atamp;t – Stay N Alive

Microsoft Offering Free Windows 7 Phones for Black Friday

I’ve had my criticism of Microsoft in the past, but the new Microsoft keeps pulling me back.  Just a few minutes ago on the Windows Facebook Page Facebook announced:

“Here is a Black Friday sneak peek for our social media fans: Visit your local Microsoft Store this weekend, starting November 26, to pick up Windows Phone 7 for free! Get your choice of the HTC Surround or a LG Quantum for $0 when you renew your two-year AT&T contract. If you can’t make it to a store, don’t worry. We will have online deals for everyone starting bright and early tomorrow morning.”

Free phone? If you’re not in San Francisco you probably don’t hate AT&T so this sounds like a pretty good deal!  I wonder if I can go back and forth between my iPhone SIM card for this – I’d love to just try it out!

Now, Utah has a Microsoft Research Office – is there a Microsoft Store somewhere?  If the new Windows 7 phone experience is anything like my Kinect experience (more on that later) I’d say Microsoft could be making their way back into the game.  Google, Apple – any matching offers from you?

AT&T: They Knoweth Not the Right Hand From the Left #ATTFAIL

att-fail-smallFor those that know(eth) me, I am an avid iPhone user.  I wasn’t always a fan, and in fact publicly wrote a post on why I wasn’t going to get an iPhone.  It lured me in though, and I’ve even moved from an unlocked, contract-free T-Mobile plan to the horrid service AT&T provides in order to get full 3G speeds.  I even renewed that plan just last week as I got a new iPhone 3G S.  However, today, as they were charging Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) $11,000 for his cell phone bill (I had no idea about that whole “movement” until later after I got home), they crossed the line for me as well.  Here’s the story:

3 days ago, after successfully selling my phone on Ebay and purchasing a new one under the standard upgrade plan for the same price, we decided to do the same for my wife’s iPhone 3G.  The idea was supposed to be we sell it on Ebay, get the money, and use the money from the sale to purchase a new one at the same price as we sold the old one for – that’s just how much they’re selling for (I didn’t make the rules)!  We purchased the phone in September of 2008, still in the limits AT&T set to qualify for iPhone standard upgrade pricing (the lower pricing option).  At the same time, I’m paying over $200 to AT&T each month with a family plan between myself and her, and an additional USB data plan on top of it all.  It would seem plenty of my money is going towards AT&T, and I thought we would qualify – after all my own phone qualified just fine.

So I went to the site to authorize my wife’s phone and verify it did qualify for the standard upgrade pricing, and to my surprise, it said she didn’t, and she wouldn’t until May 6, 2010!  I was blown away, considering AT&T might want to keep her around and right around the time she can finally leave is the time she has to wait to get her new iPhone.  This is especially considering the amount of money I am paying AT&T each month to get her plan.

AT&T Authorization

So I called AT&T to find out what was going on.  The lady on the phone was really nice (I even sent out a Tweet about how great AT&T service actually was), and while she tried to explain why my wife wouldn’t qualify, she quickly realized my wife actually did qualify.  She put me on hold several times, I’m assuming asking others what was going on, and finally she got permission to call the store and let them know I qualified for the new phone.  I had her call the Gateway Apple Store in Salt Lake City, Utah (my state of residence), and she put me on hold to call them.  When she came back, she said they had let her know all would be fine if I came in, and to just leave detailed notes on my behalf to explain the situation.  She left very detailed notes, and said I would be just fine getting my wife’s new phone under the new plan.  I took this as AT&T’s approval to get the phone under the lower, standard upgrade price plan.

AT&T Customer Service

So excited, we put my wife’s 3G phone up for bid on Ebay on a 3-day auction.  The phone easily sold in 3 days for $300 (which is low compared to other phones selling right now), and we were finally ready to get her new phone.  I quickly transferred money around and headed off to the Apple store, excited to get my wife what I’ve been experiencing over the past week.

After a 30 minute drive to the Apple Store, and even feeling a little sick, I was ready and excited to get my phone.  I get into the store, it is packed as usual, and I look around, and not surprisingly I noticed there was a line for the iPhone.  I stood in line for about 20 minutes (a breeze compared to the opening day when I got mine), and finally get to talk to an Apple rep to get my new phone.  I tell him my story, and to my surprise, he responds with “We can’t do anything – we’re stuck with what AT&T tells us on the site.”  I explained what the AT&T rep had told me and he said his hands were tied.  He suggested I go to the AT&T store, just about a block away in the same Mall.

So, still feeling sick, and rather disappointed, I headed over to the AT&T store.  I got there, and waited for about another 30 minutes while AT&T reps helped other customers, some that came in after me.  Finally one of them noticed me waiting, and asked if he could help.  I told him my story and he looked up my account.  I still have no clue if he even cared to look at the notes for my account, but he was definitely persistent that there was nothing he could do for me.  He even went to the extent of stating that the AT&T customer service reps on the phone are “often wrong” and they “get that all the time”.  I neglected to mention to him that this particular rep even contacted the Apple Store about it, and seemed to infer that she “does that all the time” as well – I should have.  This guy in the AT&T store even said he had complained to his boss about the same issues with some friends of his and couldn’t do anything about it.

Needless to say I went home very disappointed, wasting a few hours of my day for something I was told over the phone was completely possible.  Not to mention the fact that I had now sold my wife’s old iPhone, contract still in hand, and nothing to replace it with.  I’m furious!

