Dracula Is A Sparkly Vampire Compared To AT&T

So here’s the deal…Tuesday, June 15 I woke up early to pre-order my new iPhone 4. I had an iPhone 3g and being 2 1/2 years old, it was getting a bit long in the tooth. While the AT&T servers were committing seppuku for being unprepared for the onslaught of orders, I somehow managed to slip in my pre-order. This was followed a couple of days later by a reminder to be sure to show up the following Thursday, June 24 to pick up my shiny new toy from the local Apple store.

Thursday rolled around and I woke at 5am to get a shower and get to the line by 6am. I figured that they would have a separate line for those of us with pre-orders and an hour early should be good enough. The original single line wrapped around the corner and to the far side of the parking lot…with me right at the curb. A little free Chik-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme later (Apple stores know how to handle big launches) and they finally split us into the have and have-not lines. Fortunately the pre-order line was very short. Finally the doors open at 7am and people begin getting filed in. It only took 46 minutes from doors open until I was walking out with my fully activated iPhone4. I even made it to work on time. As I said, Apple knows how to handle things.

THEN…

My daughter had a piece of junk prepaid mobile phone. I didn’t even know that Sanyo made phones…if that’s what you want to call it. In light of the stupid amount of expense for the incredible lack of service…I decided she needed to have my old iPhone 3g. We could switch to a family plan with more total minutes and data and unlimited messaging for a grand total of $5 more a month than I have already been spending. And all she really had was unlimited texting. It’s a winner of a plan. This should be pretty simple: I call them and change my plan, tell them I need to re-activate the old iPhone as the secondary line with a new number…and pick up a new SIM from the local store (since you cannot re-use a SIM that’s been cancelled).

But I failed to realize I was dealing with AT&T.

So the nice lady on the phone supposedly takes care of all this and hands me over to sales to finalize the whole deal of changes she’s made on my account. The nice lady in sales kindly informs me that there is no way to do what I want over the phone and I will just have to spend the hours in the store it will require to get service because the old iPhones require a special SIM card that can only be obtained by rescuing the princess going to an actual AT&T store. I kindly inform her that she must be mistaken since the SIM in my iPhone actually came from my AT&T Tilt. She argued. I hung up on her. I cannot abide idiocy and that was the kindest thing I could do at that moment. This was, of course after she checked my account at my request and told me unequivocally that there were absolutely no changes to my account despite what the first nice lady told me.

Later that night…texting becomes disabled on my phone. WTF have they done to my phone? Well, I can’t find out because the almighty AT&T doesn’t have a 24/7 call center. They’ve closed for the evening and now I’m stuck without my main medium of communication. Beauty. Anyone else notice that the AT&T emblem looks like the Death Star?

SO THE NEXT MORNING…

…on the way to work I ring them up yet again. The nice lady that took my call apologized profusely for the inconvenience that my outage had caused me. She then found the problem and fixed it. I haz txts againz!!!!!! And apparently my account is mysteriously on the Family Plan that I was unequivocally assured was not added. Curiouser and curiouser this becomes, no? All of this prompted me to launch into my tales of woe and betrayal on my previous call. The nice lady apologized again and helped make the necessary fixes to my account so I could go to the local store to get my new number and SIM card. She even gave me a $16 credit for my troubles. This call ends on a happy note.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…

I head out on my one hour lunch break to the closes AT&T store to finish up this whole ordeal. I show up and have about a three minute wait until someone helps me. This should worry everyone. No AT&T store I’ve ever been in has ever had less than a 45 minute wait to get help. The nice man whips out a SIM card and begins getting my new number set up for the old phone. After a bit of typing and clicking he gets a perplexed look on his face and announces that it appears his terminal locked while finalizing the new number. He starts over. The perplexed look returns and he picks up the phone to call someone at AT&T’s fully armed and operational battlestation. He spends some time on the phone explaining things and asks the stormtrooper rep to see if they can finish it for him since his station is on the fritz. Another minute or two passes and he gets an apologetic look. We are now 32 minutes into my lunch hour.

