Category Archives: Verizon

Why I like the iPad 2….confessions of an Android user

My experience with the first generation iPad ended with my returning the loaned device without a purchase While my first experience with the IPad1 left me wanting, I was completely seduced by the iPad 2. With all my positive experiences with my Droid Incredible, I had been holding out for a new Android tablet.   I succumbed to the iPad 2 when I realized that what I wanted  in a tablet could be provided by Apple.

This was my wish list

1.  Business applications and the ability to leave my laptop home for some business  trips

2.  Infotainment, interesting multimedia formats for my news

3.  Entertainment, generally video from my favorite Television and Sports programs

4. Great looking device, want to be one of the “cool kids”

5. New applications coming everyday that matter

6. Decent customer support

I concluded that for this generation of devices, the iPad2 is king.  Here’s why…

To begin with I have a Wifi-only 32Gig model.

For business apps I need email access to multiple accounts, including Exchange. The iPad was easily configured for 4 accounts and I had all my email singing within a minute.

Next, I need to edit Microsoft office docs.  I installed “QuickOffice” and it works great for most light-editing tasks.  I am writing this blog article using the word version of quick office on my iPad. Of course, I also need to print documents. These are several printing apps for the iPad.  I use “PrintCentral” for printing. I just installed the app and it found all the printers in my house. I was able to print from my iPad with less problems than we typically have from a Microsoft machine!

I also require access to the “Dropbox” application. This is a shared, synchronized cloud storage service. I use it to share files among my computers, Droid Smart phone and now iPad, with clients and family.  This app effectively adds 50gig of virtual storage to my IPad.  I have Microsoft office files, music, video and pictures in various Dropbox folders.  Not only is the Dropbox app for iPad great, but Dropbox  and Google Docs seamlessly integrate with QuickOffice.  The permission and privacy features on Dropbox allow me to share access for specific folders with specific people.

A mission critical business app for me is Skype.  While it works great on my Droid phone, having the iPad (really an iPhone App) with video is a good addition.  I wish Skype would upgrade their app to take more advantage of the real-estate available on an iPad screen.

Another business oriented app I tried was “logMein”.  Initially, I  thought this was a new dish at my local Chinese restaurant, but it is program that connects with a Mac or PC and displays the screen of that machine on your iPad.  LogMein (Log-me-in) gives you full control of your remote machine to access files and programs.  I have to admit that while it works, I am not sure how often I will actually use it.

So, for business environment the iPad gets high marks.

Infotainment

Generally this category consists of websites turned into interesting multimedia applications for the iPad.  I have the NY Times, CNN, the Daily, CBS News, Fox News, ABC news, Huffington Post, The Onion, BBC, USA Today and even my old college newspaper, now an IPad app, “The Concordiensis” from Union College. The mix of text, photos, audio and video creates a multimedia publication unlike anything else.

Entertainment

This is the area that I originally had the most concern for the iPad due to the lack of native  (or any) Flash support. The savior for entertainment is the app “iSwifter”.  Using this proxy browser app I am able to watch web video from NBC, Fox and even HBOGo. The video I want to see on the web is completely accessible on my iPad, even Flash video.  Other great entertainment apps include MLB At Bat 11. If you like MLB on an iPhone or Android, you will love it on an IPad.  I just wish you did not have to pay for it separately on each device.

Kudos to the guys at MLB for having the best Sports App…period.

Another cool app is “Tune-In”.  This is a live radio app that gives streaming access to many radio stations within the US and the world.  I recently listened to a Tampa/Carolina NHL hockey game on my IPad.  All of these entertainment apps are in addition to the usual YouTube, iTunes, and video apps that are built into the IPad.

Great looking, cool device.

All I can say here is that like most Apple products, the iPad sets the standard for physical design that all the other tablets will chase. The incorporation of the smart cover is another great feature. Among its other capabilities, the ability of the cover to support iPad at an angle for typing is key.

