Daily Archives: September 27, 2006

Goodbye to the Free Phone

Sprint giveth and Sprint taketh away: I got an e-mail from the telephone provider letting me know that they are switching off my free service to their network next Tuesday. After that, if I want to use the superbitchin’ cell phone they provided me, I’ll have to pay just like every other common troll. I get to keep the phone, though, so the question becomes whether I’ll go ahead and get a Sprint plan of some description.

The idea behind giving me a free phone was that I, as one of those “influencers” you hear so much about from those marketers you know, might talk about the various virtues of Sprint, and specifically its Power Vision service, which in addition to offering phone connection also offers things like streaming music and video, Web access and the ability to download all sorts of crap onto your phone. And, indeed, if you are the sort of person who wants his or her cell phone to be more than something you call people on, I feel comfortable recommending the Power Vision service to you; it worked as advertised, and it has all the bells and whistles people who love bells and whistles love. And personally speaking, I found the ability to use the phone as a modem to be pretty damn useful; it saved me a bunch of ridiculous hotel Internet charges over the last few months. So, yes: a good service that I think will make sense for a good number of people.

However, I’m not entirely sure that it’s the service for me. As it turns out, I’m not one of the people who uses the cell phone for the bells and whistles. I don’t use my cell phone for playing music, because my little music player does a rather better job of that. I have a nice portable camera for taking pictures. I don’t use it to stream video because it’s not like there’s not always a TV blaring somewhere. I don’t use it to play games because frankly I’d rather read a book. I don’t text message because, duh, I can just call. I’m not a teenager; I don’t have to pass notes in class. The two things this service does that are useful for me is make calls and connect to the Internet, and of the two, the only one that’s actually essential for me is making calls.

And that’s the other problem. I find the cell phone useful when I’m out and about, but the fact is I’m not out and about all that much — not enough to justify spending, say, $55 a month on a service plan, which is the minimum I would need to pay Sprint for a service that offers both voice and data access. It’s not even enough to justify $30/month just for the voice access. Frankly, my needs from a cell phone would be more than adequately covered by something like this — a $20 cell phone with a pay-as-you-go plan. And I suspect that’s the direction I’ll be going in terms of my next cell phone. It’s not a price issue, it’s a utility issue. This is a shame because now I have this cool cell phone I can’t use, unless Sprint offers some sort of pay-as-you-go plan, and it really doesn’t, as far as I can see. That’s a shame.

Here’s what I want: Rather than a phone that also happens to have Web capability and the ability to play media files, I want a media player/wireless Web browser that also happens to have phone capability, and preferably a capability that allows me to pay as I go, rather than trying to suck $30 a month out of my pocket for no particularly good reason. That’s the gadget and service that I could really use.