He asks if I recently closed another account on my name. I confirm that I did…back in April. He tells me that there is a balance on that account which is preventing the completion of the line addition. –Backstory to this: My ex-girlfriend’s phone was on that account. She missed a payment and the phone was suspended. I called and had them permanently suspend it as it was out of contract so she could pay it off and I could cancel it. All of that happened…in person…at an AT&T store. I was personally guaranteed by the nice people at the store at that time that there were no pending charges and there would never be another balance on that account as long as I live.– NOW, there is a balance. I get a phone number to call and retire to the exterior of the store because I didn’t want the people that have been so nice to me to hear what was about to escape my lips.

The nice lady that answered my call checked and confirmed that there was no balance on the day I cancelled. She also confirmed that despite my assurances otherwise, there was a bill cycle 3 DAYS LATER that put a $104 balance on said account…part of which was a RECONNECT FEE. I tried to reason with her and she was very understanding. She was also willing to work with me in any way possible as long as that way involved me giving them the $104 dollars I was assured I would never be charged. We are now 54 minutes into my lunch hour. I go ahead and pay it because it isn’t worth the rest of my workday to fight it.

I get my confirmation number for the payment and return inside to the nice man that has been helping me. He tries again and fails to add the line. He again calls his cohort on the small moon. He then proceeds to argue with the disembodied voice on the phone that I did in fact pay that bill just now and it was completely fine to finish adding my line. The arguing continues for several minutes. We are now 1 hour and 7 minutes into my lunch hour. Eventually the soulless wretch on the phone gives in and pushes my new line through. HURRAH! Then the nice man looks at me and mentions in an off-hand manner that there will be a $25 fee for adding this new line.

So to recap, we are 1 hour and 15 minutes into my lunch hour. I have now spent $129 more than I was told I would have to spend. AT&T has now sucked my meager savings over the past few months dry. THEY CHARGED ME TO ADD A LINE THAT THEY WILL CHARGE ME FOR. Everyone was kind. Everyone was understanding. Everyone was apologetic. Only one made any effort to compensate me for being financially raped. AT&T is a death star vampire. They will suck your money and your soul and your will to live. I’ve been a customer of theirs for over 10 years with wireless and even longer with various land lines and internet connections.

I would gladly fire a pair of photon torpedoes up their thermal exhaust port.

Apps Examined – iPhone Owns Us (Yay?)

Or my Vowel post…whichever way you want to look at it. C’mon…it’s so simple. The first letter in each word of the title…AEIOU (and sometimes Y). Sheesh. So I promised a quick list of apps that are just absolute must haves for me. Some of these are useful, most are geeky to some degree and a couple are just plain pretty. Let’s start with function. And by the way, unless noted these apps are all free because I’m cheap. Free is good, right?

I use a lot of online services. I need a mobile way to keep up with these things. So if you use Evernote, go get their free app. Not only does it allow you to see your notes, but you can add text, snapshot, saved photo and voice notes. It’s the all inclusive way to keep up with all the incidentals. Twitter users can look forward to a host of apps and probably the most popular is Twitterrific since it’s the most popular Mac client for Twitter. I say big whoop-de-doo. Twinkle has been a far more enjoyable app for me. It does the standard reading and posting that you’d expect, but the developers of Twinkle also decided to tap the GPS to show you what people near you are posting. I keep mine set for a 25 mile radius to keep down on what I read through but it’s been a wonderful experience digitally meeting people near me. This gives Twinkle the edge in the Twitter clients in my opinion. Oh, and they’ll be adding a block function for that radius section in the next release. The news just gets better and better. Moving on to IM, well I haven’t found one that I really like but Palringo’s free app seems to be more or less functional. This isn’t so much a knock against their app as it’s a knock against trying to use the iPhone for IM purposes. It’s really frustrating to try and hold an IM conversation on the device.

