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Goodbye Sprint, hello iPhone

Last week the proverbial last straw was placed on my back by Sprint. Though they have tried like crazy to retain my business over the years and I still had 4 phones under contract I had had enough. At our home on the Eastern Shore of Delaware our signal had been deteriorating for many months, to the point where you could only maintain a phone call for 15-20 seconds. People would call, you'd look at the phone and see two bars, start to talk and POOF! The call would fail mid-sentence. Fan-flippin-tastic. Five different phones, all got the same result.

I called Sprint to complain. The first person I spoke to told me that he would be happy to give me additional minutes on my account to compensate for the problem. Though a nice gesture, I declined because the phones were basically useless unless you liked to carry on Twitter like conversations with everyone. He suggested I speak to someone in the technical support group and transferred me over there.

After a lengthy hold a nice guy from the Texas support office got on the line and looked up my physical location. He said my area was in a "good" zone and that I should not have any problems. Well, clearly I was having problems. He explained at length how the cell towers were directional and that I may be in a dead zone. He suggested that I call the Sales department and talk to them about purchasing a signal booster for my home. He of course couldn't transfer me but assured me that I would have no problem speaking to someone that could help.

It was pretty clear at this point that no one really wanted to do anything about my problem. Trying to be optimistic I decided to call back and speak to someone in the Sales department. When I finally got through to a human being I explained that I needed a signal booster based on what their support person told me. The person I spoke to had no idea what I was talking about.

Wonderful. I told the Sprint rep that I had had enough and was going to switch providers if they didn't do something about it. She immediately went into crisis management mode and put me on hold. Apparently it's standard operating procedure at Sprint to put people on hold when they sense there is a serious problem, hoping you hangup in frustration, forget why you called or simply expire from old age. When the Sprint rep discovered that I had indeed decided to stay on hold she told me that she was going to open a ticket to get technicians to our address to see if they could resolve the problem.

Impressed that Sprint would actually send someone out I asked when this would happen so that I could talk to them directly. She started to become very evasive at this point and told me her supervisor would call me back shortly to explain what was going to happen. She assured me that I would receive a call later that day. Comically she asked if I was interested in upgrading my plan at the end of the call to include some feature I didn't have. Uh, no, thank you.

I was near my phone the remainder of the day and no one called. A couple of days later we wrote a nice little good bye letter to Sprint and talked through where to go next.

I've been wanting an iPhone for months now and with the 3G release my desire for one increased dramatically. With Sprint failing to deliver I had removed my last obstacle and went into full sales mode with my wife, telling her about all the great things she could do with an iPhone. I figured if I could convince her that she wanted an iPhone then I would get one by default. A friend of ours had just visited us and brought her iPhone and my wife was pretty impressed. We knew the iPhone got a great signal in our house so that wouldn't be an issue. Though it took a couple of conversations I finally got her excited about getting one for herself.

Hurry up and wait
Since I was shuttling family members around I was back in Virginia and stopped by the Tyson's Corner Apple Store at 11am on Monday, July 28. There was a line with about 30 people in front of me but the Apple folks assured me that I could get an iPhone if I waited, as long as I wanted a 16GB white iPhone. The black 8GB and 16GB versions were sold out.

After a two and a half hour wait it was finally my turn. It went very smoothly; the Apple clerk needed my Sprint account number so that I could have my phone number ported over. It took about 20 minutes from start to finish to port over our phone numbers from Sprint to the two iPhones.

Immediately after I left Apple I ran over to my local AT&T store to get the remaining phones on our account ported over. Fortunately that was a relatively painless exercise and we were able to set up the full family plan with shared minutes, unlimited text messaging ($30 / month for the 5 phones) and get my kids the phones they wanted. We even found that we were qualified for a discounted rate (15% off) on our primary lines. All in we will be paying about $40 more per month than we were with Sprint, though obviously with significantly more features.

iPhone First Impressions
Though I was thinking I wanted the black 16GB iPhone I didn't really care that much which one I got. While I think the black one looks a touch cooler I was going to slap a rubber sleeve on it anyway to give it a little shock absorbing capability, negating the color. The white iPhone actually looks pretty cool though in person. The white surface doesn't show any smudges and to a degree reminds me of a white MacBook.

