In 2001 I moved to Austin and got a land line number with AT&T. This is the number I give out for everything that’s not personal: banks, credit cards, etc.
Keeping this number has been hard. I had to transfer from AT&T to Vonage. This was great: cheap long distance, voice mail to email, and the ability to bring it with me to California. But Vonage charges me per month and frankly I wasn’t getting much use out of it anyway. But I want to keep the number!
So I started another odyssey: porting my number to Google Voice.
This wasn’t trivial: Google will port numbers from some cell phone companies, but not from Vonage. So I had to go through an AT&T pre-paid cell phone. $15 for the SIM + $20 for the Google Voice port. And I get to get rid of this:
I’m happy to announce that the process is now complete and was successful! The only drawback: spam calls about the elections are now getting redirected to my cell phone. Time to deal with that.
T-1. I decide to call AT&T again. This time they are able to cancel my order. So why didn’t the last person cancel it? What changed? This further proves that when it comes to phone or cable companies, you can’t trust what you are told and just need to keep calling.
The representative does warn me: It will take 2 to 3 days for your contract to revert. Uh-oh.
Genius idea: since the phone is presumably unlocked, use my still valid AT&T SIM on it for 2-3 days until the contract reverts. Then start my phone activation and number transfer with Sprint.
October 14, 2011
I leave my house to work. Interestingly, my phone had no service. Common in the area. Later I realize that it was not just bad coverage, but it was dead. No service from AT&T. My genius idea goes down the drain. When I get to the office I try to log-in to AT&T:
I’m not about to cal. Two possibilities:
AT&T’s guy canceled my account, not just my order. Potential problem: I could lose my number. Or…
Sprint started my number transferred too early. Potential problem: My contract with AT&T still says I just renewed and they make me pay the full cancellation fee.
Then… I receive my iPhone 4S. It’s as beautiful as I had hoped. And my number is working! (which means it was #2). I test an AT&T SIM to see if it’s unlocked. Damn.
October 7, 2011: Preorders begin. I realize I’m not yet eligible for an upgrade so I will get it unlocked instead. Need to wait until November and then pay through my nose for it.
October 8, 2011: Brilliant idea from Erica Sadun (TUAW): AT&T wants me to pay $250 extra for an iPhone because I’m still under contract. But leaving AT&T would cost me $80 at this point. Makes no sense. Call AT&T, explain this slowly to two different representatives. The second one finally gets the math, gets me a $250 credit. I place my order. I should get it on launch day! Oh, and they will renew my contract for another two years.
October 11, 2011: My order does not show up in the system yet. It should within 24 hours. Something stinks… I had beans for lunch. And something is wrong here. I call AT&T: half an hour later I get disconnected. Call again. 2.5 hours later, mostly on hold, and after explaining the same thing to 4 people and two answering machines, someone can finally tell me what the problem is: I didn’t accept the Service Agreement by clicking on a link in an email I never receive. She re-sends it and I click it. She assures me my spot on the preorder queue will be respected. Four hours later a confirmation email arrives with a 28 day estimated shipping time. Depression sets in. At night, Macworld’s Jason Snell claims that the SIM slot on the Sprint iPhone 4S is unlocked!
October 12, 2011: Morning realization: I’m better off switching carriers: I get an unlocked iPhone 4S for when I travel and a significantly lower monthly payment (goodbye old AT&T family, hello new Sprint family). The phone call to Sprint takes about an hour but my phone is supposed to arrive on Friday or Saturday. The first thing I see after I hang up is a rebuttal to the Sprint SIM unlock story. Damn. Then I call AT&T to cancel my order. They claim it cannot be canceled, and blame Apple. What the?! Call American Express to instruct them to withhold all payments to AT&T. You don’t want to mess with Marcos: I withhold payments.
October 13, 2011: Sprint say my phone is shipping and due to delivery tomorrow!
It wasn’t until I moved to California that all the AT&T coverage jokes made sense to me. In the less than 3 mile stretch between my house and the office, there are three dead spots where calls are guaranteed to drop and in some other areas I get knocked down to Edge instead of 3G.
If I lived in the middle of nowhere, I’d understand (maybe). But I work two blocks away from downtown Berkeley CA and the UC Berkeley Campus. I’ve seen lots of dead spots all over San Francisco, too. And of course, most of the BART stations (stations, not inside the trains) have no service at all.
They claim (yes, I called) some towers in my area are “under maintenance” and one is “under repair”. I don’t fully believe them. We’ll see.
And yet, I stay with AT&T… I like the ability of being on the phone and use data at the same time, I like the faster GSM download speeds (when there is service), I had good service all over Texas, even in the middle of nowhere (i.e. on the road to Lared0). I’m naive enough to believe they will improve here. Will they?
Everyone is talking about Net Neutrality (ok, maybe not everyone). It’s a very important issue and if you aren’t familiar with it maybe you should follow the link. But in this post I want to talk about a related issue that does not seem to be getting the attention it should: Device neutrality. Read more if you care to…
AT&T claims that 95% (but I can’t find the source) of their data users use less than 2 GB anyway, so most people will see savings! Sounds like a good deal, right?
Wrong. The problem with the new data plans is that, although most users will be fine with 2 GB a month today, they won’t be ok with it tomorrow. This explains the timing of the announcement: make it seem like they are loweing the prices, fully knowing that data intensive phones are right around the corner. Next week Apple is expected to release iPhone OS 4.0, which supports background services. Yes, people will be using Skype and Pandora for hours on their phone. And they are also expected to release a new iPhone model that will likely support video conferencing. These are data intensive applications that will eat through 2 GB very quickly. We should expect other smartphones to similarly steer toward more data intensive applications. It’s a ripoff: customers will be paying over $25 or will have to start carefully watching their habits.
After Palm announced terrible quartery results, the press is doubting their survival as a company. This is a shame, because in today’s smartphone world, it seems to me that Palm’s WebOS/Pre is the best product in the market after the iPhone.
Blackberries feel like Windows 3.1: ugly, outdated, unusable. I don’t understand why people love them so much. Windows Mobile attempts to cram a desktop UI into a 3 inch screen. My friend Luis had one and it took him 20 minutes to look anything up in the web. Android phones are like Linux: powerful, but only a techie could use it, if he wants to deal with the pain. I haven’t used a Nokia smartphone in years so I don’t know.
It’s just sad: A really nice product, only too little, too late. I’ll be surprised if they are still around a year from now. Some reading for those who care:
Fake Steve Jobs is angry at AT&T‘s poor network performance and all their excuses. Dropped calls, falling back to EDGE, slow data rates, poor voice quality, etc. So he called for Operation Chokehold through his blog:
Subject: Operation Chokehold
On Friday, December 18, at noon Pacific time, we will attempt to overwhelm the AT&T data network and bring it to its knees. The goal is to have every iPhone user (or as many as we can) turn on a data intensive app and run that app for one solid hour. Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network and sick of their abusive comments. THe idea is we’ll create a digital flash mob. We’re calling it in Operation Chokehold. Join us and speak truth to power!
Since this post, there has been a lot of discussion about it: on the blog, on the web in general, even on Twitter. Everyone is all over it.
This all started as a joke and now sort of took a life on its own. The Facebook page has about 2000 fans. The Facebook page against it only 22 as of this writing.
According to latest estimates by The MKX® Department of Cyber-Risk Assessment, nothing will come out of this. But following all the commotion is kind of fun. Will you join Operation Chokehold?