The Straight Talk Nexus 4 Missing Data Saga

I have had one heck of a time with Straight Talk. As you may know, I own a Nexus 4. I have been happily using it on Straight Talk's $45/month unlimited talk, text and data plan for over half a year now, and until recently was quite happy about it.

Then one day, with seemingly no cause or warning, I could no longer access my mobile data connection. I could still call people and receive calls. I could still send and receive texts. I could use the Internet over WiFi. But mobile data was dead.

Below is the story of my month-long nightmare, along with Google+ posts I made along the way documenting everything. Let this be a warning to potential Straight Talk users looking for service for their own Nexus 4s.

First Signs of a Problem

Sometime back in late January, I noticed that I was getting a notification on my Nexus 4 telling me to "Sign into network HOME". Well, that's odd, I thought. I tapped the notification and was redirected to a T-Mobile webpage in Chrome, saying I needed to buy a new data plan.



I tried various things to restore my data connection based on suggestions I got from my friends on Google+. I removed my SIM card and reinserted it. I reset the APN settings. I even tried a factory reset. Nothing seemed to work.




The next logical step was to contact Straight Talk and see if they knew anything about my data.

Straight Talk Tech Support: Round 1

About a week after I first started having problems, I contacted Straight Talk tech support looking for a solution.


During the call, I was asked to reset my APN settings, among other things. The customer support representative said the issue could have been something along the lines of a glitch with their access to T-Mobile's infrastructure. (You see, Straight Talk is a brand owned by Tracfone; they do not own their own infrastructure, but rather pay other carriers for access to theirs, which they then pass along to their customers. At least, that's how I understand it.)

I was told that an internal support ticket was filed with T-Mobile regarding the loss of service, and that I could expect my data connection to start working again in 24-48 hours. If I had any further questions, then I could contact them back at a provided number and extension specific to my case. They also told me that it could be a hardware problem with my phone and to contact the manufacturer about it (I didn't do this part because I didn't feel this was the case).


Now let's fast-forward a week...

Straight Talk Tech Support: Round 2


A week later, I still had no data. I decided that it would be best to make use of their provided number to call Straight Talk again and find out what the holdup was.

I got a guy who ran me through the APN settings again, and he also had me turn data on and off and toggle between 3G and 2G. Still nothing worked. Again, they suggested that my phone itself could be the problem, although he suggested that it also could have been the SIM card. They said they were going to send me a free replacement SIM card and that I would receive it within 3-5 days.


Now I just had to wait again.

Straight Talk Tech Support: Round 3

During the call on that Friday during Round 2, Straight Talk made it sound that they were going to send the replacement card out immediately. Just as I was starting to wonder by the following Wednesday when I would receive it, I suddenly received an email stating they had just gotten around to sending it via FedEx, around the time they said I could have expected to actually have it by. Talk about being prompt!


So I actually got the SIM card on Thursday that week, and wasn't able to install it into my phone until the next day (yep, Friday again). A slip of paper came with the card directing me to call a number to activate the new SIM card and keep my old number.

I called that number and got yet another tech support person (whom I could barely understand and vice versa), who gave me some rather unusual APN settings to try and had me reboot the phone. Once the phone was rebooted, I still had no data, and now I had no number and no service whatsoever. This replacement SIM and/or the directions I was given didn't fix the problem - they made it worse!


The representative told me that the problem was my phone and I needed to call the manufacturer, as they could no longer help me with my issue. I finally decided to try that.

Google Play Hardware Support


I called Google Play hardware support to see if my Nexus 4, only half a year old, could really be the culprit behind all this. The call was a rather pleasant one where the technician and I had no communication issues and he seemed rather knowledgeable about my device (although I would hope so, given that it was Google I called). He was not familiar with Straight Talk, but after reviewing some information on them and considering what I told him, he concluded that I could not have been having a hardware problem or even a software problem, the biggest indication being that my phone was properly working before.


He told me that there was nothing he could do to help me, since it was clearly a problem on my carrier's end. He suggested that I try contacting Straight Talk again, and maybe even T-Mobile since the Nexus 4 runs on their infrastructure. Now I had some ammunition to work with.

(Attempting to) Talk with T-Mobile

I wasn't sure if this step was strictly necessary, but I decided to try calling T-Mobile and see if they had anything to say on the issue at hand. After all, they were my "real" carrier.

