July 8, 2007

All U.S. Cell providers suck.

I've been most derisive of AT&T in my previous iPhone posts. I suppose I should be specific about why I'm so down on them. I must preface this by noting that this in no way reflects a scientific study; I own stock in neither AT&T nor Verizon (although I do own some in Apple), and I was a Verizon Wireless customer for 12 years prior to leaving them last week in order to activate my iPhone. I have been a T-Mobile customer via my work Blackberry 8700 for some 4 months now in the New York metro area (Philly through NYC), in Washington DC, and in the Boston Metro area and in Houston, TX. I've used my Verizon phone all over the U.S. (Motorola flips, then Qualcomm candybars, then the Kyocera 7135 Palm, finally a Treo 650).

AT&T/Cingular's wireless service, subjectively, sucks. Some completely random anecdotal reasons they annoy me follow.

  • I can't get reliable phone service in my house. I live in Cambridge, MA, near the BU Bridge. Verizon was 5-bar service even on the Treo (which had lousy reception) for blocks in any direction, even in my basement. The iPhone and a friend's Treo on AT&T both vacillate between zero and one bar in use sitting at my desk on the first floor.
  • When I do get phone service, it's flaky. The iPhone, sitting in its dock at a particular angle, will in fact get two bars of service. If I reach out and turn the phone ninety degrees, I get 'NO SERVICE.' This is true of another, non-iPhone AT&T handset on my desk that I tested. WTF?
  • For a company whose billboards read 'FEWEST DROPPED CALLS' this is laughable. I never worried about dropped calls before. In the first week, so far, I lost count around twenty calls interrupted due to failure midstream - not all of which even had the decency to bleep and say 'CALL FAILED', some of which just went silent with my handset ticking away for 15-20 seconds before doing so. On testing, I found many of these to correspond to areas where a five-bar signal would drop to NO SERVICE if the phone was rotated between forty-five and ninety degrees. Again, WTF? In only five of these cases was I walking or driving.
  • Outside the Boston Metro Area, heading North, as soon as I got into New Hampshire and onto I-89 service became...spotty. Whole swathes of that highway refuse to offer any service at all. Service is notable around larger towns, which remains true up into Vermont. Um...useless.

Now, I will offer the following. AT&T, so far, has been much more pleasant to deal with on the phone than Verizon. The latter autoblocked my number transfer for 24 hours so that they could have Retentions call me 20 hours later and harangue me about leaving them; then, when they couldn't keep me, found a way that my executing a 'new every two' credit I'd waited two years to use, cashing in two years prior to buy my Treo, meant that I was in fact still under a contract despite my 12 years of time on their network. Also despite the fact that I'd had to wait two years to get it after signing up. Whatever. As delicious irony, those two years were up July 13th; I deactivated June 29th. Rather than billing me a final month of july, that's right; $175 cancellation fee.

Whatever, it's not worth my time to argue with them at this point. I had assured the Retentions lady that I was enamored of the iPhone and would certainly return to Verizon if AT&T's phone service, which I was experimenting with, was bad enough to cause me difficulties.

You know what? No way. Verizon, fuck you at the drive through. I'm done. Worst of all, you know, you *could* have had the retentions lady politely mention the contract to me, you know? Or even, heaven forbid, offer to split the difference and bill me for the month of July rather than hit me with the full $175 early termination fee for a two-week early exit after 12 years? I might have even considered keeping my Verizon phone active as a standby. But no, you simply had your system send me an email notice with the early termination fee, and when I tried to determine why my final bill had jumped by $175 your system informed me that since I wasn't a customer I couldn't use the website anymore.

And you wonder why people are leaving? Hint: the shitty phones that you lock down are part of it, yes. This is the other part.

Posted by jbz at July 8, 2007 8:34 PM | TrackBack

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