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Activating your shiny new iPhone 6 on the T-Mobile network

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September 23, 2014

If you simply couldn't wait a single day to order your shiny new iPhone 6 and went the prepaid route by ordering T-Mobile's no-contract iPhone 6, you may have no idea what to do once it arrives on your doorstep.

It is said that when the new iPhone 6 arrives, most people simply don't know what to do next. There is no information in the box about activating the phone, creating a T-Mobile account, porting your current number, or anything else for that matter.

And if you're not currently a T-Mobile customer, you don't already have a SIM card you could just pop in your new iPhone 6 either.

For the record, if you are a T-Mobile subscriber and do have a matching SIM card, it's probably just a matter of popping it in the device.

Because calling customer-service departments ranks up there with getting a tooth filled, we went to T-Mobile's Web site. Surely they'd have some big, splashy banner-- "New iPhone 6 owners, click here!" No, not at all.

In true honesty, we simply couldn't find anything related to activating an iPhone. After a Google search, we did find T-Mobile's phone-activation page, but the first thing it asks for is an activation code, which was nowhere to be found.

So we went to plan B-- find a T-Mobile store and get help from a real human. The store locator told me there was a T-Mobile outlet in our nearby Walmart.

Easy enough, right? Except, no-- Walmart apparently no longer handles prepaid T-Mobile phones, only postpaid. Whatever that means.

Ultimately, we gave in and called T-Mobile customer service. After a 7-minute wait on hold, a heavily accented gentleman who I could barely understand told me, sure enough, I'd need to talk to the Prepaid Department, and transferred us over there.

That's when it got really worse. This time, we had a very difficult conversation with a heavily accented woman, who seemed to be working from a script and got totally thrown when we diverted her from it.

She asked for our T-Mobile account number. We explained that we didn't have an account, that's why we were calling T-Mobile.

After a very long silence that felt like 15 minutes, she asked for our phone number. Er, which phone number? We went around and around like this for some time.

We frequently had to repeat ourselves, and she frequently asked questions that didn't pertain to what we wanted -- which was simply to create a new line of service and port our existing number.

In the end, it seemed like everything was all set -- but we still found ourselves without a confirmation number, any kind of T-Mobile account information, or even a phone number to call back for updates.

A day later, when we still didn't have any mobile service, we decided to visit the "real" T-Mobile store in our nearby mall. There, we had to pay $10 for a new SIM card, despite the fact that the iPhone 6 had arrived with a T-Mobile SIM already installed.

The sales rep we'd spoken with on the phone didn't mention this. And if she had, would we be looking at a week-long wait to get the SIM in the mail?

The whole thing didn't make any sense. Also, two sales reps at the store had no idea that T-Mobile's Simple Starter Plan ($45/month for unlimited talk/text and 2GB of capped data) even existed in the first place.

When we insisted that it did (having seen it online), they "found" the option and got me all signed up. Finally!

Note to anyone who might be porting a number from Virgin Mobile: You'll need to supply T-Mobile with your Virgin Mobile account number, and the only way to get that number is to call Virgin Mobile.

To conclude, this was a terrible customer-service experience from start to finish. Maybe some crucial document got left out of the box, or maybe T-Mobile assumes people who order a phone from Apple will instinctively take it to an Apple or T-Mobile store for activation.

Maybe the oversight actually lies with Apple, although we strongly doubt that. Whatever the case, we suspect anyone new to T-Mobile will run into the same head-scratcher-- Just got my new iPhone 6. Now what?

New customers will need to buy a Nano SIM for the T-Mobile iPhone 6, even if it came with one.

The key takeaway is this-- for new customers, the fastest way to get your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus activated on T-Mobile is to take it to a proper T-Mobile store, by which we mean a standalone store, not one haphazardly integrated into a Costco, Walmart, or the like.

We have no doubt that you could accomplish the same thing at an Apple Store, but those aren't nearly as ubiquitous. And good luck getting anywhere near one in these initial post-launch weeks.

You can also call the toll free number 1-877-453-1304 to take a stab at getting your phone activated by a T-Mob rep.

Oh, and if you're porting your number from another wireless carrier, make sure you have the corresponding account number and PIN/password.

Finally, if you don't mind waiting a bit, you can head to T-Mobile's Bring Your Own Phone page. Although the iPhone 6 isn't listed and doesn't even appear if you search for it, just scroll down a bit and select the T-Mobile SIM Starter Kit - Nano SIM.

It's $10, but it's "free with the promo code FREESIM." Thanks a lot, T-Mobile! We want our $10 back. From there you can choose a plan and so on. Just keep in mind it'll probably take at least a few days for the device to arrive in the mail.

According to a T-Mobile representative, if you paid full price for the iPhone 6, it's already unlocked. That means you can take it to any other GSM carrier, including AT&T, Consumer Cellular, Cricket Wireless, H2O Wireless, Straight Talk, and so on.

As with T-Mobile proper, you'll need a SIM card, and you'll have to go through the porting process if you want to bring your number. But that's the beauty of the unlocked phone-- You're not tied to a single wireless carrier for two whole years.

