Red Pocket is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that offers plans on each of the Big Four networks (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon). Red Pocket’s services on AT&T’s network and Verizon’s network are unusually well-priced. Customers who are willing to purchase 90 or 360 days of service upfront can get especially good prices on service purchased through Red Pocket’s eBay store. My own experience activating Red Pocket’s service and communicating with customer support was bad. However, I think most of Red Pocket’s customers have a better experience than I did.
On 4/19/2019, I went to Red Pocket’s website, navigated to the monthly plans page, and was presented with the following options:
For the plans with relatively small allotments of data, texts, and minutes, prices are identical regardless of the network used. For plans with large allotments, the CDMA service (using Verizon’s network) offers a little less data at any given price point than service over other networks.
I selected the $15 plan and elected to have that plan with Red Pocket’s CDMA service. I ended up paying $0.25 in tax beyond the $15 base price. I didn’t have to pay any extra for the SIM card or shipping.
Several days later, I received my SIM card and some introductory materials from Red Pocket:
The SIM card came in the standard 3-in-1 style. I inserted the SIM card into my Motorola G6 Play and went to RedPocket.com/Start to activate the service. On that page, I entered the ICCID that came along with my SIM card. After doing that, I was prompted to enter my device’s IMEI. I was surprised that Red Pocket didn’t conspicuously explain how a customer could find his or her IMEI. While that wasn’t a problem for me, I could see this step confusing some customers. Instructions for finding an IMEI could be pulled up by clicking “Need help?” on the activation page then clicking another item labeled: “If you are using a CDMA phone or device”. I don’t think requiring those two clicks to view instructions was a good design choice. Many people who don’t know was an IMEI is will also not know whether they have a CDMA device.
After entering my IMEI, I confirmed some personal information (e.g., my address) and finished the activation. This is when the problems started.
After completing the online activation process, I was able to send texts. I didn’t have data service yet, so I spent a little while unsuccessfully adjusting my phone’s settings in an attempt to get the data service running. Red Pocket’s website suggested I should place a test call after the online activation, so I eventually did that. When placing a call, I wasn’t directly connected to the recipient. Instead, I was prompted with some activation-related messages. I was told to press “1” if I wanted my messaging language to be set to English and then told in Spanish to press “2” if I wanted the messaging language set to Spanish. When I pressed “1” I was told I had entered an invalid input. After multiple calls and several attempts at pressing “1”, I decided to try and go through the activation in Spanish by pressing “2”. I still got the invalid input message.
Since I was struggling, I decided I had a good opportunity to speak with Red Pocket’s support. I called the customer service line and was connected to a Red Pocket support agent without being put on hold. I had to share a bit of information to verify my identity, including the last four digits on my SIM card (which I thought was a bit odd and inconvenient).
The Red Pocket agent said it sounded like my phone was not actually unlocked. I insisted that my phone was unlocked. I explained that I’d bought the phone unlocked from a third-party seller and had previously used it on multiple networks with several different carriers. The support agent was not convinced. He confirmed that my service appeared to be activated and tried resetting my service. This reset did not solve my problem. Every few minutes, the agent reiterated that he thought my phone was not unlocked. While I told him multiple times that the phone was not purchased from Verizon or branded with Verizon’s logo, the agent told me multiple times that I should call Verizon to confirm the phone was unlocked.
After some time, the conversation became confusing. From my perspective, the agent was telling me that my phone was probably not working because it was locked and that Red Pocket could only guarantee good service on Verizon’s network if I initially purchased the device from Verizon which I hadn’t. After about 20 minutes, the agent and I agreed that we should end the call so I could try the SIM card in another device.
Dealing with the activation issue
I switched the SIM card into another device (this device was unlocked & Verizon-branded). I did not immediately have data service, so I went ahead and made a test call. I was promoted with the same information about setting my messaging language. This time, when I pressed “1,” everything worked as expected. After completing the call, my service was fully active. I switched the SIM card back into my original phone, the Motorola G6 Play, and everything worked fine.
I’m baffled by the “invalid input” issue. The G6 & G6 Play are common phones, so I don’t think the issue I experienced should have been rare or obscure if it was a device-related problem. I’m also not sure why an additional step was necessary after the online activation process.
Overall, my experience with Red Pocket was by far the most frustrating experience I’ve had activating service with an MVNO. I don’t think most Red Pocket subscribers experience the issue I had or the sort of unproductive experiences with customer support that I did. That said, Joe Paonessa of BestMVNO.com shares some similar experiences in part of his review of Red Pocket. It’s possible that the issues I experienced were specific to Red Pocket’s service over Verizon’s network rather than Red Pocket in general. Paonessa’s issues also occurred with service on Verizon’s network.
Using the service
At the time of writing, I’m still early in my trial of Red Pocket. So far, speeds have been all over the place. I have not identified any obvious throttling of speeds. Here are a few screenshots from unsystematic speed tests:
Red Pocket’s eBay store deals
Red Pocket has an eBay store. At the moment, Red Pocket sells 90-day and 360-day service options through its eBay store that are not available for purchase via Red Pocket’s website. Below, you can find some of the notable options that were available as of 4/30/2019. Except where noted otherwise, each option was available on any of the Big Four networks and included free shipping. The quantities of texts/minutes/data indicate monthly allotments.
90 days of service:
- $29 – 500 minutes, 500 texts, 500MB of data
- $69 – Unlimited talk, unlimited texts, 1GB of data
360 days of service:
- $60 – 100 minutes, 100 texts, 500MB of data
- $99 – 500 minutes, 500 texts, 500MB of data
- $169 – 1000 minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB of data
- $205 – unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB of data
- $229 – unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB of data
- $240 – unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 5GB of LTE data, additional data at reduced speeds (no option for Verizon’s network)
- $399 – unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 10GB of LTE data, additional data at reduced speeds (no option for Verizon’s network)
- Federal universal service fund: $0.22
- Federal cost recovery charge: $0.03
- The 3-in-1 structure allows the SIM card to be adjusted to the size a device requires (standard, micro, or nano).
- At the time of writing, Red Pocket has one 30 day service option in its eBay store. I believe that option is either the same as, or similar to, an option available through Red Pocket’s main website.