The iPhone hooks up to iTunes much like any other iPod and I quickly went about identifying new content since I had significantly more capacity than with my 8GB iPod Touch. I love the Discovery Channel and especially Dirty Jobs; it turns out they are free as video podcasts on iTunes. It's hard to beat watching Mike Rowe show you how sausages are made while you belly up to the breakfast platter at the local diner.

iTunes reports that my iPhone has 14.64GB of capacity. I can only assume that this is a combination of the formatting of the memory "drive" and base 2.0 software.

I really like the fact that the iPhone has an internal speaker (I know, Duh, it's a phone too). There are times with my Touch that I simply need to hear a brief sound clip and don't want to unwind the headphones and plug them into my ears - now I don't have to do that.

I've had an iPod Touch for a little while now and was quite used to the interface. The screen itself is brilliant and displays high resolution images with ease. Browsing the web on the iPhone's built in Safari browser is a complete pleasure. Having suffered through years of crappy little web interfaces on mobile devices the ability to get really useful web pages in that form factor is truly revolutionary.

About the only challenge I've had with the iPhone so far is the placement of the speaker for the handset. At first I thought that the volume was very poor on the iPhone but it was really a matter of where I was positioning my ear against the surface. Other than that I've thoroughly enjoyed my first day with the iPhone.

Best of all, every place I've been my little 3G indicator is displayed and I get a very strong signal. So far, so good.

Oh yes, my nephew Dan—the one that tried to get his iPhone the day after they were released—gets his today. He ended up having to go through the AT&T store in California where his parents set up the original account, they had to order the phone for him and set it up, then ship it out to him.

17 comments:

David Sharpe said...

So how much will you have to pay to get out of those Sprint contracts? That's what is keeping me from switching right now.

Mike said...

Glad you like your iphone. Amazing UI, best I have had after many windoze mobile phones. I just wish it was easier to tether with it. I have the 2.5G version and my only complaint is that sometimes AT&T's network seems to get lost. For the little I use it for internet work, it is fine for now. I will eventually upgrade, but just don't have a compelling reason to.

Mike V.

David Alison said...

@David: Not sure yet. Apparently Sprint is prorating ETFs (Early Termination Fees). The reality is I'm going to argue with them that my phones were simply not working where I live and they were rendered useless, yet I continued to pay my fees month after month. I'll see how they react. Based on my past experience I have no doubts that they will try to hit me up for as much as they can.

Pablo said...

I recently made the same switch from Sprint. One thing I'm having a hard time adjusting to on the new iPhone is the lack of a blinking LED to indicate that I have a message waiting. Does that bother you?

pmb

David Alison said...

@Pablo: My Motorola KRZR didn't have an external message indicator so I'm used to manually checking.

Partners in Grime said...

Congratulations! Still using my iPod touch, but my wife says I can get an iPhone. :) Holding off for a bit though as I just purchased 33 Mac laptops for my Grade 4 class and the credit card is a tad overheated.

Anonymous said...

Strange how things work: I was looking online for something I read in a 2005 magazine article which ended up pointing me to something which relates to the article you wrote about Sprint! Two announcements about Sprint: a lawsuit on their improper handling of early terminations, and the release of their new Airave signal booster. Check it out at this link: http://www.engadget.com/

Alicia said...

I chuckled all the way through your post. BOY are you hooked on mac stuff - got the bug like the rest of us eh? :)

Serious question tho': a friend of mine also has an iPod touch AND an iPhone. How do you use both devices daily? Do you tend to use the iPod for a commute or in the office or at home, using the iPhone during the day?

My friend is using his iPhone at the moment as an organizer, claiming he has not gotten used to its size for phoning (he has 2 existing other cell phones and is waiting for the contracts to expire). We're in Austria btw.

Anonymous said...

I switched off of Sprint a long time ago for the same reasons you did. It worked okay pretty much everywhere except in my apartment. Same thing happened even when I moved 20 miles away. My soon-to-be wife was with Verizon and her phone worked everywhere so I finally ditched Sprint and went with Verizon.

