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Thread: Unable to activate new iPhone with Tracfone. Help?

  1. #1
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    Unable to activate new iPhone with Tracfone. Help?

    I recently purchase a new Tracfone iPhone. The included red card told me to do, in order:

    1) Activate Your Service: visit tracfone.com
    2) Insert your SIM Card
    3) Set up your phone: turn your phone on and follow the instructions

    The card included a sticker with a printed number which they claimed was both the serial number and the IMEI number. The number matched the IMEI printed on the bottom of the box, but not the serial number, which was entirely different. The sticker also had printed a "SIM CARD NUMBER" which appeared to match some printing on the SIM itself.

    I went to tracfone.com and clicked the 'activate' button. It asked me if I was activating a Tracfone or a BYOP phone. I picked 'Tracfone' since I was under the impression that this was a locked phone for Tracfone and not considered something I was bringing myself. The next page asked me to type in the IMEI, which I did. The next page then told me to turn the phone on and try to make a call. I inserted the SIM, turned the phone on, and started the iPhone activation process with Apple. I was unable to get this to work over cellular so I switched to wifi which completed successfully. After going through the setup process and getting to the home screen, the carrier is listed simply as "3G". Not "Tracfone" or "TFW" or "Verizon" or anything else, just "3G". Cellular data doesn't work, and if I attempt to make a call I'm greeted with a Verizon phone system telling me it's going to connect me "to an external operator" so that I can pay with a credit card or make a collect call. This message just keeps being repeated over and over.

    I've tried waiting, I've tried rebooting the phone, still nothing. I've gone back to tracfone.com and tried to go through the activation process with them again, but it stops me upon entering the IMEI again saying "this phone is already enrolled in auto-fill" and telling me to log into "my account". I don't have a Tracfone account, and I never enrolled this phone in anything.

    Does anyone know what's going on? I don't really want to call their horrible help line unless I have to since the people there usually only make things worse. I plan on trying to get them to unlock this phone after a year so I'd strongly prefer not to do anything that will jeopardize that and would like to solve this the correct official way.

  2. #2
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    Does the phone come with any bundled airtime? I didn't see anything in your post about adding a time card or transferring service from another Tracfone or BYOP.

    If you don't have a TF account, create one and add your phone to it. If there's any problem/pending action, there will be messages in your account. Also, having your phone in your account makes it easier to "freeze" it if it gets lost or stolen, and prevents people from "hijacking" your units/days (if you inadvertently post your phone number, SIM, or IMEI online).

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    Quote Originally Posted by hpham View Post
    Does the phone come with any bundled airtime?
    It claims to: "a $35 TracFone's Smartphone Only Plan provides 750 Minutes, 1000 Texts, and 1GB of data, 60 Day Plan,"

    https://www.target.com/p/tracfone-pr...e/-/A-52608867

  4. #4
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    I'm not familiar with iPhones to know how one can/needs to be activated through WiFi. If your phone has cell service and had been assigned a phone number over-the-air (OTA) but can't make a call because it has no balance (triggering the Verizon message), then the balance info hasn't been pushed out to Verizon system from TF system yet. I'd wait about an hour then contact TF if you still can't make a call by then

    As far as the phone showing 3G instead of 4G/LTE, it probably needs to have the APN set up. From posts in the forum which I didn't follow closely, there's a web site somewhere for you to go to and download the APN. Perhaps someone else can provide more details.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hpham View Post
    I'm not familiar with iPhones to know how one can/needs to be activated through WiFi.
    For iPhone, the phone itself needs to be "activated" with Apple whereby they confirm it's not stolen or locked to someone else's iCloud account or whatever. You need to do this Apple activation thing on all new iPhones and whenever you reinstall a fresh copy of iOS. This is an Apple-specific thing which is a different and separate process to any activation of a SIM or billing account with Tracfone/AT&T/Verizon/etc. You don't technically need to do it over WiFi, you just need internet access of some flavor, it could also be done through cell data or if you hook up the phone to a desktop and use the desktop's ethernet connection via iTunes.

    Quote Originally Posted by hpham View Post
    If your phone has cell service and had been assigned a phone number
    It hasn't. When I go to the "My Number" section where it would list its own number, I see "Unknown".

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    When I go to the "My Number" section where it would list its own number, I see "Unknown".
    Apparently there's Verizon service at your location because you got the Verizon message when trying to make the call. But somehow Verizon didn't "program" your phone properly. I'd create a TF account, add your IMEI to it (using the ADD DEVICE option) and see what its status is (Active or Inactive). If it shows active, check its balance and service days and see if they're correct.

