Can you hear me now?

Cellphone carriers have you coming and going. Once one has you in its clutches, it takes more than a superhero to free you. It takes cash and a lot if it.

There once was a time, back in the good old days, when it was much easier to deal with cellphone companies, and leave them.

They sold you a two-year plan and gave you a phone. For free! If you wanted the top-of-the-line phone, then you’d pay a little up front, anywhere from a few dollars to $150 or so. Easy peasy. The phone was yours and you were theirs for two years.

Once the two year contract ended, you could either get a new FREE phone with another two year contract or you could bail for a carrier that had a better deal.

This kept carriers honest. They had to give out decent phones for FREE or give other incentives to lure in new customers and all was right with the world.

Then one of them got the idea that if they could sell the phones on the installment plan, they could keep customers locked in while making the customers think this was a better deal. “See? We dont have two year contracts any more, you can leave any time. Just pay off your phone.”

And that was the catch. Because the phones, which we once got for a mere $150, now cost in the neighborhood of $700 or $800 or more.

And if you have a family plan with four or more phones, guess what? That buyout can end up costing you quite a bit of cash out of pocket. Add up the remaining phone balances plus your final bill (which can be two months worth depending on when you leave), and you find you have to plunk down $1500 or so to leave them.

And that was their evil plan. Hold customers hostage.

Until smaller companies questioned, “How can we get customers away from the Big 3?” That’s when they came up with their buyout plans. “Come to us and we’ll buyout your contract!”

Which sounds great on paper, until you go and talk to them and find out they don’t pay you in cash, they pay you in credits. 

In other words, if you think you’ll borrow money earmarked for your mortgage payment that month to pay off your cellphone contract with the Evil Empire in the hope that your new friendly Rebel Alliance cellphone company was going to give you cash back to pay for your house, you’ve got another think coming.

Those Rebel Alliance credits are only good for buying Rebel Alliance stuff, like to pay for your new phones, thus reducing your monthly bill or to pay your bill off for several months, so you can be bill free for a while.

Neither of which are truly bad if you can afford the initial buyout of the Evil Empire. If you can’t, you’re shit out of luck.

However, if you do manage to scrap together the extortion fee to pay off the Evil Empire, then it is possible to move to a new, more affordable cellphone carrier.

Which is what we finally were able to do. After being held hostage by Verizon Wireless for over 10 years, having to pay $350 a month, we left them for US Cellular where we’re already saving over $100 a month, and once we get our buyout credits, that price will drop even more.

Can you hear me now?

Tomorrow’s blog will talk about how good it feels to be rid of my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

-30-

Advertisements

Smartphones and Deals

eMail:

I received an email from Verizon Wireless letting me know one of my lines was eligible to upgrade. Their emails gave 3 reasons why Verizon is the place to be.

1) They’re the fastest 4G network. Which is fairly true.

2) They have award recognized customer service. “J.D. Power and Associates ‘Highest Ranked Customer Service Performance amoung Full Service Wireless Providers.'” Complete with typo. Their customer service isn’t bad, unless you’re trying to convince them your phone is for shit. Then it’s an uphill battle.

3) Cutting edge devices. To which I say “Bullshit!” I just posted entire rant about how Verizon is always months behind the other providers called “Verizon: Too Big for Sass.”

Upgrade:

So yes, Friday I finally pulled the trigger and ordered my Nokia Lumia 928 Windows 8 phone. I had several choices. Go to the store and get it instantly, but pay $50 and receive a $50 rebate card in the mail. This, a “free” phone. Sorry. I hate rebates. I want the free instantaneous. But it from Amazon for a penny and have guaranteed delivery on Tuesday. Or buy it from Verizon online and get the free right away, no rebate. So I took that route, thinking (because it kept saying it — free delivery to the store) I’d get it almost right away. Turns out, yes, it was free but it never gave me the option for store delivery. That kind of ticked me off. My son bought his phone online from Best Buy and was able to pick it up immediately. I finally received notification that the phone will arrive on Wednesday. Maybe I can have the delivery changed since no one will be home to sign for it.

I’m excited. Wednesday. Tuesday. It’s a horse apiece.

Provider Deals:

I just heard that AT&T is offering the new Nokia Lumia 1020, the one with the 41 megapixel camera, for NO DOWN PAYMENT. Does that means free? I don’t know. Maybe you have to pay it off during the term of the contract, but they were originally selling it for $300 WITH a 2-year contract. So if it is free, that’s a great deal.

Verizon Wireless, on the other hand, as I mentioned, is offering the Nokia Lumia 928 for free or for close to free with a mail-in rebate. And it looks like all their other Windows 8 phones are free now also. Either the Windows 8 phones aren’t the big sellers they hoped they’d be or Verizon just wants to push everything because they still aren’t keen on the iPhone and all its associates fees and are hoping people will choose something else.

Whatever. Meanwhile, my Nokia is somewhere in Memphis.

Happy. Happy.

-30-

Verizon: Too big to offer sass

I appended a couple paragraphs to the end of my Windows 8 phone blog yesterday. If you read it, then you’ll understand where today’s blog comes from.

As you know, I’m looking to divest myself of my iPhone 4S. It’s been giving me problems lately, some are iPhone specific, like the teeny tiny screen that makes typing and reading a nightmare for me. So I’m thinking of a Windows 8 phone.

But I have Verizon Wireless and with them you get whatever they feel like offering, which is old, outdated phones and bland, conservative colors.

You want something new? Something bold and sassy? You better have AT&T, Sprint, or even one of the smaller companies.

