I’d been using a mediocre (read crappy) phone for long enough, and decided it was high time to get on the smart phone bandwagon. I love Google’s Android OS, and being a Verizon Wireless customer, the Droid looked mighty appealing. My New Every Two isn’t up until January, but I read a few posts on The Consumerist about Verizon customers having their New Every Twos bumped up for the Droid. Apparently Verizon really wants to get these phones out there. I decided to bank on this and also take the opportunity to play with the phone myself.
I spent about 20 minutes at the Verizon store playing with the phone and hoping an over-ambitious Verizon employee would ask me if I needed help (why don’t they show up the one time I need them). The screen on the Droid is gorgeous, and I was surprised at how snappy the interface was. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted this phone. After no employees bothered me I actually signed into the front computer under Sales and waited an additional 15 minutes to have my name called (more time with the Droid!)
The nice saleswoman behind the counter informed me that no, I could not have my New Every Two bumped up (I guess I need to find a way to be cute enough to have that “offered” to me) but being a Verizon Wireless customer I still received a $50 credit towards the phone, as opposed to the $100 New Every Two credit. This was definitely appealing, but I was still on the fence. Since I’m on a Family Plan with my sister until January (when I get my own plan because I’m a big boy now) I asked her if I would need to change my plan at all and affect her. The nice saleswoman smiled and informed me that no, we could still share the Family Plan, and I could just add the Data Plan onto my line without affecting her. Wait…what?
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, to use a Droid with Verizon Wireless you require a Data Plan. The cheapest Data Plan is $30 on top of my current voice/messaging line, and that only comes with Email! I don’t even want Email or Internet access on my phone. I have a difficult enough time refraining from texting while driving; Email on my phone will literally kill me. I’m around WiFi 95% of my awake life (and 100% while asleep) so I have no need to pay heinous fees for worse Internet speeds.
Now we get to the meat of my problem…the garbage, if you will. Hearing this wasn’t a major surprise, as I have heard of Blackberries requiring Data Plans, but this being the first time I had been subjected to these rules it didn’t sting any less. I politely declined and left the store immediately.
This is why I have an issue with cell phones in America. It has become the standard to charge for each little type of content or usage on the network, so most people don’t think twice about accepting a $15 per month charge to be able to send text messages, or a $30 per month charge for email. Can you imagine, however, if the Internet worked this way? If customers were required to pay $40 per month for a basic internet package (allowing you to browse news websites) and spend extra for things like email or downloading music through iTunes, they’d throw fits. Granted, with all of the talk about net neutrality and bandwidth capping, some ISPs are actually considering these types of services. Thankfully the Internet market has already set the standard as “you pay for the pipe, now do what you want with it”, so it would be nigh impossible for an ISP to survive on a usage-based pricing model.
Having had broadband for 7 years, the most recent service provided by the wonderful Verizon FIOS, and also knowing what I do about Japan’s and China’s cell networks, it literally pains me to think about paying $40 for cell service and then an additional $30 (or more) for Internet access that’s at best the equivalent of a shoddy DSL connection.
Well, all of that being said, where can I go from here? How can I use any of the great phones out there to do the one thing I actually want them for: making calls!?! The short-run short answer is that I can’t. American Cell Providers have already set the standard, and they have no reason to move to a system that benefits consumers since we’re all locked in anyway. Long-run however, let’s me hope that 4G brings me the cell phone service I’m dreaming of: cell phones like Internet. It’s a simple dream, but a powerful one. I’m waiting for the nationwide wireless broadband service that you treat just like your home Internet connection. I want to pay a monthly fee, get a wireless “pipe” at a certain speed that allows me to do whatever I want with it. No more paying extra for the different ways I want to use it. Verizon’s fabled LTE service may finally be the service I’m looking for. After winning the bid for the 700Mhz wireless spectrum several years ago, Verizon has been building up the infrastructure needed to support a network like this. I, for one, have high hopes that Verizon will bring the one severely lacking technology in America up to speed with the modern world.