I called their General Customer Care & Technical Support number, but the machine handling call only seemed interested in providing service if I already had a T-Mobile number, or directing me to a nearby T-Mobile store. Not exactly what I was looking for, but it was worth a shot.

Now I knew I only had Straigh Talk to deal with.

Straight Talk Tech Support: Round 4

I called up Straight Talk again with my newfound confirmation that my Nexus 4 had not betrayed me. The guy I got on the other end of the direct response line ran me (again) through the APN settings and a reboot, then he asked me about my physical location to confirm I had coverage in my area. He suggested the problem could have been with the T-Mobile towers, and he asked me if I was okay with being put on hold for 20 minutes while he contacted them; I said yes.

20 Minutes Later...

The guy got back in touch with me, informing me that he was currently on hold with a T-Mobile representative to find out if there was supposed to be a data plan in place for me account. Then he said I needed to be on hold for another 30 minutes.

5 Minutes Later...

The guy returned to the call and said T-Mobile recognized that I was supposed to be receiving data, so I was not supposed to be seeing their page in my browser. The issue was escalated to an engineer and I was told to wait another 10 to 15 minutes.

3 Minutes Later...


The guy returned to the call to let me know it seemed like there was a communication error between Straight Talk and T-Mobile infrastructure, and that a work order was placed to get the problems straightened out within 3 days. I was to call back if I still did not have my data connection restored by then. He also suggested that if this did not work, they would contact T-Mobile again to check the status of the fix, and they might also send me an AT&T-compatible SIM card to see if changing networks would fix things up.

Straight Talk Tech Support: Round 5

On February 28, 2014, I still had no data and I called Straight Talk back to find out what was going on. (I noticed that they changed their elevator music to some loud jazz.) I was directed to change my APN settings again, then the tech support representative told me she needed to take some notes if she needed to contact T-Mobile again. She asked for my IMEI, then placed me on hold with that jazz music while she contacted T-Mobile.

Several minutes later, I was told that the T-Mobile engineers were still working on my service; apparently, I was marked as not having a data plan, and they needed another 72 hours to get it fixed. (Wasn't a week long enough for them?) I was also given a reference number to use the next time I called so that the next person could look up the notes from the previous time without me having to explain everything all over again.

Then again, wouldn't it be nice if I never had to call them again?

Straight Talk Tech Support: Round 6

Friday the next week I called again. I went through the APN settings again under the direction of the tech support representative again, yadda, yadda, yadda, still no data. This time I did mention that I was starting to consider pursuing a refund or switching providers. The guy told me he was going to call T-Mobile again, thus putting me on hold, and I got to hear a new jazz tune this time. (I guess they're changing their elevator music more frequently for me now that I'm a regular caller.)

I was eventually told that T-Mobile was working before on my issue, but they felt the issue could also have been due to the SIM card. So, I was going to be sent another SIM card replacement and told to this time call directly back to the managers' line to get it activated. I was also finally given a ticket number for my issue!

Getting tired of calling using my parents' house phone and having my arm fatigued, I decided to call through Google Hangouts instead this time, which left both my hands free and gave that jazz music a nice bass boost through my desktop's sound system. This also let me record the exact length of my call this time (58 minutes); I think I'll use this method from now on.

Straight Talk Tech Support: Round 7

I received the replacement SIM card on Thursday, March 13, 2014. I took it out of its packaging, trimmed it down to micro SIM to fit in my Nexus 4, popped it in while the phone was turned off, and called Straight Talk again to get it activated.

I gave the representative both my ticket number and reference number so they could review my story thus far. She activated my SIM and then...

I GOT DATA!!! W00T!!!

Finally, my problem was taken care of (in only 22 minutes, no less)!

Right afterwards, I asked the same representative if it was possible for me to get a credit or partial refund for service not rendered. She said she could give me a 15-day service extension for calling, texting and data, pushing back my service end date. All in all, I at least got something for my trouble.

Conclusion

In the end, the issue was resolvable. It seemed to have originated on T-Mobile's end, although Straight Talk took way too long in my opinion to get the issue fixed (about a month and a half in total). I was given some compensation at the end, but it's debatable whether 15 days of additional service really makes up for a month and a half of no data, and I had to request it, rather than being offered it.

My Straight Talk-powered Nexus 4 is now fully back in action, but man was it a hassle. I think I'll stay with Straight Talk as my service provider so long as it doesn't happen again.

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