Now, while I'd love to have an iPhone money is kind of an issue and the phones we have (LG VX8300s; excellent phones that work very well as, uh, phones) are quite satisfactory. If I want to do Wifi internet my Macbook is with me, and my iPod Video works very well if I need to while away some time with a little movie. Also, with bitpim it sort of works with my LG phone and Macbook to transfer pictures, contacts, ringtones and a few other things. Not perfect, but then again it isn't an iPhone.

Someday the iPhone will be in my future. I'll probably be having to add it to my Batman Utility Belt® because whatever company I'll be working for will have issued me a Blackberry, one of their phones, my own Phone, security badge, etc.

In the meantime I'll just envy everyone else. ;)

-walkerj, from the Mac Forums.

David Alison said...

@Partners: You'll love it when you get it man. It's a Touch on Steroids.

@Anon: Funny how those two things hit Engadget at the same time as my post. Here are direct links:


Sprint Airave

Sprint Lawsuit

The Airave was what the tech support guy mentioned to me, yet no one in sales had any idea what I was talking about.

@Alicia: Yes, I am indeed hooked on the Apple toys. But I'm quite happy so that more than makes up for it! I'm only 24 hours into the iPhone so my usage patterns are not really established but I think the iPhone will end up becoming my primary device, making the iPod Touch an extra device. With three kids in the house it won't go to waste though.

@WalkerJ: I know how you feel. Sounds like you have a pretty good alternative for now though. On the bright side there always seems to be something new from Apple to long for.

Anonymous said...

I'm a recent macbook convert myself and like it so far, although my track pad button is pretty mushy...

Anyway... how's the battery life on the iPhone, from what I've read and heard it's pretty horrendous. What kind of battery life are you getting?

David Alison said...

@Anon: Still a little early to tell for sure, mainly because I'm constantly syncing back up right now. One of my first accessory purchases was a couple of car chargers - tossed them into both of our cars just in case.

From what the Apple Store employee told me it will get much better battery life if it's accessing 3G instead of Edge.

I'll try to update people on that as I go along.

Anonymous said...

"At our home on the Eastern Shore of Delaware..."

Is there any other kind of shore in Delaware?

Anonymous said...

I don't care for the trackpads on Apple laptops and I recommend using a travel USB mouse with two buttons, but that's just my preference.

I haven't owned any other smartphones than the iPhone 3G, so I can't tell you from personal experience about the relatively battery life. That's an important issue, the battery life of the iPhone 3G can only be compared to other smartphones, where it has the best in class. But if you are going to compare it to a non-3G just a phone, then yeah the battery life is not very long and you basically need to plug it in every night. This isn't unusual for smartphones.

And I think dave got confused, because the Edge talk time is twice what the 3G talk time is. On the other hand, data battery life is about the same Edge vs 3G. This is because the higher power draw of the 3G radio is countered by the higher speed allowing the radio to be off more of the time. When you are talking, however, the radio is on constantly. Oh and the iPhone 3G music and video times are longer than the original iPhone, because overall it has more raw battery capacity.

David Alison said...

@Anon: While I actually like the trackpad on the MacBook / MBP I also use an external mouse when it's parked in "desktop" mode. As a touch typist I even find it convenient to use the trackpad for quick mouse placement or scrolling—that two finger scroll for a web page is a joy to use—then pop over to the mouse for any heavy duty work involving drag and drop.

Thanks for the correction on the battery life statement. Chances are I confused which got better battery life; Edge or 3G. The comparison of the iPhone to a smart phone, not a standard phone, is also an excellent point.

My last "smart phone" (quoted because it wasn't very smart) was a Pocket PC PPC-6700 through Sprint. I did a fraction of what I can do with my iPhone and the battery life on it was marginal at best. Even when it was new I could only get 2 days out of a charge with a couple of quick conversations, and that meant not using the anemic IE browser to pretend I could see web sites.

Relative to that, the iPhone's battery life is excellent from my limited sample.

Tom Zimmer said...

Did they tell you about ATTs Unity plan, which allows you to talk to any land line with ATT service for free minutes from your cell. There is no cost to the service, and it helps a lot with minutes for those people that have ATT, which is a lot.

Tom

Kitak Yong said...

nice