Fortunately I have the Last.fm app to stream some radio through my phone to calm me down a bit. It works rather nicely as long as you have a good signal and if you can hook the phone to your radio…then you don’t really need XM. For those times that you are actually listening to the radio but can’t place that song, get Shazam. Just hold it up to a speaker for a few seconds and it’ll come back with the song, artist, album, and a series of links to purchase the song and possibly even see the music video on Youtube. Neat, huh? Something funny happen while you were finding that song? Want to blog it and use WordPress? Just hop into the WordPress app and type away.

Just for fun, I say Sol Free or the inexpensive Solebon are great little card game apps. Just want to show off the accelerometer? Grab Labyrinth LE and let the amazement begin. Perhaps you prefer word games? Just go spend the $1.99 and get Wurdle…it’s very much like the old game called Boggle if you are old enough to remember it. It’s also the game I play the most on my phone. I actually don’t have any other games on my iPhone. I do have a couple of “just for fun” apps. I spent the money for Koi Pond. It’s fun and relaxing at the same time. I also picked up the free Lightsaber app. Don’t worry, this one is official (and more limited) so it shouldn’t be pulled.

In my area of random apps I have CheckPlease to help me figure up tips. I also have Dice Bag and D20 Dice which both are pretty neat for those of us that still enjoy pen and paper RPGs. eReader is a way to pass the time when there’s nothing else to do but honestly, I just don’t like reading long text on a backlit screen. Don’t get me wrong, it works really nicely…but I want e-ink. Let’s see…I left out Earthscape. It’s sort of a GoogleEarth for the iPhone. The app is really ambitious but I find that even the iPhone 3G hardware makes it really sluggish and the phone heats up awfully fast. But the app does do amazing things, albeit at a geriatric pace. There’s also WhatTasks as an interesting task list but I really don’t use task lists often so it’s been relegated to the back page where I don’t see it.

Now, someone tell me why there are no decent Magic 8-Ball apps out there? Huh? I’ve tried every free one and they all suck.

iPhone or WinMo?

I have now been with an iPhone for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to toy around with the interface and let the new wear off of the novelty. It has also given me time to delve into a few of the productivity apps that one can get for free from the App Store. Why the free apps and not pay apps? Simple. Many of the pay apps are mobile versions of commercial software. Quality for those is expected to be fairly high. I wanted to see what the really thrifty could use.

First off, I really like my iPhone. If you frequent my site, then you know that I have used the AT&T Tilt since its release last year and I have had almost nothing but praise for it. I still do. It is a wonderful device for those who want to use a Windows Mobile phone. I still suggest changing the ROM on the Tilt to make it truly speedy and functional. What does this have to do with the iPhone? Well I decided to try out the Apple offering to see how it fared against my beloved Tilt. iPhone wins hands down. First off the device isn’t nearly as clunky as the Tilt. This is a big deal to me. I’m not a style hound, but I don’t enjoy walking around holding a small car up to my head to talk to someone.

As of the 2.0.2 Firmware update the battery life and signal reliability have been improved. I would say that it now rivals the stock Tilt for battery life. While it may be playing catch-up with the Tilt in the areas of signal and battery, it far outstrips the device when it comes to the screen. The iPhone display is absolutely beautiful. The touch screen accuracy and sensitivity are generations beyond the Tilt. The system works far more fluidly than I thought it would.

What about the lack of a physical keyboard? As many have said before me, after a little time with the touch screen, I don’t miss the tactile board and actually find I am faster on the iPhone. I used to struggle with the Tilt’s keyboard. It took both hands to use at all. The iPhone screen keyboard can be used one handed once you learn the distance to move your finger to hit the different “keys”. The autocorrect feature rarely makes mistakes unless you happen to be typing in slang. That does confuse it sometimes. Overall, however, autocorrect keeps you from having to backspace because you missed a key by a nanometer.

