Sprint PCS GuyI’ve been a Sprint PCS customer for many years. For the most part, my experience with them has been pretty good. I’ve heard plenty of tales from clients and friends about how bad their experience was and how they are so happy to have moved to Company X. Thanks to the Palm OS User Council, I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate the Treo 180 and the Kyocera 7135, each of which required an additional account through a carrier other than Sprint PCS. So I’ve had accounts with TMobile and Verizon Wireless, but I’ve always held on to my main squeeze, Sprint PCS. The main reason for staying was the fact that I have a 2 year contract. That contract was recently up for renewal and I lived to tell about it. 🙂
Why The Switch?
I was happy with the service that I’ve had over the years with Sprint PCS. Most of the travel that I do is to major cities, so I always have coverage. Dropped calls are common on all carriers and I don’t find Sprint’s quality to be any less than the other carriers that I’ve tried. What it did boil down to was price. Ultimately, if I could find a plan that afforded me the same services for less money, then I would consider a change to another carrier. But it was more than just saving a few bucks, the other reason I was considering a move was for the technology as well.

1. SIM Cards – are used by GSM networks and are really cool. The concept is that the SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module card) contains all your information (and in some cases your data) and you can switch phones by simply putting your card in a new phone. It’s not like I have a ton of phones laying around, but I do tend to provide my own phones versus purchasing them through the carrier. For that reason, being able to slip a SIM card into a new phone and have everything work is a concept that I really like. TMobile and a few other carriers use SIM cards, so it’s not just a niche technology and that meant that I had several of carriers to choose from.

2. Bluetooth – is a wireless technology that allows computing devices to “talk” to each other and work together (Learn more about Bluetooth at this link). I’ve wanted a Bluetooth telephone for over two years now and they are now finally available in the States. My reasoning for wanting a BT phone is that I like the idea of having a cordless headset, a BT Palm OS device and my laptop all working together. Picture the following:

  • A call comes in, I tap a button on my BT headset and answer the call. The phone stays in my pocket, I never have to pull it out.
  • 2) I’m waiting to pick someone up from the airport and I decide I’d like to check my e-mail. with my pa1m0ne Tungsten T handheld, I’m able to wirelessly connect to the Internet through my phone.
  • 3) I’m on a business trip and I don’t want to pay the daily rate for Internet access. My laptop uses my BT phone as a modem to connect me at 3G speeds to the Internet.

In all of the above examples, my phone can stay in my pocket, or briefcase, I don’t have to take it out, or do any gymnastics to make these examples a reality. Bluetooth allows me to cut the cord. It also frees me from needing an “überphone” that does all of this in one device. I’m free to choose the best PDA for my needs and the smallest mobile phone that meets my needs. I don’t have to invest $600 in the Treo 600 for example. Although it’s a great phone and if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, I think it’s the best one out there for the money, I like having things separate. I like each device doing what it does best. Let the laptop be a computer, the PDA an organizer and the mobile phone a remote dial tone when I need it.

Well, at least that’s what I think I would like. I’ve never had the privilege to using this type of setup, so I don’t know if I would truly like it or not. 😛

Reviewing Alternative Carriers
I first looked at Verizon Wireless, but I had just ended a one-year agreement with them for the testing I did on the Kyocera 7135. Besides, their pricing was higher then Sprint PCS almost across the board. I did enjoy the 7135 as a phone, but I really wanted Bluetooth and there were no BT phones available for Verizon. Cingular and AT&T didn’t do it for me either, for one reason or another, but TMobile did catch my eye.

For starters, I could construct a plan that would enable both Holly and I to share a plan, have two lines and high speed Internet access for a lot less than what I was paying with Sprint PCS. Secondly, they carry the Sony Ericsson T610 phone, which includes both Bluetooth and a camera. This appeared to be my dream phone and after rebate, I could get it for $100. I also liked the fact that TMobile used SIM cards and appeared to be more of a global provider. For example, Holly and I will be in Mexico later this month for our anniversary and I could use my phone down there, albeit at $1.50 per minute. It’s expensive, but at least my phone would still work down there. I thought that was pretty cool.

All-in-all, TMobile seemed to have everything I was looking for and could do it a lot less than what I was paying with Sprint PCS. It looked as if TMobile was the clear choice and that I would be making a move.

Another Look At Sprint PCS
Before making the leap, I felt it prudent to at least take another look at Sprint PCS, just to make sure that I was making the right decision. The first order of business was to see if there was any way to reduce the monthly fees. For the past few years, my monthly bill has been $140 a month for two lines with 2000 minutes. That’s awfully high and after reviewing my monthly bills, it was clear that I’m not using as many minutes as I used to. So I called up Sprint PCS Customer Service to see what could be done.

Much to my surprise, my plan wasn’t exactly like I thought it was. Holly and I weren’t sharing a plan, she had her own. I didn’t have unlimited Vision (which I distinctly remember ordering), but I did have unlimited PCS-to-PCS instead. Needless to say, it was a bit of a mess. 😛 The CSR re-figured my account, and by going with the 1800 minute plan, we could combine our plans into one at no extra charge, enable Vision on my phone, have unlimited Nights and Weekends, and unlimited PCS-To-PCS. It would also reduce our monthly fees from $140 per month to $100 per month. So far so good.

The only issue I had with the plan was that I didn’t need 1800 minutes. Based on past activity, I could get away with 800 minutes a month easy. The problem lay in the fact that I did like the PCS-to-PCS and Vision services. Although I could drop to $50 per month plan with a 700 minutes, by the time I added back the other services the monthly costs would have been $95 per month. At $80 per month, TMobile was still looking pretty good. I would have 800 minutes and all the services I was looking for, but at about $20 per month less than Sprint PCS. Granted the Sprint plan had an additional 1000 anytime minutes, but I didn’t need those minutes.

