Flutterby™! : Cell phone frustrations

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Cell phone frustrations

2004-11-30 19:04:17.220281+00 by Dan Lyke 17 comments

Aaaugh. I'm back in that hell of shopping for cell phones. Now that we're out in the boonies, our Sprint phones are roaming (and chew through battery fast). There's coverage from AT&T Wireless, but they're now Cingular, and... wow... even before they nickel and dime you those prices are applied without lube. And everything is a 2 year commitment.

Furthermore, there's the question of GSM, which I'm not sure works out here (everyone I know who's got coverage has an older Nokia phone). I'm not quite sure how it would work, but it sure seems like there has to be a way to make the cell phone buying experience less painful. Or maybe there is, I already have it, and they just don't offer coverage out here; the Sprint site is much clearer than either Cingular or the horror that is Verizon's web site.

[ related topics: Wireless Dan's Life ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-30 20:12:01.617457+00 by: aiworks

I've been with TMobile now for nearly 5 years (Powertel->VoiceStream->TMobile) and like it very well for my needs: they have no concept of roaming on most of their plans.

In terms of phones, I've actually had good luck getting GSM phones from eBay or people who are trading up and doing the unlock, SIM swap trick. You can buy SIM cards directly from TMobile too.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-30 20:13:56.963118+00 by: Dan Lyke

T-Mobile definitely doesn't have coverage out here.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-30 21:17:03.81538+00 by: Larry Burton

Dan, Cingular's website sucks but I've been happy with their service. As far as coverage goes I do know that a year ago I was wondering around the Santa Catalina Mtns just north of Tucson, AZ and had a very good signal on my GSM phone there. That was when their coverage map showed very little coverage of AZ.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-30 23:03:55.660082+00 by: Dan Lyke

My main issue with Cingular is just the price. For roughly the same price we're paying now we'll end up with a quarter of the minutes. I mean, we're probably still comfortably in our usage range, but it's hard to get over that sticker shock.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-30 23:48:36.621734+00 by: Diane Reese

FWIW, I'm ensconced in Saratoga near San Jose, not exactly the boonies. My phone and my two sons' phones are Sprint PCS; we never ever ever have signal trouble at home (or basically anywhere else we work or play, with the exception of some mountaintops where we end up with roaming). Charlie, on the other hand, has a work phone with Cingular service. Cingular service completely sucks. He can't count on getting signal strength AT HOME, which means it may drop out on him in the middle of a work call (which, in his line of business, ain't so cool: "Oh, sorry, had to call back because I lost signal." BOINK. [FYI, he works for a large cellphone manufacturer.]) His phone is much less likely to have strong signal almost anywhere we go in the Bay Area... and it's not the physical phone, 'cause he's had 3 of them in the time the boys and I have had our phones, and his phones have all experienced the same lack of signal reliability. YMMV.

BTW, I just bought a Treo 600 and am having fun with it (not to mention carrying one less bulky item around in my bag!)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 01:05:44.658565+00 by: Dori

I've had good luck getting cell phones and contracts through Amazon. Even when the carriers claim that they don't have certain phones, or they have to charge extra for certain phones, or they only offer two- year contracts, buying from Amazon has let me get around those restrictions. They also make it easy to compare plans and phones, and to figure out what's available in your area.

Not affiliated in any way, etc...

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 01:12:13.439815+00 by: meuon

Verizon here, not cheap, not expensive.. Good signal and great coverage. My phone is an LG VX4500, no camera, few frills, fantastic speakerphone, battery life and voice quality send/receive... not cheap for a basic phone. But sometimes people forget cell phones should be phones.. and they should be paying for what makes a good phone.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 01:36:26.338076+00 by: Pete

Over and over again, when independent outfits test coverage and call quality, Verizon wins. The latest such test I've heard of is from Consumer Reports: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/155547_cell07.html

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 02:29:55.07871+00 by: nkane

I've had Verizon for a number of years, for one simple reason. With the right phone I can switch the thing into analog mode and get reception in those far away remote places where all of those digital technologies just don't exist. I've even had good signal in the mountains in Death Valley before, while a friend standing next to me had nothing with his Cingular phone.

