I’ve had a Sprint account since about 2001. They weren’t bad and they weren’t great and the plan was only modestly expensive (about $52/month).
This gave us a very basic 500 anytime minutes each month for two phones with 50 roaming minutes and the usual long distance, etc.
I don’t need my own phone anymore as I use my company provided phone (Blackberry) nowadays. I found it really inconvenient to carry two phones and, since my cell phone number really doesn’t matter since I use GrandCentral, I can be phone agnostic.
So I did some research to get a phone for Michelle. What I wanted was for her to have all the phone features she’s used to plus text messaging and web access.
Sprint, like the other big carriers, charges a ridiculous amount for unlimited text messaging, $20/month.
My brother just got back from about 6 months in the UK and he was telling me exactly how reasonable cellular phones are over there which served to galvanize me even further.
I stumbled on to MetroPCS quite by accident. I was going to check out a T-Mobile shop and ended up in the wrong strip plaza. So I asked them what they had.
For the same $52 per month ($45 plus all those useless taxes) Michelle gets unlimited minutes, unlimited text, unlimited picture messages (take a picture and send to anybody), unlimited web and the usual long distance in the US. Another plus was, with a prepaid card, she can now call Canada for 2 cents a minute. Sprint would charge about 60 cents a minute to Canada. We have a calling card that she was using that gets that down to 7 cents a minute (from TTI National).
When I called Sprint to cancel my account after porting Michelle’s phone over to the new service they made the usual pitch to try to retain me (Boy, I think I’m going to tell the IVR system that I want to cancel my account EVERY time I call a business, no waiting to speak to a representative at all!). But the guy kept missing the point entirely as he kept offering me more expensive plans that didn’t even come close to the MetroPCS offering.
Now, as with anything in life, nothing is 100% perfect. What we lose in going with MetroPCS that we had with Sprint is a) we simply CANNOT use the MetroPCS phone at all in Canada, and b) there is some question about how well the phone will work outside of a metropolitan area.
For item a) above, the cost of using the Sprint phone in Canada was prohibitive enough that we used them sparingly. Michelle is ALWAYS with someone who has a local cell phone anyway so she just used theirs in the past to make a quick call. So there isn’t much lost there.
For item b) if we keep some extra cash on her MetroPCS account then she can always call from those “roam” areas if she needs to. Again, she’s seldom in those areas without me and my phone goes anywhere. So there is little or no expense to be had there. And if it’s an emergency, all modern cellphones can work in all systems regardless for calling 911 unless you’re just simply in a truly dead area and then it doesn’t matter what plan you’re using.
So, we had to search for a plan and a company that came closer to treating us like something other than a sponge to be squeezed for every penny we could pay. I have a very low opinion of all of our cellular providers since they have always been so adversarial rather than a consumer-partner. They need to realize that there is a LOT of money to be made even at a fair cost for services and that customer loyalty must be earned by treating the customer… um, fairly.
Even Verizon, widely considered one of the best for service and coverage (and the one I use for my work phone) I discounted because I’m still ticked at them for disabling the GPS in my blackberry – a feature intrinsic to the phone with no impact on the cellular network – so they could indulge in the blatant money grab of coercing their customers to pay a monthly fee for Verizon’s own flavor of navigation software.
And ALL of the big companies seem to take a perverse glee in massively overcharging for international long distance services. With the increase in cell phone usage, there has been a marked DEcrease in available pay phones or other alternatives for making such calls. So they use the Hotel model of the captive customer to nail you hard against the wall for such “luxuries”.
Also, text messaging has gotten *more*, not *less* expensive over the past few years. Not bad for a form of communication that is built into the infrastructure and is of absolutely no cost for the cellular companies. Every data signal going to and from your phone carries the space for SMS messaging whether you are sending messages or not.
I’m not saying that these things should be provided for free, but there is a reason that pretty much everybody hates their cell phone provider. They are viewed, not as a great service and a good value, but as an adversary who will absolutely crush you if you misstep. Ask any parent who didn’t have an unlimited texting plan when their kids discovered SMS…
This post was written by Marc
on January 20, 2009 at 8:25 am