Sprint to the Finish

Lily Tomlin’s telephone operator character Ernestine used to say, “We’re the phone company. We don’t care. We don’t have to.” These days the cell phone companies have eclipsed Ma Bell as the masters of monopolistic indifference. “We don’t care. We’ve got your number,” seems to be their motto. When cell phone number portability becomes the law of the land on November 24, the chief reason people are reluctant to change carriers will evaporate. But I’m not waiting.
I’m finally dumping Sprint PCS. It seems that they have no record of the $400 I’ve paid them over the last four months, and the bank statements I’ve faxed over are insufficient proof that they have my money. Well I know I don’t have it, and Sprint seems to have accepted my electronic payments readily enough, but still I have to go into the bank tomorrow and get some sort of official document proving that the transfers aren’t a figment of my imagination. It only took me two months and 15 hours on hold to pry this information out of Sprint’s customer service reps. Sprint has disconnected and reconnected my service twice over this. It will give me great pleasure to disconnect them once and for all tomorrow. [Note: it turns out not to have been Sprint’s fault, after all. Read my apology here. – Leo]

Meanwhile I’ve got to find a new carrier and phone. I was looking for a phone with a camera (so I can continue posting to my Mob) and Bluetooth so I can connect with my Mac. PDA functionality would be nice, too. After checking all the Bluetooth phones – there are only a handful to choose from – I’ve settled on the Nokia 3650. It runs the Symbian OS, a descendant of my beloved old Psion operating system, which means there’s lots of third-party software available for it, and it sports full PDA functionality that can synch over Bluetooth with my Mac. It also supports SD flash cards, so I can easily expand the memory. It takes pretty good VGA pictures and shoots video with sound. Best of all it’s GSM which sounds way better than Sprint’s CDMA and works overseas. I’m going to France in June and it will work just fine there. The phone is a little big and has a very odd dialpad, but I can live with that. Nearly everyone who has the 3650 seems to love it.

Two carriers offer the phone: AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile. AT&T has good coverage in the Bay Area, but they charge an arm and a meg for data service. T-Mobile’s coverage is a little spotty but it charges $20/month for unlimited data. That’s more like it. And I can get the phone for free after a $150 rebate from them. I admit I’ve heard bad things about both AT&T and T-Mobile. In fact the only carrier that seems to be universally beloved is Verizon, but they don’t have any phones I like. So T-Mobile it is. The phone should arrive Friday and the mob should be back in action soon after. I’ll keep you posted on my experiences with the phone and the service.

31 Replies to “Sprint to the Finish”

  1. Congrats on the new phone! Did it arrive already? You got some great pictures in your moblog today! 🙂

  2. That sounds cool Leo. I wish my area supported camera phones. I would get the Nokia 3650 like it was flying off the shelf. I wish someone would post a video from it. I am just curious to see the quality. But, again no video looks good over the internet. Hope you have fun with your new phone.

  3. I understand T-Mobile is not very good in SF, but I think outside that area, you should be pretty pleased, Leo. I have it in Atlanta and like it very much. Looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta at Lenox Square in October. By the way, there are Steak and Shakes here. 🙂

  4. Leo,
    T-Mobile has two sets of maps, the ones that are very vague and pretty and are on all the websites, and then a hyper-accurate computerized version that you can view (if you chat up the clerks) at most T-Mobile stores (i.e. not a CompUSA). The computer map shows actual towers that T-Mobile has, and signal strength around that tower (with mountains and trees worked in, etc). For example, the pretty maps on the website said “no problem” for where I live, but the hyper-accurate maps said “it would be a stretch to get a signal” (which it is, hit or miss).
    Anyway, before you choose I’d suggest viewing this computerized map for your local areas (home, work, etc).

  5. Thank you Leo for this info! I’ve been looking to get away from Sprint PCS for ages, but I haven’t been able to find a technical person who’s opinion I trust. I really want to keep my phone number, so come November, T-Mobile it is. Can’t wait! Of course, I don’t even want to fathom a guess as to how difficult it is going to be to switch away from Sprint and keep my number…

  6. Leo, my Hero
    You have inspired me to start a Blog, which has been operational now for about 3 months and I love it. As well as a method of sounding off to no-one in particular, it makes a great alternative to my message board in my web site.
    As for Sprint, I must say I have never heard anyone sing praise for them…. I am from the Massachusetts Bay area and I looked at them just over a year ago when I was looking at Cellular service and dismissed them alongside T-Mobile. The only advantage I would have with T-Mobile is the fact that there are also a provider in the UK…. therefore allowing text messaging over 3500 miles of ocean. After the big toss-up between Verizon and Cingular…. as you, I went for the one that could supply the phone I wanted… so I opted for Cingular.
    Leo…. keep up the great work and that includes Pat too….. TSS Rocks !
    Andy (UK Ex-Pat)
    p.s. visit my blog and give me any suggestions, you can join too !