If my phone doesn't work when I'm at home, well, it is annoying but if there is an emergency I can go pick up the house phone. If I'm in the mountains and I roll the truck it sure is nice to be able to get some analog signal.

Sure, in a few more years digital will reach more into those places and it wont be an issue. But that isn't the case today. And I'm still surprised at how many places around the bay area my phone switches to analog.

I just had to pick up a new phone the other day, because my old StarTac started to die. I ended up with an LG VX6100. Really poor quality camera, but I don't use it for that. The speaker phone is OK, I can hear people on it when I'm in the car. The voice recognition on it is much better than some others I have seen.

What kind of no-lube prices are you seeing in your searches Dan?


#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 06:24:10.562954+00 by: TheSHAD0W

nkane, which phones would you recommend for analog reception?

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 07:20:34.536722+00 by: nkane

My understanding (which could be flawed) is that any of the CDMA phones that are Tri-Mode can do analog. When I was phone shopping 3 or 4 years ago for my previous phone I just told them I needed to be able to do analog and at the time almost everything Verizon offered would do it. A few days ago when I told them the same thing I think about half of the offered phones were not capable of it. As far as specific recomendations go, I don't really have any. My StarTac worked well in analog, but of course it ate the battery pretty quickly. I think the new one switched once, and I could hear the other party OK. I don't have anything more scientific than that.


#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 08:22:16.545683+00 by: Pete

Analog will always use more juice than any of the digital standards. Nature of the beast.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 15:14:43.752284+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Verizon's website has always sucked - from the time they were GTE Wireless on. But I've been with them off and on for years (Airtouch -> GTE -> Verizon) and I've always been happy with the service. Coverage was touchy when we were living with the in-laws - where Cingular was apparently better - but I've had no other complaints. I've always signed up from a brick-and-mortar establishment.

I originally got a Samsung phone when we got our latest, but the sound was tinny and the phone felt flimsy. I took it back and exchanged it for the LG VX4400, which I've been very happy with. I also look for a phone that's just a phone - preferring to have dedicated devices that are better at what they do than any all-in-one solution which is either prohibitively expensive or mediocre at the various tasks it performs.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 16:50:54.755307+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think I need to have a cell phone party out here, see what carriers I've really got coverage from. And talk to some of my neighbors. T-Mobile and Verizon both claim no coverage out here in 94938, so they're both out.

Prices? I'm currently paying a few bucks under $100/month for the two of us, 2000 anytime minutes, free nights, weekends, roaming, long distance, and some set of SMS. I think that before taxes and all the add-ons, the advertised price for that was about $80. I'm seeing $70 for 850 minutes and those features with pay per SMS (which doesn't bother me as I don't use that anyway) at the Cingular web site, a little bit better than I initially thought, but add all the nickels and dimes and that's going to come out to about the same as I'm paying now.

However, there may be other reasons to hold off on committing based on geography, so I'll be patient.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 18:39:38.800653+00 by: Shawn

I've been having similar thoughts wrt to the cellphone party (great idea). K has been wanting to move to Cingular for the rollover minutes, but we have a rock-solid signal at home with Verizon, and now that we don't have a landline that's become more important. I'm concerned that even if our area is covered by Cingular, we might be in a bad pocket. I've been thinking it would be really cool - and beneficial to their business - if service providers could offer some kind of disposable, mobile testing device one could use to verify signal coverage in the areas important to them.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-02 14:29:07.440041+00 by: Larry Burton

I don't know about any of the other carriers but Cingular has a thirty day return policy that allows you to cancel your contract without penalty in the first thirty days. You could check with the other carriers and see if they have the same policy. That would at least give you an opportunity to test their coverage area for about a month.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-05 10:31:08.291265+00 by: TaoJones

Sprint user here. Local (Chattanooga area) no problems at all. Now if you head up 64 along the Ocoee you're pretty much SOL - you're dead air untill Ducktown.

East of that stretch it's pretty much hit or miss.