Monday, July 6, 2009

A Phone Upgrade Story

Two weeks ago, I decided that I would trade-in my Motorola ROKR Z6M for the new Motorola Evoke QA4. Little did I know that my plans to upgrade would lead me to path of disappointment and 200 miles of driving.

Everyday until my upgrade, I visited the Cellular South web site, hoping to find out when their new phones would come out. I was waiting for a new Motorola phone to be released. I wanted one that would work with my Motorola Phone Tools software which allowed me to manage my contact list, calendar, and ring tones. I was also hoping for a phone that had a touch-screen and possibly a slide out number pad since I'm used to using it for fast texting. When I a promotional email from Cellular South that the Motorola Evoke QA4 was coming soon, I was completely ecstatic. I had thought that I found the phone of my dreams. It had a touch-screen, a number pad, and a really cool looking interface. I started to visit the Cellular South web site more often to see when they would start offering the new phone available.

It was Saturday, June 27, 2009 when I found out that the Evoke was out. I drove 54 miles to the Cellular South store on Airport Boulevard in Mobile, Alabama to get the phone. I paid over $300 for the phone since I didn't really want to renew my contract (I'm proud to say that I have been contract-free since 2001).

I was helped by Shasta Crager, the Discover Center Specialist ,at the Airport/Mobile store. She showed me the basics of the phone and I was excited to see all the other bells and whistles that came with the phone. Perhaps, I was blinded by all the new fancy things that his phone could do that I forgot to ask one important thing: Could this phone support MMS/Picture message? Since the phone had a camera on it, I assumed that it could send out picture messages like all the other Motorola phone that I had owned. It seemed silly to me that they would omit such a now-standard feature. So, I didn't think much of it.

When I got home, I started to try to familiarize myself with the phone. I easily added all my contacts and WAP browser bookmarks. Eventually, I managed to set up my Gmail email account to work with the email client. That afternoon, I got a call from a friend of mine asking if I received the picture message that she sent me. I told her that I just switched to a new phone and it was probably trying to make it's way to my new phone. But, hours went by and I didn't receive the picture.

I looked into the quick start guide and then into the thick bi-lingual user manual. I read that in order for me to share my pictures, I could upload it to Picassa or send it via email using the POP account that I had set up. Nowhere in the manual did it mention how I was going to receive pictures sent to me at my telephone number. With my old ROKR phone, this was not a problem. I received my pictures like I received text message. Now, I had no clue at all.

I email Cellular South asking how I could receive picture messages. I even talked to their Twitter person. Both told me that I had to use email to send out pictures and that people could email me at my email address to receive pictures. This would all have been fine and dandy, except for one thing. I was paying for MMS/Picture messaging service. This was included with my Total Unlimited plan.

I went to the Motorola website and posted in their user support forum. Afater a couple of days waiting for a reply, a poster representing Motorola told me that the phone could not receive MMS and that it was designed that way. I would have to use the email to send and receive my pictures. Now, keep in mind that the phone only checks email ever 30 minutes, so if someone sent you a picture to your email address, you wouldn't know about it for quiet some time depending on how close you were to the next sync session.

At that point, it looked to me as if Motorola's desire to emulate the iPhone, they had also copied one of their most criticized missing feature. I asked why Motorola chose to not support MMS, but the poster declined to comment on their company's decisions and cited statistics that showed a decline in MMS use among smartphone users. Also, during my time at the forum, I discovered that the QA4 did not work with Motorola Phone Tools because it used a brand new type of operating system. This was two strikes off of my list. Keeping this phone was starting to annoy me.

So, I was now faced with either keeping this phone and paying for services that I could not use on the phone, or driving back to Mobile and returning the phone. I really hated the idea of paying for something that I can't use and the cell phone company didn't want to discount my rate because the feature is apparently part of a bundle. They did offer to turn off the service, but I wasn't going to get any compensation on my bill.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Cellular South. I've been with them since 1999. They have always been professional and provide great personalized help. Whenever I had a problem, they always found a way to help me. Well, this time they couldn't find a way for me to receive pictures sent to my phone number. It was essentially a physical limitation of the phone. There wasn't anything Cellular South or I could do. One of their customer representative, Scott Watson, explained to me that situation and offered to take my phone back for a refund or exchange as long as I brought it back relatively soon.

On Friday, July 3rd, I drove back to Mobile, Alabama to return my new shiny phone and returned to my old battle-scarred ROKR Z6M phone. In total, I drove over 200 miles back and forth from Pensacola to Mobile to resolve this issue. I had the Evoke QA4 for one week. I loved the touch screen, the full HTML browser, and the virtual full QWERTY keyboard. I can say that it was a neat phone to use albeit with some significant flaws that irked me way too much. The whole experience made me appreciate my old ROKR phone a lot more and I was reminded of that saying that goes: “not all that glitters is gold.”

For now, I'll be waiting for the next batch of phones to come out from Cellular South. I'm hoping they'll have a new Motorola phone that will meet my needs and wants. Until then, I'm sticking to my current phone and you can be sure that I'll do a lot more research on a phone before I spend any more of my time and money.

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