  7. Leo,
    I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve had a Sprint PCS phone for years. Sure, in the beginning, the service was spotty and it cut out often. But now it’s pretty damn reliable. Actually, the only reason I would want to switch carriers is to get a better phone. You see, I, too, have a Mac and I’d like to get the iSync thing goin’.
    But who do I choose? One carrier has great phones, but their service plans suck. One has amazing service, but their commercials are annoying (Yes, I can hear you. Shut up, already!). You know what I want? I want one of those mobile phones that doesn’t cut out in the elevator. I’ve seen people having conversations in the lift before, so it must be possible. Either that, or they’re faking it and trying to make me jealous. Well, it worked. Choosing a new mobile phone service sucks.

  8. I’ve been with T-Mobile for over 2 years now, starting with Pac Bell in the Bay Area, then moving to Texas and switching to T-Mobile for better rate plans. I haven’t looked back since. I have a Sony Ericsson T610, which has a great camera, bluetooth AND infrared. I synch it with my eMac, and as soon as I get a (hopefully newly updated) PowerBook, I’ll use it for the $19.99 UNLIMITED GPRS data access T-Mo offers. T-Mobile has the best calling plans, the best data plans, and GSM has the best voice codec. Not to mention that you can SMS almost anywhere in the world. (sometimes)
    I think you’ll be pleased. For the record, I was a Sprint customer when I moved to Texas as well (for my personal phone), their customer service is some of the worst I’ve ever dealt with, their sound quality is horrible, and if you ever leave the US you’re out of luck and have to rent a phone.

  9. Leo,
    I have T -Mobile and have there unlimited ” t – zones ” plan for $9.99 a month. T-Zones is the way I send my pics from my camera phone to the Moblog I have http://geekwagon.textamerica.com and I use the same Nokia 3650 and it works great. Check out the Nationwide Plans. From what I read T-Mobile gives Verizon a run for their money. Possibly because Catherine-Zeta Jones was on the commericals. LOL.
    pj

  10. The only way to resolve an electronic payment issue is to contact your bank directly. Sending them copies of your bank statements is useless. I have used Bank of America for electronic payments for years and about once a year this happens to me. What I don’t understand is why you have to go to the bank to get the documentation. BofA does this online. When you make an electronic payment, the bank (in most cases) actually mails a check to the payee for you – and every other customer paying that company that day. Only a small percentage of payments are truly electronic. What probably happened is a clerical error and your payment was posted to the wrong account. The documentation they send to the payee will include the list of customers (names, account numbers and ammounts) along with the cancelled check. That way they can debit the correct account for the money you paid and credit it to you. Good Luck.

  11. To anyone that wants to switch as well,
    Ive had Sprint since it was first introduced AND LOVE THE SERVICE….the dataplan is the fastest in the states! Only problem being the lack of bluetooth, and for u my friend (leo) i think its a good thing that u switched. Oh yea leo, can i get ure old fone 😛

  12. Sprint gets a bad rap a lot of times, and IMHO it’s undeserved. It’s got a lot of coverage area for being all digital (T-Mobile has very spotty coverage in the mid west without city linking on major innerstates), it’s voice quality is technically the best (and in pratice as well, most of the time), but it’s billing system is a little – well, monolithic. Billing works really well until you start fiddling with you account. The other big problem with Sprint is that some of the phones they sell, namely the Samsung line, are complete junk. They make look pretty but they just don’t work very well. I love my Sanyo and it’s by far the best I’ve ever owned. PCS Vision is a really cool service that cheap and pretty quick. As far a GSM goes it’s all fine and dandy in Europe but it’s a different world in the US. I used to live in Sweden and know how good the system is – the problem is that we use a completely different frequency than europe and US GSM phones are desinged in Europe with just a altered crystal for the American market. The Nokia internal antenna paired with the reliance on high frequency GSM results in poor reception in the US (If you can’t get high frequency GSM in Sweden you just fall back on low frequency). You also have to realise that putting up a tower is not very expensive in Europe because they don’t have to deal with all the FCC junk that we do here – hince they put up towers every ten feet. I’ve just not been impressed with US GSM system when I know they could be alot better. CDMA works pretty well in compairson.

