11
Dec
IMG_20131211_095045

When Google announced the next-generation Nexus 7 back in July, the Android enthusiast community rejoiced at the fact that the LTE model, while working on AT&T and T-Mobile as expected, also worked on Verizon Wireless. This was an enormous step forward in the mobile universe because Verizon has the largest network in the United States and, at the time of release, had more LTE coverage than AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint combined. The issue was, however, that up until that point Verizon would never allow “outside” or “unlocked” devices onto their network.

For background, when Verizon purchased their 700 MHz spectrum during a 2008 FCC auction – the spectrum they used to roll out LTE on their network – one of the stipulations they were forced to agree to was to allow any device onto their network, so long as the device was capable of using that spectrum. Because Verizon only uses that 700 MHz spectrum for LTE, they only have to allow unlocked devices on the LTE portion of their network. They will not, and do not have to, allow unlocked devices on their legacy CDMA2000 network. Prior to the Nexus 7 launch, no manufacturer had ever tried to release a carrier-free unlocked device that worked on Verizon LTE. Because of that, no one was able to properly test whether Verizon was prepared to allow unlocked LTE devices. Google’s hope was clearly to change that by equipping the second-generation Nexus 7 with Verizon LTE compatibility.

Early adopters found out quickly that Verizon was completely unprepared to allow unlocked devices onto their network. If you already had Verizon service, swapping your existing activated SIM card into your Nexus 7 would work with no problem whatsoever. The issue came when you needed to activate a brand new line of service or needed to get a new SIM card for your existing line (for instance if you had a Xoom which took a full-size SIM, but wanted to replace it with a Nexus 7, which takes a micro SIM). Here we are 5 months post-launch and this is still a problem. It is the goal of this article to give you all the information you need to successfully activate a Nexus 7 on a new line of service with Verizon Wireless if you choose to.

What’s the problem?

Every time you bring your own device and want to set up a new line of service or need a new SIM card for your existing line, your carrier will ask you for your device’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) number. Every carrier does this, not just Verizon. They do this for several reasons:

  1. To make sure that the device isn’t blacklisted due to it being lost or stolen.
  2. To ensure that the device is compatible with their network.

Each carrier keeps their own database of IMEI number ranges for devices that are known to work with their network. This is the crux of the problem with the Nexus 7 on Verizon. Because Verizon does not actually sell it, they do not have its IMEI number ranges in their database. The only way for a manufacturer, in this case Asus, to get their device listed in Verizon’s IMEI database is to go through a network certification process, by which Verizon certifies that the device will work on their network. Currently, Google and Asus are going through this certification process for the Nexus 7, but there’s no indication of when it will be complete. In the meantime Verizon will not issue a SIM card to you because they don’t recognize the IMEI number of your Nexus 7.

What will happen if I walk into a Verizon store with a Nexus 7 and attempt to get a data plan and SIM card?

Generally, this is what will happen:

  1. The store representative will set you up with your new tablet data plan.
  2. The rep will get a SIM card and ask you for the IMEI number of your tablet.
  3. You will read off the IMEI number of your tablet.
  4. The rep will inform you that the IMEI number is showing as invalid, and will tell you that the device cannot be activated.
  5. You walk away pissed off, and immediately go to your closest AT&T or T-Mobile store, who will happily activate your device for you in 5 minutes.

I really want Verizon service, though! Is there anything that can be done until Google and Asus finish the certification process?

You are in luck, my friends. There is a very simple way of getting around the IMEI checks and getting your tablet activated easily. Unfortunately, it’ll be very difficult to do it at a Verizon store unless you get the rare representative who knows of the Nexus 7 and knows what to do to get it activated. Fortunately, reps like this do exist. I experienced it personally, and others have reported success from reps here and there. For most of you, though, this won’t be the case. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go into a Verizon store and find a floor model tablet. It can be pretty much any tablet other than an iPad. I recommend any Galaxy Tab device.
  2. Go into the tablet’s settings, go to “About Tablet”, then “Status." Scroll down until you find the IMEI number. Take a note of it, take a picture of it, whatever you have to do.
  3. Go to Verizon’s website and set up a new line of service. When you are asked for the IMEI number of your device, enter the IMEI number from the floor model tablet. This will pass the “is this certified for Verizon’s network” test.
  4. Pick your plan and complete the signup process.
  5. Verizon will send you a SIM card via FedEx.
  6. Once you get the SIM card, go to the online activation system and enter the SIM card ID from the SIM card that they sent you, and enter the IMEI number of the floor model.
  7. After completing the rest of the online activation process, put the SIM card into your Nexus 7 and reboot it.
  8. When it comes back up, wait a minute or two, and you should be up and running with Verizon service!

