Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

AT&T = Pathetic Customer Service

My AT&T U-Verse bill notice came in over the weekend; so this week I launched the web site to take a look at the details.

When I signed up for the service I was “promised” $20 off per-month for signing up for electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

Well, the first month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that my bill was processed _before_ I had signed up for the electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

The second month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that something must have went wrong — that I needed to unsubscribe and then resubscribe; of course their policies clearly stated that if I discontinued either of the requirements I would become ineligible for the statement credit.  I escalated the issue to a supervisor who impressed me as being more incompetent than the front-line people; then I escalated it to the executive complaints office — who assured me it would be resolved.

The third month it didn’t happen; and AT&T really had no excuse.  Again I escalated it to a supervisor, and got the promise that it would be researched and resolved.

This month (the fourth month), I lost it — I was pissed off the minute I called AT&T — and I pointed out to them that they were wasting my time month after month after month — and I was tired of it.  The front-line person was totally incompetent and the supervisor was just as incompetent… and rude.

One thing’s for sure — NO ONE beats AT&T for the most pathetic customer service on Earth.

If you subscribe to AT&T services based on promises of rebates, cash back, credits, special pricing, etc — make sure you keep copies of everything; and be prepared to file a small claims action, because it probably will come to that.

It always comes down to who has pissed you off the least (lately) and who is offering the best deals — but in the end you have to decide between the cable company and the phone company and just live with pathetic customer service.

Originally posted 2010-07-10 02:00:01.

nexus one

Today Google starts selling the nexus one Android smart phone (manufactured by HTC) direct.  The current model supports AT&T and T-Mobile GSM networks, but there will be a model for Verizon and vodafone this Spring as well.

The unlocked phone will set you back $529.00; the T-Mobile version costs only $179.00 (with contract).

Like most all HTC phones, this is a nice phone.  Well designed, and packed with all the latest features (including an OLED display).  You can check out the specs online as well as get additional information and order one if you like.

With Google selling an Android phone direct (it doesn’t appear on the HTC site) one can see that they are preparing to compete head-to-head with Apple (and Apple must be getting ready to compete head-to-head with Google since they just purchased an advertising network).

nexus one

google nexus one

Originally posted 2010-01-05 02:00:48.

4% of the Market; 50% of the Profit

Apple’s iPhone accounts for only 4% of the cellular handset market for “feature” phones, yet account for 50% of the profits…



asymco.com

Originally posted 2010-11-29 02:00:46.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a “discount” cellular provider (apparently a Verizon Wireless MVNO) that offers no-nonsense plans with no contract and low rates for users who only occasionally use their cell phones and the ability to change your plan at will.

Let me underscore that I don’t have any personal experience with Consumer Cellular, so I can’t vouch for their service — so my recommendation is keep a copy of the information from their web page in a PDF and pay with a credit card; that way if you find they don’t live up to their end of the “bargain” just work with your credit card company.

http://www.consumercellular.com/

Originally posted 2010-04-28 02:00:11.

Your world delivered

It appears that iPhone sales are responsible for increasing AT&T network utilization by 5,000%

You’d think that such demand would make AT&T happy; but in fact, AT&T might be enjoying the sales numbers; but they pay Apple a rather substantial portion of the monthly fees they collect on iPhone users and the networks in New York City and San Francisco have become so unstable due to high volume that their have been frequent outages.

I guess there’s no reason to ask if you can hear me now if you can’t even make a call… but perhaps AT&T might want to reconsider changing their slogan to “your world delivered, subject to network availability”.

Verizon Wireless is the largest cellular carrier in the US; and has higher customer satisfaction rating than AT&T according to several independent surveys.

Originally posted 2009-12-30 02:00:49.

Android Handsets

I’m always looking at smart phones and checking out their features.

At the moment there are five genres of smart phones: Apple iPhone, Windows Mobile, Palm, Google Android, proprietary.

The iPhone is only available for GSM, and only officially available on AT&T in the US.

Windows Mobile phones are manufactured by a number of companies, and will work on any carrier (model dependent).

Palm makes phones for to work on any carrier (model dependent).

Google Android based phones are manufactured by a number of c0mpanies (note that the nexus one while marketed by Google is actually manufactured for Google by HTC) and available to work on most carriers (model dependent).