Applications

This is a major reason for my decision to go with an iPad in lieu of an Android. Unlike the smart phone app market in which there is a rough equivalence between the must have iPhone and apps, Apple seems to have a clear lead in tablet specific apps. Apple also has a huge sales lead in tablets. For these reasons my logic is that an iPad will have a distinct app advantage for the duration of this generation of tablets. (Next year or so)

Customer support

Generally I have been very happy with customer support from Apple. An exception to this was a call I made for an iPad issue. The first I tried to sync my Mac iTunes to my iPad, none of the music or videos would sync.  I called Apple support and the first answer I got was that since all of my music was not bought on iTunes, it would not sync.   What??! Despite the logical problems with that statement, the Apple rep stood firm with his answer.  I then called back and got someone different who directed me to “clear my sync queue” with a program called “iSync”. After I followed her directions, all of my media was able to sync.

Overall, I have been pleased with the new iPad.  As a confirmed Android user for Smart phones, I was hopeful that the Droid tablets would be more competitive with the iPad.  This round goes to Apple.  We will have to wait another year or so to see if Google will catch-up in this segment as they have with smart phones.

As for Blackberry or Windows Tablets?  As we say in New Jersey…

Fuggeddaboudit!

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Filed under android, Apple, blackberry, cloud computing, Content, FLASH, Google, HTC, iPad, iphone, Ipod, microsoft, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, movies, reviews, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Twitter, Verizon, widgets, wifi, Windows, Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile – Just not Cool

With the holiday season upon us, my son is back from college.  Yesterday he had a dozen of his friends over to “hang out”.  Since this was costing me around 100 pizza bagels and a couple boxes of mozzarella sticks, I thought it was only fair for me to have an impromptu mobile focus group of college students.

Most of them were on the Verizon Network, with one on AT&T and one on T-Mobile.  There were 7 Smartphone class devices (1 iPhone, 3 Blackberrys, 3 Android), 3 Multimedia class devices and 2 feature phones.  Those who had the more impressive devices were much quicker to wave them in the air and show them off, while the feature phone owners were trying to avoid eye contact.

Their preferred manner of communicating with each other was text first, then voice, then Facebook, then IM, and lastly email.

I then described the features of a Windows 7 phone, without naming it.  The live tiles, music integration,  gaming system integration, etc.  I got a reasonable concurrence that those features were “cool” and was asked if they were available on their “app stores”.

More on that a little later on.

I then asked them if they heard of the Windows 7 phone and what they thought of it?  I got lots of frowns and looks of disgust,  “A Microsoft Phone?, not cool” , “That’s for computers, not phones”, “Will it work all the time?”.  You get the general reaction.  The group thought the basic features of the Microsoft phone were desirable, but had a very negative reaction to the name and software system.

I asked them if they would trade in their phone for a free Windows 7 model?  Only the feature phone owners indicated that a free Windows phone would be better than the 2006-era voice and text via t9 models they were forced to endure.

This result is similar to other impromptu focus groups I have managed with my kids’ friends.  Their phone is a social accessory. It is the most important electronic gear they own since they have it with them 24/7.  Blackberry’s have strangely entered the “cool zone” and are as socially acceptable to the teen crowd as iPhones and Droids.  Windows phones are clearly not cool, even though their features are desirable.

What does this mean for Microsoft?  They made a big mistake, another in a long list of mobile missteps, by naming their mobile phone after a PC operating system.  Did I mention that 75% of my sample group used Apple computers as their main machine?  Microsoft has been very successful with XboX, partly because it was NOT called Windows Vista Game System.  Microsoft called their mp3 music player “Zune”, not Windows music player.  Zune has been a market failure, not because of its name, but rather it was outclassed and out marketing by Apple iTunes and iPod.

Microsoft released sales figures for their mobile device on 12/21.  They touted 1.5M devices sold in the first 6 weeks.  This number, however, reflects the number of devices that are in the Carriers stores and pipeline, not how many have been sold to actual subscribers.  Verizon has over 2000 direct retail outlets and easily a similar number of resellers.  You can appreciate how many phones you have distribute to fill the distribution pipeline.

In comparison Android is activating 300K phones a day and Apple sold (really sold) 3M iPhones in its first 3 weeks on the market, over three years ago.