Isn’t this dishonest? What happens if someone buys that floor model tablet down the road? Will they be able to activate it?

This is a complete non-issue. IMEI numbers are used for two things; they are used to check if the device is stolen and they are matched against Verizon’s database to make sure the device is “certified.” The minute you put that SIM card into your Nexus 7, the IMEI number associated with your SIM card changes from the floor model’s IMEI number to the actual IMEI number of your Nexus 7. This can be verified by installing the My Verizon app on your tablet, then going into the app and noting that your device shows up as “Non-VZW Device.”

image

At this stage, the floor model’s IMEI number is completely unattached from your SIM card and free to be activated by whoever might end up with that floor model down the road. Remember further up the article when I said that there are Verizon store reps here and there who can get around the IMEI fiasco and activate your Nexus 7 for you? These are the exact steps they perform as well.

Are there any “gotchas” or anything that might not work quite right?

Unfortunately, yes. Since Verizon’s system still isn’t fully set up to handle users with devices which they don’t sell, you will encounter issues if you ever need to reset your My Verizon password or change your plan. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • My Verizon: Normally when you reset your password on a My Verizon account for a tablet line, it will email you with instructions. Because the Nexus 7 is a “non-VZW device,” the system instead assumes you have a phone, and will attempt to send a text message to your tablet’s phone number. You will never receive this text message because the Nexus 7 does not have SMS capabilities. Instead, you’ll most likely have to call Verizon customer service or visit a Verizon store and have them help you.
  • Changing your plan: You won’t be able to change your plan online because, again, the Nexus 7 is a “non-VZW device.” The system has no idea what type of device you have, therefore it has no idea what types of plans to offer you. This is something else you’ll have to have Verizon customer service or a Verizon store rep help you with.

In addition to these, always keep in mind that Verizon only has to allow unlocked devices on the LTE portion of their network. The Nexus 7 does not include any CDMA2000 capabilities, thus it cannot fall back to 3G or 1X data. In practical terms, that means if you leave Verizon's LTE coverage area, you will not have data on your tablet. That said, when you consider that 95% of Verizon's network is LTE at this point, this shouldn't be a problem for most people.

In closing, I do believe this is the best solution if you need to get your Nexus 7 activated on a new line of service with Verizon. Once Google and Asus complete the certification process, all of this will be a complete moot point because Verizon will have the Nexus 7′s IMEI numbers in their database. Until then, though, it’s important for you to understand that you CAN activate your Nexus 7 on Verizon if you are willing to think outside the box. Sure, some features like the ones outlined above will be a bit fussy, but that’s the price we pay for living in the gray world and bending the rules.

Shawn De Cesari
Shawn is a web developer by day and XDA's resident archivist for Nexus and Google Play Edition device OTA updates by night. When not immersing himself in code or Android, he can be found hunting down antique signs, taking road trips, listening to music, or playing video games. His phone of choice is a Sony Z Ultra Google Play Edition.
  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Welcome to AP, Shawn ;-]

    • Matt

      Shawn's the new super technical guy, I presume?

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        He's Cody 2.0.

        jk

        (not really)

        (or am I?)

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/pamela-hill/ Pamela Hill

          Does Cody know he's been upgraded? ;)

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Not unless one of us tells him. Shhh.

    • http://blog.tonysarju.com/ Tony Sarju

      Welcome Shawn, I hope Artem has treated you to a seafood dinner.

      • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

        More like peanuts and cracker jack, but that's fine! ;)

  • Andrew

    This is the exact process people on ATT had to do to get LTE on their Nexus 5 of they never had an LTE device before (i.e. Nexus 4).

    • Stacey Liu

      No. You can literally just call AT&T and tell them you want to change from an HSPA+ plan to an LTE plan. If they tell you your registered phone doesn't support LTE, tell them you're using a different one. They might ask for your IMEI, but nothing will go wrong.

      You don't have to write down anything from a store.