The really interesting thing is that only Windows Mobile and Palm provide handsets that work on multiple carriers — often referred to as “world phones”.

I just did a bit of hunting and no Android based handset is currently capable of working on multiple networks; nor of course is the iPhone.

With the iPhone that’s simply Apple’s arrogance… with an Android handset I suspect it’s a deficiency of the operating system.

I base my suspicion on the fact that HTC makes several Android handsets (including the nexus one); and they make many Windows Mobile devices… most of the Android handsets are closely related to Windows Mobile models (virtually identical specifications for the most part), with the exception that none of them support multiple cellular networks.

Personally if I were spending over five hundred dollars on a handset I would want to be able to be sure it would work all over the world — on any network.  After all, what’s the use of an unlocked handset when it’s crippled?

Originally posted 2010-01-15 01:00:08.

Straight Talk

Four people I know have now switched their cellular phone service over to Straight Talk “pre-paid” service (largely because I’ve pointed it out to them).  Two used AT&T, one used T-Mobile, and one used Cellular South.

All of them basically switched for the similar reasons — they were being charged too much for too little.

I’ve considered switching a number of times; but I’m one of the few people with a Smart Phone who actually use the features (I just don’t know if I could get along without data services and GPS — Garmin GPS).

Straight talk offers two plans — UNLIMITED for 30 days $45; or 1000 minutes, 1000 SMS/MMS, 30GB for up to 30 days $30.  Most people probably don’t need the unlimited plan, and if you only expect you’re going to go over once in a great occasion you can buy the $30 plan and just pay again in less than 30 days (as long as it takes you at least 20 days you still ahead), and you can switch back and forth between the two plans at will (if you can predict your usage) — or even lay out for a month.  And of course, there’s no contract.

Straight Talk is a service of Trac Fone; but a model that’s much more like MetroPCS and Cricket; though since Straight Talk is a MVNO using Verizon Wireless as the carrier you can use the service any where in the continential United States where Verizon Wireless has digital service (which is just about any where there’s a paved road).

If you’re looking for a fancy phone, or data features you’re not looking for Straight Talk; in fact, only MetroPCS really offers you full data features (you can take your own smart phone to their network and have them flash it — it does need to have the SPL released; or you can buy one from them — but MetroPCS uses their own network and fills in coverage using some Sprint services as well; but you’re restricted to your MetroPCS service area, which doesn’t work well if you travel).

If what you’re looking for is a cellular phone, or a replacement for your land line even, Straight Talk might be a great deal for you.

You can order the phones online; you can pay for service online; you can even have your service auto-renewed online… or you can purchase phones and/or service cards at Wal-Mart.  You can even port you existing wireless or wire line number to Straight Talk (you can thank the FCC for that).

Just keep in mind that the hand sets are “low end” — they won’t tether to your computer, and to do any type of synchronization (that’s a bad word to use, since you’re probably going to have to move contacts, etc one-by-one or at least manually) you may well have to use Bluetooth (though the Samsung SCH-R451C $99.99 will work with a USB cable to give you access to the phone as a USB data device — and it supports up to a 2GB uSD card).

There is one higher end hand set offered by Straight Talk; the Samsung SCH-R810C $328.99; it’s higher price get’s you a touch screen (only — no keyboard), but really nothing substantially more than the Samsung SCH-R451C, and it’s not available in most areas.

Straight Talk offers a 30-day money back guarantee on handsets; but no refund on airtime…

Visit the Straight Talk website, or your local Wal-Mart for more information (or to purchase one)… it’s your money, get some value for it.

http://www.straighttalk.com/

Originally posted 2010-04-10 02:00:30.

GSM Hacked

Computer security researchers have reported that GSM phones (the cellular protocol used by most of the world — roughly 80% of all cell phones) can be cracked with a relatively small amount of hardware and free Open Source tools.

The weakness exploits the older 64-bit A5/1 algorithm not the newer 128-bit A5/3 algorithm.  However, it should be noted that most GSM providers have been slow to update their networks and do not currently employ the more secure 128-bit encryption standard.

The result is that conversations carried on GSM networks can be overheard and recorded.

No such weaknesses exist in the CDMA protocol; nor would this indicate a potential vulnerability in LTE.

