Verizon iPad SIM card deactivation

Posted by on November 23rd, 2012 | 24 Comments »


If you’re considering buying an iPad for use on the Verizon network, or already own one, the following is extremely important.

Apple advertises that cellular service for the iPad can be purchased month-to-month, and managed directly on the device. Unfortunately, this isn’t true on Verizon iPads under the following circumstances:

1. If you cancel your cellular service using the “delete account now” button, your iPad’s SIM card will immediately be deactivated.

2. If you cancel your cellular service using the “delete account later” button, your SIM card will remain active – but only for five months. If you don’t reactivate cellular service before five months has elapsed, your SIM card is toast on the Verizon network.

Here’s the kicker. If you think that reactivating the “invalid SIM card” is as simple as calling up Verizon, you’d be very wrong. There appears to be no officially sanctioned way to get self-managed prepaid service back on your iPad, though Verizon or Apple. (Note that you’ll also face this problem if you’re buying a used Verizon iPad.)

My personal saga: When my SIM card was deactivated, I called Verizon. The agents were happy to sign me up for postpaid service, with an activation fee. Since this wasn’t acceptable, I was transferred to a supervisor. The support manager, Tasheka, was surprised to hear that I could no longer sign up for service on my iPad. She escalated the problem to “corporate.” So far I have not heard back from Tasheka or Verizon corporate.

I also stopped into my local Verizon store. After a hard sales pitch to sign up for postpaid service (with activation fee), which I declined, the sales agent said she could try to sign me up for prepaid service. I would get a new SIM card on the spot, but I would have to sign up for service immediately. The activation would be handled on their computer systems, not via self-service on my iPad. No go.

I also called up AppleCare. AppleCare was unaware of the issue. Apparently, there are no engineering notes about deactivated Verizon SIM cards in Apple’s support database. I am now dealing with a customer support representative at Apple, Britani. She said she would escalate my case.

Lastly, I wrote an email to Tim Cook. This is the sort of problem that can only be solved by executives at both Apple and Verizon.

To be continued…

Update 11/27/2012: I happened to walk by a different Verizon Wireless store this weekend, so I stopped in. (This store is approximately 1.5 hours round-trip from my home.) After I explained the issue (and stating that I didn’t want postpaid service), the sales agent offered to give me a free SIM card. Of course I accepted. Based on what I’ve read on internet forums, replacing the SIM card should restore prepaid service. However, I’m not going to install it until I hear back from Apple and/or Verizon representatives. The question remains whether Verizon’s official corporate policy is to hand out free SIM cards. If it is Verizon’s policy, then some stores clearly didn’t get the memo. Still, AT&T’s approach to keep their iPad SIM cards active is a much better solution.

Update 11/29/2012: I spoke with Tasheka at Verizon this morning. She said she would call me at noon today, or the close of business at the latest. Unfortunately, she did not live up to her word. No one at Verizon called me since my original inquiry on 11/20, despite promises. I also sent Britani at Apple an email, asking for a status update. I did not receive a reply.

Update 11/30/2012: I left a voicemail for Britani at Apple, asking for an update. I did not get a call back.

Update 12/3/2012: I called up AppleCare for an update. I spoke with Nicki in customer relations. She transferred me to Debbie, an iPad specialist. Debbie was not familiar with the SIM card issue, but was very understanding. We had a three-way conference call with Patricia, a Verizon employee in the prepaid department. Patricia confirmed that the only way to re-establish service was to acquire a new SIM card. She was under the assumption that customers could purchase the cards in Verizon stores for $5. I explained to her that the Verizon stores I visited in Manhattan did not sell the SIM cards. She offered to assist with the reactivation of service with the SIM card I was given, but I explained to her that I wasn’t interested in a temporary solution. She agreed that I would be facing the same issue again if five months elapsed without active service. At the end of the three-way call, I was disconnected from Debbie’s line. I called Apple back up, but could not be reconnected with Debbie. I was transferred to a different Debbie (#2) in customer relations. I explained the issue to Debbie #2. She said she would research the case and get back to me.

Debbie #2 got back to me this evening. She received some inaccurate information from someone in tech support. (She was told Verizon iPads don’t use SIM cards.) She agreed to escalate my case to her “senior” and would get back to me tomorrow.

Update 12/4/2012: Debbie #2 left me a voicemail. She said that she is still looking into my proposed resolution.