    • Braden Abbott

      All you have to do is have them update your IMEI or do it yourself at att.com/updatedevice, you need to do it with every LTE device change anyways or the phone has handoff problems and misses calls. People think it's okay to swap SIMs on the fly and wonder why they have problems...

  • Ryan Callihan

    This is a brilliant workaround.

    • h4rr4r

      No, it is silly way to reward someone with money who does not want your money.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        That's a silly way to go about it.

        • h4rr4r

          Care to elaborate?

          VZW does not want to take the Nexus 7 LTE users money. Doing this tells them they don't need to bother either. Vote with your dollars folks.

      • Ryan Callihan

        They want your money. They don't want you using your Nexus. Plain and simple.

  • Kurt

    Can I do this with the Nexus 5?

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      No. The Nexus 5 has no support for Verizon at all. Each phone/tablet/whatever has a certain set of bands that they support. The Nexus 5 includes support for T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint LTE bands, but not Verizon. If you put a Verizon SIM card into your Nexus 5, nothing would happen.

    • Tim242

      You could, but it won't work on their network.

  • Steve Secor

    Congrats Shawn! Hope to see more of your work on AP! Maybe you can help with me getting my toaster activated on Verizon?

  • Peter Yeh

    I would verify the non SMS ability. I have the nexus 7 LTE with T-Mobile. I have an assigned number ( it cannot receive or send phone calls) and I can send text to it.

    • jonathan3579

      You obviously haven't updated to 4.4 because Google removed the ability to text on both the 3G and LTE Nexus 7.

      • Peter Yeh

        Hhm. That is weird that you say that. I side loaded 4.4 before giving this tablet to my wife. Texted her and she received the text.

        • jonathan3579

          If you've managed to keep texting and 4.4, I'm sure a lot of devs and users would love to know more. (I would too.)

          • Peter Yeh

            ;)

          • Peter Yeh

            I have some screen shots give me an email and I'll send them to you

          • jonathan3579

            Shoot 'em to jonathan3579 at Yahoo. (Didn't wanna post my gmail since I don't mind spam in Yahoo. LOL

          • Peter Yeh

            I have some screenshots to show you

  • moelsen8

    good, stick it to big red.

  • Peter Yeh

    Are you sure about that? I side loaded 4.4 before even giving the tablet to my wife. Then texted her and she received it. Also I just texted her just Now and she received it. I would lean toward the tablet not having access to the cdma band side as the cause of not being able to text.

  • ITGuy11

    Great article, however, it is complete and utter bullshit that vzw doesn't have to adhere to the FCC rules...

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      They do adhere to the FCC's rules. They don't block the Nexus 7. If you have an activated SIM card, it works just fine.

  • duse

    "This is the crux of the problem with the Nexus 7 on Verizon. Because Verizon does not actually sell it, they do not have its IMEI number ranges in their database."

    I don't understand this. AT&T doesn't sell the Nexus yet it activates just fine. What does it selling it have to do with anything? This sounds like a line of bullshit that Verizon fed someone.

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      The difference is, when an OEM goes to AT&T and says "here are the IMEIs of a new device that we have that works on your network", they'll simply add them. T-Mobile does the same thing. Verizon, on the other hand, is more picky and requires the network certification process before they'll add the IMEIs of a device they don't sell. It's as simple as that.

      • duse

        Well, that's Verizon for you....the only carrier in the world pulling that level of bullshit.

  • matt bigelow

    Has anyone tried this? I tried the same process when the LTE N7 was released. Verizon told the only way to activate the new line was by inserting SIM, go to settings (settings->more->mobile plan), and follow the prompts. Every time i tried, the n7 said Verizon did not have a provisioning web site.

    I then ask to have the rep just activate the service, but was told that can not be done. It had to be done directly from the tablet.

    Because of this, i activated service with ATT. I am happy with the ATT service, but nice to know i have options if i want to change.

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      I tried this personally. This is exactly how I got my N7 activated on Verizon originally.

      Then last Saturday, my SIM card ended up floating in a glass of vodka (long story) and instead of doing this thing all over again, I went to a Verizon store prepared to go to war to get a new SIM card. After all...sure you need a new SIM card? What's the IMEI of your tablet? Sorry, that's invalid, no SIM for you.