  13. I have been with AT&T Wireless since their beginning and love their service, though I don’t use data on it that much, it does work well for my purposes, which are probably different from yours. I am mainly concerned with coverage area and roaming abilities, since I live in Oklahoma and do lots of travelling and work outside major cities in several states and Canada.
    I have found that AT&T and Cingular have the best coverage areas by far. They are in EVERY state and you can access their service anywhere through home, roaming or extended area.
    Verizon, who brags about having the best coverage, isn’t available or sold in OK or in several other states, oddly enough.
    If you don’t live or work within 10 miles of an Interstate highway you can forget Sprint or T-Mobile, their coverage areas can only be politely described as ‘minimal’. If you do any sort of travelling you’ll be sorely disappointed.
    Good luck, just wanted to give you some observations, keep up the good work on TechTV. 🙂

  14. AT&T & T-Mobile are going to use each others towers for coverage. This might help those who travel or have spotty reception. T-mobile’s parent company seems to be the most agressive with new technology, and have arranged major deals with airports, bookstores, municipalities for wifi/GSM coverage.

  15. GSM is not the end of the world as some people make it seem: Cingular has started migrating their customers to GSM (and they WILL be migrated, so get used to it) and ATT has GSM service in some areas. That’s on top of the existing T-Mobile service. My phone is with T-Mobile, I can choose to use their signal or ATTs on roaming, but I’ve never had any issue where I even needed to roam. It just works, always with great sound, no dropped calls. Technically it’s perfect. GSM rocks. Not that thrilled with the billing and support side.
    Sprint… I’ve used borrowed Sprint phones now and then just to see what it was like, and it was just awful. No thanks. It’s a pity because VirginmobileUSA has a GREAT phone plan but they use the Sprint system for calls, and that makes it worthless.
    I have been looking at outfits like MetroPCS and Cricket but I hear too many complaints. So, I’m sticking with T-mobile. Leo: GSM works great in Atlanta.

  16. What a timely post! I have been cellphone-free since January, when I finally finished my 3 year contract with Verizon (ouch!). I’m a sem-professional musician, so I sometimes find myself on the road and in need of a cell phone.
    I was thinking of going with Sprint. They have a decent deal for a Sanyo phone with camera, and I fancied doing some Moblogging. Then I see this… Leo is leaving Sprint? Hmmm, I should look into other options.
    I ended up getting the 3650 from Amazon with T-Mobile. Free phone. Photos AND video (with sound!). Can’t wait until the phone shows up! Thanks for the tips everybody!!

  17. Oh, and check out “An Evening With Mike Nichols And Elaine May” which you still might be able to find on CD. They do a great telephone skit where Nichols begs the operator to refund a his last dime spent on a botched call. Hilarious…

  18. What a bunch of idiots.
    Cingular has the best coverage, the best data plan, and the best selection of phones available.
    All you liberal morons switching to other carriers must be a little light in the loafers, know what I mean? I mean, Leo DOES work in San Francisco, right?
    All you damn pillow biters better stop playing games with these little “faggy” carriers and switch to Cingular, dammit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. I personally have Verizon Wireless. They may not have all the phones that other carriers have but the coverage they have pretty much out does any other. I have the new LG VX6000 Camera Phone that Verizon Carries and bar far it doesn’t have the best picture quality, but who cares it a cell phone. Cell Phones were never ment to have cameras! Another thing I like now about Verizon Wireless is the PUSH TO TALK feture that they are starting. Somewhat like Nextel two way walki-talkie feature. Motorola V60P is the current phone they have. Personally I would never go with T-Mobile (AKA Voicestream) or Sprint after all the horror stories I’ve heard about them.

  20. I used to be a customer of both sprint and AT&T and didn’t have luck with any of them. I’ve been using t-mobile for the last 2 months or so and I have been to NY, Atlanta, Portland, and so far coverage and the service have been good. The only problem I have is that, old owner of my numbers seems to have forgotten to tell her friends that she is not using this number anymore. I keep getting these annoying “Julia, is that you” and automated blockbuster calls for forgotten video cassette rentals. Luckily t-mobile agreed to give 50 mintues extra each month for the next 3 months to cover these calls.
    Also one other nice thing, is that you can get your phone unlocked by t-mobile and if you were to travel to another country, you can simply switch to the local network, by buying prepaid cards.

