It's all but certain that Apple will be announcing a new iPhone in just a few days. I've come to the conclusion I need to switch carriers from AT&T to Verizon. I'm out of contract and ready to go. But then I became concerned if I pre-order the new Verizon phone the week of September 12th and put in the request to port my phone number, what happens in the intervening week?
Typically, when you request to port a number away from a carrier, as soon as you initiate the port your current service is terminated. When ordering from the Apple online store, you pick your phone, provider, plan and can even port your number all from Apple.com. But in this case, there would be at least a week long delay between the time I pre-order the phone and the time the phone is delivered. Would my AT&T service terminate as soon as I pre-ordered my new iPhone leaving me a week or more without service? Or, does the port not actually happen until the phone is delivered and you complete activation at home?
I reached our to my Twitter followers to see if anyone had experience but received conflicting answers. The safest bet would be to make this switch the day of release at a retail store, but there's no Apple Store in my city and given past experience, I'd rather drive 90 miles to the nearest Apple Store and wait all day in the hot sun before I'd drive across town and deal with either of my local carrier stores. Given work commitments, if I want an iPhone on release day, pre-order is the only way to go.
Looking at the FAQs on Apple.com it says this about porting your number:
Can I transfer my current phone number?
Yes. When you purchase your iPhone, you’ll be instructed on how to transfer your current number. You can keep using your existing phone until your new iPhone arrives and you set it up. Then you can start making calls on the new iPhone using your current phone number. If you are switching carriers, termination fees may apply. Please contact your current carrier for details.
That seemed to confirm what I found on Apple's site but I wanted more confirmation, so I went through the motions of ordering a new iPhone with Verizon and was presented with this screen:
The information on Apple's site indicates that the initiation of the transfer will occur when I turn on the new iPhone and follow the on-screen instructions to initiate it. This sounds like I'm not actually initiating the port at the point of order, but rather pre-filling some information that will be used when I activate the phone at home.
For final confirmation, I opted to chat with an agent. After exchanging pleasantries here's the important part of our conversation (edited slightly to correct typos and omit extraneous conversation).
Apple: How may I assist you today?
Me: My question is about ordering a new iPhone but switching carriers, I currently have an iPhone 4 on AT&T. I am out of contract with AT&T...I'm expecting to buy a new iPhone in the next week or so but this time I want to move to Verizon. I want to take my current number with me.
Apple: That's perfectly fine!
You'll order that iPhone, and you'll be asked if you would like to port your current number.
Me: Right... My concern is, sometimes there can be a week or more delay from the time the phone is ordered until it's shipped My concern is when will my AT&T service be terminated? And/or when will my current number be ported from AT&T to Verizon?
Apple: Okay, if you order online, your current iPhone will remain active. Your new iPhone will arrive only partcially activated. When you complete that is when everything is changed over. There's no interruption in service.
Me: I've been told my AT&T service will terminate when the number is ported. So that happens upon receipt and activation of my new Verizon phone. NOT when I order the phone. Am I understanding that correctly?
Apple: That's exactly right! You'll have to complete that activation once your iPhone arrives in your hand.
The agent went on to confirm for me again that my current iPhone would remain active until my new one arrived at which point the port would be completed. So far, this all seems like good news. Three different sources appearing to confirm that I can pre-order my new iPhone online, start the port to a new carrier and finish it when my new phone arrives. Kudos to Apple for making this process so painless!
I'm only reporting what I've been told by Apple so I suggest if you're in a similar situation you check independently with Apple or your carriers as this policy may vary from country to country and carrier to carrier.