacted T-Mobile’s customer service and gave them the order info. All the operator could tell me was that order was “Processing” and that I’d have the phone within another week. Another week went by and then another and then another… I eventually stopped waiting. It sounds like I’m not the only one with a bad Test Drive experience. I figured it was a sign. I was definitely disappointed that I didn’t get to try the service out, but I’m happy with my Verizon service, so I left things the way they were… I’d love to pay less but not at the expense of service quality and customer service.

  17. I had a very similar experience with verizon edge program recently, I ordered online,they confirmed,then they canceled saying I was ineligble. I called 5 or 6 humans and got it straigtened out ordered again, got phone that I didnt likeand tried to print shipping label from their website to return as is their policy, it wouldnt print so I called and after talking to like 3 more humans they told me the phone was already returned ? ” really the one I am holding in my hand ?” they told me I couldnt ship it back I would have to go to store. once at the store they said they couldnt take it back because I didnt have it in the system, it took an hour and a half but they finally were able to print me a return label. and give me a new phone since “I didnt have one” LOL. I was thinking about not shipping the “one I didnt have back. but I did

  18. I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for years. I live in a area where coverage from all carriers is pretty bad. T-Mobile wins out because I can connect to my home WiFi and make calls with no issues (unless my internet connection is down). Plus I can setup a mobile hotspot at no additional cost when I’m on the road and use my laptop in the car. It really came in handy when I had kids’ soccer games the same weekend of a major cutover at work.

  19. My son is very happy with his T-Mobile’s $70/month (well now new signups is $80) unlimited talk, text, data prepaid. Good coverage in urban areas. Broke his Nexus 4, replacing it with a used off of eBay, 2013 Moto X – still a great phone. If I ever lose my grandfathered Verizon unlimited data, I’ll switch to T-Mobile.

  20. In our neighborhood, the signal for all carriers is pretty bad. But, we went with T-Mobile (4 for $100 plan) for the following reasons:

    1) Free international data and text roaming included. Came in handy when we traveled to Toronto earlier this year. Probably works fine in big cities around the world.

    2) Wi-Fi tethering … works fine when I’m out and about (using an LTE connection).

    3) Wi-Fi calling … helps us get around the bad native cell signal we get a home.

    We were going to “test drive” the phone, but we knew was probably going to be as bad (as good?) as the other carriers, so we simply made the switch from Spring. We’ve been very happy that we made the move … good luck!

  21. Been on Tmo about 14 months. Their customer service is incompetent but the service and price great. Considering our last carrier – VZW – offered a lousy price and far worse customer service, we’ll take it.

    We love the free international data/texting. Used it abroad a few times.

    Love the low cost. We have 4 adults on t-mo using smartphones for 110 a month. Can’t be angry with that. VZW simply couldn’t touch that price.

    Our coverage has been on par with VZW in so cal. We have dead spots around town and had them with VZW too.

  22. Jonathan, would you mind sharing with us how your test-drive went ? Did you end up switching to TMobile ?

  23. A lot of the post regarding service being hit/miss with standard with any of the main providers. Doesn’t provide much value when posting. If you are in a major area/metro, coverage is good with all of the providers. Customer service, well, they’ve all been mixed bags ATT/VZW (3hrs to activate 3 phones in the store when switching…yeah, fun!!!)

    Since all the providers are switching to no contract plans…so what?!?!?! If the service sucks, just switch, say goodbye and move on. I’m doing it after 12 months with VZW and going to TMo, hard to pass up 6GB/line and 4 lines for $120/month when I’m paying $145/mo for 3 lines sharing 10GB which we go over all the time. VZW’s service in some areas is no better/worse…advertising and some website would like you to think it is, but that isn’t reality, like that latest ridiculous commercial they are running about TMo being last..yeah, right.

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