What should the team in Redmond do now?  I believe the clue is in one of the comments from my son’s friends.  “Where can I get these in the App store?”  If XboX gaming on a mobile is valuable, then Microsoft should develop their own apps for Blackberry, iPhone and Android and make money from their “competitors” mobile platforms.

Likewise, they could provide a Zune application for music on these platforms (well maybe not iPhone).  My point is that if Microsoft has valuable applications then sell them as applications.  If my small sampling is at all indicative of how Microsoft’s core targeted market is reacting to their mobile device, they have to seriously re-think what they have done.  Find a cool name for the phone, don’t rely on a Zune/Xbox positioning, and tout the basic phone interface as better than other Smartphone’s.  To some degree they have tried the latter with the ad campaign promoting the ease of use of their device.

The real question will be is the market willing to accept another smartphone platform at this point? What do you think?

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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, AT&T, Droid Incredible, facebook, Google, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Verizon, Windows, Windows Mobile, wireless, XboX, Zune

Augmented Reality? Really?

I have tried over 100 apps on my new Super-Droid, the HTC Incredible.  One of the more interesting and  hyped areas is that of Augmented Reality.  Here is the  Wikipedia definition for AR –

Augmented reality (AR) `is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.”

On my Droid, most AR applications are a mash-up of GPS, Google search, camera viewing, compass heading and overlay visuals.   The overlays are anything from tourist locations, buildings, roads, bars, restaurants, and of course Starbucks.   You look at your phone as the phone’s camera looks at the world and adds its own heads up display (HUD).

While these apps have an “Ubber-Cool” factor, AR does not yet seem to have found its mainstream raison d’être.  Its fun to show your friends and get them to say  -“ooo”, and “ah”, but then what?

Who is going to walk around holding their 4 inch screen in front of them while looking for something and following an arrow in their AR world?  All sorts of enhanced navigation programs, either for driving, walking, hiking or public transit already exist with great mapping displays.  The potential fro AR is likely huge in the future as the applications further develop.  But for now, it is early days.

If you want to try out AR for and judge for yourself here are 5 programs you can download for free on a Droid.

-Layar

A Legal Neighbor listed as a "Bar" - needs some work..

Layar  (get it –  LayAR) is an environment that permits others to development AR functionality on displays and maps. It is in essence an AR aggregation platform – an AR browser- that is mostly ad supported with some premium subscription services.  I can use my virtual Droid HUD to find everything from apartments, nearby Tweeters, Foursquare locations,  local wikipedia entries and even the weather.  Weather?  Yep – look through the HUD and see an AR cloud superimposed in your view with the temperature on it.  There is even a weather app for tornado warnings.   If you have to look through the phone to determine you are looking at a Tornado, its may be Darwin Award time.

A Landmark on Foursquare

Just because you can do something with technology does not mean you have to do it!  Similar to overall smartphone apps, let a million apps bloom and something good will happen.

Here is the web catalog of all Layar powered AR apps.

-Laser Level

The program superimposes perpendicular red “laser” lines in your HUD to help you straighten that picture you just hung.  The app works pretty good, but not really efficient for hanging pictures and I would still want my contractors to use a physical level.

-3D Compass

This app floats a compass and a map on your screen, along with speed and altitude.

Its fun to play with this app when I take NJ Transit into NYC.  For the record, the trains hit a top speed of around 60 mph, New York is east of New Jersey, and the train rarely gets airborne.

-Zagat NRU

This is a curious app that displays all Zagat rated venues within circular range bands, arranged by compass heading.  Its great to showpeople, but then what?  Okay gang lets go to this new Italian restaurant; we have to walk at 37.6 degrees  NNE for 1.5 km?

-NYC Wayfinder

Hold up your HUD display and it will point out subway entrances.  Does it also paint a target on your back and add a European carry-all to you, virtually?

The potential for AR applications exists and like any technology in its early phases, many potential uses will be explored.  What is amazing is how relatively easy it is to make this apps with the basic tools and capabilities of the Android (and yes, iPhone too)

What will the killer AR apps be?  I have two predictions for AR apps.

