Change Is Good

apple-iphone6-silverWhile I despised my time at Ralphs, I must admit that some of their perks were slightly worth the trouble. Slightly.

The major one, of course, was health benefits for myself and Anthony that set me back maybe $7 every week. If I had hung around there long enough to add Ann then they would have gone up to $15 per week. Definitely not a bad cost.

Another equated to cash back for every dollar we spent at the store. At the end of every quarter, I would get a certificate for whatever that amount was. In some cases, it was as high as $80 which could be used on anything in the store.

Then there were the other perks like getting a discount on cell phone plans which, after thinking about it, wasn’t all that spectacular even with the discount. We made the move to AT&T a few months after my start date and were with them ever since but now that I’ve parted ways with Ralphs (or vice-versa it seems), it won’t be long before American Telephone and Telegraph gets word of it and I lose my discount. I don’t even want to know what my bill would be then.

So we had to make a move and that move was going with Sprint’s “Cut Your Bill In Half” plan. It’s definitely a deceptive title all things considered since it only cuts the data portion of your bill in half so don’t expect your $150 bill to be $75 because it won’t. Granted, we are now paying less than we were with AT&T and with insurance on all three lines but as for cutting our bill in half? Oh no. It’s far, far, far from it.

As a stipulation of the plan, we had to get all new phones which was no big deal for Ann and Anthony. They chose the iPhone 6 without hesitation. They knew what they wanted.

Me? That’s another story.

It needs a lot of storage and expandable memory. Must be small enough for an armband when I go running. A good camera would be nice. Stylish would be okay, too. I’d like a nice display as well.

So as the paperwork was being filled out, I made my way around the store looking at a variety of Android phones because that’s all I’ve owned since first getting a smartphone – and I wasn’t about to change that. There was too much I enjoyed about Android, namely complete customization: launchers, the ability to make (free) ringtones from any .mp3 on the phone, widgets, and the fact that it could be treated like a hard drive which made transferring data a breeze.

Then there was the iPhone. I never liked them because everybody had one and their stigma of “sheeple” customers always bothered me. I didn’t like Apple’s proprietary nonsense with cables. I didn’t like that memory could not be expanded. I didn’t like the way Apple controls just about everything on the phone via iTunes. I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t add widgets to the screen (I’m a big widget fan). I didn’t like much about iPhones even if I had owned and still own a few iPods. Plus, the absence of a Back and Menu button was also a big turn-off. How can I get anything done with one button? There was no way I could get used to this kind of thing even if I had an iPod touch in the past.

Besides, they were always too expensive for me.

But as I made my way around the store looking at different Android models, I discovered that no matter which one I chose, it was just the same experience I’ve had on my previous models only in a different skin. Same turkey, different bread only now the turkey was starting to get a little ripe. And I didn’t want to eat bad turkey for the next two years.

The LG G4, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and even the HTC one M9 (I was using an M7 at the time) weren’t offering anything special. Most had limitations in terms of storage or some other thing I just didn’t like, so I continued my browsing. This was the worse case of beslutfattande* I’d ever had.

And the family had grown weary with all of this, especially Anthony who had to give up his phone and lose all of his Minecraft progress. He was not happy about that. But I still couldn’t decide and continued to make the rounds in the store.

Then it happened. I threw my hands up. I gave in and pointed to the 64GB iPhone 6.

“Oh, just give me that one,” I said to Ann. Both she and Anthony were pretty shocked at my decision with Anthony asking if I was okay. He knows I loved my Android phones and was always talking smack about iPhones and their limitations.

But I didn’t have anything to lose in choosing the iPhone because I could bring it back in 14 days if I didn’t like it. I was so certain that I’d despise the thing that I told the girl at Sprint that I’d see her in a few days.

Well, it’s been a few days and I still have my iPhone. Do I like it? Let’s go over all the things I thought I’d miss.

Widgets: A widget is a live, quick-reference app that can be installed on any of your screens. It’s great for things like weather conditions, sports scores, etc. and they are one of the things that separated Android from Apple. But do I miss them on my Home screen? Nope. Not at all. They were a convenience but definitely not a necessity.

