I’ve used mobile devices for a very long time: from steno-pad-and-pen to a 26-pound luggable computer, from the Palm Pilot to an iPad, from a Motorola bag phone to an iPhone.
During that time, I’ve used, tested, reviewed, trashed, saved from the toilet, and generally messed with a whole pile of different operating systems and devices sizes and applications.
Going phone shopping today is a nightmarish mishmash of phones, features, and voice-text-data plans with more gotchas than a ball of barbed wire.
Here are my top seven reasons to hate phone shopping:
1. Let me actually try the damned thing
Most of the phones I’ve tried are tethered via a retractable leash attached to the phone via a clunky theft-prevention gadget, they’re not connected to any outside network, and in most cases, you don’t actually get to see the operating system but a photo of what it might look like. Seriously?
Imagine going into an automotive showroom and all they have are photos of the actual cars? I think that’s called eBay.
2. And without the leash
One of the key elements of a handheld mobile device is the feel: how it feels holding it in one or two hands. Does it fit your hand? Is it as slippery as a wet fish? Does it feel sleek or more like a brick?
But the leash is constantly pulling at the phone and throws off the relative weight, while the theft-prevention attachment smack in the middle of the back of the phone makes it impossible to hold it in the palm of one hand.
3. Broken Online Ordering Systems
I just spent an hour in a store trying to buy a phone and service plan. The phone I intended to purchase requires a two-year plan with a $60 monthly minimum. The plan I wanted is $105 per month. Unfortunately, the computer-based ordering system’s arithmetic is screwy: it required a minimum $600 per month plan. Clearly a misplaced decimal point, but in a chilling update of the old saw: the computer is always right.
4. Clueless Clerks
I don’t expect everyone to know everything about the products and services they’re selling, but it’s disconcerting when my information about those same products and services is more accurate than the clerks, or sales associates, or whatever they’re called. I don’t enjoy correcting them repeatedly, even if I’m right 90 per cent of the time.
5. Words that can kill you: mobile phone plans and contracts
The word ‘dense’ comes to mind. So does ‘incomparable’ as in apples and oranges. Might as well add ‘convoluted’, particularly when you throw the cost of subsidized phones into the mix.
I’ve hung around a few phone stores lately trying phones, reading the marketing materials, and overhearing long, complicated, and obviously frustrating discussions customers were having with sales people.
The most commonly overhead phrase: “I don’t understand.”
6. Your call is important to us…Your call is important to us…Your call is important to us…
Even sales associates have to call for help sometimes and it’s embarrassing watching them try to deal with being on hold for 15 or 20 minutes as the customer in front of them gets more and more antsy, and everyone within speaker phone distance can hear those horrible six words over and over again: Your call is important to us.
Sure it is. That’s why you’re not answering it.
7. The new version will be released…
You just know it’s going to be better, faster, lighter, sleeker, and maybe even cheaper that what you’ve finally chosen and managed to drag home after all of the pain and agony of online and instore research, making a dozen complex decisions, and waiting for the first billing shock. I mean, you KNOW there’s going to be a billing shock of some kind.
The worst of it is that you know you’ll be going through the same thing in a year or two from now, depending on the length of your service plan.
Call that the eighth reason buying a new mobile phone sucks.