The GPS on the 2.0.1 firmware was terrible. I won’t even try to make an excuse for it. It downright sucked. Even the Tilt on a radio firmware version that took nearly 3 minutes to boot the GPS chipset beat the iPhone on 2.0.1 firmware. That’s is completely different on 2.0.2. The GPS literally finds you in a matter of seconds. At least that has been my experience. And let me tell you, my GPS completely stopped working the second day I had my iPhone. Firmware FTW!

I suggest buying a case for your iPhone if you want to keep it safe. I rather think the Speck ArmorSkin is great. It’s easy to deal with, gives you simple access to every button and port you need and is thick enough to help protect your expensive device from a small drop. A word of warning on the belt clip: Don’t use it. The plastic is flimsy and it doesn’t hold the phone securely at all. Just put it in a pocket and be happy.

What about the software? This post got long. I’ll write up the review on my software choices next week.

Whoop De Doo, A New iPhone

Media is all atwitter (yep…a pun in the first sentence) about the launch of the 3G iPhone. Well I say whoop-de-doo. Apple finally released the device they should have unleashed upon the masses when it first hit the market a year ago. Seriously, why wouldn’t you make your ground-breaking new piece of hardware take advantage of the latest and greatest technology like 3G?

Think about it. One of the major selling points was online media a-la Youtube. What possessed the creators to settle for EDGE? We all know EDGE sucks. We all know 3G is much faster and makes the entire mobile online experience tolerable. We all accept 3G as the best thing to use next to WiFi and real broadband. But you settled for EDGE. 3G always wins because EDGE is dumb.

You touted how great it was to have online map lookups for places you might be interested in and yet you didn’t include GPS. So I can know where I’m going but not where I’m at? Who comes up with this stuff? If I’m using the map to find a place to eat, I am probably in a place unfamiliar to me so it would help to know where I’m sitting in relation to my destination. It makes it easier to determine my travel route. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just full of crazy talk.

You finally decided to let AT&T subsidize the price so more people can buy it. Why didn’t you do that before? Sure the whole profit sharing thing may have sounded interesting but did you not learn a lesson from Wal-Mart? It’s far better to get a dollar from thousands than ten dollars from hundreds. You make more in the long run that way. If you don’t believe that then you haven’t been to ebay lately.

You say it has wonderful Exchange integration. Like it or not they own the market. Why wouldn’t you support that right out of the gate? There are several clients that can talk to Exchange so it shouldn’t have been a huge deal to get working. Did you have some delusion that by offering this “must-have” device to the masses that corporate attitudes would change overnight? I certainly hope not. I really don’t understand what you were thinking there, Steve.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not an Apple hater. I adore my iMac and I use it far more than my Windows laptop. I really like the iPhone and I want to get one. But I think you goofed. You brought out a device that, while revolutionary, lacked in many key areas. You also flubbed the pricing and had to offer some compensation to stifle the ire of the masses. The intial offer seems more and more like a beta and popular opinion would say that doing such a thing is a Microsoft thing, not an Apple thing.

Then to top it all off you earn the Fail Whale trophy for activation. You had the stock out there. You really should have known what kind of bombardment you were going to have as AT&T doors opened. But it’s okay. You aren’t the only one that loused it up today. AT&T is right there with you. They had the gall to allocate every last store rep to iPhone sales. Every last one. I needed to get a phone for an employee today…a Nokia…before he left for a job out of town. I was told point blank that I couldn’t and I would have to wait until this afternoon or tomorrow. You know, AT&T, you aren’t the only game in town that offers standard ho-hum phones. I can get one somewhere else if my business isn’t worth 10 minutes of one rep’s time.

All in all I say that the Fail Whale award for today goes to Apple with support from AT&T.

iPhone Pricing – Some Restrictions Apply

Well the net is all afire with the just released pricing plans from AT&T for the iPhone 3G. Jobs announced that the phones would be retailing for $199 for the 8GB model and $299 for the 16GB model. What he failed to mention was the specific circumstances at which these prices are valid. Yes, I know it is shocking to think that AT&T might make things complicated and that they might have their own pocketbooks in mind rather than the customer…but it’s true.

