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Another Episode of Living with Mint Mobile

Stella is presently on a trip to The Netherlands. She’s travelling with our niece, who is visiting our great-niece who is going to school at the University of Maastricht. It’s literally a European Vacation.

It fell to me to do the best I could to help Stella prepare for her trip. In particular, to help arrive at a strategy for providing mobile phone service while abroad. As we are Mint Mobile customers, I checked their site for the potential of international roaming. Mint requires that we prepay some funds toward international roaming.


Mint Mobile is quite expensive. Most especially the data costs, which could also be expressed as a whopping $200 / GB! Clearly their offer was not the way to go. We needed to consider alternatives.


Since James Body, the former CTO of TruPhone is good friend and VUC alumni, I checked out their offer. TruPhone is the leader in mobile phone plans for people who travel extensively. They have a plan based on an eSIM that provides for 10 GB for $20. That’s quite reasonable.


However, their eSIM plans are only data. There’s no voice or SMS component. That would be awkward. It would means still spending something with Mint Mobile to have access to voice calling. Or training Stella to rely solely on some other service, like Google Meet or Facebook Messenger.

All that adds complexity. Change is genuinely hard.

Lyca Mobile

Our niece is in the habit of getting a local SIM from Lyca Mobile. I didn’t know the terms, but it would be voice + SMS + Data. Also, Stella’s Pixel 6a could get on Wi-Fi in some places, allowing her some added flexibility. I thought then local SIM would be a good solution.

Best of Both Worlds?

Further, if she could keep her Mint Mobile service on the phone she’d be able to take calls and SMS from people in the USA who did not know that she was overseas. So, I thought I should explore moving her Mint Mobile service from the physical SIM to an eSIM.

Of course, that’s the kind of experiment I could not do on her phone. I did it on mine. On Wednesday, March 15th I followed the directions offered online to migrate my Pixel 6a from using the physical SIM to an eSIM.

This is something that must be done using the Mint Mobile app on the phone. The instructions are not difficult. In fact, the simple approach involves following a link to a web page with a QR code. Capturing that QR code basically gets it done.

Of course, in my case, the email Mint Mobile sent me contained a faulty link. Where there should have been a QR code there was only a blank browser window.

Like any normal person, I engaged Mint Mobile support by telephone. The agent was plainly overseas, and English was not their first language. They followed the script they were provided. They tried to be polite. However, the processes they were asking me to explore where ridiculous, even counterproductive.

In one of several calls they had me wipe the “known networks” in the phone, which meant I could not receive the SMS necessary to activate the newly issued eSIM. The documentation for manual installation of the eSIM noted that I should call the support team. The support team had literally nothing to offer on the matter.

Not Tonight, Dear.

One of the calls to them went beyond 9pm CDT. When we finally reached the end of their rope they told me that it required attention from “the back-end team” on the west coast. Those folks were gone for the day. They offered to call me back the following morning to resume troubleshooting.

They did call me back the next day, but all they could tell me was there was some kind of non-descript outage. I would need to wait 48 to 72 hours for the matter to be corrected.

What was most frustrating was the fact that the telephone support team were wholly unable to even state the nature of the problem. It was off-script, and they could say nothing further. This completely killed any sense that they had any idea what was actually going wrong.

A telecom friend upon hearing this story noted that “MVNOs are great, until they’re not.” Whenever you need to interact with them, they’re terrible. The individuals mean well, but they’re simply not well positioned to provide solutions. Further, in this case, it didn’t seem that there was a tier 2 support team.


At this point in the story it’s now the morning of Thursday, March 16th. In frustration, I resorted DMs to the support team that inhabits the Mint Mobile forum on Reddit. These folks seemed a little more clued in. They asked for info specific to my phone and service. They provided guidance on how to get that info. I complied.

The process was very slow. Hours lapsed between message and response. It made it difficult to have faith that they would follow the thread of the ongoing diagnostics.

A Temporary Number

Midday Friday, with no resolution in sight and a phone that could not make or receive calls, my thoughts turned to the third line on our Mint Mobile account. I had purchased a SIM for my laptop that was only used as a backup when our Comcast internet access went out. Technically, Mint Mobile doesn’t offer data-only service, but it had been working well enough for over a year.

I slipped that SIM into my Pixel 6a and (voila!) once again had voice and SMS service, albeit at a different phone number. I informed those few people who might truly need to reach me that I had a temporary phone number for the next few days. This provided some breathing room for the weekend.

If at first you don’t succeed..

At a few times over the weekend I received email from Mint Mobile advising that my new service was “ready to be activated.” Those messages included a link to a QR code to install and activate the eSIM. In the first two messages the link was faulty, like before. But in the third, arriving late Sunday, it appeared to be valid.


Revisiting Reddit, I saw a message from MintMobileAlex (image above) saying they had sent me the new QR code. MintMobileAlex is actually a team of people who handle support via social media, including Reddit.

Monday midday I tried it, and the process finally worked as one might have hoped. In about 5 minutes my phone had a new eSIM installed and was able to make & receive calls from my longstanding mobile number. Apparently Mint mobile had finally resolved their eSIM provisioning “outage.”

In The Netherlands

Upon her arrival in Amsterdam Stella bought a Lyca Mobile SIM providing voice, SMS and 35 GB of data. That’s more than she would ever use in her week abroad, but the cost was nominal. We’ve actually found it easiest to use Facebook Messenger to video chat. She’s comfortable with that app. It allows me to use a mobile phone or computer to connect. The audio quality is very good.


I probably should have considered an entirely different approach, like installing the Zoom client on her phone. I had (perhaps foolishly) thought to keep things as simple and familiar as possible.

We’ve been with Mint Mobile for 15 months. In fact, it was this very week that our plan renewed. We prepay for 90 days at a time. We’re happy with the service on a pure price/performance basis. We’re not-so-thrilled with the support experience.

My little misadventure started on the very day that Mint Mobile announced that T-Mobile was buying the company. I jokingly thought that perhaps all four of the “back-end team” went out on a four-day bender to celebrate the acquisition, leaving eSIM provisioning down until they came back to work on Monday. They were surely helped by the fact that Friday was St. Patrick’s day.


The day after I published this the New York Times offered an article saying: “Attention, Travelers: Now Is the Best Time to Switch to eSIM”. Where “now” plainly means this week. Cuz last week it simply was not possible, at least not on Mint Mobile. At least the logic of my attempt has been vindicated.

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