      Amazingly, I got a rep at the store who actually knew more than his book training. He said "OK so you need a new SIM card?" I told him yes so he said "OK what type of tablet do you have?" I said "Here's the tricky part. This is a non-VZW device. You guys don't sell it and the IMEI won't be in your database." He said "Nexus 7? Yeah, I can get around all that. I'll have you out the door in 5 minutes with a new SIM." And sure enough, he did.

      • Renard Fiossa

        Lucky
        There's not been one customer service rep I've encountered with a decent amount of knowledge about what's on the market
        Especially in the local shops, where they don't even know what a Nexus 7 is despite the fact there've been advertisements for it recently :c

  • naturecannon

    So is this you on XDA last month?? Or did you just reap the benifits from his ideas http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2525729

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      One in the same.

  • ThomasMoneyhon

    This is great, but should be unnecessary. Verizon is breaking the rules of the FCC 700mhz open access rules, possibly violating law. There needs to be no certification process because technically due to fcc law they can not tell you you are not allowed to use your nexus 7 (part one "where you walk out pissed" Complain here about it http://www.fcc.gov/complaints and click wireless telephone. Verizon must be punished for flagrant ignoring of the rules.

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      Unfortunately, they are breaking no law. The FCC's rules left a lot of gray area. If Verizon were specifically prohibiting non-Verizon devices from functioning on their LTE network, then yes, they'd be in violation. They aren't, though. If you have an activated SIM card, the Nexus 7 works just fine.

      • Dan DeMarco

        Shawn, if I activate, say.... any 4g LTE phone (as a new line) with a Micro SIM and then throw it into my Nexus 7, will the "Non-VZW Device" then still be considered a phone line?

        • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

          Without having actually tried it myself, I can't say for sure. But, keep in mind that if you use the IMEI number from an LTE phone, it'll make you sign up for a phone plan, which costs more money than a data-only tablet plan. That's why I said specifically to use a floor model tablet. That way it lets you sign up for a tablet data plan.

          For instance: Say you wanted to get a Nexus 7 activated on a new line. If you use the IMEI number from a phone, it's going to charge you $40/mo monthly access in additon to your data package, rather than $10/mo monthly access for a tablet. So:

          Phone IMEI: $40 monthly access + $70 for 4 GB = $110/mo.
          Tablet IMEI: $10 monthly access + $30 for 4 GB = $40/mo.

          Why the huge cost difference? Because tablet plans don't include calls and text (which you can't use on a Nexus 7 anyway), they are offered much cheaper than phone plans.

          The lesson to take away here is: If you're going to get a new line, use a tablet IMEI and save yourself a boatload of money.

          • Dan DeMarco

            This makes sense, good looking out my friend.

  • http://j.mp/scottbeamer Scott Beamer

    Another option is just to go to another carrier that's less annoying than Verizon Wireless.

    • Renard Fiossa

      Sprint doesn't work at all in my area
      T-Mobile's still only offering EDGE in my area
      AT&T... they're slightly less of a ripoff than VZW but still, no
      I do have a ton of faith in T-Mobile tho

  • Ddule

    Alternatively, you could purchase a cheap or get a free tablet at Vzw and then, after activation, move the SIM to Nexus 7. On Black Friday they had a free Ellipsis 7, after which they had Samsung Tab 2 7inch for 99 dollars. Since I missed on Elipsis deal I want with Tab 2 and plan to get an N7 to put the SIM card in. The only problem is the Tab 2 works fine (save for the display not being too great) and for N7 not being able to fall back to non LTE in areas where there is no LTE. So I am still on the fence about getting an N7. BTW, if I do this I can use or give the Tab 2 as a WiFi device.

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      Yes, but your solution requires a contract. If you don't want a contract, you'd have to buy the tablet at full price.

      • Ddule

        Adding a tablet is only $10/ month on their Share Everything plan. Not a bad price at all. So, under this plan, a smart phone and a tablet, unlimited talk and text an 4 GB data, would come to $120/month. Adding additional smart phones I'd only $40 extra per month. Now, the thing is, we were talking about having N7 on VZW network. I presented another option. You have to pay for tablet access one way or the other, $10/month on the plan I mentioned is cheaper than what others offer. Especially if you need to add other phones to the deal at only $40/month.

        • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

          $10 in addition to the cost of the tablet. If you get that tablet for free or at a reduced price, that $10 tablet line is now under contract for two years in addition to any of your other lines. That's my point.