See, the prices are for a specific group. To get these prices you must have purchased an iPhone before July 11, be activating a new line of service with AT&T, or be eligible for an upgrade. If you don’t fall into these categories, then be prepared to pay the same old $399 and $499 prices for these phones…with a two-year contract. Isn’t it great to be the customer? They will also be offering the phones without a contract but that’ll run you $599 or $699 depending on storage size. Now, I like Apple. I also happen to like my AT&T service. I want to like the iPhone. But man are they making it hard for me to consider giving up my Tilt.

Jobs failed to put the tell-tale * in the slides with the pricing during his keynote. I can understand how this information could dampen the response to his company’s new toy. But I can’t stomach the special “customer service” that’s going on with this pricing. Well, it really isn’t the pricing itself that I find annoying. Most AT&T phones have two prices, the upgrade and the non-upgrade price. It’s the deceitful way that Jobs presented it to the world. I think my Tilt has plenty of use left in it even though it is a much bulkier device.

Thanks so much for saving me a few hundred dollars AT&T. I couldn’t have done it without your special touch to what was a wonderful offer from Apple. Oh, and don’t forget kiddies, AT&T data plans no longer include an SMS package. You’ll have to add that piece of overpriced fluff separately.

No More iPhone Gripes!

By now most everyone on the planet has heard about Jobs’ keynote at WWDC. The new iPhone has GPS, 3G, and better battery life. It will be sold in 22 countries around the world starting with the initial release on July 11. AT&T is still the US exclusive carrier right now and they are offering it for $199 (8GB) and $299 (16GB). This is all awesome news. However, there is also a lot of griping on the intarwebs about the price hike of the AT&T data plan. It’ll be $10 more a month. I want to say something to the honking noises of the masses on this.

The total cost over the 2 year contract will be $40 more than it is now. That’s $200 off the price of the phone and $240 added back for the data plan price increase. Some people have felt the need to moan about how we are getting screwed by this new way of charging us and that the new deal isn’t actually a deal at all. I disagree. The phone has newer and more efficient hardware. The device is now fully 3G capable. It has a full GPS built into the unit. I’m pretty sure the market value of these changes equates to more than $40. So guess what, we’re still getting a deal on the phone…more of one in my opinion. If you don’t like it…go buy a RAZR. I paid $400 for my Tilt with a 2 year contract. The iPhone does almost all of the same things now in a much smaller package. Not to mention it is a far better media player than my Tilt.

I can’t understand what drives people to concoct these ludicrous conspiracy theories every time a corporation makes any kind of change. It’s just as bad as people whining about Windows security for a decade and then bitching because Vista takes on a security model not unlike that of Linux. Sure the Vista implementation is a little rough around the edges and always in your face when you try to install software or change system settings. Remember the market for Windows machines, though. These aren’t the people that are going to do a Stage 1 Gentoo install over an entire weekend. It has to be more intrusive because Microsoft has to deal with a lower common denominator of computer savvy.

This is the problem with the masses. You take things in the worst possible light at every possible opportunity. Relax a bit and just imagine what the iPhone might have cost if Jobs had decided to keep the same deal with AT&T. The iPhone could easily have been more expensive with the same plans. At least this way you aren’t forced to cough up the extra dough up front. You get to spread it out in micropayments made over the 2 year contract. So sit down, shut up, and be thankful there’s a plan in place to get more iPhones in more hands. The more we see on the market, the more applications we’ll see to make the iPhone an even better communication tool.

Steve Jobs on iPhone price drop

UPDATE: It appears the store credit page is up and running here. The process, like most of Apple’s offerings seems simple and straight forward. Kudos to Jobs for stepping up.

Well it looks like the masses have spoken and Steve listened. An open letter on Apple’s website from Steve shows that occasionally something does happen if you speak out. Now it isn’t the ideal solution for the consumer, but these things rarely are. At least it shows that some companies listen and make at least a minimal effort to quell the tide of discontent that so often happens in the technology world amidst a sweeping change. Continue reading “Steve Jobs on iPhone price drop”