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Gripes about mobile phone service

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by secretdonkey, Apr 25, 2003.


  1. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I present a little rant for your discussion pleasure. Please DO point out if I'm factually wrong about any of this, as I want to better understand the issue as much as I want to gripe about it.

    My wife and I both use one of the major wireless phone providers (hint: Umm, actually, I can't hear you now - I'll have to call you back). Anyway, I'm generally satisfied with the service, but one thing in particular really cheeses me off - the way that the company manipulates and controls you with the hardware - the actual phone, that is...

    •Wireless phone companies routinely quote prices for phones that have commitments attached to them, and charge a grossly inflated price without the contract. In my case, I paid $150 for my phone AND agreed to two years of service. The phone price would have about doubled without the commitment.

    •IFAIK, you can only get a phone from the service provider. Phones are not usually compatible between wireless providers, even though they all come from a handful of manufacturers. Different service providers are likely to offer the same exact phone as the provider down the street, but each is proprietary on the inside.

    •The providers are quite eager to take advantage of the fact that you are contractually attached to them and have no other source of hardware. For example, my wife bought an integrated palm/phone for about $250 with the two year contract. When the screen broke, she was told that it would cost $250 to repair and take about six weeks. Or she could buy a new phone like it for $600. "Should have paid for the extra protection package," the representative told us. We brought in no less than five old cellphones we rounded up from friends and family, so my wife would have a phone to use during the six week repair wait. None was acceptable, including two originally from this provider, but they were 'too old.' Six weeks without a phone or $600, no other options. A second appeal to customer service got us a reasonable replacement deal, but we had to make considerable effort to talk our way out of picking up the soap, so to speak. Also, my phone is approaching two years old and is on its third battery. I need a new one, but two years old is ancient history for a mobile phone, and the provider's website no longer offers batteries as an accessory for this phone. So the phone may not last through the two years I'm obligated to use the provider's service. Even though this is due to perfectly normal wear, I may be forced to buy a phone at the inflated price since I'm not eligible to sign a new contract yet.

    •It's my opinion that the price of my cellphone service is quite reasonable, but that hardware (phone) prices are grossly inflated. Since each provider has a monopoly on hardware, they can and do exploit it accordingly. This mainly applies to the 'higher end' phones. Personally, if I'm going to have a mobile device at my side 24/7, it is not going to be the cheapie/freebie model. I just don't like the idea of getting hosed for choosing a decent piece of hardware.

    •I'd like to see telecom regulations changed to divorce the hardware market from the service market. I understand that each provider has proprietary technologies, but a handful of nationwide networks have emerged, and I would bet you a beer that the ONLY thing keeping "Cellphones-R-Us" discount stores from offering "Brand-X compatible" and "Brand-Y compatible" models is the influence of the service providers on the phone manufacturers, inducing them to supply compatible phones *only* to the service provider. That prevents trade in what would be a robust market, and allows providers to inflate prices and manipulate customers by tieing hardware purchases to extended service obligations.

    Discuss :)
     
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Rumor has it that there are ways to "unlock" cell phones...the truth is out there...

    I don't have one, but in Germany things work ok to fine from what I hear from friends, but we have to wait what happens when UMTS comes. The companies paid ridiculous prices for the frequency licences, and someone will have to foot the bill for that later...
     
  3. DigMe

    DigMe

    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    I've never had any of these sorts of problems from cell phones or cell phone providers and I have even used an old cell phone from one company as my new cell phone from another company with no problem. Granted that was several years ago so things may have changed.

    Consumer Reports had an excellent report a month or two back about all the major cell phone companies. They had reports on customer service and price as well as the quality of reception by region. Very thorough and I think it would be a great tool for anyone choosing a new cell phone provider.

    One more thing...several of my friends have found that one thing that is useful in getting better deals from these companies when something goes wrong is if the service rep is jacking you around and telling you that you're going to have to pay all this money then tell them "Ok, I want to cancel my service, please transfer me to someone who can do that." Then they'll send you to customer retention, whose job is to talk you out of cancelling your service...pretty much the only leverage they have to do that is by offering you free stuff or knocking money off of hardware. It's worth a try.

    brad cook
     
  4. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    All of the listed prices on Verizon's phones (yeah, that's the company I use) are only available if you sign a two-year contract, last I checked. You can cancel your service but you pay a healthy termination fee. Goodbye leverage, hello vice-like grip on your personal areas. ;)
     
  5. DigMe

    DigMe

    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    Yeah but they still do not want to lose you as a possible life-long customer. Pretend that you're going to cancel and see if it gets you anything. You don't actually have to follow through with it!

    brad cook
     
  6. Jon Burnet

    Jon Burnet

    Jan 21, 2001
    Memphis, TN
    unfortunately reverse mark up that cell phone company's use is extremely good for new customers... just hard to explain to existing ones.honestly it's not a conspiracy between company's that the handsets arent compatable. each company uses a different type of network that is supposed to help them reach certain goals faster than their competitors. best advice i can give is check ebay.
     