Free Ringtones: Android phones allow you to assign any .mp3 file as a Default or Contact ringtone. All you have to do is point to it and it will play that song as you assigned it. Apple charges for their ringtones through iTunes which kind of annoyed me considering I’ve already paid for my music. However, I found an app that allows you to create your own ringtones from songs in your iPhone’s music library. It’s a little tricky and still involves using iTunes to get them on your phone but it works. Solved that problem.

One Button vs. Several: Having one button isn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I’m getting used to navigating my way around the phone with only one physical button. Naturally there’s a learning curve but being I had an iPod touch, there wasn’t much to learn. I guess just the thought of having only a Home button on a device I’d use more frequently than my iPod bothered me but no, it really doesn’t now that I’m doing it.

Expandable Storage:  As of this post, I have over 2,600 songs, 9 videos, 49 apps, and a whole bunch of pictures on my 64GB iPhone. I’d say that what I have on it is pretty substantial and it gets me by. All of this and I still have over 33GB left. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with storage even if I add more music to it.

So that covers everything that made me so hesitant about the iPhone. What about the rest of it?

Size: I wouldn’t say it’s perfect because nothing really is but I will say that it’s amazing how much technology got crammed into something so thin. Even with a case on it, the iPhone still sports a very thin profile and I like that. It fits right in my pocket and armband for running, but sometimes almost seems a little too thin.

Display: It’s crisp and clear, and the camera seems to produce decent quality pictures but I have yet to shoot videos with it.

Performance: This pretty much seals the deal. With any of my Android phones, it wasn’t uncommon to get the “Unfortunately, [app name] has stopped running” warning telling you that something went funky. But I suppose this is what happens when the phone is basically a computer and treated as such: things break. With Apple having a little more control over their iOS, it seems they’ve gotten a better grip on things like this. No, I can’t say that this will never happen with an iOS device because there are some apps that crash on my iPad but not as often as they have with any Android device. The iPhone’s performance is nowhere near anything I’ve had in the past: it’s fast and fluid, and blows all of my other phones out of the water.

At this point, everything else on the phone is just a bonus. The Touch ID works as expected and I have scanned both thumbs and index fingers to allow access which makes it easier when sitting at my work desk. I also love the Ringer/Vibrate switch on the side of the phone. One flip and the sound is on/off. It’s also nice to adjust the playback speed of podcasts, something I could never do with an Android device. (I listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed so I can cram in more while at the office.)

And oh, I can find cases for it anywhere — even at the dollar store.

And as an added bonus, my Pebble watch works perfectly with the phone. It was kind of glitchy with my HTC one M7 and would sometimes reset but I have yet to experience that with the iPhone. The only thing about the Pebble that’s disappointing is the lack of apps for customization, i.e. ones that allow you to make watchfaces or reply to messages. There are none for the iPhone so that’s definitely a setback.

My earbuds also fall the under It Just Works category. Botton was response very with my unpredictable Android but not so with the iPhone.

The Verdict: I have to admit that despite my initial trepidation, I am beyond satisfied with the iPhone 6. Not only is it a great device but it’s also an entirely new experience for me and change is most definitely a good thing.

The people at Sprint won’t have to worry about seeing me within the next 12 days with phone in hand, ready to return it to them in exchange for a Samsung or LG. But with Apple reportedly announcing new models in a few weeks and our contract being a part of the iPhone Forever plan, I will most definitely be paying them a visit to upgrade to the newest model once it is available.

But I’m not camping outside the store for it. That’s just goofy.

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*Beslutfattande: Swedish for “decision making.” This is what I got from proofreading several languages in the past.

Blogging 365, Day 51: The Last Virgin Mobile Post

UPDATE 2/21/13: In the midst of Virgin Mobile’s outage that they are now quietly acknowledging, I got this interesting text today:

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I clicked on the link and it took me here (click image to enlarge or go directly to site):

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Ahem. So I went ahead and called my voicemail and it told me exactly what this page reads. This seems very interesting to me since Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile use Sprint’s network. I can’t be sure (nor do I have further proof) but if I had to guess, Virgin is going the way of the dodo and will soon be swallowed up by Boost Mobile.

All of this while they continue to sell phones and charge people for service they can’t use. I smell lawsuit or at least some sort of compensation, which is too bad since we’re moving on (read rest of post).

