Sprint to the Finish

Lily Tomlin's telephone operator character Ernestine used to say, "We're the phone company. We don't care. We don't have to." These days the cell phone companies have eclipsed Ma Bell as the masters of monopolistic indifference. "We don't care. We've got your number," seems to be their motto. When cell phone number portability becomes the law of the land on November 24, the chief reason people are reluctant to change carriers will evaporate. But I'm not waiting. I'm finally dumping Sprint PCS. It seems that they have no record of the $400 I've paid them over the last four months, and the bank statements I've faxed over are insufficient proof that they have my money. Well I know I don't have it, and Sprint seems to have accepted my electronic payments readily enough, but still I have to go into the bank tomorrow and get some sort of official document proving that the transfers aren't a figment of my imagination. It only took me two months and 15 hours on hold to pry this information out of Sprint's customer service reps. Sprint has disconnected and reconnected my service twice over this. It will give me great pleasure to disconnect them once and for all tomorrow. [Note: it turns out not to have been Sprint's fault, after all. Read my apology here. - Leo]

Meanwhile I've got to find a new carrier and phone. I was looking for a phone with a camera (so I can continue posting to my Mob) and Bluetooth so I can connect with my Mac. PDA functionality would be nice, too. After checking all the Bluetooth phones - there are only a handful to choose from - I've settled on the Nokia 3650. It runs the Symbian OS, a descendant of my beloved old Psion operating system, which means there's lots of third-party software available for it, and it sports full PDA functionality that can synch over Bluetooth with my Mac. It also supports SD flash cards, so I can easily expand the memory. It takes pretty good VGA pictures and shoots video with sound. Best of all it's GSM which sounds way better than Sprint's CDMA and works overseas. I'm going to France in June and it will work just fine there. The phone is a little big and has a very odd dialpad, but I can live with that. Nearly everyone who has the 3650 seems to love it.

Two carriers offer the phone: AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile. AT&T has good coverage in the Bay Area, but they charge an arm and a meg for data service. T-Mobile's coverage is a little spotty but it charges $20/month for unlimited data. That's more like it. And I can get the phone for free after a $150 rebate from them. I admit I've heard bad things about both AT&T and T-Mobile. In fact the only carrier that seems to be universally beloved is Verizon, but they don't have any phones I like. So T-Mobile it is. The phone should arrive Friday and the mob should be back in action soon after. I'll keep you posted on my experiences with the phone and the service.