June 30, 2007

iPhone at AT&T and Apple Stores

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I used to be an AT&T Wireless customer, prior to the buyout of AT&T Wireless by Cingular (or the merging of the two companies, whichever way it actually happened). Any way, my plan with AT&T was much better than any Cingular offered. The AT&T Wireless experience was okay: helpful salesperson, excited about offering me a reasonable deal.

In July last year, I received a letter from Cingular stating that they were going to charge former AT&T Wireless customers a “service fee” starting in September if we didn’t change to a Cingular service plan. My contract was up at the end of July, so I began looking for a new wireless provider.

A friend recommended Verizon. I wasn’t sure exactly which provider to use, so I shopped around for providers and phones. I was interested in a GSM carrier, but Cingular was the only one available. T-Mobile doesn’t have a complete coverage area here. I went into a Cingular office and asked some questions (would unlocked phones work with the Cingular network, which GSM frequencies did they support (850, 1900, etc.), etc.).

The local rep in the Cingular store was clueless. He said no unlocked phones would work on the network (incorrect — you have to enter the network settings manually and the company won’t support the phones, but they WILL work). I was rather peeved with the guy. (Okay, thats an understatement.)

The latest rattle about the iPhone being sold at AT&T and Apple stores made me wonder about customers’ experiences with the buying experience. Imagine my surprise to find out that people who purchased phones at the AT&T stores were frustrated and annoyed at the experience. People who bought the phone at the Apple stores were pleased with the experience.

Article: A Tale of Two Companies

If the other Cingular/AT&T Wireless stores are anything like the one near my house, then their user expeiences will be horrible. Last summer I ended up going with Verizon because my friends used that network and because the salesperson understood mobile geek speak.

My current service with Verizon has been going downhill rather quickly. The phone has been okay. In fact, most of the time I’ve been very pleased with my phone. For the past two months, I’ve had dropped calls and horrible network connectivity at work. Usually, I would have 2-3 bars on my phone. Lately the phone cycles through 2-3 bars digital, to no service, to analog — so now I frequently have dropped calls, horrible call quality, etc.

So I’m looking for a new service provider. I would like to use an unlocked GSM phone. It won’t be AT&T Wireless, because of my experience with Cingular and because of AT&T’s policy of dealing with customer’s personal data.

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