It looks like Apple fans that wish to buy the new iPhone 6 may have to wait a while longer to get their hands on the devices as Apple's subcontractor Foxconn struggles badly to ramp up its production, says the Wall Street Journal.

Overall demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have Foxconn's factory workers in high gear, working 24x7 to get the units out as quickly as possible.

The iPhone 6 seems to be running into the same old story-- not enough supply to meet demand.

In an effort to ease the problem, Foxconn has brought more factory workers on board to make the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus at its plant in Zhengzhou, China.

But the complexities of manufacturing both phones appear to be taking their toll, the Wall Street Journal said today, citing the usual "people familiar with the matter."

More than 200,000 Foxconn workers are stationed at the Zhengzhou factory with the sole job of assembling the new iPhones and some of its key components.

The plant is also running 100 production lines 24 hours a day to keep up with demand for the popular phones. So what exactly is the issue?

Foxconn is the only supplier manufacturing the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and is responsible for most of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 units, the Journal's sources said. With larger screens and other enhancements, the two new phones also represent a dramatic shift from last year's models.

As such, most of the burden and work is on Foxconn's shoulders. That contrasts with Foxconn's obligation last year when it initially made only the iPhone 5S and just a small number of iPhone 5C units before it eventually dropped the 5C altogether.

Another issue reportedly rests with a few manufacturing flaws in the production output. The percentage of successful iPhone 6 Plus units assembled is only around 50 percent to 60 percent, a person at a display component supplier told the Journal.

That means that Foxconn has to throw out the units that don't meet quality standards. The iPhone 6 fares better with a successful production rate of more than 85 percent.

"We have been outputting about 140,000 iPhone 6 Plus and 400,000 iPhone 6 every day for the past several weeks, the highest daily output ever, but the volume is still not enough to meet the huge demand," a person familiar with the matter told the Journal.

"For the iPhone 6 Plus, we are still ramping up the production lines. Another reason for the limited supply is the shortage of 5.5-inch displays," the source said.

Until Foxconn can greatly improve its production to inch closer to the demand, iPhone buyers will have to wait a while longer.

Among the new models, the iPhone 6 Plus is facing longer delays for those who preorder in advance of actual sales that officially kick off on Friday.

Apple's website shows the wait time for the iPhone 6 at about seven to ten business days and the wait time for the iPhone 6 Plus at three to four weeks.

We contacted Apple for comment and will update the story with any further details once we get them.

If you can't afford the rather expensive off-contract price for Apple's new iPhone 6, T-Mobile is aiming to make it easier for you to pay it off.

To be sure, when users choose one of T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans, they can get the 16 GB iPhone 6 for $0 down and 24 equal monthly payments of $27.08.

The 16GB iPhone 6 Plus also has $0 down and can be paid off in 24 equal monthly payments of $31.24. The total cost is equivalent to an off-contract phone, which is $650 for the iPhone 6 and $750 for the iPhone 6 Plus.

Like other wireless carriers, T-Mobile will begin selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on September 19 and will be offering the smartphones for preorder online beginning tomorrow morning.

T-Mobile has been promoting itself as the first U.S. carrier to support the use of Wi-Fi calling with the new iPhones.

The wireless provider hosted an event on Wednesday dubbed "Uncarrier 7.0," where it announced a program called "Wi-Fi Un-leashed" to let more customers make calls and exchange text messages over a Wi-Fi network.

Apple unveiled both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on Tuesday. The iPhone 6 is equipped with a 4.7-inch Retina display, while the larger iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch Retina display.

In addition to being slimmer and lighter, both models also include an improved camera, graphics, and battery life.

"Apple has done it again, and this fall is going to be one of the biggest upgrade cycles this industry has ever seen," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. "At T-Mobile, we're all about helping you get your hands on the latest mobile devices."

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In other mobile news

Travis Kalanick, the CEO of controversial taxi ride-sharing service Uber, said it's not the company's fault that everyone has an issue with his company.

Kalanick says the service is just misunderstood by most people. "When users start to perceive you as the big guy, you're not allowed to be scrappy fierce," he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco today.

What Kalanick describes as "scrappy" is the company's history of aggressive expansion tactics. The on-demand car service, which lets users order a car through a smartphone app, is constantly the enter of a lot of controversy, but it's most recent claim to fame is public mud-slinging with its archrival competitor Lyft.

The two companies repeatedly accused each other of purposely clogging up their networks by ordering and canceling thousands of rides.

Additionally, Uber has admitted to having overly aggressive driver recruiting tactics in the past.

To be clear, Uber has long been a thorn in the side of the taxi industry. Launching with a black car service in 2010, Uber expanded to offering many types of on-demand services, including taxis and UberX, its peer-to-peer service that rivals Lyft.

Often criticized for extreme price gouging, in some cases charging hundreds of dollars for a single ride, Uber has still managed to grow swiftly, reaching 200 cities worldwide in August.

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Source: T-Mobile USA.

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