And the winner is . . . Samsung Vibrant!

One upon a time there was a family who had to get new phones.

  • Dad had a phone from work, a very cool iPhone, but he was done with that job;
  • Mom’s phone used its display only when it felt like it, generally every third Thursday from noon to 2:00 in months with an “r”;
  • Eldest had a phone, but the battery was no longer keeping a charge, and well, Dad, felt it was time for Eldest to graduate from a keypad only phone;
  • with no landline the family needed one more phone for emergencies and an actual home phone number;
  • most importantly, all contracts were up.

So after wandering the interwebs for a bit, off the family went to look at phones and plans. As they travelled, they asked their friends about non-iPhone alternatives. Their friends on TWITTER and FACEBOOK were most helpful.

In between food court stops and frozen yogurt splurges, they visited kiosks and stores trying to get a sense of the phones, the services and the costs. What they needed were the following:

  • Two smart (android) phones, one multimedia phone and one basic phone;
  • Unlimited web, talk, text family plan, parental controls, tethering;
  • Low cost and decent usability;
  • Educational discount and more than decent customer service a must.

Little did the family know how daunting this process would be.  But . . . as Dad’s good friend LandonW, said, Champagne problems, yes. But problems nonetheless.  After all, making these kinds of choices were not just about the phones.  They would soon be committing two years and nearly $6,000 to a company of their choosing.  The style of phones that were chosen would dictate in many ways, the practical ways they would live and organize their life.  And really, DAD is a Social Media FREAK, so any alternative to his iPhone would really have to kick booty.

So after much deliberation, they made their choice.

In order of finish . . .

In last place, METRO PCS – Mom and Dad walked into the store and there was not even an acknowledgment that they were there.  Phone selection was not helpful and there really is no family plan to speak of so Metro PCS was never really in the running.

In 4th place, SPRINT PCS – This would have been the easiest for them as they have been SPRINT PCS customers for a very long time.  But alas, Dad was NOT impressed with the Evo4. Seemed messy and, as he discovered, he does not like actual buttons. Mom was “meh” about most of them, but did decide she did NOT want a touch screen, nails and all.  Eldest found some cool phones that she liked, but alas, she does not have a job or a credit rating 😉  What affirmed the decision to NOT go with them took place as Mom canceled their account on the phone.  Putting someone on hold then guilt tripping them AFTER she has asked you to cancel the account, only gets you bad press on some random customers blog and guarantee that in no way will they return to you. Just saying.

Tied at 3rd, VERIZON – First, Dad was very scared by the Droid X online ad.  All that techno black and red bursting onto the scene made him feel like we was staring straight into some heavy metal band meets The Matrix website.  No simple Apple feel there for sure.  But . . . people raved about the X and since it was being released in a few days, Mom and Dad went and played with a floor model.  Wowza, was it cool.  A little big, but clean lines and very user-friendly.  Verizon was now in the hunt.

 . . . and also in 3rd, ATT – For those that know Dad, NOT getting an iPhone 4 is probably a big shock to you.  They tried, they really did.  ATT was the front runner for much of the time despite the fact that ATT was not getting much love from folks and the low approval rating of the iPhone 4 itself.  After all, if Dad left the iPhone world he would not only lose “cool” points with some, but he might go through Words with Friends and Carcassonne withdrawals.* At the end of the day, though, ATT simply lost out because of cost and customer service.  Both via online chats and the in-person customer service, it never felt like they really WANTED the business.  What put Mom and Dad over the edge was, in trying to find out if Mom received a discount because she works for an educational institution, no one could tell her if it was true or not.  They had to sign up first, THEN they could apply for the discount. Huh?  Even for a family that was willing to overlook a lot, exiting each conversation with ATT had their inside voices saying over and over again, “Even an iPhone is not cool enough to put up with this crap.”

And the winner by a ways, T-Mobile – Pictured above are the four new T-Mobile phones that are now living happily with their new owners: a sleek Samsung Vibrant for Dad, a stunning Red myTouch Slide for Mom, an “I love my parents” inspiring Gravity T for Eldest; and Middle and Youngest will now hone their texting chops on a Gravity 3.  After playing with both the Droid X and the iPhone 4, as soon as Dad held a Vibrant in his hands, he was smitten.  The feel and NO BUTTONS front was way cool so combined with the cost and customer service, there was really no question.  The search was over.  You see, not only did the Vibrant and myTouch fit what the parental units wanted, the monthly costs was about $25 less than the nearest competitor, they waved all activation fees AND we received the myTouch FREE.  All told, they saved about $1000 over the life of the contract.  – Enough for a puppy, but that’s a different tale. – But what REALLY did it for them was the service that Alejandra at the Tanforan Store provided.  She not only knew about the phones, was very clear about the services and costs; and when we called back later the next day, she remembered Mom and Dad by name.  Impressive.  Also, as they checked out there were no, “Oh I forgot about this . . .” moments, she filled out the rebate slips and even made it possible to reserve Dad’s Vibrant that was not being released until the next day.

So . . . change is in the air for the family.  It’s a good time to go through this every once in a while: purge, reset and relearn.  Change is hard, but they will endure 😉  Dad is diving in and trying to integrate Android into his pace of life,** Mom is getting used to being able to actually see the display, Eldest is still giddy about web access and a real keyboard; and Middle and Youngest are trying to remember that this is not REALLY “their” phone . . . but it kinda is.

All in all, they feel good about the purchase.  They are just phones after all.

* Never fear, What made leaving the iPhone a little easier for DAd is that he is getting an iPad in the near future, so he will soon return to the land of Words with Friends and Carcassonne in due time.

** If you have any good Android App suggestions, feel free to leave them here and/or drop a reply on Twitter.

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