My first prediction is for massive multi-user, AR enhanced games.  Pick your favorite version of Human/Zombie, Capture the Flag, etc –   and have all the players be able to track each other in an AR enhanced world and even “shoot” each other and record “hits”, all in augmented reality.  This can take the collaborative gaming experience of the XBOX 360 and get everyone outside actually running around and exercising.  Just like kids did before computer games.  Ironic…..  Of course this is what he U.S. military does, for real. So who would be most motivated to fund and produce such an app?

Another interesting app, assuming the key development enabler of cheap AR viewing glasses will be virtual tours.  Instead of holding a small screen, view the AR world all the time?  I could easily see tourists using these to get around various venues and even have embedded virtual tour guides pointing out local areas of interest.  Imagine visiting the ancient Roman port of Caesarea in Israel and having your virtual guide enhance your view to show you what it really looked like 2000 years ago – virtually. For Real.

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Filed under Augmented Reality, Droid, Droid Incredible, E-Commerce, facebook, Google, HTC, HTC Incredible, humor, iphone, Ipod, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, mobile games, New York, reviews, social networking, Twitter, Verizon, wireless

HTC Droid Incredible – The Rest of the Story (Spoiler Alert!)

What Droid Incredible Really Does – and Does Not (Unofficial Review)

After resisting Droid-Rage during the holiday season, I succumbed to the uber- hyped latest Android super phone – the HTC Incredible.  My venerable Blackberry Curve just was not as sleek or sexy and clearly did not have the cool robot graphics.

There are numerous blog reviews and YouTube videos that will espouse all the virtues of Verizon’s number 1 smartphone.  While they are largely correct, they do not tell the whole story.  Yes it is fast, works on a great network, has more features that a human can possibly comprehend, or use – and even makes phone calls.   I will provide another article with my fav Droid features – this article is about the other side.

To quote Paul Harvey  – “And now the rest of the story….”  Here are my top six issues with my Droid.

1. Speed comes at a cost – The Achilles Heal of the Incredible

All the blazing application response and connectivity comes at a cost in battery utilization.  The first day I had my Droid I had to charge it 2 times.  What good is all that capability if the phone is dead?  If you get a Droid you must stay close to a charging source and become an active energy manager.  You should turn-off the GPS when not needed, limit the number of running applications and even re-consider all of those really cool active widgets which use periodic connectivity to update themselves.   If you need an icon of the sun to let you know its sunny outside, perhaps you need more than a new phone.

2. The display rocks – unless you want to use it outside during the day

The AMOLED technology used in the HTC screen is the latest, but not quite the greatest.  The display is great when used inside.  I just got back from a round of golf and the phone was practically unusable in the sunlight.  The bigger issue is using the super Google driving directions app with a map view.  The map will not be viewable in a car during the day!

3. Its not the number of Apps that matters – its having the right ones and ones that actually work

I never got that impressed with the claims of absolute number of apps on device platforms.  If the iPhone has 300K and the Android 30K , what does that really mean?  It’s a little like counting the number of Nukes that the U.S. and Russia have in their arsenals. .  Quality, not quantity really matters. Android has the basic Facebook and Skype apps.  Its the other 30K that may need some help.  My impression is that the apps on the iPhone are not just more numerous, but are generally of higher quality.   Perhaps the Android platform chased absolute numbers to claim lots of apps without as much quality consideration.  Several apps just did not work at all and others just stopped working.  I tried to download the linkedIn app and had a failure.  This is an area that the Android platform will likely get right at some point.

I want quality apps for the handful I will actually use.  Android has to close the app quality gap with Apple.

4. iTunes Integration – Music and Video – ???

The iPhone clearly excels at music and video desktop integration.  The challenge for any other platform is to create seamless integration for their platforms with the defacto standard for online music. Given the critical nature of this feature, one might assume that HTC or Verizon would provide a solution that makes this happen.

And you would assume wrong.  There are a couple of solutions that purported to achieve this function.  I tried both SailingMedia and DoubleTwist.  Both of these third-party solutions did not work.  While I could probably play with them for another hour or so and figure out what the issue is – why should I have to do that?  I did load my music directly by dragging my music to the mp3 folder on my device.  The music plays fine and the external speaker is loud –if that matters to you.  There does not appear to be a pre-loaded video player and I have yet to get a video, other than YouTube to play successfully.  Again, I’m sure I will figure it out – but why should I have to?

