At this point in my life, I've been with all of the major cell companies at least once, some more. Every year or so, a company will upgrade their system, launch faster data services, better airtime packages, improve customer service, or merge with another company... briefly making it the best option for cell service. Then, the need to compete dictates changes at another company, and it's THEIR turn in the spotlight. These changes are as predictable as the phases of the moon and Floyd Landis' steroid excuses.
Right now, here is my situation regarding cellular:
Cingular - main cell phone, laptop data card, TREO PDA. (which sucks ASS, but I haven't cancelled the service yet)
Sprint - New PDA, daughter's cell phone.
Verizon - Built-in car phone. (which is simply a backup to the satellite phone that is also installed in the car) (yes, BMW frequently commits "overkill" with their connectivity efforts)
Bottom line... I have contracts with THREE different cell companies. Total monthly expenditure, $350. Once I cancel the extraneous PDA with Cingular, that figure will drop significantly.
As I was searching for a birthday present for my 17-year-old daughter, I first went to Cingular. They host my main cell number and I find their signal to be HIGHLY reliable. That was the extent of my positive experience... their phone selection sucked. Also, their "roll-over" plan is just advertising BS, you'll never really use the minutes and you LOSE them if you ever change your plan. Also, I've accumulated 9000 roll-over minutes, but they won't let me share them with anyone. Their customer service guy had no idea what he was doing, and had to call his supervisor four times. Screw you, Cingular. I left.
Then I went to Verizon. Customer service at the store REEKED, their selection of phones was better than Cingular, but still not good, and their signal has always given me fits. Those shortfalls reinforced the wisdom of a quick exit.
Third stop, Sprint. Nice set-up in the store, not a REAL long wait for service, and the selection of phones is pretty good. They have FREE incoming calls on some of their packages, you can choose your "off-peak" time, (7 or 9 pm) and Sprint-to-Sprint is unlimited, with a small upcharge. It definitely made the most sense for my daughter's needs, and although their signal is less reliable than either Verizon or Cingular, it still beats T-Mobile, US Cellular and the various little guys. I decided Sprint gets my business this time.
She loves her new (pink) phone. Since incoming calls are free, Dad will be keeping very close tabs on her whereabouts. But at dinner, she said something that is still ringing in my head. "Hey, the phone was only 40 bucks, you got off pretty easy on my birthday present."
I took a moment to reflect on that statement, waved away the smoke that had begun coming out of my ears, and collected my thoughts. (and did the math) "You mean one THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED dollars?"
Kids these days. They believe cell phone service is free. I felt this was a good time to outline the Rules Of The Phone. NO overages, she must get a job by October 8 (two months) and has to start paying her own cell bill within one year.
She gave me a look as if I had eaten a baby, then reluctantly agreed.
* I've had the same cell number for several years. I will likely never change it, thanks to number-porting... but the cell companies are hereby on notice: Be nice to me, or I will drop you like a... an... um... something, you know, that you drop.