Monday, May 10, 2010

Of Black Berries and Poison Apples

Seeing as Bell and Blackberry are a bunch of fucks, as recently established, I figured I'd might as well find a way to wean myself off of them.

Considering I paid $109.95+tax for the extended warranty and they wanted to charge me $92.66 before they even look at what's wrong with it, and considering they're selling new ones of the same model for $199 without a contract, and considering I had the same problems with the (presumably not broken) loaner phone... well, there's no real conclusion, other than that they're a bunch of fucks. I just hoped saying it again in a slightly different way would help me feel better.

The problem with Bell is an easy one to treat. The goal is to give them as little of my money as possible, without wasting any. The problem is that I'm in a contract, and the monthly cost of breaking the contract ($20) exceeds the savings from going elsewhere ($14).

To ease the pain, I recently got an e-mail from them telling me that they wanted to charge me $2/month to continue to receive bills by e-mail. Either they're bluffing (wouldn't be the first time), or I need to call them up and get them to find four dollars more to charge me per month so that I can justify breaking up.

Also, I realized that if I drop the $10/month free incoming minutes charge, I have ten dollars' worth of leeway to spend on a texting plan, while still giving them less money than I am now.*

As for the Blackberry, that was a tougher nut to crack.

I use it for four things, all of which would have to find new homes if I switched away from it:
- Phone/addressbook
- Music player
- Calendar/to-do list
- Audio recording

The audio recorder was the first one I wanted to replace, since it is no longer working on the Blackberry at all. I went around to a couple stores and found that they're all crap. But then a twinkle under the counter gave me a thought: if a smartphone can make a good voice recorder, so would a sleek new mp3 player, designed in California.

Now, if Microsoft, and Rogers and Bell and Blackberry all disgust me, Apple makes me sick. Their devices--and I do mean their devices: you just buy the right to look hip with one--are designed to be controlled entirely by Apple unless you break into them. You can't even change the damn battery on one without sending it out for repair. They can remotely shut off iPhones, and you can only load music onto the iPod that Apple software lets you put onto it. (By contrast, I just load music onto a microSD card and the Blackberry scans and reads it. The Blackberry even acts as a reader for my microSD cards when I plug it in with the cable.)

But I have to admit the guy at the Apple store knew his shit. When I said I'd go to research the audio recording quality on the web before deciding to purchase, he recited the bitrate and format from memory. He also told me that the cables are included in the $40 AppleCare warranty, whereas the headset that no longer works with my Blackberry--yet surprisingly works perfectly well with the iPod--isn't covered by jack shit, which is why I have to buy a new one every three months or so. The AppleCare is also transferable if I sell the iPod or upgrade to a different model, which, at the very least, gives the impression of decency.

He also told me that the AppleCare also covers a free battery replacement, which is usually such-and-such amount of money, and that a user might need to replace it in every few months or years, depending on usage.

I bought the shiny dark purple iPod Nano, with the knowledge that I'd have to pay a 10% restocking fee if I returned it within the allotted 14 days. My boss is an Apple fanboi, so to speak, and I've heard her make use of the AppleCare, so I opted for that too.

So far, it's pretty neat. It's got FM radio that uses the headphones as antennae (I haven't listened to radio in years, and discovered I haven't missed anything), and it's got a pretty decent audio recorder. I've only put music on it from my work computer, because I don't yet have the heart to infect my Dell laptop with the iTunes software I downloaded (nor the Songbird setup file on my hard disk waiting to be clicked).

And I realized that I missed the Blackberry.

More specifically, the music playing isn't what's wrong with the Blackberry (well, with the latest firmware it is wrong, but otherwise the intended functionality satisfies my needs). I suppose it could be the headset or the headset jack, but the primary irritant is with the calendar and to-do list reminders that keep freezing. And the iPod can't replace that (yes, it has a calendar feature, but no keypad to add entries!). If anything, I'd be better off getting a PDA calendar and keeping the Blackberry for everything else.

Furthermore, the iPod doesn't fit my wardrobe. I stick it in my shirt pocket so it doesn't get scratched or crushed in my pants, but that won't work when I wear a t-shirt--or a sweater.

