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Saturday, May 5th, 2007

Cingular/AT&T, Verizon Wireless & Sprint/Nextel

Back in January Dan and I renewed our cell phone plan. We stayed with Cingular (now AT&T), but not because we wanted to... it was because 1) We hate Verizon even more, and 2) Sprint cell phones suck (to put it bluntly).

Our first cell phone provider was Sprint. The calls really were crystal clear and we liked them a lot. But when our contract ran out was around the time we were launching netterimages.com and I wanted to be able to have an affordable wireless data plan and Cingular was offering "unlimited data" for $20/month and they promised me that I could use my cell phone as a modem, so we went with them.

I didn't use the plan much - mostly just when I went on vacation... Then about a year into things I'm on vacation and try to use it and it works for a while and the stops working. Same thing happened the next day. I call tech support and after a lot confusion I'm told I'm not allowed to use my phone as a modem. I told them they had promised that I could when I signed up for them and gave me Cingular Connection Manager to let me do it. Then they told me that the terms of the plan had changed. I told them I wanted out of the contract and they said that I'd have to pay a penalty for leaving early. To put it gently I told them that was absurd - that they'd breached the contract by changing the terms. They said they had the right to change the terms of the add-on plans, and that I could drop the data plan any time I wanted. It was the core contract for voice calls that I was being held to. But I signed up with the voice plan because of the data plan... That's just plain slimy and I swore we'd leave and go back to Sprint at our first chance.

But when the time came we stayed with Cingular. I kept going to Sprint's web site trying to find a phone I liked, but I wanted something PDA-ish and couldn't imagine myself being happy with any of their phones. I really wanted to switch to them and tried really hard to find one of their phones that I would be OK with, but all of their phones were underwhelming.

The other option was Verizon, but in the prior year we had had customer service problems with them as well. They had a bunch of faulty copper lines coming into our building and had more people subscribed for DSL in our building than they had copper lines to support them. As a result, whoever complained would get a good line and someone else would get one of the bad ones. After having our DSL go out 4 or 5 times over about 3 months, I was frustrated. One time I called tech support and prefaced my remarks by saying I was incredibly frustrated and was literally told "Well, an attitude like that isn't going to help", when all I had said was that I was frustrated. Another time one of the customer support people hung up on me and put me back to the beginning of the queue.

But that was just what was just what was fresh on our mind. Over the 16 years I was a Verizon customer I had all sorts of problems with them. And of course now they've shown their true colors by trying to put Vonage out of business by going after Vonage with overly broad patents that probably shouldn't have been issued in the first place (the Patent Office shares a hefty amount of blame on that one as well).

Given that we were considering Cingular after what they had done, I figured we'd consider Verizon too, but in the end Cingular had the phone I wanted (a Nokia E62), so we stayed with them. But thanks to Cingular the phone isn't as good as it could be. The European version, the E61 has built in Wi-Fi, but Cingular wants people to pay for expensive cellular plans, so they had Nokia take Wi-Fi out of their version.

Not surprisingly, Cingular continues to do stupid things... Graywolf noticed the other day that they have a stated policy of not allowing people to link to their website unless it's in a positive context. This is absurd. In other words, they think they could go after me for the fact that I linked to them in this blog post (using a 'nofollow' of course). The web just doesn't work that way...

Needless to say I'm still hoping Sprint gets their act together in the next 18 months and we can switch back to them, but I'm not holding my breath. Cingular is definitely head of the pack on phones. They have the E62, a bunch of cool Sony Ericsson phones, and they'll even be the first ones to get Apple's iPhone.

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Categories: Cell Phones

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