Karsten Nohl, a German computer programmer, claims he demonstrated this weakness (and published the code) to encourage GSM carriers (and manufactures) to take serious the poor security that is currently in place.  ESTI (the standards organization behind GSM) claims that this hack (while legitimate) is too complex and would in fact not give hackers the ability to listen in on phone calls.

Originally posted 2009-12-29 02:00:50.

Donate Your Cell Phone

There are at least three great reasons to donate your old cell phone:

  1. It keeps your handset out of a landfill — generally most organizations will make sure that your old handset is either provided to an individual or family for use or is sent to a recycling center to be handled properly
  2. It will help others, either by having a cell phone available to them, or through the monies that the recycling produces.
  3. It will be tax deductible.

Here are some suggestions for places to donate

US:

Canada:

UK

Originally posted 2010-11-22 02:00:35.

Air Time Free

If you have a flat rate cellular voice plan, you may not be interested in this article; but for most of us who simply don’t have cost effective options for flat rate plans this might help cut down on cellular bills.

Most cellular telephone companies off the ability to add one or more telephone numbers to your cell plan that will not be charged air time for inbound or outbound calls.  It goes by various names, A-List, Friends & Family, My Favs, My Circle, etc.

Unfortunately, all of them limit the number of telephone numbers you can designate as air time free to a fairly modest number.

But… by using Google Voice, you might find that one air time free number is really all you need to greatly reduce your monthly cellular expenses.

You can go to Google and read a fair amount about Google Voice, they’re adding new features all the time so I won’t even try and cover all of them; just a few that might be of help to you (by the way, the “Call Me” widget on my web site uses Google Voice, and it’s no cost to the caller or me).

So how exactly can you use Google Voice — or really what will be covered in this post is how I use Google Voice.

First, I setup a Google Voice account a few months ago, mainly to be able to give out a telephone number that I wouldn’t be bothered answering when I didn’t want to, and still be able to get voice mail (at my convenience).  Mainly I wanted to do this because I’m going to disconnect my home phone (AT&T offers “naked” DSL here, and since all my home phone does is provide telemarketers with a number to call I really don’t see a reason to ever answer it).

The Google Voice line worked great for receiving messages; I got them in my email inbox, and more times than not the voice to text transcription wasn’t very useful, but I could just click the link and listen to the message as well.

Second, I added my Google Voice number to my Verizon “Friend’s & Family” (what AllTel used to call “My Circle”) so that it would be air time free.  Partially because there would be times when I wanted to actually route my Google Voice number to a phone so I could answer it (say when I was expecting a call), but mostly so that I could use Google Voice for outbound calls to people who were not going to be air time free.

So to use Google Voice for air time free outbound calling you need to log onto the Google Voice web site (there’s a mobile version of it as well, so if you have an unlimited data plan you don’t even need to be near a computer to make use of it) and simply instruct it to make a call.  What happens is Google Voice calls you, then calls the number you instruct it to call and conferences you together.

To make all this air time free, you need to setup Google Voice to present you Google Voice call on inbound calls (that’s the number you specified as air time free with your cellular provider).  This, unfortunately, means that you don’t know who’s calling, but there are some Google Voice features that help there too (I’ll let you go through all the features yourself).

For outbound calls you could setup Google Voice to present your actual telephone number, but it makes more sense to have your Google Voice number presented (especially for toll free calls, remember that they always get your telephone number).

Now you might not care whether or not you get charged air time for a quick call to your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, but when you’re going to be on the line with customer service for half an hour (or more) you might want to think about the extra step of using Google Voice.

Now let me make it perfectly clear.  I don’t trust Google with my personal and confidential information, so I would never have any sensitive data go through a Google Voice call; but hey, when it’s something like a customer service call people I don’t really trust with my information already have it.

You can request an invite to Google Voice, it’ll probably take ten days to two weeks before you get it.  I’d recommend setting up a Google Mail account as well (you can forward the message from the Google Mail account or you can directly access the Google Mail account with POP3/IMAP4) to go along with Google Voice.  In fact, even if you don’t expect to use Google Voice much, I’d say go ahead and setup an account now.

Also, Google Voice will be adding VoIP (SIP) service (they purchased Gizmo5) soon.

Originally posted 2010-02-10 01:00:49.