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Archive for October, 2011

The G1: A Retrospective

October 12th, 2011 No comments

g1Last week, I reluctantly traded in my 2.5-year-old T-Mobile G1 for a brand-new Samsung Galaxy 2. Why did I spend so long using a phone with a hideously outdated version of Android, a bezel the size of my thumb, and hardware straight out of 2004?

Partially, it was for fear of T-Mobile’s hefty early termination fee.  But it was also more than that. After all these years, the G1 is still a pretty decent phone. It makes phone calls. Its camera, despite my earlier rants, takes halfway decent pictures. And it’s robust enough to have survived over a quarter decade of almost constant use, in an age where most electronic gadgets are supposed to be replaced the instant something new comes along.

Of course, this is a somewhat melancholy moment. Looking back, though, it’s amazing to see how far Android has come. When I first got my G1, I was a rogue early adopter, stubbornly choosing an early-stage Google product (and we know how long those normally last…Google Wave, anyone?) over the sleek and sexy iPhone which seemed guaranteed to eventually crush it.

Today, Android has a market share to rival Apple’s, and normal people are buying the phones in drogues! A Linux-based product, gone mainstream? Who’d a thunk it!

Looking at my shiny new Galaxy 2, it’s also amazing to see how far we’ve come in the last couple years in terms of hardware. My G1, especially near the end, was molasses-slow and had a screen that, in comparison to the Galaxy, looks a bit like a postage stamp. The new phone is pretty much all screen and has a faster processor than my laptop. I can watch movies on it, the GPS actually works, and the long-promised Flash player functions brilliantly.

Time, however, actually treated by little G1 pretty well. It survived (mostly) a fall down a few flights of stairs, suffering only a small crack in the screen which didn’t even affect the capacitive touch properties. And the original factory-shipped screen cover sticker remains on the phone to this day; tell that to the guy at the Sprint store next time he tries to sell you a $15 screen protector! Battery life suffered after a couple years, of course, but I could still get a day’s worth of normal use out of the G1 if I charged it fully.

All in all, I’m happy to have a new phone. But you have to hand it to the G1; it managed to launch a whole new sector of the mobile industry, pose a real threat to Cupertino, and not completely suck after almost 3 years of use. Not bad Google guys, not bad.

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Sprint: The “Now We’re Gonna Put You on Hold” Network

October 9th, 2011 No comments

So maybe you’ve heard that Sprint has the new iPhone 4S, or that it consistently has the best selection of Android phones, or that it doesn’t cap/throttle your bandwidth like the other guys. And maybe now you’re thinking “Maybe I ought to switch over to Sprint. $200 early termination fee from my current carrier, be damned; Sprint sounds great!”

But perhaps you’re also thinking “Being treated like a human being when you call in to customer service is nice. And having competent sales reps would be good too! Oh, and I value my time; I wonder if Sprint would do the same?”

Here’s your answer: No.

About I week ago, I reluctantly chose to part with my Tmobile G1, which I’ve had for about 2.5 years (more on that later). My wife and I went to our friendly neighborhood Sprint store and picked up a lovely new Evo 4g and Samsung Epic (rebranded Galaxy 2). The sales rep confidently assured us that they could port our numbers from our old carriers in 3-4 hours, well before our next billing cycle for our current phones began.

You can probably guess where this is going. A week later, no sign of any activity. We’re still calling people with temporary numbers, doing the little “Hello? Who is this? Oh, you have a temporary number? Ok, I’ll fail to write that down and then forget it, and be unable to reach you with important calls!” dance with anyone we tried to contact.

So I call Sprint, and figure they probably had the wrong password or something. Should be easy, right?

Turns out there was no record of the original port request. Fine, forty five minutes reading out digits, forking over the SSNs for our entire extended family, etc. and it should be solved!

And it was; both numbers came over…to the wrong phones. So now I was, as far as Sprint was concerned, my wife.

Another call: naturally, the representative needed a non-Sprint callback number in order to reach me if we got disconnected when she tried to flip the numbers. Except, now Sprint had both our numbers, and we didn’t have any other numbers for them to call us on! Such fun! Let’s get a supervisor! Our hold music is really great, and this should give you time to memorize all the lyrics!

Back on; turns out they can do without the callback number. They’ll just flip the numbers on our two phones, and in ten minutes, everything will restart and we’ll be good to go. Ten minutes later, they restart! They authenticate to the network! And…I’m still my wife.

Another lovely chance to make sure I  remember every bar of that hold music! This time, another 20 minutes later, I hang up again, ten minutes pass, and…it worked!

At this point, though, I’ve wasted 2.5 hours of my time, as well as a week of waiting for the numbers to port. And we’re stuck with three phonebills, because naturally our other plans didn’t get canceled  in time, due to our first Sprint friend’s failure to set up the port correctly.

So I called customer service to lodge a complaint. Now, I’m pretty reasonable. I didn’t want six months free, a credit back on my phone, the right to let our dog come to the next Sprint shareholder meeting and pee on some executives, etc. All I wanted was a measley credit on our bill for the first week of our service, when we were essentially without phones.

Surely, any company would be absolutely willing to give me a measly 30 bucks to keep me around, especially given that we’re still within our 14 day return window, and could march right back to the Sprint store and return everything, then write nasty blog posts about them. Right?

Another hour on the phone and four (count ’em, four) escalations later, I finally had my $30. I only had to tell my story to each new rep I encountered, listen to the same lovely hold music for another 30 minutes or so, and defend the fact that I had (gasp) made a couple calls using my temporary phone number!

So there you have it: Sprint has the best selection of phones, a great data plan, some healthy discounts, and the worst customer service staff ever to insult our planet with its presence.

Verizon, anyone?

/rant

UPDATE: Sprint has gotten a whole lot better, right? Nope. Part of our plan was a 23% employee discount, which on a data plan for two smartphones amounts to a hefty sum each month. This credit was one of the reasons we chose Sprint in the first place. When we signed up in the Sprint store, the rep told us that the credit would normally apply after two billing cycles, but that if we signed up that day, he would add it from day 1.

First bill arrived, and naturally the credit wasn’t there. Another lovely jaunt up the Sprint phone tree got me nothing but the stock response “The credit applies after the second billing cycle, sir.” Finally, I called the Sprint store where we got the phones, and spoke to their manager. They admitted their error and added a credit to our first bill. They also made a note on the account about the trouble we had getting the credit, and assured us that the credit would apply from now on.

FOUR billing cycles later, and EVERY time Sprint has failed to apply the credit. Every month, I have my little chat with the Sprint billing people, during which they pull up our account info (“I see that there’s a note on your account about your billing troubles…”), give us the credit we were supposed to have from Day 1 and assure me that the credit will apply from now on. I have spent enough time in Sprint’s phone system that I’ve almost developed a taste for smooth jazz. Their hold music may well end up being a candidate for our future childrens’ wedding songs.

Really Sprint? One simple data entry step, and you screw it up every month for FOUR months? Really?

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