          • Ddule

            Perhaps I am missing something. How are you going to get the tablet online w/o paying for access?

          • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

            You're not. You don't buy a tablet from Verizon. You buy the tablet from Google, then go to Verizon and set up a new tablet line using the IMEI from a floor model. As far as Verizon is concerned, you're bringing your own device, thus no contract.

            If you buy a "cheap tablet" from Verizon and activate your tablet line with that, you're under contract unless you pay full retail price for the VZW tablet you're advocating buying. At that point the tablet is no longer cheap.

          • Ddule

            You would pay full price for N7 anyway. Either you pay it up front as you prefer or you pay less and get stuck with a 2 year contract. Contract is no problem since I DO want tablet access anyway, not for on the fly only. The best thing would have been to get that Ellipsis for free and move the SIM to N7. Other option would be to theter the non LTE tablet, but that's another story.

          • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

            Generally, the point to buying a Nexus 7 LTE is the fact that it's carrier unlocked, doesn't require a contract, and works on AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. Buying a Nexus 7 at from Google, then getting a tablet from VZW on-contract, and swapping the SIM card into your Nexus 7 completely defeats the purpose of one of the Nexus 7 LTE's main selling points.

            When I activated mine, I signed up for a postpaid (just like a contract) plan, and I pay it every month just like you do with a contract. The difference is, I can cancel it at any time without any early-termination fee. I just don't understand why someone would pay for a Nexus 7 LTE only to lock themselves into a contract. It seems pointless. You paid full price for the Nexus 7, so why would you commit yourself to a carrier for 2 years when you don't have to?

  • Jason Bowen

    So I use this article as the basis to activating my Nexus 7 (2013) on Verizon's network.

    Two days ago, I went to my local Verizon store, found a floor model Android tablet that had an active SIM in it (this one was a Samsung Tab), and browsed through the settings to find the IMEI number and took a picture of it. I went home and logged into my Verizon account and added a line. I chose to add a line with my own existing device, entered the IMEI number of the Samsung Tab, and proceeded through the options. Today, my SIM arrived via Fedex.

    I logged back into my Verizon account and found that I could NOT activate the SIM online (that option was grayed out for me for some reason). The instructions recommended for me to put the SIM in my device and then turn the device on and activate that way (which of course I didn't, as we know that won't work).

    I called Verizon at (877) 807-4646 to do a SIM activation over the phone. I stayed on hold for a few minutes and a lady finally answered. I told her I needed to activate my SIM that just arrived for my existing tablet. I gave her the SIM number and the IMEI number (just don't tell them that the IMEI number came from a different tablet), waited a few minutes, and was then informed that I was ready to go.

    I then popped the Verizon SIM into my Nexus 7 and turned it on. Within a minute, I had full LTE service. Good to go.

  • Matt Mcg

    I went through all sorts of crap trying to get Verizon to activate my Nexus 7 & micro SIM I bought separately. I went to two corperate stores and three thrid party stores. I ended up buying the new MIFI5510L Jetpack/hotspot. They activated the device & micro SIM of course, and I just transferred the SIM into my Nexus 7. Works perfectly. So now I'm paying $20 extra a month for a hotspot instead of $10 for a tablet.

  • Andy

    Verizon rep Scot activated LTE on my Nexus 7 yesterday. Union Square Verizon store on Broadway & 17th. He used your method, Shawn. Thanks!

  • ScottyAZ

    So I bought an "unlocked" Sprint Gen4 iPad 128GB (ME411LL/A) for cheap and was hoping to use it on Verizon (my family plan). So far its a bust. The Verizon Store and Customer Support won't touch it!

    I found online that folks are taking active Verizon 4G LTE SIM cards and popping them into other LTE devices and having success.

    I just happen to have a Verizon JetPack 4G LTE hotspot. I pulled the mini-SIM, cut it down to micro (re-verified it still works in the hotspot) and popped it into the iPad. I can get Verizon 3G, but no better.

    Any thoughts?

    I found that Verizon LTE is 700 MHz and Sprint LTE is 800 MHz. Is this a showstopper?

  • Chris Casper

    SO where on the Verizon site do you go for this i got into a prepaid phone area. Can anyone paste a link to proper spot on Verizon site please.

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