Parallel Desktops

Goodbye Sprint, hello iPhone

Last week the proverbial last straw was placed on my back by Sprint. Though they have tried like crazy to retain my business over the years and I still had 4 phones under contract I had had enough. At our home on the Eastern Shore of Delaware our signal had been deteriorating for many months, to the point where you could only maintain a phone call for 15-20 seconds. People would call, you’d look at the phone and see two bars, start to talk and POOF! The call would fail mid-sentence. Fan-flippin-tastic. Five different phones, all got the same result.

I called Sprint to complain. The first person I spoke to told me that he would be happy to give me additional minutes on my account to compensate for the problem. Though a nice gesture, I declined because the phones were basically useless unless you liked to carry on Twitter like conversations with everyone. He suggested I speak to someone in the technical support group and transferred me over there.

After a lengthy hold a nice guy from the Texas support office got on the line and looked up my physical location. He said my area was in a “good” zone and that I should not have any problems. Well, clearly I was having problems. He explained at length how the cell towers were directional and that I may be in a dead zone. He suggested that I call the Sales department and talk to them about purchasing a signal booster for my home. He of course couldn’t transfer me but assured me that I would have no problem speaking to someone that could help.

It was pretty clear at this point that no one really wanted to do anything about my problem. Trying to be optimistic I decided to call back and speak to someone in the Sales department. When I finally got through to a human being I explained that I needed a signal booster based on what their support person told me. The person I spoke to had no idea what I was talking about.

Wonderful. I told the Sprint rep that I had had enough and was going to switch providers if they didn’t do something about it. She immediately went into crisis management mode and put me on hold. Apparently it’s standard operating procedure at Sprint to put people on hold when they sense there is a serious problem, hoping you hangup in frustration, forget why you called or simply expire from old age. When the Sprint rep discovered that I had indeed decided to stay on hold she told me that she was going to open a ticket to get technicians to our address to see if they could resolve the problem.

Impressed that Sprint would actually send someone out I asked when this would happen so that I could talk to them directly. She started to become very evasive at this point and told me her supervisor would call me back shortly to explain what was going to happen. She assured me that I would receive a call later that day. Comically she asked if I was interested in upgrading my plan at the end of the call to include some feature I didn’t have. Uh, no, thank you.

I was near my phone the remainder of the day and no one called. A couple of days later we wrote a nice little good bye letter to Sprint and talked through where to go next.

I’ve been wanting an iPhone for months now and with the 3G release my desire for one increased dramatically. With Sprint failing to deliver I had removed my last obstacle and went into full sales mode with my wife, telling her about all the great things she could do with an iPhone. I figured if I could convince her that she wanted an iPhone then I would get one by default. A friend of ours had just visited us and brought her iPhone and my wife was pretty impressed. We knew the iPhone got a great signal in our house so that wouldn’t be an issue. Though it took a couple of conversations I finally got her excited about getting one for herself.

Hurry up and wait
Since I was shuttling family members around I was back in Virginia and stopped by the Tyson’s Corner Apple Store at 11am on Monday, July 28. There was a line with about 30 people in front of me but the Apple folks assured me that I could get an iPhone if I waited, as long as I wanted a 16GB white iPhone. The black 8GB and 16GB versions were sold out.

After a two and a half hour wait it was finally my turn. It went very smoothly; the Apple clerk needed my Sprint account number so that I could have my phone number ported over. It took about 20 minutes from start to finish to port over our phone numbers from Sprint to the two iPhones.

Immediately after I left Apple I ran over to my local AT&T store to get the remaining phones on our account ported over. Fortunately that was a relatively painless exercise and we were able to set up the full family plan with shared minutes, unlimited text messaging ($30 / month for the 5 phones) and get my kids the phones they wanted. We even found that we were qualified for a discounted rate (15% off) on our primary lines. All in we will be paying about $40 more per month than we were with Sprint, though obviously with significantly more features.

iPhone First Impressions
Though I was thinking I wanted the black 16GB iPhone I didn’t really care that much which one I got. While I think the black one looks a touch cooler I was going to slap a rubber sleeve on it anyway to give it a little shock absorbing capability, negating the color. The white iPhone actually looks pretty cool though in person. The white surface doesn’t show any smudges and to a degree reminds me of a white MacBook.

The iPhone hooks up to iTunes much like any other iPod and I quickly went about identifying new content since I had significantly more capacity than with my 8GB iPod Touch. I love the Discovery Channel and especially Dirty Jobs; it turns out they are free as video podcasts on iTunes. It’s hard to beat watching Mike Rowe show you how sausages are made while you belly up to the breakfast platter at the local diner.

iTunes reports that my iPhone has 14.64GB of capacity. I can only assume that this is a combination of the formatting of the memory “drive” and base 2.0 software.

I really like the fact that the iPhone has an internal speaker (I know, Duh, it’s a phone too). There are times with my Touch that I simply need to hear a brief sound clip and don’t want to unwind the headphones and plug them into my ears – now I don’t have to do that.

I’ve had an iPod Touch for a little while now and was quite used to the interface. The screen itself is brilliant and displays high resolution images with ease. Browsing the web on the iPhone’s built in Safari browser is a complete pleasure. Having suffered through years of crappy little web interfaces on mobile devices the ability to get really useful web pages in that form factor is truly revolutionary.

About the only challenge I’ve had with the iPhone so far is the placement of the speaker for the handset. At first I thought that the volume was very poor on the iPhone but it was really a matter of where I was positioning my ear against the surface. Other than that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first day with the iPhone.

Best of all, every place I’ve been my little 3G indicator is displayed and I get a very strong signal. So far, so good.

Oh yes, my nephew Dan—the one that tried to get his iPhone the day after they were released—gets his today. He ended up having to go through the AT&T store in California where his parents set up the original account, they had to order the phone for him and set it up, then ship it out to him.

By David Alison

I bought my first Mac almost 24 years ago when DOS ruled the world. I didn't keep it too long though. I was just kicking off my career as a software engineer and needed to go with PCs. I bought my 2nd Mac in February of 2008. I didn't expect that I would find myself using the machine as much as I have. It's not that I hate Windows (well, I pretty much hate Vista but XP is a fine OS), it's just that I find myself constantly playing with this machine.

I'll share with you here my experiences of making the move from Windows to Macintosh. I still have a foot in both worlds, hence the name of my section.