I was a reasonably happy Sprint PCS customer for the last 2.5 years or so. But ever since I moved into my new place, I've become more of a disgruntled customer. The wireless signal in my house sucks. I get one "bar" of signal strength and calls typically drop, if they work at all. And the coverage at work seems to have gone downhill too. Even on the 4th floor where my current office is, I get lots of dead areas.
While I was in Nevada back in late May, my phone was on Analog Roam the whole time. That's not a big deal. I expected analog-only coverage in the middle of nowhere. But I couldn't make a single call! Meanwhile, some of the other guys I flew with were able to make calls. They were using Verizon.
With the advent of number portability, I've been toying with the idea of switching cellular carriers. It seems that Verizon is currently the best game in town for my needs. The signal strength at work and home is considerably better too.
A Web Site Visit
After checking out the Verizon Wireless web site, I was quite happy. It's much easier to browse their phone selection than it is on the Sprint PCS site. They let me sort by features that matter. Sprint doesn't do that. And, better yet, many of Verizon's phones are tri-band phones--that means they'll fall back to analog coverage just like my current phone. That's pretty important for me. Not only is the cell phone a nice convenience nowadays, analog coverage is an absolute necessity in many of the places I fly my glider.
The only real negative is that they have no bluetooth enabled phones. So I'll need to get a cable for my Powerbook. :-(
Like all cell phone carriers, some parts of their service offerings are quite difficult to decipher. In the case of Verizon, the calling plans are fairly straightforward. However, the data plans and add-on services make no sense to me. After trying to decipher their abstract names for the options they offer, I decided to visit my local Verizon Wireless store. It happens to be over in Cupertino.
A Store Visit
I spent a few minutes chatting with one of the sale droids about my desire to switch. I was a little concerned by how the discussion began.
Him: "How many lines do you have with your current carrier?"
Me: "Lines? This is a wireless phone. I have no lines."
But we moved on from there. He confirmed that my number was, indeed, portable and then I tried to get two questions answered. This is where things spiraled down into a deep, dark, stinky hole.
I wanted to know if they had a service that would allow me to plug my phone into my computer and get an IP connection that's faster than standard dial-up. I also wanted to know if they had a usage-based plan for it instead of a flat rate. I don't expect to use the service a lot, but it'd be really nice to have when I actually need it.
He explained that I could either buy their data service, which comes in various rates per month and doesn't use up my minutes, or I could use up my minutes and make an old-school dial-up connection to the ISP of my choice.
I was rather puzzled by this omission. Surely there are others who'd like the high speed service available on-demand and are willing to pay by the megabyte (or whatever) without paying a monthly fee on the off chance that they use the service.
He got me on the phone with their local expert on the service. What followed was a 45 minute discussion during which this "expert" spent half of the time trying "understand my needs" and also up-selling me to either a Blackberry or their unlimited data plat (at a whopping $80/month!). Needless to say, I was not impressed.
The guy simply didn't want to answer my question directly. Instead he asked all sorts of questions about my usage, the kind of e-mail I receive and send, and so on. It was blatantly obvious that he wanted to figure out how to sell me something expensive and use what I had told him to justify the sales push.
Soemtimes I really hate salesmen. Actually, I hate them most of the time.
He didn't understand what SSH is and was generally being difficult. But I eventually did manage to get the information out of him I needed: there is no plan for someone like me. So I'd just use my minutes and play the analog-style dial-up game.
Before leaving the store, I asked the sales droid if they had more detailed coverage maps available. I wanted to see what coverage in northwest Ohio is like and wanted to see where the digital/analog breakdown was in western Nevada. Really, I wanted to get a feel for how likely it was that my phone would work if I land my glider on a dry lake somewhere.
He pulled up a cool mapping application on the store computer. You could find locations by address, zip code, GPS coordinates, or landmark name. The map depicted color coded areas that represented the various service areas. We could pan around, zoom in/out, and so on. It was like using Yahoo! Maps or MapQuest.
It blows my mind that they don't make that application available to the public on their web site. Verizon has a very big network and decent coverage. It would have made my research easier a lot earlier on in the process.
Given their good digital and analog coverage as well as the good experience that friends have reported, I'm planning to switch to Verizon Wireless in a few weeks (probably after OSCON in Portland. I just need to decide on a phone and choose between the National SingleRate plan and the America's Choice plan.
Anyone have Verizon stories? Reason for or against using them?
I'm not really gonna hold this sales guy against them. All phone companies are evil, so I might as well use the one that comes closest to providing what I need.
Anyone have a favorite or most hated Verizon phone? I'm not looking for anything fancy. A decent tri-mode flip phone with long battery life and a cable that can hook up to a Powerbook (and maybe my Thinkpad). Camera is optional. Color display is optional.
Update: Since other carriers have come up, I'll mention this. I've had Cingular before and was quite unhappy with 'em. I tried switching to AT&T only to be told I had to pay a $1,000 deposit. They claimed my credit wasn't good enough. They were nuts.
Posted by jzawodn at July 18, 2004 05:50 PM