The Dance

The first hint of trouble came on line 4 of the form.


Recently my son-in-law, T, helped me realize that I am paying more than I should be for my cell phone service. The price of a smart phone, he explained, is built in to the monthly service charge, and is built on a two-year amortization schedule. So, after you’ve had your phone for two years, a big portion of your monthly charge is no longer going toward paying off the phone. But the companies continue to collect that money. So, if you have a two-year-old phone, you can subscribe to a different carrier and pay for just what you need – the service – without the phone subsidy.


OK – great! So, today was the day to switch to a different carrier and start saving a bunch of money!


I decided to go with the company that prides itself on customer service. I don’t know the technical stuff behind cell phones and wireless service, so I need customer service. I need a lot of it, and I need good customer service.


With this company, everything has to be submitted electronically. Forms and e-mail. No phone calls. OK. I can do forms and e-mail.



That brings us to line 4 of the form. They wanted my phone’s ESN. Here’s how they asked for it:

What is the ESN of the device that
you wish to port this number onto? You
should look for the MEID, MEID HEX,
or DEC
number inside your phone’s
menu software first. 

If you’ve never suspected that geeks speak a different language than you or I do, maybe that will convince you.


So, I went to my phone’s Settings -> General -> About, and I found

Serial Number




But no ENS, no MEID, no MEID HEX, no DEC.



I tried a google search to see where to look for an ENS on an iPhone 4S. I found a neat little YouTube video that showed me that the number would be on my SIM card. (I’ve never actually held a SIM card in my hand before.) The video showed a guy pulling the SIM card out of his phone, but it was already partway out when he did this. There was no information about how to get it partway out to begin with. I pushed and pulled and poked at my SIM card with a paperclip, but timidly. Nothing happened. It didn’t pop out at me or anything. I didn’t want to do any damage, so I gave that up.


None of the other 65 million google hits had any helpful information for me.


That’s when I sent a text message to my son-in-law, who really does live in the world of technology. Surely he would be able to help me.


Me: “Can you give me an easy way to find my ESN on my 4S?”


Him: “Settings -> General -> About”


Him: “I think it’s the one titled ‘Serial Number.’”


Me: “Ah. It’s like the ‘secret base’ in CalvinBall!


So, I filled in the form with my serial number, confident because my tech-savvy son-in-law had helped me out.


Twenty minutes later I received an e-mail from the company with the subject line, “INVALID ESN.” (Yes; it was all caps. They were yelling at me!)


After we exchanged several e-mails in which I

  • asked where to find the ESN on a 4S
  • gave them my IMEI
  • gave them my ICCD,

they finally told me that none of these worked. They said, “Please advise.”


What?? “Please advise?” They’re the customer service people. They are supposed to advise. Right?


They told me I’d have to call their parent company, the actual network provider. So, I made the call. Miraculously, I spoke with a live person! After a few minutes she got down to the real problem. It turns out that this is an “AT&T iPhone,” and this network cannot be used by an “AT&T iPhone.” What? an AT&T iPhone? I thought Apple made the phones and AT&T provided the network services. Bottom line, after all of this, it turns out that I cannot change my phone service to this new network. I’m really not sure what to do now.


3 thoughts on “The Dance

  1. Well, one of the options I was considering was a “smart phone”. You just convinced me to forget that idea! I dread purchasing and learning to use an I-pad but I probably will do it before leaving for Florida. Technology is too much!! especially at my advanced age – that is all that is advanced, not my technical ability.

  2. Have you looked into Net10 ( They have a $40/month plan with unlimited voice, unlimited text, and 500 MB data. I’m pretty sure they support AT&T iPhones.

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