Has anyone else gotten this? Leave your notes/frustrations in the Comments section.

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For as long as I’ve been a customer of theirs, I’ve always been happy to write about Virgin Mobile’s bargain pricing and decent selection of phones. After all, coming from Verizon where Ann and I were paying well over $100 for two lines, the lure of paying a mere $25 per line (then $35 after a phone upgrade) was just too much to pass up.

And it worked for us. No, their 3G connection (provided by Sprint) is definitely not the fastest out there but it was reliable and did the trick for upwards of 4 years. SMS and MMS messaging were also trusty and only had a few hiccups now and then but nothing that would make me want to leave.

All was well for the longest time and in fact, Ann and I were looking to upgrade to the Galaxy S II once our tax refund was in our hot little hands. Even better? It’s currently selling for $279.99. All we needed was some cash.

Flash-forward to February 16, 2013, the day Ann’s new month started. I get a text from her telling me she wanted to send me a picture but couldn’t for some reason. She tried again and the phone just refused to do it. Later that day she realized that she had no 3G connection and couldn’t get online unless she was using WiFi.

This prompted a call to Virgin Mobile’s Customer Care line and if you have never called them, be prepared because this is what’s in store for you.

I spoke with no less than 8 people with each person “elevating” my call so that it would get higher priority. Each person asked me for the same information and had me do the same things to the phone, which went a little something like this:

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I gave them full access to Ann’s account so that they could try to figure out what was going on. None of it helped and by the 8th person I was becoming utterly annoyed by the service and incompetence of Virgin Mobile’s outsourced call center employees.

The best part? I was disconnected by Person #8 who was supposed to be Tech Support. This after being on the phone for almost an hour. That’s when I became completely unglued and weaved a blanket of obscenities that is still lingering above the house.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, I took to social media in the hopes of getting my problem solved. I definitely got responses and emails from @VMUcare but none of them solved the connectivity problem. All they kept asking for was my ZIP code and which error message I was getting.

And for each time they asked, I told them that there was no connectivity or no error messages. All that led to was the resetting instructions you see above which, as you can imagine, didn’t do a thing. I finally threw my hands up after this tweet.

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Then I took to their Facebook page.

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You know, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if people are having problems connecting to their 3G network then there’s a good chance that the network is having issues. This is what was making me even more annoyed because as the complaints continued to roll in about no connectivity, there was not one mention of such an outage. It was only until recently that the word started to get out that there was indeed an outage.

So until things are back up and running, Virgin Mobile customers are getting screwed out of the 3G service that they have already paid for. I do realize that we are paying a dirt-cheap rate for service but it would have been nice if Virgin Mobile would have told us up front that they were experiencing an outage, rather than make us jump through hoops of fire by following useless instructions in the hopes of getting our phones back online.

And should I mention that my phone is fine? Ann’s is the one that does not have connectivity. I’m doing the calling and complaining because she can’t handle dealing with people who are completely clueless, which this situation has confirmed.

Network issues cannot generally be avoided nor can they be fixed in a timely manner. I truly understand that. But what I don’t get is why Virgin Mobile didn’t acknowledge this in the first place so that we, their paying customers, were left in the dark all this time. And if you think what I told you was bad, I’ve read posts from people with iPhones who have been without service for close to two weeks. I’d be twice as annoyed and pissed off if I were one of them considering the unsubsidized price of the phone.

So, all things considered including the way in which the matter has been handled and the way I was treated when contacting Customer Care, we have decided that we are through with Virgin Mobile for good. This situation has proven that when it comes handling an outage, they have no idea how to go about appeasing their customers and would rather lie to us and delay us by having us try pointless phone resetting.

We have already chosen MetroPCS as our new provider and will be making the switch within the week. Until then, our phones will still be active through Virgin Mobile as they have to be if we wish to port our current phone numbers to our new provider, one who offers unlimited everything for $35 per line (with a Family Plan). This beats Virgin’s $35 plan for 300 minutes.

There you go, Virgin Mobile. For your lack of truthfulness regarding the network outage, incompetent call center, and overall poor service over the course of the outage, you are losing two previously loyal customers.

And I get the feeling we won’t be the only ones.

This is indeed my last Virgin Mobile post. You can thank them for making it happen.