5. Gmail Good – Gmail Bad

I use gmail for my personal email domain, I figured that the Android platform would be a good choice for my use.  For the record my Blackberry worked perfectly with my gmail account.  As expected my gmail account integrated easily with my Droid.  My issue with email is the rather poor gmail app on the device.  I tried to use the HTC mail app and for whatever reason it does not seem to work when my gmail application is active.  As with my other issues, I am sure with a little time I can get it to work.

6. Steve Jobs is right – One button is enough

The Incredible Droid has 7 physical buttons -Home, Menu, Back, Search, optical trackball with click, volume and power/wake-up.  In addition to these physical inputs the standard screen has four soft keys – an up arrow to access all programs, a phone button (yes it can make a phone call!), a “+” key for adding widgets, programs and folders to a screen, and lastly a hidden slide down at the top of the screen that gives a list of alerts and running programs.  Wow – that’s a lot of things to keep straight!.  The really annoying input is the totally useless optical track ball and click selector that just happens to occupy the same spot as the single “home” key on the iPhone.  Needless to say, I have been pushing that click selector by accident through pure muscle memory from my iPhone and iTouch.  An optical trackball on a touch screen device?  Why?

Despite these issues, I am sure I will get around the downsides of this device and make it into a very useful tool for business and personal use.  However, how many customers will take the time to become an I.T. manager for their phone?

For the past several years I carried my Blackberry for phone use and light Internet use and an iTouch for fun.  The true test will be if I go to one device.

The iPhone, like all Apple products – just works out of the box.  The Droid can work, and even do more, but you have to know what you are doing and be willing to investigate the necessary solutions.  The Droid is clearly still rough around the edges.

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Filed under Apple, Droid, HTC, Incredible, Incredible, iPad, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Steve Jobs, Verizon, wireless

HP answers Palm Code Blue

New Icon on Palm Web OS Smartphone?

The Smartphone business has been very busy this week.  One day before Verizon officially releases the Droid Incredible (I am tracking mine via Federal Express), HP scoops in and acquires Palm.  Palm does have some pretty good technology and mobile handset know-how.  Do they have $1.2 Billion worth?  HP says yes and, anyway – that’s just a rounding error for them.

If you have seen the Web OS on Palm’s devices you have to be impressed.  Why this really makes sense for HP is that it is so much more than Smart Phones.  Perhaps you noticed that Apple iPad launch last month?  Tablet and netbook computing are the next disruptive technologies.   The Palm OS will likely make a bigger near term impact on HPs tablet and netbook devices.    This is not good news for Microsoft.

The OS landscape for the sub-laptop market is rapidly fragmenting.    Android from Google, Chrome OS (Google competing with itself?), Web OS from Palm, Apple OS4, Windows 7,  Windows 7 mobile,  RIM and Symbian (Nokia).   The environments that appear limited in scope are RIM and Windows 7 mobile (just SmartPhone) and Windows7, Chrome OS (Netbooks). Android, Palm Web OS, Apple OS and Symbian all provide (in theory) a unified sub-laptop platform.

What’s a developer to do?    Can an OS thrive with a single hardware vendor – Steve Jobs would certainly say yes, so why not HP?

The near term loser is likely Microsoft.  By the time they have Windows Mobile 7 devices in the market, HP/Palm should have been able to iterate an upgraded device and spend significant marketing bucks attracting both consumers and developers.

All of this competition is good for innovation and good for consumer price points.  It will take at least another 3-4 years for this market to shake out completely.  When the dust settles you can count on Apple and Microsoft still standing – their present overall positions in OS technology are virtually unassailable.  What will be interesting is their relative market strength in this very interesting sub-laptop market.

If you dominate this new market you are THE company for the next generation.

HP has placed their chips on the table.  Who is next?

