As I entered the store, a T-Mobile sales associate greeted me and took down my name and gave me a card indicating the device I wanted (Samsung Galaxy S4) and what color I wanted (white) and had me sit and wait for another associate to help me complete my purchase.
T-Mobile used the card system to keep the buying process orderly; however, the store wasn't massively crowded for the smartphone's debut on its network. Many customers, like me, were likely new to T-Mobile as they tended to spend a long time at checkout.
I might have simply missed it, but I didn't see any Samsung Galaxy S4 handsets on display in the store. I’ve been to other T-Mobile locations, which will begin offering the device on May 15 when it becomes available nationwide, and the Galaxy S4 was displayed. At the 34th Street T-Mobile store, the iPhone was ironically displayed front and center. Indeed, it was the first device I saw when entering the store.
The wait wasn’t long before a T-Mobile associate came to get me and help me purchase my Galaxy S4. While my phone was being retrieved from the store room, the associate began to explain T-Mobile’s service to me, but I already knew what I wanted. I planned to pay for my Galaxy S4 in full and get the network’s unlimited nationwide 4G data plan, which includes unlimited talk and text plus 500MB of free high speed data. The plan costs $70 a month.
T-Mobile recently changed its plan structure, doing away with two-year contracts and establishing a payment plan for devices as opposed to offering a subsidy. Under its new “no contract” plan, customers pay a down payment when they purchase their device – $149.99 for the Samsung Galaxy S4. They must pay off the balance in $20 installments over a 24-month period, which essentially is just a different version of a two-year contract if you ask me. I’m not quite sure if T-Mobile thinks people don’t know that 24 months are the same as two years. Considering that customers are still on the hook for the balance, even if they cancel their T-Mobile plan early, I figured the simplest course of action would be to pay the phone off in full at purchase.
The associate explained to me that there was a $10 activation fee for joining T-Mobile, which is supposedly down from $35 when the network had contract plans. My total cost for the phone after tax and an activation fee was $696.79. I also bought a Tech 21 Impact Snap case for $38.10.
Once my Samsung Galaxy S4 handset was brought out, the associate unboxed it, installed the SIM card as well as the 8GB MicroSD card I had on hand and began its set up. Since T-Mobile just rolled out its first Galaxy S4 update on Tuesday, the update was available and the associate installed it.
Having been painfully behind in phone technology for a very long time, I began transferring my number from Metro PCS and saying goodbye to my generations-old LG Optimus M. As I wrangled with Metro PCS over the phone to access and transfer my account number, the associate explained to me that the process would take about 24 hours, during which I would have dual service. I was able to make calls and send texts from my Galaxy S4, while receiving calls from my old phone. I was able to receive texts from my Galaxy S4 quite early, once T-Mobile registered my number a few hours after my purchase; however, my calling ability was activated the next morning.
At one point, I took a moment to look around me, and at every vantage point was a wooden patterned Samsung Galaxy S4 box. It was humorous to see a lone Apple customer buying an iPhone at that time.
I also purchased T-Mobile’s insurance for an $11 monthly fee, which protects customers in the event that their device is lost, stolen or damaged in some way. T-Mobile promises to send customers who purchase insurance a new device within 24 hours. It's completely opt-in-or-out at purchase, you can't add it later. Also, if you choose to cancel insurance later, you can't add it back. I opted to get the insurance as the Samsung Galaxy S4 has proven to be a fragile device.
Overall, I would rank my Samsung Galaxy S4 purchase experience as positive. The associate was informative and helpful and the process was relatively quick and orderly. Now, only time will tell if this Galaxy S4 was worth the wait.
Fionna Agomuoh is a Technology Reporter for the International Business Times, a vegan foodie, and a lover of Electric Dance Music.