Update 12/6/2012: I spoke with Debbie #2 twice today. She said that one of her contacts told her the iPad “isn’t used this way” (i.e. cellular service turned on and off month-to-month). I corrected her by reading from Apple’s web site (verbatim): “So if you have a business trip or vacation approaching, just sign up for the month you’ll be traveling and cancel when you get back.” Debbie also told me that it’s up to the consumer to inquire with the carrier before purchasing the product. I explained that I would have to be psychic, as Verizon does not inform customers in their terms of service or on their web site that SIM cards are deactivated. (Verizon’s web site didn’t mention SIM card deactivation when I bought my iPad, and still doesn’t.) Also, virtually every Verizon employee I spoke with gave me a different story. Lastly, she said that there is nothing more Apple can do in this case.

Update 12/10/2012: I filed a lawsuit against Apple. The trial is scheduled for February.

Update 2/21/2013: I won a default judgment against Apple.

If you need a replacement SIM for your iOS device, refer to this chart. Micro-SIM and nano-SIM cards are also known as 3FF and 4FF cards, respectively.

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24 Comments

  1. Shaunna says:

    I just started reading about this issue this morning after trying to reactivate my prepaid account via my iPad.

    This seriously seems like a bait and switch on the part of Verizon. I was under the impression that I’d be able to start and stop a monthly data plan whenever I needed it. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    When prompted that my account would be “deleted” after 5 months, nothing indicated that I wouldn’t be able to setup a new one or that the sim card would be deactivated completely.

    I’m very interested to see how this is resolved for you.

  2. Ed says:

    @Shauna & Dan: The can’t give away a SIM card because (they claim) they have no way to enter it in their sales system without having attached service to it. This has been ongoing since the iPad 3 VZW LTE was released. The ONLY service they can attach is POSTPAID service (which is not contract and is cancelable at any time) HOWEVER the CATCH is if you take them up on that, as soon as you stop the service because you don’t want to use it for a while they kill the sim card and you have to start all over PLUS they want to charge an activation fee each time.

    I’ve been through this with the highest levels of customer (non)service and probably 12 different store managers. They blame it on their system and having to account for every SIM. You might find a “rogue” 🙂 store manager who might give you one but good luck with that.

    The only option is eBay where they have both Micro and Nano sims available for around $6. I keep a couple of each “in stock” for my iPad 3 and mini.

    Despite what VZW morons tell you they are the IDENTICAL sims to the ones they use in all their phones. A SIM is a SIM. It only matters on how they are provisioned which is done over the air.

    Good luck. Apple says to see VZW, VZW says to see Apple.

  3. Ginny says:

    I hope there’s some resolution to this sim card/verizon/apple problem. I don’t like the fact that I will be required to purchase sim cards each time I want to activate an account. I guess I was lucky to find the one Verizon store that did replace my first sim card free of charge.

  4. Ginny says:

    I just got notification that your blog comments (which I found very helpful) have been removed by the verizon “moderator”…sounds like big brother to me. I hope I’m still able to learn more about your progress with the sim card and ipad problem. It concerns many of us users.

  5. Sam T. says:

    Hello, can you let me know how did this sim card issue for verizon LTE ipad 3 issue go? I just cancelled my month to month data plan on my VZ ipad 3 a few months ago and I chose the ” delete my account later” option on my ipad 3. Do I need to buy a month of data on my ipad 3 from VZ even I don’t need the data now, just to keep the SIM card alive on VZ’ s network? If so, this is totally wrong! I wouldn’t have bought a VZ LTE iPad 3 if I had known about this issue. Where can we file a complain that will get us a class action on this? Because VZ and apple are still selling Ipad 4 and iPad mini with VZ LTE SIM cards in them. Many people will get this same issue down the road.

  6. Rose says:

    Thanks so much for posting about this.

    I couldn’t believe it when (after many, many frustrating phone calls and redirects by Apple and Verizon — seriously, they’re unaware of the situation? It’s like every new person I spoke with had never heard of such a thing. Unlikely.) I realized that pressing “Delete Account Now” meant my sim card was fried. Why would they institute such a destructive/ cumbersome system, without adequate explanation? Easy month-to-month — yeah right! I have to buy and install a new piece of equipment whenever I want a cellular connection! My iPad mini doesn’t even offer the option of deleting later.

    Poring through the Apple discussions forums now. This is outrageous.

  7. Margaret O'Leary says:

    AT&T is just as bad. If you stop their data service for more than 59 days, you have to pay a $36 activation fee to start it up again. I called and complained and they agreed to give me a $36 one-time credit as a courtesy, but this obviously is not a good solution. This activation fee was apparently put into affect in April of 2012. Is there anywhere else one can get pre-paid service? When I’m in Norway I’m able to get it with no fees and no problem. They even have plans where you literally pay as you go, as well as pay ahead by the month or bundle with your mobile phone.