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Filed under Acquisitions, blackberry, cloud computing, iPad, iphone, Ipod, microsoft, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, netbooks, Nokia, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Verizon, wireless

Kudos to Verizon for taking on Leadership – Mobile without Phone Numbers

Approximately one year ago I wrote an article entitled “The Future of Mobile – without phone numbers.” In my discussion I put forth the proposition that social networks would take over the fundamental connectivity for individuals and that phone numbers would be a network “IP address”.   This article generated 100’s of emails and questions, some supportive, some not, but all thought provoking. It was clear that I had hit a nerve.

A major step towards my view of the future of mobile communications was taken by Verizon in the last week.  Verizon Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and later confirmed and launched at CTIA 2010, an integrated Skype calling service.  This service enables users to click any Skype username, make a call, and not be charged for mobile minutes.  This service even uses the mobile voice connectivity of Verizon for the wireless network of the call.

This is a major watershed event for the industry.  A major carrier embracing voice as a data service, with calls completed outside of the carrier’s equivalent phone number – DNS.

In fact, this capability had been  available by such applications as ISkoot.  What is big news is that Verizon is openly promoting this service and not charging for mobile minutes.   Another advantage of the Verizon version is that it is “always-on”.  I received my first Skype call on my mobile yesterday.  It just happened like any other mobile call.  It was an important business call and all I could think about at the conclusion was – that was cool.

The use of social networks and non-phone number connection services implies that that contact DNS aggregation services will become even more important.  My network contact list will be an amalgamation of my Facebook, Linkedin, Skype, Twitter,  existing phone books, AOL IM list and likely several others.  Aggregating my contact lists, storing them in the network cloud and presenting them to me on demand in a usable form is essential.

While at CTIA I was on a panel discussion with   Mike Mulica, CEO of FusionOne.  FusionOne is a leading example of such a network based contact/address book that spans social networks.  They are certainly a company worth watching in the future, as they appear to be “on the right side of the technology curve”.

A question that remains is how does Verizon generate revenue by connecting calls for free?  Simple answers include increased data subscriptions and greater subscriber growth via churn from other carriers.    In the U.S. market, with mobile penetration approaching 90%, carriers can only increase subscribers by churning their competitor’s customers.   Since the Skype app on iPhone is not as full featured and cannot be “always-on”, VZW has given leading edge users a reason to switch NOW.

In the future I would expect connections between Skype calling capability and other applications on Verizon, especially those provided through the Verizon’s own app store.  I also expect that full mobile video calling and even video conferencing via Skype is no doubt on the roadmap.

This feature is only available to VZW smartphone subscribers , and that means a $29.99/mo data charge.

Regardless of the long term revenue sources, VZW has taken a clear leadership position in its market and now has the their competitors determining a catch-up strategy.  Kudos to Verizon on this move.

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Filed under Acquisitions, advertising, android, Apple, AT&T, cloud computing, CTIA, facebook, FusionOne, iphone, location based services, MAc, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, portal, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Twitter, Verizon, Web2.0, widgets, wireless

Verizon FIOS Execs – Please Read – It’s Not Me, It’s You

vonage-logoToday I made the jump, the leap, to Fios. For the record my previous home technology stack had been Vonage for voice, Comcast for Internet and TV. I have had VZW for mobile since the days they actually called it a “car phone”.

Since I was working from home today, I was able to observe the FIOS tech as he went about his business in my house. He arrived promptly at 9:00 and greeted me like the chef at a Japanese steaks house. “Okay, Mr. Spencer, you have one Triple-Play, three sets, two with, one without, HBO , Internet and Phone….correct?” Should I have ordered the soup also?

He told me that installation is an 8 hour job and that he would be in and out all day. No Problem. I went about my business, we went about is.

After a couple of hours I took a break from my work to see how Verizon guy was doing. He was busy6-18-08-fios_installerattaching the “ONU” (Optical Networking Unit) to the side of my house. I found it interesting since during my early days at Bell Labs, in the 1980s, my department had worked on the Darwinian ancestors of the ONU. Back then the evolutionary process was first called FTTC (Fiber to the Curb), the unfortunate acronym -Far Access Remote Terminal, and lastly FTTH, Fiber to the Home. These were all technologies that were decades ahead of their time.

verizonfiosbackupHe then proceeded to install a battery backup for the phone service in my basement. The phones I use are all cordless and my family has 5 mobile phones. The battery back will not help my cordless phones and a blackout should not impact my mobile phones. This is a pure expense for legal air cover should the power go out and -GFB- I need to call 911. For such an advanced service, very backward thinking in 2009.

