Posting this to help Sprint with their support and others with the same problem.
As background, I am a heavy Google Nexus user. I’ve been using unlocked Nexus’s since they were usable on Sprint. I am also a Sprint customer since 1997 (wow!). I also work in Silicon Valley as a software engineer. I am very familiar with technology. Finally, I work at a company that went to all Nexus 5X/6P (and iPhone is you like Apple) on other carriers. I know from our company’s tech support that other carriers allow you to swap Nexus phones using their existing SIM's without involving carrier technical support.
I, within the previous month, recently swapped out another 5X (broken 5X to new 5X) and updated to a 5X (older Nexus 5 to new 5X). I therefore have dealt with SIM cards three times within a month and found that Sprint support can, at times, know exactly what to do and at other times seem to know nothing about SIM cards and unlocked phones that they don't sell. My biggest hope in posting this is that Sprint will overhaul their support around people who don't purchase phones from Sprint as it will make us all happier customers.
On first swap of 5X to 5X, I first tried to do the swap by calling support and they weren't able to do the swap given the old/new IMEI as they needed the SIM card number. Given I was using an existing already Sprint activated SIM, I asked if they could just look up the one for the line. They said they couldn't. I didn't have the two phones with me at the time, so I couldn't give them the SIM card number. I was able to do the swap using the www.sprint.com/activate page myself. Funny enough, the online tool knew the SIM card number for the line. In total, this swap took me around an hour of my personal time (would have been 10 minutes if I didn't use phone support).
On the swap from the 5 to 5X, I knew I needed to get a nano-SIM and called ahead to my local service Sprint store to validate that they had a nano-SIM. I knew to call ahead to ask if the specific SIM card was in stock. I learned a year previous when upgrading another line that most stores (ones that do not do repairs) have no idea what SIM cards are and you’ll waste a ton of time with no results. Unfortunately, my local store is (to put it mildly) pretty annoying (https://www.yelp.com/biz/sprint-store-san-jose-8). There is a reason why it has 2 yelp stars. After calling ahead and arriving behind one other customer, I was put into the appointment system and then had to wait over an hour for them to bring the SIM card out (no other customers were in appointments ahead of me) while there were three employees working. After they brought it out, it took them only ten minutes to activate it on the new phone. They also, interestingly different from other experiences, said that it was now policy to take a photo of my driver license to put on file before giving me the new SIM. It is worth noting when I upgraded my last 5 to 5X, the same store gave me a SIM card and I activated it online myself within 10 minutes. With driving included this swap took me 2 hours of personal time.
On the most recent 5X to 5X swap, I started with web chat support. They tried to activate the phone and told me "New Device code ending ***** is not compatible with Sprint network and cannot be activated", and then asked "Did you purchase the device and SIM from Sprint together ?". After explaining that this was a Google purchased unlocked phone, they started to tell me that there was an offer for my account for a phone from Sprint. I explained that I didn't want another phone and just wanted to activate the unlocked phone I already owned. I was then told they would "assist you with the next best steps". I stated that I was confused as I didn't want anything other than my new phone to be activated with my existing SIM card. They then said “mean to inform you that the SIM card is not compatible with new device. You can get new SIM card Online that is compatible with the device. It is because every phone has it’s unique MEID that is configured with that particular device. I understand that it does not make sense to you, however it is justified that a SIM used in an old phone cannot be used in replaced/new phone . I am trying to help you in best way and save time”. They then wanted me to connect with ordering to order a new SIM. Given I didn’t want to wait for a SIM to be sent in the mail so I could have a working phone and given I knew this wasn’t correct, I disconnected from web chat.
I then called phone support. I spent a few minutes on hold and got through to normal support. They tried to activate the SIM card/new IMEI. They hit issues. They then forwarded me on to tech support. I spent an hour on the phone with the tech support where they traced what towers I was connected to and other things trying to understand why the activation wasn’t completing. I asked to be escalated to the management and when I finally got through, the manager said that the phone was not a “Sprint phone”. I was getting pretty upset at this point as I knew it wasn’t a “Sprint phone”. The manager explained that my best option was to return the phone to whomever I got the phone from and get a replacement as the phone wasn’t compatible with the Sprint brand. After talking some more, the manager and tech decided that their best option was to try activation again in two hours after having both phones turned off. They said they would call back in two hours and retry the activation. Four hours later they called back to the wrong line (not the one I had told them to call, but instead the line I was trying to activate which they should have known wasn’t working). Unfortunately I didn’t get the call.