  8. Sam T. says:

    Hi Margaret, my friend has a AT&T ipad2 with 3G and he never has the problem. He can start the pre-paid data plan right on his ipad 2 and cancel it as he wants and he only activated the data plan during vacation in the winter 2011 and started again without problem in winter 2012. I think you may have a post- paid plan with AT&T, that’s why AT&T need to set that up for you and charge you the fee for the post-paid account. Of course I can be wrong, but according to my friend, he never needs AT&T’s customer service representative get involved for his pre-paid data plan because he can manage it right at his ipad 2.

  9. Carl Hammel says:

    First of all, I can confirm what Sam posted. We had an ATT iPad for two or three years and whenever we traveled, we would take out a 30-day plan. We did this multiple times; there were no problems, no extra charges, no new SIM cards.

    When we bought an iPad mini, we decided to go with Verizon because their 30-day plan seemed a better deal to us. I forget the specifics but it was a question of ATT offering 250MB plan for X bucks and if you wanted to bump up to the next level is was quite expensive and you had to buy more GB of usage than one, at least us, would use in 30 days. Verizon’s pricing structure was better, offering, I think, a 1GB plan for a reasonable fee.

    How bummed we were to find out that we can’t start and stop 30-day plans without incurring additional fees! This kind of corporate skullduggery ought to be beneath corporations like Verizon, but I guess it isn’t. Pretty sad that a company that size would stoop to, basically, a bait-and-switch scheme one normally associates with used card dealers and cheesy appliance store owners.

    CH

  10. Kurt says:

    For what it’s worth I just got back from two weeks in Europe and I lost my Verizon sim card during the trip after I used an A1 card for the vacation. I phoned from Austria to cancel the lost one so I wouldn’t continue to be automatically billed for it.

    I got home and Verizon told me I had to go to a store. My local Verizon store gave me a new sim card today. Once installed, I established a new account with it and I was all done. My prepaid is back in business just like it was before. Maybe they got the message after your ordeal.

  11. John says:

    I too have noticed this change by Verizon. How do you go about filling the law suit against Apple? I bought my ipad for the monthly ability to go on and off data plan.

  12. Alex Stalker says:

    @Kurt, I think you completely missed the point here. It’s not at lost SIM card issue.

  13. Richard says:

    This is a major policy shift and defeats the entire purpose of having an ipad with data that can be used a couple times a year. I have data on my phone, don’t need it on all my devices and my phone data plan can’t do tethering. We’ve been using the Verizon iPad’s data plan on and off for the past 2 years but now after using it on a vacation in Oregon I am now seeing this 5 month deactivation message. Guess we’ll be using another carrier – remember all iPads are carrier unlocked I believe. Was a handy feature but some suit decided otherwise.

  14. Sam T. says:

    Hi, this is my 3rd post here. Just for the update, My 2nd VZ micro SIM card on my VZ ipad 3 was dead again after 5 months of inactivity. I can’t believe VZ will make such a rule to permanently kill its own SIM cards like this. If VZ wants to do something like this, do it at least after 24 months, not 5 months! I do road trip with family only once a year, so I need to get a brand new micro sim and need to deal with VZ reps at the store just to buy a pre-paid micro SIM card every time before I need data service on my ipad 3, how sad this that?? From my bad experience in the past 2 years from VZ stores, they all want me to sign up for post-paid. They won’t just sell you a $10 pre-paid sim to be used on my ipad 3, they all said I need to pay $30 to open a post-paid account with activation fee in order to receive data service on my VZ ipad 3. They are all stupid and don’t know what they are talking about.

    Eventually I needed to go online and find a brand need sim on ebay and take a risk of being rip-off from dishonest sellers or they may simply send you the wrong card. Believe me, it happened!

    It seems like there is a solution to this, I just learned from my friend that t-mobile is offering free monthly 200mb for life, so I went online and purchased one pre-paid t-mobile micro sim. Tried it on my ipad 3 and it worked!!!!! I just popped out the dead VZ micro sim and put in the new t-mobile sim. Turned off the ipad to restart the 4G antenna and my ipad 3 did all the setting changes automatically. Open up safari and it prompted me to the t-mobile sim activation process and I was done and reviewing cellular data in 3 minutes. No credit card needed if I just want to enjoy the free monthly 200mb. Only need credit card if I want to use more than the 200mb freebie later if it is necessary. This is totally cool and the speed is in 4G. Not LTE, but in 4g. Not as fast as LTE, but it’s fast enough for me. So glad that now my ipad can be connected to the cellular network 24/7 and it’ free! Now “Find my iPhone” app is active 24/7 too since it uses very very little data to track my ipad, it is an additional peace of mind feature and it is free!!!

