Friday, June 05, 2020

Airtel, eSIM, loosing connectivity and moving to Android

It was the 3rd day of the lockdown. I had to walk down to my office late in the evening as a server had broken down, and there was no other option than for me to walk in there and fix the thing so that rest of my colleagues can still connect to work. After I came back home, I went to take a bath and then suddenly realised that there was no signal on my iPhone. I had no clue what was the reason. So I did the usual trouble shooting and then restarted the phone. Still no signal. Next I put the sim in my second phone with no SIM - Google Pixel 3a. Still nothing. I had actually got this phone for my uncle, but he somehow didn't like it so it came back to me.

After a lot of trial an error I reached my service provider - Airtel on Twitter. They are usually fast to respond. Over the DM I described the issue, and they took an alternative number to call me back. Thankfully wife's number was available - I am a single number person, but today I suddenly realised the importance of having more than one SIM, or atleast 2.

The Airtel techical person called back and after a bit of trouble shooting - gave this assessment- that my SIM card is damaged and needs to be replaced! But since currently all the offices are closed I will have to wait. Sigh.

I waited for 2 days for this to sink in and in the mean time asked every one of my colleague to either call me on Slack or Skype. Luckily I had added a Airtel Data SIM to my plan just over a week ago. So that I could put that into my iPad and my father could use it for his usual bit of news and article reading.

Even though I didn't have a phone connection at this moment, I didn't feel disconnected or unable to go about my normal work from home routine. All this, until I had to pay my credit card bill. My bank had recently changed their interface, which now forced one to enter an OTP sent to your registered mobile number to complete a transaction. Bummer. Panicked I called up my colleagues to ask if they would be ok to pay my bills if I am not able to pay my bills because of this uniquely strange situation I was in. At the same time I tried to check if I could use the BHIM app installed on my phone to pay the credit card bills, but it didn't work - because my phone didn't have active SIM. But luckily there was Paytm, that was also linked to UPI, which I could use to pay my credit card bills. All this made me a bit worried on how I would pay for other things that will require me to provide the OTP. Soon there was a due date for property tax upcoming. Something clicked, and I again DMed Airtel customer care, to ask if they could provide me an eSIM. They said it will not work on my current phone, I knew that, it was an iPhone X. But I said I have an alternate phone with me Google Pixel 3a, which according to your site does support eSIM. But then they said that there is currently no procedure in place to give me a SIM like this. I again requested them and explained that without this I am totally locked out of my bank and unable to do any transaction. They said they will get back and also asked to send an email to their customer care (which are usually unanswered anyways). I tweeted about this issue and tagged Airtel and DoT ministry to issue a guideline for issueing eSIM in such a scenario.

I have been using iOS device since 2014. Before that I used Windows Phone - the Lumia 800. I had very briefly used Samsung Galaxy 5 as a daily driver, which ran on Android. Had a not great experience with Android, and thus shifted to using Windows Phone - that amazing Lumia 800. So when I was looking at shifting back to Android as my daily driver I was not so sure. But here I was, the Pixel was the only way, if Airtel agreed, to avoid me keep calling my friends to help me with paying my bills. 

After a bit of following up with Airtel executive, they approved my request and said that the eSIM will be sent to my registered e-mail in a few hours. After a bit of waiting, I actually got this email, and I activated using my Google Pixel 3a. Ever since, I have been using Android on daily basis, and it has grown on me. There was one more advantage of using Pixel 3a - a finger print reader to unlock the phone, instead of Face ID at the times when you have to cover up your face. Just in time.

Looking back, conncting the dots is a fun exercise - if my uncle didn't give me back the Pixel, I would be still disconnected as far as communication with the phone is concerned. And I would be desparately calling my friends to help me with my bills.

For now, I am on Android, and liking the flexibility it offers after using iOS for about 7 years. Crazy times, crazy experience.

No comments: