Phone Trouble

It’s just one of those times when I wish I were living in Europe, Japan or pretty much anywhere but North America. Mobile phone carriers in this quarter of the world suck ass. Usually we can complain about a particular product sucking or a company sucking, but this is a case of industry-wide suckitude. Let me share with you my situation and explain why there is no solution available.

At the present time I have two mobile devices. One of them is a completely generic Samsung mobile phone from Verizon. I use it primarily to make personal phone calls, but occasionally take a few pictures with it. The other device is a Blackberry 7230. It has an unlimited data plan from T-Mobile and no phone service. It is owned and paid for by my employer, and I use it to get my work e-mail when I’m on the go. My personal phone is on a Verizon contract with my family from 3 years ago when I was still in college. The contract is over at the end of 2006, and my family wants to get a new contract to get new phones. I want to take my phone number and get my own deal separate from them. I also want to get a single device that will replace both my personal phone and the Blackberry.

Here is the catch. Where I live and work Verizon is the only carrier who provides decent coverage and speed. They are also the provider with the worst selection of available phones. They especially have the worst selection of smart phones, which is what I will need to replace the functionality of the Blackberry. Verizon also is the worst offender of locking down phones. You might buy a phone that is perfectly capable of running freely available Java applications or tethering to your laptop via Bluetooth, but Verizon removes those features from the phone and then sells them back to you at inflated prices. Thus, there is the conundrum. I can get a decent phone from some other provider, but it won’t get service where I live, or I can get a locked-down crap phone from Verizon that works really well.

In the interest of making money they turn their phones into walled gardens, so they can make money from selling software, games, ring tones, etc. I can understand a company trying to make more money, that’s what capitalism is about. But under no circumstance am I ever going to pay for a ring tone or game on a phone. And for a business user, that stuff shouldn’t even be a consideration. Businesses are willing and able to pay extra to get what should be the default level of service, but no matter how much money you want to give to these people, they won’t give you a proper phone. That’s supposedly in the interest of making more money? I’m sitting here willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a phone, and I’m willing to pay a relatively large flat monthly fee, to get the kind of service usually offered in other continents. Despite that, I’m left out in the cold. That doesn’t sound like smart business to me.

Maybe I’m missing something? Maybe there is a phone out there which does the trick, and I don’t know about it. Lots of people out there have phones and seem to be satisfied with them. Lots of those people use their phones a lot more heavily than I ever will. How is it that they are satisfied and I can’t be? Let me list my needs, and perhaps someone more knowledgeable can point me in the right direction. I will break my needs into two parts. The first is a list of things I absolutely need. The second are the things I would like in an ideal world.

What do I need in a phone? I need it to have decent coverage in all the places I often travel. That includes work, home, parent’s house, neighboring cities, etc. I need to have decent data speed. I need to be able to check my company e-mail either via Blackberry or Exchange. I need to be able to install free Google mobile applications like like mobile GMail, GMaps, GTalk, etc. I need a phone that doesn’t crash, and doesn’t drive me crazy. I need a phone that takes pictures, quality doesn’t matter much. I need to be able to get the pictures off of the phone without paying for each individual picture. I need a phone with Bluetooth, so I can get a headset and legally talk while I drive.

What would I like? I would like a phone that can handle standard file formats like mp3, pdf, etc. I would like a phone that can fully and freely communicate, via USB or Bluetooth, with any computer running Windows, Mac or Linux. I would like a phone that is easy to develop software for, so that I can add new functionality on my own. i would like a small, thin, sexy phone. I am trying to carry less around with me, not more. I would like a phone with a full web browser and, if possible, flash so that I can visit YouTube and such from anywhere. I do not want any sort of limit on what I do with the phone. I would like a phone with a GPS I can use. Basically, I want a phone that has no feature limited in any way. If the phone is physically capable of doing something, I want absolutely unlimited access to that functionality. I am willing to pay a large, flat, monthly fee to get this, but nobody that I know offers it. Is this really too much to ask?

Mobile service providers in this country are inflicting upon the public something very similar to what DRM offers. It is an artificial limiting of technology in order to charge for something which has no real cost. It’s as if you bought a car, but need to pay GM $5 for every time you turn the air conditioning on. This would be much less bothersome if you could somehow pay your way out of it. I do suspect that not even Bill Gates and friends get everything they want or need from their phones. This is a truly frustrating situation, and I am at a loss to make a decision. Think of it, a total geek with no answer to a technological problem. That’s how absurd this has become.

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10 Responses to Phone Trouble

  1. TripleII says:

    You don’t have to buy the phone through Verizon. Go to the local Verizon store, find the phone they offer that you like, then tell the rep there you are going to purchase the phone directly from the manufacturer that isn’t cripled and you will be back to have them activate it. They want you to think you can only use their phones, with their “enhanced” firmware/os, but that isn’t true. You also avoid the long term contract.

    Nokia’s web site lets you search based on carrier and purchase direct. LG’s links to Verizons, they don’t offer the phone direct without the Verizon involvement. Soemthing to look into. I would love to see the look on the Verizon sale’s reps face when you tell them you are going to purchase the non crippled version direct and be back for them to activate it.

    NOTE: Picture upload and web access, all that is the network, they can and will charge. If you purchase a phone separatley, see if it offers a PC link cable + SW to update address book, load java apps, send tones, etc.

  2. Apreche says:

    Hey, that’s useful to know. However, that doesn’t solve the problem of Verizon not offering a phone that I like. All the good phones are on the other carriers. Even if the phone is unlocked, I still need to find one that doesn’t suck in the first place.

  3. JJ says:

    You can’t buy any phone and have Verizon activate it. Any carrier that’s non GSM clears only the ESNs that go through them, and won’t let you activate phones they didn’t sell.

    Don’t you have access to any carriers that use Verizon as a roaming partner? If you go that route, as long as the roaming supports the best data speeds available in your area, it’s like having Verizon without the phone limitation. Sprint, Alltel, and others use the same technology… worth exploring.

  4. Apreche says:

    I thought about that, but Sprint, Alltel, etc. all offer the same phones as Verizon. Well, they offer the same Smartphones.

    My employer just gave me a Blackberry 8700 to replace the one I had. It is significantly better than the 7230. I would actually consider making it my primary phone if it had a camera, a touch-screen and an SD slot.

    Any way, I just installed all the Google mobile applications on it. You know what? Because I use Gmail for domains, mobile Gmail doesn’t work! So even if Verizon sold me an unlocked java-supporting smartphone, it wouldn’t matter. I think for now, I’m just going to get another normal camera-phone with bluetooth as my personal phone and carry two devices with me. Hopefully by the time the contract runs out on that, there will be something on the market worth getting.

  5. SniperDragon says:

    Have you tried using the SIM Card system?

    I quote Wikipedia: “A Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) is a smart card roughly the size of a postage stamp that securely stores the key identifying a mobile phone service subscriber, as well as subscription information, saved telephone numbers, preferences, text messages and other information.”

    To sum this up, a SIM card keeps your Verizon account information in it. Just insert the SIM card into ANY cell phone that is SIM-ready, and it’ll automatically detect your Verizon service yet will retain all of the neat functions of the individual phone. Usually, I get cell phones from Asia and then use my T-Mobile SIM card in it to get the service here in America.

    Hopefully that made sense, since I don’t think it did.

  6. Apreche says:

    I know all about SIM cards. SIM cards are very prevalent in other parts of the world, and are not widely supported in the US. Most phones in the US don’t even have SIM card slots in them. Also, many phones are locked. If I took a T-Mobile SIM card and plugged it into a Cingular-locked phone, it would not work. T-Mobile tends to be the only provider who handles things somewhat properly, but their network is slow and has poor coverage in this neck of the woods.

    The other problem is that Verizon/Sprint use CDMA/EV-DO while Cingular/T-Mobile use GMS/GPRS/EDGE. They are two complete different wireless technologies that do not work together. A phone designed for one type of network does not work on the other.

    Phones suck in the US. People just don’t care enough, and they don’t realize things can be better, so we aren’t going to get anything better any time soon.

  7. SniperDragon says:

    That’s odd. I have never seen a newer cell-phone that doesn’t have a SIM card slot. Also, it is entirely possible to take a T-Mobile SIM card and plug it into a Cingular-locked cell-phone. You just have to get it unlocked by the company that the SIM card is linked to(which is the tricky part. Most phone companies are reluctant to allow the usage of competetor’s phones). Of course, I am not sure about the cell-phone situation over there in Beacon; I’ve never been there or know anyone that lives there.

    Regardless, if you’re having so many problems with American phones, why don’t you just order an Asian one off the internets? If you can’t do that, and if you’re willing to wait for half a year, I can easily go to Asia myself, buy a cool phone, and send it to you. Possibly free of charge.

  8. SniperDragon says:

    Excuse my misspelling of the word “competitor”. Hopefully it won’t discredit my comment in any way.

  9. Apreche says:

    What country are you living in? Most phones in the US do not have SIM cards. Verizon is the only carrier with reliable high-speed coverage in the geographic area where I spend most of my time. Verizon is a CDMA/EV-DO network. Most of the rest of the world is a GSM/GRPS/EDGE network. Cool asian phones will not work with Verizon. Verizon will not let a phone onto their network that they don’t control.

    The mobile phone situation in the US is completely backwards compared to the rest of the world. It is locked down worse than DRM on iTunes music. For now, I think I’m going to just stick with my present situation and wait a few years for the situation to improve.

  10. SniperDragon says:

    I currently live in Texas and the Cell-Phone situation here may be different than over there. Actually, I think you’re right. When I got a new cell phone, I REQUESTED using the SIM card system for my cell phone so that I could go to Asia and easily plug my card into any Asian cell-phone.

    Actually, you may not know that you use a SIM Card. If you remove the battery of your Cell Phone, a SIM Card slot may be under it. It wouldn’t hurt to double check.

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