I’ve been shopping around for a new cell phone and plan. My first attempt was about a year ago, after moving to the Bay area, but I gave up in despair. I had been hoping that the success of the iPhone would help improve things, but after looking around again I remain throughly disgusted at the state of the industry.
The available phones are still awful — clunky interfaces and useless features. I was watching a video review of one phone, where a main review point was the ability to change the color and font of the numbers shown while dialing. Never mind the crappy MP3 player, here’s 555-1234 in rainbow Comic Sans! At least the consistent worthlessness seems to make shopping easier — why compare features when you can just pick the pretty one and be equally disappointed?
The various service plans are awful too; in particular, the data rates are completely ridiculous. Some plans give you unlimited data with the on-phone browser, but I’d rather get my teeth pulled than do that. I *would* like to be able to use my phone for network connectivity (on my laptop or N800, via bluetooth) now and then, when I’m stuck some place without WiFi . But it appears that the only choices are (1) pay a high monthly fee for unlimited access or (2) pay astronomical per-byte rates. Verizon made me shake my head first: “Data sent or received (incl. Mobile Web advertising) is $1.99/MB.” $2 to load a Tinderbox page (which is about a megabyte), and I have to pay them to send ads to me as well?! Then I saw Sprint’s rates: “Customers without a phone-as-modem plan will be charged 3 cents per kilobyte for Sprint Vision or Sprint Power Vision usage unless a Phone as Modem plan is selected.” $30 to load a Tinderbox page?! WTF? It’s clearly not an issue of constrained resources, as the phone-as-modem plan is $40 a month for unlimited usage.
This kind of racket must be especially profitable, because it seems that “unlimited” doesn’t really mean “unlimited”. If a carrier decides you’re using too much (according to sekret rules they won’t tell you about), apparently they may start charging at per-byte rates (or, if you’re lucky, just cut you off). So, you can pay them $480 a year as a protection fee (to make sure you don’t accidentally end up with a gazillion-dollar monthly bill), and then just hope that they don’t come around and break your kneecaps anyway.
["Why not an iPhone?", I hear someone asking... Well: no bluetooth network access, terrible data speed, I don't need a $400 phone, objection to AT&T's complicity in the NSA wiretapping thing, and opposition to the closed nature of the iPhone platform. The last of these (non-openness) I'd be willing to ignore on the principle that the iPhone is much less evil than the alternatives, but the rest are still a deal breaker.]