So what’s going on?  Who do I believe?  It would seem that some at AT&T feel they have the authority to say what is and isn’t authorized.  However, when you get to the people that can actually sell the phones, that flexibility is all of the sudden gone, and the customer service has disappeared.  Often I would think it should be the other way around but this is AT&T after all – just search for their issues on Twitter.  (not to mention I just noticed they charged me a Poison Control surcharge – FOR MY USB DATA PLAN)  It would appear that AT&T has become so big that the customer has been caught in a tug-o-war with their own employees, a very sad situation.

As for what to do?  Well, I’m going to have to risk my years-long reputation on Ebay and take back the auction someone was anxiously hoping they had won, not because I changed my mind, but because AT&T won’t let me.  I will forever blame AT&T if my reputation is adversely affected from this.  At the same time when my wife can finally upgrade her phone, you better believe we’re switching to a new service – AT&T has shut the door on themselves on this one.

AT&T has the opportunity to make this right, and they should for not just those with a voice – they need to fix their customer service process.  Get people on Twitter and Facebook and FriendFeed and start learning the issues people are having.  Search the blogosphere.  Then, fix those problems internally.  Give everyone the customer interfaces flexibility to bend the rules occasionally.  Make the customer right again – the customer should be AT&T’s most valuable asset.  I don’t feel like that right now.  Heck, I feel like a piece of dirty laundry they just hung out to dry.


The iPhone AT&T vs. T-Mobile Comparison

I am an original iPhone user, but I only did so on condition that I could remain on T-Mobile. I unlocked and Jailbroke my first generation iPhone, and loved every bit about it! Now that the new iPhone is out and my T-Mobile contract is approaching its end, I decided to buy the new 3G iPhone and give AT&T a try. At the same time, for the last few days I left my T-Mobile phone running. Here are the results of my findings:


The first thing I noticed when I turned on my 3G iPhone on the AT&T network is that I have only about 1/4 the bars I do on T-Mobile on average. It seemed to vary depending on my location, but overall AT&T, at least in my area, seemed to have a poorer signal.

Here is a picture of my original iPhone on T-Mobile – notice all 5 bars:


Here is a picture of my new 3G iPhone on AT&T – notice only 2 bars!:


However, during some tests I did later, I noticed that when I turn off 3G on my new iPhone, the AT&T iPhone goes back up to 5 bars. It seems that the 3G has some affect on the phone signal – something to remember if you need a stronger cell phone signal. Here’s my new AT&T iPhone with 3G turned off:



The obvious difference currently between AT&T and T-Mobile is that T-Mobile has not yet converted to the coveted 3G network in the United States. They will be rolling out nationwide in September we’re told, but at the moment, Edge is your only option. So speed is certainly a difference between the two phones. I decided to try an experiment to see if Edge on T-Mobile was as fast as Edge on AT&T. You can see my findings in this video:


As you can see, 3G truly is almost exactly twice as fast, just as Apple says. So speed truly is a matter of “What you see is what you get.”


Now for pricing. I decided to take my existing family rate plan on T-Mobile, add unlimited data to both mine and my wife’s accounts, along with unlimited text messaging, at 700 minutes per month. Granted T-Mobile does not have rollover minutes, but let’s just try to compare apples to apples.

Taking the exact same 700 minute family time plan on AT&T and comparing it to T-Mobiles and what we are paying currently, based on my last bill, AT&T will end up costing me almost exactly $40 more per month than T-Mobile does currently. The added advantages I get from AT&T from a service perspective are rollover minutes and 3G, so I guess it’s up to the individual to determine if it’s worth it for higher speed and re-usable minutes. For me that 3G is crucial so at the moment that will be the choice for me.

Now, the other little known fact about pricing is that, should you go with a T-Mobile contract, T-Mobile charges you $200 per line to terminate your contract early, and it is not pro-rated. So I get charged the same $200 per line now with only 2 months left as I would have at the beginning of my plan, costing me a total of $400 if I were to terminate now with T-Mobile. So I’ll be left to reducing my T-Mobile plan to the very cheapest plan available and letting it run out. Not a wise plan on T-Mobile’s part if you ask me, since I have to make the choice between them and AT&T.

AT&T’s early termination fee is $175 per line. However, their plan is pro-rated to $5/month. Therefore, if I terminate early now I pay $175 per line, but if I decide 2 months from the end of my plan, I pay next to nothing. Because of that, IMO, AT&T is much less of a rip-off. These early-termination fees alone could make AT&T the actual cheaper choice.


Hassle is obviously an important factor between AT&T and T-Mobile for the iPhone. Obviously, unlocking the iPhone 3G for the average Joe is not quite possible yet, and therefore it is absolutely not possible to use it on T-Mobile. However, when it is available, it’s simply a matter of running a simple Mac or Windows program and voila, your iPhone can now run on T-Mobile along with the ability to customize your iPhone beyond what its current capabilities provide. I argue though that having to re-do this every time Apple releases a new software update does add quite a bit of Hassle, and you have to weigh that.

With my AT&T phone, while I do have the hassle of dealing with a closed system and relying completely on Apple for the updates I need, I do not need to worry about re-updating for each software update provided. True, I could also jailbreak my AT&T phone, and in that case the hassle would be the same between the two.


As far as features go, the only difference between T-Mobile and AT&T on the iPhone is that AT&T provides Visual Voicemail, and T-Mobile doesn’t. I really like the Visual Voicemail feature thus far, but I really don’t use it much. I generally forward my calls through Google’s Grandcentral so not many people actually call my direct cell phone number. This makes that feature mostly useless for me.


So in the end, the major difference I’ve discovered between having an iPhone on AT&T vs. T-Mobile is the price. AT&T is quite a bit more expensive on a month-to-month scale, however, if you ever need to cancel your plan, T-Mobile will leave you hanging. Other than that, the two are exactly the same.

Have you run your original iPhone on T-Mobile? Are there any other differences you have noticed?