    Now I don’t need to worry about dead VZ micro sim anymore, truly buy data as I need it. It totally resolved my VZ ipad issue.

    Hope my experience helps anyone out there who are frustrated with their VZ iPads.

  15. Flennie says:

    I will need to reactivate my VZ nano sim for my iPad mini in a few weeks so as to not get it fried. I was hoping that by getting the T-Mobile free 200 mb plan, I can forget about maintaining the VZ sim. Well, I installed it yesterday, but to my dismay, the connection is spotty. It was spotty 8y ago when we had T-mobile cellular service, which is why we have been a VZ subscriber. Maybe T-mobile data will connect better in other areas, but I don’t want to risk not getting connection on my iPad mini when I needed. So sadly, I will reactivate the VZ sim.

  16. Sam T. says:

    Hi Flennie, too bad that t-mobile is spotty in your area. I guess you have no choice but keep buying unnecessary data plan from VZ just to keep the SIM card alive. I had done it twice before, and found that very annoying. It really bugs me that VZ is doing business this way to all iPads on its network. Like paying a $20 fee twice a year for something you don’t need at the time you purchase. It’s not a big amount, but it’s the rip-off idea of it. However, I do have to say VZ has the biggest LTE network in the USA, probably that’s why VZ can get away with thing like this and it knows it can. Thank you for listening to my venting. Have a great day.

  17. Flennie says:

    Does anyone know of a reliable vendor on eBay that sells Verizon nano-sim for iPad Mini that works? I really don’t need much cellular connection because I have wifi access 90% of the time and T-Mobile’s free 200 mb could be sufficient for the rest. I am willing to gamble that TM will cover the 10%. I have to reactivate my VZ nano-sim very soon or it will be deactivated for good. If I have a replacement sim in my hand for just in case, I’d be willing to let go of my VZ connection. Thanks!

  18. Sam T. says:

    Hey Flennie,

    I totally understand your concern and want to have at least a brand new VZ sim in hand before you let the existing one expire. I have personally purchased a VZ sim from a seller, starlinkone, from ebay that worked and later fried after 5 months of inactivity. I also purchase one more from this seller last week before I switched to t-mobile just in case. I’ve only bought 2 VZ micro SIM cards before, not nano sim, but I believe the seller is reliable based on my experience. Good luck!

  19. Flennie says:

    Sam, it’s great to hear that you had good experience with starlinkone. I was actually looking at this seller before I posted here, but there’s always a concern for fraud. Since I installed TM’s nano-sim 2 weeks ago, I’ve only used 6 mb. So it would be a great waste of $20 to re-activate the VZ sim just to keep it alive for another 5 months, and possibly having to do the same later again. So thanks so much!

  20. Flennie says:

    Do 4FF sim cards work for both iPhone 5 and iPad mini even though iPad has no voice capability?

  21. Sam T. says:

    I think they are the same for phone or tablet. My t-mobile micro sim that is in my VZ iPad 3 now is actually for smartphone and it works even I am not using it for voice plan.

  22. Flennie says:

    Sam, you are probably correct. I saw the nano sim offered on Amazon also, and one purchaser mentioned that it workd on his iPad mini whose sim was “burned”. When you popped the VZ sim you bought on ebay into your iPad, were you able to activate it from your iPad with a prepaid month-to-month plan?

  23. Sam T. says:

    Hi Flennie. Yes, the VZ sim I bought from ebay 6 months ago worked just like the original SIM card that came with my VZ ipad 3. They were both VZ SIM cards, the only difference I noticed was the color. I was able to activate it from my ipad 3, no need to contact VZ. Oh, just FYI, I found out that t-mobile’s data plan (free or prepaid data) also let us use my iPad as mobile hotspot. So, I can let my family members use my t-mobile data on their wifi-only tablets during vacation or away from wifi.

  24. Flennie says:

    Well, that’s reassuring. I was sitting on the fence about letting my sim burn. I will go ahead and get the sim from ebay and let my original VZ sim deactivate for good.

    I tried the mobile hotspot feature on the free T-Mo plan, but the other device didn’t see my iPad. Maybe the connection was not good enough? T-mo connection is not that reliable in my neighborhood. However, while taking my nightly walk, I was able to call my husband’s cell phone from my iPad mini using the free T-mo plan and the Talkatone app. That was cool.

    Thanks, Sam, for the reassuring info!