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    Ugh... I'm not keen on creating yet another stupid online account somewhere. Especially in this case since I don't really trust Tracfone and don't know what happened, I don't want to make the situation worse by manually attaching IMEIs and serials to things because I don't want to screw up my eligibility for unlocking later.

    Surely, someone else somewhere has bought an iPhone (or other smartphone) from Tracfone and activated it before. Did I do something wrong? Was I supposed to claim this was a BYOP? Was I supposed to ignore the page's instructions and use the SIM number when it asked for the IMEI?

    I'd like to have more information before I call them or mess with anything.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    Was I supposed to claim this was a BYOP? Was I supposed to ignore the page's instructions and use the SIM number when it asked for the IMEI?
    No, it's not a BYOP. If it asked for the IMEI, give it the IMEI. Since it's a TF-branded phone, the IMEI is paired with the SIM in TF system. It'll know which phone is involved.

    I sense a lot of paranoia and distrust in your posts/threads. I'm out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    Ugh... I'm not keen on creating yet another stupid online account somewhere. Especially in this case since I don't really trust Tracfone and don't know what happened, I don't want to make the situation worse by manually attaching IMEIs and serials to things because I don't want to screw up my eligibility for unlocking later.
    Having an account is not a stupid, but a way to verify status and protect your phone. The IMEI is the serial number, and is already linked to the SIM number in a TF branded phone. Lots of iPhones have been activated on TF, and I never heard of any connection with Apple. Once you put the phone in the account, check status, then use Chat to straighten this out.

  10. #10
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    There can be twists and turns when dealing with an iPhone. Then someone refuses to take advice and just plows ahead into a ditch. Sure, it can be fixed. But by now the help is probably put off. The advice was to get an unlocked phone and a BYOP SIM and be done with it. Now there is a year-long anxious wait that might not work out. Sheesh.

  11. #11
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    I had this same problem on an iPhone and it would say "iPhone is not activated" or something. I think it's possible that the IMEI and SIM numbers are mismatched in Tracfone's system, which happened to me once. You could call them and say you need to update your SIM.

    Try this:

    Go to Settings > General > About
    Go down to the IMEI and ICCID numbers. IMEI is what you give them to identify the phone, the ICCID is otherwise known as the SIM number.
    Give those two numbers to a Tracfone rep and see what's in their system.

    Could be the reason why it can't activate. Happened to me when I changed phones, it thought I was using a different SIM number.

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    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    The IMEI is the serial number,
    This doesn't appear to be the case for iPhones. At least, mine has two different fields for IMEI and serial and they look nothing alike.

    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    in a TF branded phone.
    Is it possible that this doesn't actually count as a "branded" phone? I'm starting to wonder if maybe the phone was actually unlocked and just bundled with a pre-filled BYOP SIM or something. (I'm not getting my hopes up on that though, the price would be too good to be true).

    Quote Originally Posted by Lisme View Post
    The advice was to get an unlocked phone
    I've spent the past month searching and every iPhone SE I can find, be it eBay/Craigslist/etc, they're all either wildly expensive, not actually unlocked, or being sold by some sketchy no-name shop in China. I had to make a concession somewhere and I decided that buying a reasonably priced new locked iPhone (that has the potential to be unlocked later) from a legit store was the lesser of many evils.

  13. #13
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    So, safe to surmise the phone is not yet working correctly ? If that is still the case, I would get on “Chat” to resolve it.

    If it is working......great.

    No contact to Apple needed. Create an Apple ID for iMessage to work.
    Last edited by trek83; 10-22-2019 at 09:18 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    This doesn't appear to be the case for iPhones. At least, mine has two different fields for IMEI and serial and they look nothing alike.
    While even Android phones have a serial number different than the IMEI, nobody cares about it for phone identity in activations. In a TF account will be listed the IMEI and also a phone number if it's active.

  15. #15
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    I have an iPhone 6 and a straight talk iPhone SE on my Tracfone account. The IMEI is usually printed in the back of the phone near the bottom in small letters.

    I would use chat to complete your activation. You will probably need the IMEI and your simcard number. These can be found in settings, general on the iPhone.

    It sounds like the minutes, days, etc have not been added. After you get the phone activated then you will need to get it in an iTunes account.

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