I then started searching the internet amazed that no one else had hit this problem. I found this forum which had the exact same problem I was seeing. If you hear anyone on the phone or web chat say “Incompatible with the brand” or “not a Sprint phone” when trying to replace a Nexus device with one sent to you as a replacement from Google, it seems like this is the place to get it fixed. Also, if the error on the online tool says “this number doesn't match our records”, it seems like this is the place to get it fixed. After posting here, social care followed up within an hour. They explained that I would need to give them the old and new IMEI’s, the SIM card number, the line to be changed and my account PIN. After giving this to them they said they would have to raise a support ticket to get the IMEI added to Sprint’s system as not all Nexus device IMEI’s are in their system. They told me this on Saturday and said that it should be possible to activate by Tuesday or Wednesday.
On Wednesday, I tried to use the online activation tool and the error about “this number doesn’t match our records” was gone. However, it wouldn’t let me activate online and asked me to finish activation using web chat assistance. I didn’t want to use web chat support given the previous poor experience with web chat. I then private emailed the social team telling them this and they suggested that I setup a time for them to call me, saying they needed to help me with the activation. I told them a time and they called exactly at that time to tell me that they were still assisting another customer and would call back in ten minutes. After they called me, we went through the very simple activation together and the phone was working. It was slowed down a bit by the replacement phone already having a SIM (likely before Google sent it to me), but the social tech support was able to remove this within a few minutes. I have to say the support offered from the social team on these forums is amazing in comparison to the other Sprint support channels I tried. Every person read the previous context, knew how to deal with all of the SIM/IMEI issues involved. They were also professional and prompt in all interactions with me.
Note, I also posted to Twitter a few times expressing my discontent. Every time the Twitter Sprint customer support account asked me to send them a DM. Every time I did, they just asked for information so Sprint support could call me. They didn’t seem to look at previous content in the DM thread to get context. Also, given the poor support I had gotten from phone support, I didn’t take them up on it. I would suggest that someone at Sprint works to link the Twitter support to existing Sprint accounts. If I’m actively on calls with Sprint, having Sprint support on Twitter just ask me to have more support people call me doesn’t help. I guess if the main use of Twitter is just another way to connect people to your phone support, then Twitter support is doing its job, but I think Sprint could do better.
After all of this, I have a working phone. Note it is working with the “Not a Sprint phone/ Incompatible with brand phone” (according to tech support manager) and “incompatible SIM” (according to web chat support person).
This last activation took about 5 hours of my personal time and left me without a working phone for over a week. Luckily, I had the experience to know this phone and SIM card was going to work. If I was a normal customer, I likely would have given up and moved phones or carriers.
Hopefully Sprint can research the support calls with me and improve handling of unlocked phones and SIM card swaps. Also, hopefully, this post helps other customers finding this forum know what to ask for when getting replacement Nexus devices from Google.
I am having the same issue. I was on the phone with tech support for over 2 hours yesterday trying to figure it out and still no luck.
Please help me. Please!
Let's work on this. I've sent you a private message, please check your inbox.
Hi. I am having a similar problem. So, my current phone just died last week, and I am trying to activate my new phone. It is the same model (Nexus 5x). I bought an unlocked Nexus5x that previously was used with TMobile. I have confirmed that it is unlocked with T-Mobile, and I have swapped in an active Sim card from another carrier (AT&T) and verified that it gets service and works correctly (this is often described as the best way to verify that a phone is truly unlocked).
I am trying to activate this device on my Sprint account. I tried online, but couldn't. The online help told me I should be able to activate it in the store. I took it to the store, and he thought he would be able to activate it, but got an error message. He said he had never seen the error. It didn't say that the device was locked, but that it was some unknown error. I'm thinking that the ESN just needs to be added to your database, but of course I don't know. Please help. I like sprint more than AT&T, but I don't really want to get a new phone just so I can get it to work on Sprint.