  7. DigMe

    DigMe

    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    btw - my mother is a Verizon customer. She had a problem with something they were doing last year that was kind of a jerk-around thing. She called and raised hell and they fixed her all up. One thing that they said in the process was something about her being a 5 year customer. I think she threatened to cancel in the process.

    brad cook
     
  8. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    That really sucks! I've heard, and actually experienced some of the problems you're going through with Verizon.

    I have a friend who owns a Cingular store in the Chicago suburbs and told me (in confidence) that you can usually get out of your contract if you have significant problems with the hardware and the service not meeting your needs.

    At this point, if I were you, I'd send in a letter to the company and explain that they've gotten the last money they'll ever get out of you and that you're switching, particularly on account of the crap you've already gone through. And, if they try to collect any fees or fines, tell them that your phone is broken and that your service doesn't work the way it's intended. Explain that there are many other carriers out there that are happy to give you better service (which I HOPE isn't a lie, but it probably is). There are many other carriers who would be more than happy to take your service (and that's NOT a lie).

    That's about where I'd start.
     
  9. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Excellent thread and post Hidden Monkey.

    It's amazing how more and more of our technological services seem to be going in the direction of monopolies. The phone market is so huge right now, just look at the money spent on advertising.

    It's hard to think of many industries that have such a stranglehold on how you purchase products. This is like a JVC DVD player not working with your Sony TV set, which you had to sign up for 5 years of AT&T Digital Cable with, which, of course, required you into a long distance and cellular plan package.

    Yet, for some reason, nobody complains. Everybody likes their technology so much that nobody is willing to sacrifice it for the greater good. I'm no better, I have a cell phone.

    And then there's the industry waste problem. Not many people notice how the average life span of our newest technologies are getting shorter and shorter. My grandmother's toaster that she bought in the early '50s toasts like a dream. However, my girlfriend's 22 month old cell phone is malfunctioning left and right. The thing has never been abused. My father's television set from Sony, that he bought in 1988 is just starting to show signs that it might not make it through the next winter, however, anything over 18 months on a cell phone and you'll be lucky if you're able to last through a 10 minute phone call. And ecologically speaking, it's a little known fact that this is going to create a problem. We're creating technological waste at a rampant pace. Factor in computers, palm pilots and all of our other 21st century gadgets, and you've got a problem.
     
  10. Jon Burnet

    Jon Burnet

    Jan 21, 2001
    Memphis, TN
    oh yeah you might wanna pm me so i can see if i cant giet you a deal;)
     
  11. My experiences have been quite different.

    My cell phone is a really old Siemens C10 - it's huge & brick like, generally pretty crappy, and 4, maybe five years old. One of my mates gave me it when I started to need one. It's been used (and abused - neither him nor me look after things like this) for ages.

    I took it into the shop to get myself a sim card when I got it, and I got one. It did have to be with the same provider as it came with (Vodafone) but they didn't say anything about it being too old.

    :meh:
     
  12. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Deptford, NJ
    how do u make the little bullets?

    bp13
     
  13. Tsal

    Tsal

    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    It's a whole different ballgame here in Finland.

    It has always been here that phones are bought from stores for full prices - I paid $350 for my lately introduced Nokia 5100 a month ago - and the connection is bought(or swapped!) from any of the half-a-dozen operators without any limitations, pre-paid monthly fees or long-term binding contracts. Some of my mates even go through the trouble of changing their connection every few months, whatever appears to be cheapest at the time, but it sucks trying to be keeping up with their latest phonenumbers.

    What this has led to is that while we pay relatively much for our hardware, the usage is very inexpensive, for example typical call rates would be 12-16 cents per minute and around 12-15c per SMS, depending if you are calling to someone inside same operator or not, or if it's weekend or night. Also, you usually get some benefits when choosing a new operator, like $30 of free calls and SMS's.

    Finland is one of the countries with most cell phones compared to population too, I think the latest number was around 87% of the population, so apparently this kind of sales work well here. Some operators like Orange and O2 have tried to bring the bundle-type marketing to Finland, though, but they have failed miserably.

    Jazzbo, I think we are talking about cell phone batteries here, rather than the phones. It's true what you are saying, the battery on my four year old Nokia 3210 started crapping out, I had to change it. It's complitely normal on old batteries though.

    I don't agree on poorness of the phones themselves though - of course I have only owned Nokia phones, which is a Finnish company and world leader in mobile phones :cool: - but anyways, I gave the mentioned 3210 to my mother when I bought a new one, it still works like a charm even it has been dropped for countless times and well abused - around here, you carry your mobile with you all the time so it's bound to get few hits over the time. If you can, go with Li-Ion battery, it's much better than other battery types but they might not be available for all old phones.

    Also, there are upgrades to phone software available, so if you have couple year old phone like your GF, it perhaps could be worth it to check out if new versions are available - there are software release lists and instructions how to check your software version in the internet. Usually the s/w has to be changed by a tech though.