  21. i’ve had it with sprint too now! i got a promotion in the mail yesterday saying if i sign a 1-yr. agreement, my plan will stay the same (price & everything), but my night & weekend minutes will begin at 8:00 instead of 9:00. great! and if i sign a 2-year agreement, i get free PCS to PCS calling. awesome!
    so i figured i’d get me one of them camera phones since i’d be renewing my contract. you know, get the rebates and all. so after not talking to a person at the number on the promotion, i called one of the local sprint stores. “nobody was available to take my call” even after five minutes. BS. so i call another sprint store. a b***y woman answers and tells me that the camera phone is $230 actually. i said no, on your website it says…she interrupted to inform that renewing is not the same as signing a new contract. she said my account isn’t good for any promotions either. i told her that was BS and i asked her when my contract is up cuz i’m going to switch. ugh, not til december. i hope i can hold out.
    i hate sprint, but i love the sanyo phones!!! 🙁

  22. Leo,
    While I am a mostly happy T-Mobile customer, primarily for overseas travel and secondarily because GSM appeals to geeks, I also keep a prepaid phone based on AT&T’s TDMA/analog service. The reason is that when you leave the, still limited, GSM coverage footprint, you fall off the edge of the wireless world and the darned thing is just a rock. A little creative call forwarding will permit you to still receive calls on the prepaid when you are out of GSM coverage. It only costs about $40/year to keep the prepaid active.
    OBTW, in California, T-Mobile actually operates on the Cingular (PacBell) network.
    Get the $19.99 unlimited GPRS option and connect to your laptop via IrDA or BT and surf while mobile without having to squint at the tiny screen.

  23. I would concur that AT&T is not a lesser evil than Sprint, but Nokia is a great company. A tale of what happened to me recently is my Nokia 8390 started acting funny. AT&T said it was a software defect of the phone that couldn’t be fixed and to buy a new one. That clashed with my PC sensibility of how reboots fix so many things. In frustration I e-mailed AT&T CEO’s simultaneously. Nokia Prez’s office called within 4 hours (I have a few hundred shares, but not enough for that kind of pull) and offered to send me a new phone. AT&T sent me 3 different form e-mail none of which came close to answering my issue. 2 weeks later a lady claiming to be a senior person finally called me. The concept that I as a customer viewed AT&T and Nokia as a symbiotic company since I cannot use my phone with any other provider in my town sort of missed her. Final analysis: AT&T Sux, Nokia A Notch Higher in My Book. Although, I’m glad I didn’t bail and go to Sprint after Leo’s story.

  24. o anyone that wants to switch as well,
    Ive had Sprint since it was first introduced AND LOVE THE SERVICE….the dataplan is the fastest in the states! Only problem being the lack of bluetooth, and for u my friend (leo) i think its a good thing that u switched. Oh yea leo, can i get ure old fone 😛

  25. I have Sprint PCS and I love them! I’ve never had any problems with them. T-Mobile sucks ass though, as does Cingular. Just my experiences though.

  26. Leo I suggest contacting the CEO of Sprint and yell at them for their bad service and they maybe they will give you 3 months free =D

  27. Fortunately SprintPCS hasn’t given me any problem’s. Their coverage is real good. I’m not getting a pcs vision phone though – plan’s are too expensive – particullarly for wireless data access.

  28. oh cripes! don’t get me started on how incredibly swear word laced my description of sprint is. i’ve only been in the cell phone world for two years now and i still can’t figure out if cingular’s insistence that i pay $109 for every $30 bill i had was worse than sprint’s insistance that turning off my voicemail was the way to correct it not working. i think sprint will win when i get my next phone bill, which i expect will be well over $160 (i’m paying about $5 a minute) because their service is the suckage! i dunno who’s next. pop is lookin’ at airvoice and i’m wavering between nextel and a rusty tin can with a frayed string.

  29. Well, so far in about a year, Verizon has lost our payments 3 times. Also, they sold me a defective phone, took 3 phone calls to customer service to hook up my voice mail, and I had to get a new phone number once because I kept getting these recorded message calls that no one seemed to be able to figure out.
    So I’m not very happy with the service at Verizon.

  30. I currently have Verizon as well as AT&T for wireless service (one work, one personal). We’ve been having several issues with Verizon signal strength recently over a large area (PA, NJ, MD, DE, NY) at work and are currently testing the V60P as well as various phones from Nextel. The push to talk on Verizon’s network utilizes the 1x data network as a means to send the data, and from testing the past week, it’s still a little immature in it’s reliability, whereas it seems the Nextel push to talk just works. Good luck with your cell phone search Leo, hopefully you find a company that has a properly functioning billing system! 😉

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