In light of the truly sucktastic service we’ve gotten from Virgin Mobile USA this week, I felt I should write a post in the hopes that it might help others who use VMU but can’t get things to work. Most of this post has to do with iPhones in particular, since that is what we have experience with, but I’m sure a lot of it will help with any device you have using the Virgin (which uses the Sprint network) service. This post is about USA service only. BTW, Sprint is dying and it will take VM with it. I wouldn’t advise spending a lot of dough on a phone with either of them. It’s a shame, we’ve used VMU for over a decade. I’ll miss them, shitty customer service and all. :(
Basic Virgin Mobile FAQ:
– Virgin Mobile shares bandwidth on the Sprint network in the US. This used to be a good thing, now, not so much. Sprint is dying. America is the land of the oligopoly and eventually there’ll be just AT&T for phone and satellite TV, but for now there is Verizon (CDMA network) and AT&T (GSM network). VM uses the CDMA network. That means the phone must be CDMA. You cannot use a CDMA phone on a GSM network or vice versa. Here is an article about bringing a phone to Verizon, FYI.
– NO, VMU will NOT be getting [insert iPhone model] back in stock. Every VSU employee will tell you “Yes! It’ll be any day now!”, which is a lie. The front page of their site is a lie. The fact is that VMU buys their iPhone stock and then it sells out. Their inventory is finite. Just buy a phone off of eBay. Which is generally not a problem, just make sure it’s a VMU phone with a clean ESN. If it’s a 5 series, you’ll need to also buy a new card for it (it is a UICC card, which is just a newer generation SIM card).
– YES, a used iPhone 5 and up WILL require a new UICC card. Do not listen to the VMU employees that tell you otherwise. NO you do NOT need a card for a 4 series phone. Actually these require NO CARD in the slot. All iPhones require a card from series 5 onward. You can buy these on ebay, too. They are labeled Sprint, T Mobile, Boost and VM.
– VMU has really horrible support. Which is probably why you’re here. It will not get better, so it’s something you must make peace with. Hopefully something in here will help you.
– Don’t even bother with trying to use the website to swap phones. Just suck it up and call.
– The Twitter people (@VMUcare) suck just as much as the phone people. Don’t bother.
– If you have a “support” person who clearly does not understand what you are calling about, just say goodbye and call back. You may have to do this many times. Be prepared to spend a LOT of time on the phone. You simply have to persevere and keep cycling through support people until you find one that has a clue. No way around it.
– There is a glitch in the VMU system that will render your iPhone 4 series unable to send/receive calls when you update the OS. Virgin support is apparently unaware of this and cannot help you. But I can. Simply call ##873283# and your phone service will be restored. I am not sure if this applies to 5 series (or 6 series) iPhones. I’ll update this when Nick updates his 5c. **He did have to call this number to turn on phone service on the 5c after he got the card working. This seems to have been worked out with iOS 10+. I’ve not had to use the # since iOS 10 on my 5c OR my new 5s.**
How to buy a new iPhone and get it activated with VMU:
– Go go eBay and look for phones specifically labeled Virgin Mobile. Make sure they have a clean ESN – which means they are not stolen and/or bricked.
– If you are buying a 4 series iPhone, you’ll need to REMOVE the SIM/UICC card that might still be in it. My phone had been used with TMobile, apparently, there was a card in the slot. I know this because when I called to activate the phone, it kept giving me an “incompatible SIM card” error. Of course the “support” person in Philippines did not know what this meant. I am a nerd, so I knew to pop out the card, but the “support” dude kept telling me I had to take the phone to Apple. Yeah, NO. 4 series iPhones do NOT need any card in the slot to work with VMU. Ignore whatever else you’re told, just pop out the old card and then call VMU to activate. You can google how to remove a SIM card, it’s a snap.
– If you are buying a 5 series phone, you’ll need to buy a NEW SIM/UICC card for it. They sell those on eBay, too. Once you get your new phone and the card, this is where the fun begins. And by fun, I mean soul sucking hell. :( You’ll have to call VMU to get the phone and its card activated. The problem is that most of the “support” people don’t know how to do this. They will attempt to activate the phone w/out activating the card, which, of course will not work. It took my husband FOUR DAYS to find a support person who could understand this issue and activate the UICC. Once the card was paired with the phone’s id#, all was well – BUT you’ll probably have to call the super secret number (##873283#) to get phone service working (no longer w/ iOS 10). **I got a good support guy who got my 5c working in minutes. That is rare!**
Those are the biggest issues with iPhones and VMU. They won’t get any better. My advice is to go with another provider if you’re just setting up cell phone service (TMobile, maybe?). As I said at the top, Sprint is dying and with it, Virgin Mobile USA. We assume another provider will buy up the bandwidth and service (Verizon most likely) but the heyday of good VMU service is gone. We’ll stick with VMU until it dies. I, personally, love my $30/mo unlimited text/talk and 1gb data. It works for me and I can deal with spotty support. I don’t need a lot of hand holding.
Do not get into a contract with any provider. Just buy the phone that will work with one of the two networks and then shop providers. Like I mentioned, there are only two networks in the US and AT&T (GSM) is dominant. Their non-contract division is called Cricket. Even tho I detest AT&T, I think Cricket is the best choice for non-contract. If you have a Virgin/Sprint phone and want to switch, your only choice is Verizon – which may or may not take your phone. TMobile is still around and they offer good deals. I’ve no idea how they are service and support-wise.
Cell phone service is as screwed up as broadband and TV in the US. It won’t get any better. Just try to find the best deal you can and don’t be afraid to change if you’re not happy. I think too many people in the US are afraid to change their providers. In addition, make sure to support efforts to break up and/or regulate our broadband, TV and cell services. The reason American services are so bad is due to the government being paid off by monopolies and oligopolies that collude to keep prices high and service low. You must speak out about this to your US House Reps and Senators. American cell service sucks because we let it suck. Remember: we are a third world country when it comes to broadband/TV/Phone services.
Good luck with your cell phone service! I hope something here may have helped.