Shopping for Smartphones

I went downtown yeserday with my friend Jeff to check out mobile phones. Jeff was looking for a high-speed data plan & a new phone, and I was looking at potentially upgrading to some sort of smartphone.

Sprint — This was the first place we went, because Jeff had heard that Sprint had the best wireless data network. The store was large, but it felt disoranized, and the yellow Sprint logo panels were UGLY. Points added for having working examples of most of the phones they sold. Points deducted for not having anyone offer to help up the whole time we were there.

T-mobile was next. A salesperson met us as we entered the small store. She seemed to have no idea what Jeff was talking about with respect to a wireless data card until I pointed to it on a list of their equipment offerings. Even then she didn’t know much, and didn’t get help from the other salespeople. So, points off for poorly educated salespeople. More points off because most of most of the phones were non-working dummies, and because the few working models they had were in poor repair, or weren’t charged up (like their trademark Sidekick).

Verizon didn’t have many real working phones, plus they had a lot of mobile media crap, which I personally hate. Service was decent, someone met us as we entered and offered us help, which we didn’t take. Once we started pouring over the literature on their data covereage, someone was able to give us enough info to translate Verizon’s branding into an actual estimate of communication speeds.

Cingular was also cursed with lots of dummy models, but their service was great. The first guy didn’t know a lot about data plans and handed us off to someone who knew his stuff, and was also well versed on the special deals offered to Microsoft employees, like Jeff. I also had to admire the way he managed appear magnanamous while sowing doubt about the competitive offerings of both Sprint and Verizon by praising Verizon and slamming Sprint.

The whole experience was inconclusive. Most of the smartphones offered were not very smart choices as phones, they tended to be big, and had lousy options for entering a phone number (I think only Cingulair had a reasonable option), while perhaps not being big enough to really be a full-featured mobile communicator. Some of the blackberry models came close, but I frankly found the UI to be garish and ugly.

One thing I am sure of: Shopping for cell phones sucks.

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