I explained all this to the Sprint PCS CSR, but there was little she could do to reduce my monthly fees any lower. When I threw in the fact that I could also get a Bluetooth phone with TMobile, she countered that Sprint PCS had a BT phone for sale as well. :O Please return all tray tables to their upright position. “But I thought you guys were sold out of those phones?”, I said. “Not according to my system”, replied my angel of mercy. “Not only that, but you do qualify for a $150 rebate, if that interests you.”, she added. We just lost cabin pressure I quickly responded “I’ll take it!”, but she informed me that I had to call their tele-sales department in order to purchase the phone. So I ended our conversation with a big thank you and headed off in search of this elusive Bluetooth phone.

In Search For Bluetooth
Sony Ericsson was all set to provide a series of CDMA telephones for the US Market. The CDMA network which Verizon and Sprint PCS use was a new platform for them, but they were going to offer a wide range of phones, including a Bluetooth model, the T608. Sprint PCS even released a press release, highlighting the fact that they were going to offer the first CDMA BT phone in the United States.

Then, completely out of the blue, Sony Ericsson announced that they were abandoning the CDMA product line and that no phones would be released. 😐 I don’t know who screwed the pooch on this one, but I was ticked. Here it was, last summer, just weeks before the supposed release of a BT phone on Sprint and someone pulls the plug. I even signed a petition (currently showing 2431 total signatures), but it seemed that this phone would never see the light of day.

Just when I thought there was no hope, around Christmas, I began hearing rumors that Sprint PCS was still going to release the phone. There were a mixture of other rumors, like you couldn’t get unlimited Vision on the phone, or that there were no rebates, but there was nothing on the Sprint PCS web site about the phone, so I decided to call for myself. Unfortunately, they were sold out and it looked like I had missed my opportunity. 🙁 Fast forward to the present and I had a Sprint PCS Customer Service Rep telling me that she thought they had some in stock!

I called the number the CSR gave me (1-866-PCS-2886) and after a few minutes, was connected with a salesperson. I asked if they had the T608, which the salesperson confirmed that they did indeed have them in stock. The price was $199, so with my $150 mail-in rebate, I could get the phone for $50. That would make it $50 less than the T610 on TMobile! So I went about placing my order and that’s when I ran into a snag – there were no rebates for this phone. Although I qualified for a $150 rebate, it could not be applied to this phone. Damnit! I could apply the rebate towards just about any other phone, but if I wanted the T608, I would have to pay full pop.

Let’s Make A Deal
In a last ditch effort I called the cancellation department at Sprint PCS to find out how much it would cost to cancel my contract with them so that I could switch to TMobile. I still had 15 days left on my contract, so either I would cancel it, or pay another $140 for one more month of service, whichever was cheaper. With my renewal being on May 15th and my billing cycle on the 1st I was between a rock and a hard place.

When asked why I wanted to cancel my service, I gave them the whole sob story, with the bottom line that TMobile is cheaper. When they mentioned the $150 phone rebate, I explained that this didn’t apply to the only phone that I wanted and that I usually provide my own phones so this wasn’t much of an incentive. The CSR put me on hold for approximately 10 minutes and came back with an offer.

They would change my plan to the $100 1800 minute version to reduce my current monthly bill by $40, then they would give me a 50% reduction on May’s bill and also apply a credit of $50 to the bill as well. In other words, they would give me $100 instant credit on my bill to partially cover the cost of the phone. Granted it was $50 more than the rebate, but I would see the savings instantly and not 3 months from now when the mail-in rebate check finally arrived in the mailbox. Admittedly, this was a pretty good deal, so I took it.

I renewed my plan with Sprint PCS, agreeing to another 2 year contract and turned around and ordered the T608 from tele-sales. The phone arrived yesterday and I think I’m in love. 😡

The Final Math
When everything was said and done, Sprint PCS was still more expensive than TMobile, but the savings wouldn’t be seen until after the first year for the most part. At $80 per month, TMobile’s plan was $20 less per month. That comes to a $240 savings in the first year. Unfortunately, TMobile charges an activation fee of $35 per line, or $70 total for the two lines I needed. So my savings drop to $170. To switch to TMobile, I would have had to pay May’s bill, or pay the cancellation fee. If I take the lesser of the two, $140, then my savings drop down to $30. After two years, the savings bump up to $270, but who knows what will happen between now and then.

The cost of the new phone was going to be $100 on TMobile and the net effect of the instant savings on Sprint PCS made the phone on Sprint $100 net, so the two wash out. Oh and in a last minute “woo hoo”, Sprint PCS has a plan where I can use my phone in Mexico. It costs $3.00 per month, but can be added, or cancelled at any time, and is only .70 cents per minute. After one five minute call, it’s cheaper to use Sprint PCS than TMobile. 🙂 I’ll let you know if it actually works when I get down there later this month.

After All The Dust Has Settled
At the end of the day $30 wasn’t enough for me to switch carriers. I now have a Bluetooth phone and it’s the smallest phone I’ve had in YEARS. I’ve done some initial testing using my Tungsten T and my main workstation and it would appear that the Bluetooth features work as I expected. Give me a few days/weeks and I’ll post a review of the Sony Ericsson T608 and my experience with using Bluetooth on a daily basis.

If there’s any morale to this story it’s this: review your wireless plan at least once a year and call cancellations to see if you can get a better deal. Carriers know that retaining a customer is cheaper than trying to gain a new one, so they will usually cut you some slack and offer you an incentive or two to stay. Be sure to evaluate what services you use and weigh it in with your minutes. If you know that you’re going to use data, or send pictures, be sure to compare the costs of those services and not just the minutes themselves.