Before I decided on the Win8 phone, I was jonesing over the HTC One. The only smartphone that makes sense if you enjoy listening to music and videos because it has a pair of stereo speakers positioned on either side of (or above and below, depending on your perspective) the screen. It’s an idea that makes so much sense you’d think ALL phones would be like that. But they aren’t. The majority of phones have the speakers  pointed away from you, on the back or bottom, forcing you to cup your hand and get a cramp trying to focus the sound back toward you.

And it’s a nice looking phone, too. Responsive. I was playing with one last night at Best Buy and I like it. A lot.

But Verizon doesn’t offer it. Oddly, I read an article from earlier this year that said Verizon SHOULD be offering it by July. Well, it’s August and still nothing.

If Verizon offered it l (which they don’t! I can’t stress that enough.), I would be hard pressed to decide on which phone to get, the HTC One or the Nokia Lumia 928.

And speaking of Nokia, Verizon also doesn’t offer the latest Nokia, the Lumia 1020, which has a gorgeous 41 megapixel camera. It is another phone I’d like to get but would be out of my price range even if it was offered.

So, by default, I’ll get the Nokia Lumia 928. Probably I. White because again; RED isn’t a color option offered by Verizon.

Why is that? Well, to be cynical, they don’t have to. Verizon is the largest cell phone company. They are making money hand over fist. They have the best, most reliable nationwide network and have had for 20 years. They have the highest customer retention rate, because they know, and you know, anyone who leaves them is taking a big step down service-wise. Maybe one day AT&T will finally deliver on their long-promised blazing fast nationwide 4G network, but they aren’t there yet.

So Verizon doesn’t have to offer the latest and greatest and sassiest. No one is going to leave them for an HTC One. Although you’d think after the fiasco with the iPhone (Verizon was offered the iPhone first but turned it down and then watched as AT&T and the iPhone broke sales records) where they watched millions of customers quit them to joing AT&T just to get an iPhone, that they’d learn to be a little quicker delivering new devices.

But now, they have the iPhone, so they’re pretty smug and obviously don’t anticipate that any other upcoming phones will endanger their bottom line, except maybe the Samsung Galaxy S series, which is the top selling Android phone and the reason they bring that one to market fairly quickly.

But even there, Verizon still offers the bland over the exciting. The Galaxy S4 comes in seven colors: white, black, blue, red, purple, brown, and pink. So guess which colors are available from Verizon?

Right. White. Black. And according to Verizon’s press release, “an exciting new color!” (drum roll!) Brown.

Yawn. No wonder Verizon donates to the Republican Party, they offer stodgy and conservative devices!

I noticed that even Credo Mobile, a small cell phone company that touts itself as not only green and progressive, but that it is the only cell phone company to donate millions to progressive causes, has the HTC One. And, they have a buyout program so you can get out from under the thumb of Verizon (or AT&T, or whomever).

That seems so tempting.

Update 09August2013: I was just informed that, whereas some cell phone companies are decreasing how long you have to wait to upgrade, Verizon Wireless has actually increased the time! They went from 20 months to 24 months! Verizon is so big they don’t have to give a shit about their customers. Credo Mobile and their buyout program is looking better all the time.

-30-

Obsolescence, planned or contrived with evil intent?

It has occurred to me that maybe I’m not having phone issues so much as planned obsolescence issues.

My Samsung Galaxy S was a great phone for well over a year but then started acting up toward the end of my contract. Since it was having so many issues, I started thinking Android phones were crap so I switched to the iPhone.

Well, for over a year my iPhone 4s was da bomb. Now that its contract end is nearing, it too is starting to act up.

I suspect now that the issue might not be with the phones, the hardware, but with the service provider, my cellphone carrier, Verizon Wireless.

It is quite possible, in a paranoid sort of way, that Verizon, in their desire for me to upgrade and lock me into another 2 year plan, is purposely making my phones misbehave. Maybe they’re constricting my data stream. Or even outright denying service. That would explain why I can’t make calls or even get a signal until I have to restart the phone. Right?

Maybe I should switch CARRIERS instead of phones. Since we already have AT&T Uverse for cable television and Internet, maybe they could offer us a cell phone bundle.

I think I’ll look into it and migrate each of our phones to AT&T as their contracts all expire and thereby avoid cancelation penalties.

Or maybe Sprint. We had them in the late 90s and they sucked (or it could have been the shitty free phone we got), and I see they offer the Samsung Galaxy S III for free instead of the $100 or $200 AT&T and Verizon charge. I see from one review that (and this surprises me) that they have better coverage than either Verizon or AT&T but it looks like they charge more. Almost $200 more for a similar 4G share plan! And they charge nearly twice what those two charge for each additional smartphone.

What other carriers are there? T-Mobile? Thats the 4th largest carrier. US Cellular is the 6th largest.

Too bad Cingular got absorbed. I really liked them. (And that was a really convoluted history. Cingular bought AT&T Wireless, but somehow AT&T itself owned 60% of Cingular and BellSouth owned 40% so when AT&T bought BellSouth, they owned all of Cingular and rebranded it AT&T and all the while SBC Communications had bought and absorbed AT&T then rebranded all SBC stuff AT&T. Got it? Neither do I.)

And then there’s CREDO mobile, a progressive activist company that helps battle the evil Right-wingers while supporting progressive causes (and they’ll help pay for your cancelation penalties). They use Sprint’s network, but have a different price plan.

So time to do some research. I love research.

-30-