Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wireless Companies and my Frustration

In March, I purchased a rather pricey piece of electronics from Verizon Wireless that was being advertised as “4G”. In some of their materials they qualified that equipment as “4G upgradable” to indicate that it wasn’t actually able to use their LTE network just yet, but it would.

Four months later, an eternity in the technology world, their LTE network has been running nicely for some time and the 4G upgrade for this device is still not available. At this rate, the device will be obsolete before the upgrade is made available and if that occurs, then Verizon Wireless will be guilty of misrepresentation but my opinion is that they already as because even now, they still have commercials and posters that display their “4G Devices” and they include this device that I’m talking about.

Verizon Wireless has also been making changes to their service plans and the most significant of those changes relates to their shift toward “tiered plans”. In the past, if you’ve paid for data on a device, it’s been “unlimited” (which really wasn’t if you read the fine-print, but that didn’t apply to many people or circumstances). They changed the game though. If you aren’t already a customer on one of their “unlimited” plans, then you’re forced to subscribe to one of their tiered plans. I am one of the “grandfathered” customers so I pay $29 for unlimited 4G data. If you go buy a 4G device today, you will pay $30 for 2GB of data ($15/1GB), $50 for 5GB of data ($10/1GB), $80 for 10GB of data ($8/1GB), then $10 per additional 1GB used thereafter. This means that if you’re a “typical” user, you will pay as much as me and I have unlimited data, but it also means that you pay the most compared to all other users. The more data you use, the better your rates get until you use more than 10GB at which point the pricing begins to go back up.

I not only fail to see the logic here, but it looks to me like Verizon is trying to push customers away. Especially true when you look at how other carriers are providing truely unlimited plans as lower price points. Most people don’t need to speed that Verizon’s LTE network provides so they don’t have incentive to pay those rates and if you buy a 4G device, you MUST use a 4G plan. This means that you soon won’t be able to get the nicer phones without also paying the higher rates for data. What is Verizon thinking?

This frustration led to to walk into a Sprint store so I could find out about their “4G” service (by the way, nobody has real 4G, they all just use the term anyway, but Verizon has the closest thing right now). The first sales person I spoke with was rude and uninformed so I just walked away and looked for another one. The only other sales person was with a customer, but near a phone I wanted to look at so I couldn’t help but overhear his sales pitch as I checked out the phone I wanted.

He was trying to help the customer decide between two very similar phones, both high-end with lots of features. The customer asked him about battery life and he told her that, “this one will have slightly better battery life because it has a little bit slower CPU” which is like saying, “you’ll eat less food while traveling in this car because it has a weaker engine” in a world that doesn’t have speed limits. The reality is that the slower the CPU is, the older is likely is and that alone means it’s most likely less efficient, but it also means that the screen will be on longer as the user waits for the phone to complete tasks and the screen on a smart-phone is the biggest battery consumer by far. In other words, he had no clue what he was talking about and as a result, was misleading her to what may be the wrong phone for her entirely.

This steered me away from Sprint because I don’t want to be dealing with a rude, ignorant, dishonest company. Then there’s the fact that their “4G” service is available in a VERY limited number of places, isn’t very robust, and their 3G service is onbearably slow, especially compared to the unlimited 4G I get right now with Verizon.

I’m just fed up with the wireless industry right now. It seems like all the providers are so desperate that they’ll say and do anything (think of all the AT&T vs Verizon commercials we’ve been exposed to, most of which were completely misleading) and they are getting away with it. I thought the FTC existed to protect consumers from this sort of behavior, especially when it happens with near-monopolies like Verizon and AT&T.

I think I’m going to look for and possibly try to initiate a class-action lawsuit against Verizon for talking me and 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of people into buying 4G devices that aren’t actually 4G yet because they need upgrades that aren’t available or because service isn’t available yet and they don’t bother telling the consumers. Same with AT&T. There’s a study that says something like 60% of iPhone 4 users think they have 4G phones because the iPhone 3G and 3Gs were 3G and iPhone 4 has a 4 in the name. I’m sure the carriers and Apple aren’t ignorant to this trend otherwise they wouldn’t have gone from the 3, to the 3G, to the 3Gs to the 4.


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