The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Compelling Hardware, Crappy Service

Posted by Deliverator on May 20th, 2009

After 2 years and a couple hundred accidental falls to the floor, my Nokia 95 is on its last legs. It has been remarkably resistant to my abuse, but a recent fall killed the volume buttons. This hasn’t been a huge issue, as I use OggPlay for music playback and it controls volume via the 4 way hat, and in most other applications and during phone calls I can adjust the volume with my Jabra BT3030 headset. Unfortunately, another fall also seems to have caused damage to the power receptacle and the phone frequently locks up when I insert the charging adapter. Yet another fall broke a locking tab off the battery door and now the door is prone to falling open and spilling the battery out. My extended length Mugen battery now has a tiny dent in its side. Given the tendency for Lithium-Ion batteries to explode when damaged and the totality of other issues, I think it is high time for a new phone.

Some thoughts on possible replacements:

Palm Pre: There is a lot to like about the phone, but I am not big of CDMA devices (or rather Sprint’s increasingly abhorrent service plans) and the lack of a memory expansion slot is a deal breaker for me.

Iphone 3g: A lot of my original criticisms still hold for the second generation Iphone. ATT’s 3g service has oft been noted for being spotty in coverage and easily overwhelmed. There have been frequent complaints of hoards of Iphone users at conventions and other concentration points basically overwhelming ATT’s network. My biggest issue with the Iphone is its extremely closed nature and Apple frequently exercising its control over what applications can be used on the device and micromanagement of application features. The recent launch of the Slingplayer client without 3g support is one recent example. The inability to run applications as background tasks is a major deal breaker as well.

Nokia N97: Extremely high resolution screen, tons of memory built in plus micro SDHC slot, 5 megapixel camera, slideout qwerty keyboard and worldwide GSM support. Downsides = WOULD COST A FREAKING FORTUNE – $600-700! Nokia’s firmware support on US model phones has been extremely lacking compared to EU models. The US has simply not been a major consideration for Nokia.

Android Phone: I really like Google’s Android platform. It is much more open than Apple’s ecosystem. Unfortunately not many handsets are available yet and the ones that are cheap plastic PoS. I’ve had a fair amount of hands on time with the t-mobile G1 and did not come away impressed. It might pay to wait for a higher quality Android handset to be released.

Use my Nokia N810 Internet Tablet and VOIP: I would need to keep my Cradlepoint cellular to wifi router running all day for this to work, which would require a large external battery pack. My N810 also isn’t making it through the day on its end of life original battery. I could pick up a Mugen extended life battery for my N810. With an extended battery on the Cradlepoint and N810, this would be workable, but it would be two large jacket pocket solution to be sure. Novatel is making a much smaller wifi to EVDO router called the MiFI which will soon be available on both Sprint and Verizon. My guess is the firmware on these provider locked MiFi devices will be significantly inferior to the excellent provider neutral Cradlepoint firmware and the battery only lasts ~4 hours. The MiFi is impressively small and I can see a lot of people liking it for that fact alone. Unfortunately, the data plans on which it is available are more abhorrent than usual. Not only do these things have the typical crappy 5 GB cap, but they have now instituted a ridiculous 5 cents per MB overage charge. That is $51.2/GB which can add up quite quickly. I am sure they are quite proactive at notifying you when you approach that limit, too. Fall asleep with Slingplayer running and wake up to a $1000 phone bill. Sprint in particular seems to be offering less and less value with every passing year. Coupling exceedingly low GB caps with extortionate overage charges might net Sprint a one time cash hijacking, but will likely result in the loss of a customer to say nothing of the opportunity cost of the customer that won’t sign up in the first place. There are more than a few reasons why Sprint is hemorrhaging customers at rate that is measured in millions/year at a time where virtually all the other major players are increasing their customer base, but poor data plan terms, extremely poor customer service and limited handset selection are certainly high on the list.

I think there could be a huge upside to one of the major carriers overbuilding their networks for a change and actually offering superior service and fair terms of use instead of trying to back their customers into a corner and mugging them.