Monday, March 23, 2009

Doing the Cell Phone Shuffle - The Prodigal Son Returns To T-Mobile and BlackBerry

For years I was a BlackBerry user on T-Mobile. Out of boredom, and looking for faster internet browsing on my device, I switched to Sprint, and to a $299 HTC Touch Pro Windows Mobile phone. This proved to be a mistake on three counts. First, the HTC phone was a nuisance. The slide out keyboard would suffer the slightest jiggle, and the screen would switch from portrait to landscape, or the screen would freeze. Also, the touchscreen was frustratingly non-responsive. Second, the Windows Mobile operating system proved sluggish and unstable. Third, the customer support at Sprint was absolutely, positively awful. Offshored to India and the Philippines, there were language problems, and flat-out lack of knowledge about services and products. To top it all off I learned that the phone Sprint had sold me had no international capability, which was in direct conflict with what the original online sales rep had advised.

My frustration with Sprint compelled me to search out another provider. My lesson learned was $299 wasted on a phone, and an early termination fee.

Who did I pick to replace Sprint? AT&T. Why? Because I believed the ads about blazing 3G speed, and because of its reputation for international service. I signed up, and bought an impressive $199 Samsung, Windows Mobile based smartphone. What did I learn? Well, first the customer support was to my satisfaction. U.S. based, which eliminated the language issues, and fluent in the product. The problems? This time there were four of them. First, I had to use customer support a lot! Come to learn, my house sits in an AT&T dead zone. Didn't matter if I had a 3G phone, or an old kid's walkie talkie, without reception the phone was no good. Second, the wi-fi on the phone would not work. Thus, a totally non-functioning feature that could have helped me to deal with my residential dead zone. Support never could fix it. Third, even though my home and office are located in areas the AT&T advertises as fully 3G, that proved to be false. Roughly 80% of the time I would get a signal meter indicating coverage other than 3G. Fourth, Windows Mobile. Two phones with this operating system, two hair puling, frustrating experiences. WM is just plain old dog slow. Takes forever to boot-up. Takes forever to switch between applications. Even with 3G coverage, takes forever to send, transmit, and process data.

My frustration with AT&T compelled me to search out another provider. My lesson learned was $199 wasted on a phone, and an early termination fee.

So where am I now? Right back with T-Mobile. This time though, I have the $199 BlackBerry Curve 8900. So far, so great! Had a couple of set-up issues that were handled by the outstanding and ever courteous support folks. Data speed is faster than anything I ever got with either of the Windows Mobile phones. I have coverage at my house and my office. Wi-fi has been a dream. And I know from past experience that when I travel out of the U.S. I will have excellent service and coverage.

T-Mobile and BlackBerry, I am sorry I left you. Thank you for welcoming me back....

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