Tag Archives: AT&T

AT&T: The Good, the Not-So Bad, and the Darn-Near Pretty

7 Feb

Go to Google. Type in “I Hate AT&T” (with the quotation marks) and you’ll get around 209,000 hits. That’s a lot of dissatisfied customers. And it’s the given reason why so many iPhone users will switch to Verizon later this month.

But now key in “I Hate Verizon” (inside the quotes) and, if you’re like me, the search engine will return 207,000 results. Within the context of the Internet, that’s an equal amount of expressed dissatisfaction. Maybe those angry iPhone users might want to reconsider their plans.

When Cathie and I arrived in the Willamette Valley we were Cingular Wireless customers with another year to run on our contract. Luckily my company set me up with two landlines because Cingular’s cell towers could not get a strong enough signal to our house. But within a year, the company improved its technology and we got decent, though not great reception. However, I was skeptical and called the company to express my doubts about continuing with its service once our commitment expired.

Instead of getting a bunch of excuses, I got an intelligent description of how Cingular planned to continuously update its technology in our area. Plus, I got an attractive offer for new phones and cheaper rates.

Over the years, even after Cingular became AT&T Wireless and then just AT&T, our service has improved. While riding my mountain bike in narrow ravines or my road bike on remote country roads in the region I seem to be able to get a good enough signal when I need it, whether I was using a Nokia candy bar cell phone, a Samsung flip phone, and, of course, my current iPhone. And I don’t think I’ve had a dropped call in five years. Maybe longer.

On the rare occasions when I visit an AT&T retail store I’ve found the staff competent and eager. Most recently I dropped by to reduce my monthly data usage fee and I was treated as if I was upgrading to a top-of-the-line contract. Also, the company’s website is  comprehensive, responsive, and easy to use.

So, why does AT&T’s service get such bad press and attract the ire of folks like comedian Jon Stewart? I know a couple new Verizon users who tell me they regret their change. Not, they say, because the service is worse than they got from AT&T but because it’s about the same.

Here’s my theory: some people expect a wireless cell phone to be as rock solid as the land line they grew up with. When it isn’t, they get angry. But their fanciful expectations taint their relationship with the service provider…forever. AT&T and Verizon, being among the biggest wireless companies in the U.S., receive the brunt of this customer dissatisfaction.

Think I’m wrong? Key “I Hate Nextel” into Google. Only 18,100 people have expressed their ire about its service in that manner. Do the same for T-Mobile and Google yields 65,000 hits. Will you change to either of its offerings because fewer people whine about their service? I won’t. One friend who uses T-Mobile couldn’t get any signal at my house. These carriers may have far fewer angry customers than AT&T or Verizon, but there’s a reason for it. They have fewer people to piss off.

And just to be clear: I have no business relationship with AT&T. I don’t own its stock. I’m just a long-time satisfied customer. Imagine that.


Is iTunes an Android Killer?

11 May

As I become more familiar with Ubuntu, I begin to fantasize about not being held hostage to proprietary technology from either Microsoft or Apple. Maybe “hostage” is too strong of a term. After all, I do enjoy a lot of what I do with both companies’ technology. So, you might say, I’m a user with a software Stockholm Syndrome.

To one degree or another, both companies have worked together just enough to make it possible for me to use both platforms with minimal pain. I have Microsoft Office for the Mac, which one of my publisher clients insists I use, even though I’ve never had trouble converting Pages or Numbers files to Word or Excel.

“Just in case,” he said.

I have iTunes on my Windows laptop because it’s nice to listen to music without wearing my iPhone’s earbuds once in a while when I’m traveling. And sometimes I want to share my music with others using portable speakers.

Neither Apple nor Microsoft wants to help Linux, though. I’m guessing we’ll never see an iTunes client for Linux. And we’ve all read plenty of quotes from Microsoft executives on their views of the open source operating system. (CEO Steve Ballmer once famously called Linux a “cancer.”) So, any further steps I take down the open source road will have to be without either company’s help.

This brings me to my iPhone. I’d really like to get an open source-based Android phone when my contract with AT&T expires. (Talk about a hostage syndrome.) But there’s one application that makes me hesitate: iTunes. None of the other apps I have on my iPhone are Android killers for me.

In fact, one of my favorite apps, Motion GPS, an excellent product, makes me hate my iPhone. That is, I’m an avid bicyclist. On occasion I will ride for as long as eight hours, and I often take three-plus hour pedals. The problem is that while running the iPhone’s GPS with everything else turned off the battery consistently craps out at 2 hours 45 minutes. So I can either use the GPS knowing that the phone itself will become useless or take shorter rides. Neither option is appealing. Maybe…maybe the next iPhone will manage battery power better. But I’m betting that with multiple vendors delivering various Droid phones, I’ll find one that can handle my GPS needs while allowing me to have a usable phone after three hours.

So, I’d happily dump my iPhone for a better smartphone, except for iTunes’ shackles. Like many people, I have a substantial investment in the music I’ve purchased through the iTunes Store. I am loathe to leave that behind. There do appear to be workarounds that would permit me to export my iTunes collection to an Android device as well as to a choice of open source music players on Ubuntu. But there also happens to be a lot of chatter about the difficulties people have in synchronizing their music with Droid phones. Apple has spoiled me and everyone else with its technology. So, I’m not ready to jump onto the Android bandwagon just yet.

But here’s the thing that Apple needs to understand: those difficulties appear to be diminishing. More and more open source developers appear to be working on the problem. It had to be much more difficult to make it easy to switch from Windows or Mac to Ubuntu Linux, which it really seems to be, than it will be to switch mobile phones. So, maybe by the time I am released from my AT&T servitude, I’ll be able to make a real choice for both my smartphone and my music. And I’ll have one less reason to feel like I’m in captivity, no matter how pleasant they make me feel.