The input on the Blackberry is better, too. I can use it when I've got my cycling gloves on, and I can even push the volume up/down buttons when it's in its holster and my winter jacket is covering it. If I'm traveling with my iPod in my ear and suddenly the music gets a bit too loud, I've got to unzip my jacket, dig under the scarf, fish the iPod out of my pocket, remove my glove and do the click-wheel thingy to turn it down. Unless it's in radio mode and I accidentally pressed one of the buttons, in which case I just changed the station, or rewound the station (it does a tivo-like thing for radio, which is also cool when it's not getting in the way).

More importantly, the reason I wanted an audio recorder was to be able to quickly turn on the record mode. With the Blackberry, I've programmed one of the side buttons to switch to audio record mode, then I just click the button on the headset when I want to start or stop recording. With the iPod, I've got to do a whole lot of clicking and scrolling to get to the audio record mode, and that's not the least bit discreet (in the event that discretion is necessary).

Splitting the phone and audio modes to different devices also means I can't use one set of wires for both functions (wireless headset isn't an option either: the wireless sound quality is shit and the wires help to tether the device if I drop it, which has saved me on many occasions). And if I had to choose, I'd put the headset on the phone, and I did with all of my pre-Blackberry, non-music-playing cellphones.

Oh, and just one more complaint before I move on: the iPod charges with USB, whereas the Blackberry comes with an AC adapter that I plug into at night. During the day, I'm at work and I want to listen to the damn thing, so I can't plug it in. At night, my laptop is off to save power (he says, using an LCD projector to type a blog post). At other times, my laptop is packed away in my bag or it's on my lap, where I don't want white wires hanging about.

All of this is sounding like an argument in favour of Blackberries, which is troubling considering my thesis is that they're a bunch of fucks. But don't be worried: it's an argument in favour of what the Blackberry promises, not what it delivers. I'd much rather put all this time and energy into finding the cause of this problem, so that a Blackberry programmer could fix it. Which I could do, but it would be pointless, because Blackberry's repair people want me to pay $92.66 to get them to replace the faceplate and tell me there's nothing else wrong with my phone. Therefore... (wait for it) fucks.

So after less than a week, I'm breaking up with the iPod. But I'm not bitter, not even about the 10% restocking fee.

Okay, I am bitter, but the bitterness is toward Bell and Blackberry. This little Apple affair helped to reinforce my resolve to, well, resolve the situation.

I may not win with Bell and Blackberry, and it may not even be a zero-sum situation, but if I can at least come out neutral, I can at least do my best to make the sum negative.

- RG>

*Alas, when I checked my bill to confirm that my usage is under my limit, I discovered that nowhere in my bill or my contract does it say how many minutes are included in the motherfucking "Preferred All In 35" plan, nor can I find it on their website. This is leading me to write a complaint to the ministry of consumer affairs for not having a clear contract. I also might complain about the warranty thing, if I can figure out the tangle of legalese surrounding that too. Unfortunately, that requires me to contact Bell in writing, and I'd rather not spend an all-nighter writing an essay. It'd probably take less of my time to pay the fuckers to break my contract and work some more hours to earn the money for the difference, but that's probably just what Bell's lawyers and actuaries bank on. I'm too stubborn to roll over.


Anonymous said...

You go! Does it have to be a Bberry or iPod? There are Bberry-like devices for much less money you could get that do the same thing as Bberries - the HTC Snap for instance at $174 - no contract?

RealGrouchy said...

I'll have to check it out, but Bell will probably make me pay a bunch of fees to switch devices... I want to keep playing out the "I paid for this device and you're not delivering" angle before shelling out for a new machine.

- RG>

Anonymous said...

They can't charge you for switching devices if you already have a data plan and are switching to a new data phone. My daughter has been through 5 phones in the last 3 years. They're not meant to last more than a year unless you rarely use them for anything. That's why $600 price tags are ridiculous and artificially inflated so that you'll sign a big contract. Paying $200 or less for a phone every 18 months or so is not too crazy as far as I'm concerned. I think of it as paying and extra $10 a month for phone services and then I'm free of all the stupid contracts.