Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Technology Woes: One More Smart Phone Bites the Dust (Or, Why Cell Phone Insurance is a Scam!)

I've had this blog since mid-2007, at which point I was on my second cell phone, a Samsung flip-phone with very little in the way of extras. Since I've been blogging, I've talked about my new ones, beginning with the Samsung Rant, a pre-smart phone with a slide-out keyboard. With that one, I learned how to text, but was frustrated with its other limited abilities. When it was unceremoniously drowned by The Other Half in the washing machine, I was pushed--finally--to join the smart phone crowd.

This was 2011, and I was holding out to see what the iPhone 5--which turned out to be the iPhone 4S--was going to be like, and if Sprint was going to carry it. But it was in May, and Apple didn't break into the Sprint store until September, so my choice was between Blackberry, Windows Phone and Android. But to make matters worse, we were leaving for vacation the next day, and I had researched nothing. So, I ended up with a Samsung Transform, a low-end 'droid.

In the ensuing three weeks, I struggled with the Transform's limitations, and read up a lot on what else was available, and ultimately paid the restocking fee, and traded up to the Samsung Epic 4G. To this point, I'd had five Samsung phones in a row, two flip phones, and three slide-out QWERTY keyboard phones. Other than the drowned one, I'd never had an issue with any of them throughout their contracts, other than quirks here and there that required reboots. And the persistent spotty Sprint service, particularly in central Ohio. The Other Half had drowned a flip phone once, but like my Rant, it was right about at trade-up time anyway.

My poor, crushed Epic 4G
My good luck with phones-without-insurance lasted from December 2004 to July 2012, when I stupidly left my phone on the hood of my car in the garage, and drove off with it there. Somebody ran over my Epic 4G, 8 months out of re-up time. My solution was to order a used one on eBay, take it to the Sprint Store, and activate it to my phone number. Nice plan, but the phone had been rooted, and would not activate. So, I paid Sprint $35, got my money back from the eBay vendor, and Sprint ordered me another Epic. By this time, I was up to 11 days phoneless by the time the order came in and it would not activate either! My only option was to wait for another one, or accept a substitute: an HTC Evo 4G.

The Evo was a contemporary of my phone, meaning a two-year-old, obsolete model. It was better in some ways, and lesser in some ways from the Epic, mainly in that it didn't have a slide-out keyboard for the first time since my flip-phones. But the upshot was, the screen may not have been as crisp, but it was easier to read outdoors. And, it seemed to be a lot less flaky than my Epic, which was a lemon compared to The Other Half's relatively stable Epic.

I couldn't wait for the iPhone 4S, so I got the Epic 4G.
Now, Apple has sued Samsung, partly over this phone.
Six weeks into the ownership of the Evo, I started to notice dust collecting between the layers of the screen. Very annoyed, I tried to tap it out, I tried to blow it out, nothing would budge the dust. And then, unexpectedly, the microphone stopped working, leading to a comedy of errors when my brother was trying to call. Nothing would make the microphone work, though if I shouted at top volume, it would register, barely, sounding like a blown speaker.

Could I have broken it when blowing and tapping it? Not unless it was on the edge of breaking anyway. So, I took it back to Sprint, taking an hour off of work so that this wouldn't push into next week like last time. They took it, charged me $35 more bucks,  and. . .couldn't fix it! So, guess what? I have another Evo 4G on its way, and I have to queue up at Sprint again Wednesday night. I am not confident that it will go smoothly, but I have no complaint with the Sprint people other than the tedium while waiting at the store.

But in all my travails in cell phone world, I can give a little advice:

- When buying a phone, don't cheap out. You're going to have it two years, don't start out disappointed. An extra $50 divided over two years is bupkis.
- Even if you like a slide-out keyboard, give an on-screen one a try. You might find you like it, and the phone will be slimmer and--let's face it--less dorky.
- Check your pockets before doing laundry, and never--never--put your phone on your car.
- I'm glad that I've never had phone insurance. It may have saved me a few buck in this case, right now. But if I'd paid $7 per phone per month since December 2004, I'd be up to $1488! Just in insurance fees. My total out-of-pocket cost for all of this so far? $70. Big whoop!

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