    Jon Burnet Actually, most cell networks are shared. Operators buy the bandwidth from who ever happens to own the stations and antennas around those parts. The ground systems cost a lot of money, so it's way cheaper to "lease" existing hardware than build multiple stations where one is sufficient.
     
  14. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Well, it's Opt+8 on a Mac. Odds are, that won't help you. On windoze machines, special characters like this can be gotten by holding down the ALT key and typing in a four digit number. It's been too long since I've worked on a Wintel box to remember any of the common ALT codes... sorry. :(
     
  15. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Good discussion, everyone.

    I have no complaints about my LG phone, except that with a tiny phone comes a tiny battery, and the resultant issues you might expect.

    Re: strategies for solving our difficulties - both were actually addressed by Verizon - My wife got a new replacement phone for $50 and I got some customer service rep to override my status and allow me to be eligible for a promotional priced phone right away. It's still frustrating when you have to try to 'finesse the system' to get a fair shake.

    What I'd really like is a system like Tsal is describing in Finland. I suspect I might not be paying terribly more - if any - than Tsal when it all comes down to it. Having a straightforward, no-strings system would still be far preferable to the maze of calling plans that change every week, though.

    All-in-all, I'm pretty happy with Verizon's service. For $43 bucks a month, I'm getting more minutes than I will ever use in a month, a large home calling area, no long distance charges for domestic calls, and 100 SMS messages (only 2¢ - 10¢ each after the first 100).

    Funny, I keep getting telemarketing calls at home from long distance carriers, and told one guy the other day that "the only thing I use my landline phone for these days is to carry my DSL service and talk to phone solicitors." Pretty much stopped him in his tracks, and it is pretty much true.

    I'd be even happier with the system Tsal describes, though - all of the complexities, contracts and 'gotchas' you find in U.S. mobile phone services seem totally unnecessary.
     
  16. Jon Burnet

    Jon Burnet

    Jan 21, 2001
    Memphis, TN
    tsal- only over seas


    in the us, standard analog was the only choice till around 96 when digital was offered. in the us you have TDMA, CDMA, GSM, IDEN and a couple of varients. TDMA being cingular and att. CDMA being verizon and sprint. GSM being T mobile. Iden being nextel. alot of companies are about to switch over to GSM1900, where as in europe it is gsm 900. Cingular and att both have gsm networks that are fully operational. so in the us, a TDMA phone will not work with a GSM provider. where you are at GSM 900 is your only choice making you able to swap phones. back when analog was the only option here, you could reprogram the phones. now its like trying to play a DVD in a VCR!


    trust me... its what i do for a living
     
  17. Jon Burnet

    Jon Burnet

    Jan 21, 2001
    Memphis, TN
    by the way and not to spam... with my unnamed company... for that same scratch you'd get nationwide roaming, long distance, unlimited nights and weekends free caller id and voice mail, 5cent text messaging and international service on a 1 year contract.... it pays to shop around!
     
  18. DigMe

    DigMe

    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    I don't feel that Tsal's Finland situation is a better deal honestly...that's just from my experience here in the states. I'm currently enjoying not having a cell phone but my last cell phone deal that I had was 20 bucks a month (turned out to be about 24 or something with taxes and fees) with free Nokia phone, 500 anytime minutes at no extra charge and unlimited night and weekend minutes. To me that was worth signing a one year contract and beats the crap outta any 10 to 12 cents a minute charge. That probably wouldn't be worth it for someone who talks on their cell phone a ton but it was just right for me. You could also purchase many more anytime minutes for 10 more dollars a month if you wanted.

    I feel like the cell plans out there mostly offer a better deal than a 10 to 12 cents a minute pay as you go plan. We actually DO have something comparable in the states though. Anyone that wants something different or doesn't want the 1 year commitment has the option here to buy prepaid cellular minutes with no contract, but that has been largely unpopular due to excellent contracted plans.

    China has a prepaid cell phone system in which you buy a card that gives you minutes but that's cheap enough to be worthwhile and it's hugely popular there.

    brad cook
     
  19. Tsal

    Tsal

    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    Ah yes, I was so accustomed to European singular standards, now that the NMT is history, I didn't even remember you might have multiple standards in the States. I don't study IT like my couple friends do, so I don't have that deep knowledge.

    Technically speaking it's dualband GSM 900/1800 here, also I think latest business-phones are threeband GSM 900/1800/1900 to make them compatible in the States.

    DigMe, yep, that's pretty decent system if you don't always use celly, but I still would prefer our system for a hardcore user like me, when you take in to account that when you buy a mobile phone it usually lasts for few years, and the cheapest new phones are available for something like $90. My monthly bills are typically something like $10-15 so it all balances in the end, even with my more expensive phone.
     
  20. Brooks

    Brooks

    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    Where I am, we have a sort of a mix of the Finnish and USA systems - multiple operators all using GSM, phones sold separately and they all work with all the operators. But, many operators offer frequent specials. For example, if you take on their service, they will give you a nice Nokia/Siemens/Samsung/LG phone, xxx free minutes and a SIM card for say...$50.