After buzzing out the phones, the Internet came up quickly and then the last pulling and tugging of cable to get the television service going. All went smoothly to that point. Just like the commercials, he sat me down and demonstrated my remote (without a cable guy glaring in from the window). Total effort was the advertised 8 hours.

As soon as he left and we started to use the service, the quirks emerged.

Firstly the Verizon set up disk only works on a Windows machine. I had to morph my Mac with a VM to fire up Vista. The setup program executed, updated and churned for 45 minutes. The only think useful that happened, through all the screens, T&C’s and other useless info, was that I got a Verizon email. One that I will never use.

I then tried to register at Verizon.Net. I tried several times and continually got a message that said “We cannot register you now”. This seemed strange. Then it hit me. Verizon has nothing that supports Mac, even Safari browser. So, I switched to Firefox and the registration worked perfectly.

Next task was to set up my personal and work email using the outgoing email server at Verizon. I prefer to use my ISPs outgoing service so that my free personal email with my own domain does not have ads on the bottom.

Everything seemed to work with just one small problem. The test emails that I sent to myself never arrived? I connected to the Verizon server just fine. The email was accepted by the server and then got lost.

This could not be a Verizon issue. After all, when I leave my house I have that nerdy guy with glasses and 300 of his friendssplash_verizon_crowdfollow me around to make sure my service is ok. Having served Verizon as a vendor for most of my career I appreciate that they take 99.999% reliability seriously.

I checked and double checked all the passwords, permissions etc. I stopped and thought about this and then I remembered another strange occurrence about 4 months ago.

I had just started a new job and was configuring my corporate email account on Google. Like most people (I assume), after you set up an email account you send yourself some test emails to make sure it works. I had the same problem with Google. I struggled with that one for a couple of hours. Next, I checked some bulletin boards and found out that Google mail was in the middle of a significant outage! Three hours later, without touching anything, my service was up and working.

I wondered. Could I be that unlucky? Could Verizon be having an email problem the exact moment I tried to use my new Verizon service? I checked the Verizon user self-help bulletin boards and…..Bingo!….. Verizon was experienceing hour plus delays in email delivery due to server outages.

I put email aside and next tried to tackle voicemail. There was nowhere on a Verizon support site or any piece of paper or booklet that I got from Verizon that instructed me on what to do to set up voicemail. I know that Verizon has some portal somewhere to listen to voicemails online and send yourself alerts, but they certainly like to keep it a secret.

Since I’m not exactly new to the telephony world, I just dialed my own number and walked through the VM set-up. But, I still wanted to find this portal. I figured it was accessible through Verizon.com – a logical guess. I had previously registered on Verizon.net and thought that user name and password would allow me into Verizon.Com. no such luck. I tried to register at verizon.com (with a non-Apple browser, of course!) and still no luck.

Now its time to call Verizon. I have to say one of the reasons I left Comcast was because their customer service was , well, sucky. Verizon, with my nerd friend and his army of techs clearly have their act together, right? Wrong….

I called customer support, waited 10 minutes with really bad music, and spoke to a lovely lady with a heavy Indian accent. I explained that I was trying to find the Verizon voice mail online portal. I am not sure exactly which word she did not understand, but I guess it was everything after the word “Verizon”. I gave here my address and phone number twice and she said, “Oh my, you have fiber optic voice service!” Bursting with geek pride I said, “Yes I do!”. I figured I must now be in line for some very special VIP treatment.

Her next words were, “I can’t help you , I will transfer you to Fios” , The line went silent and then I was put on hold with music for another 10 minutes. At this point another guy answered the phone, asked me for all the same information and gave me the same line – “I can’t help you, I will transfer you” click, ring, music, another 10 minutes.

The third person I spoke to understood what I was looking to achieve. He also told me that he could not help me but said the “e-desk” is the place for “you”. Frustrated and wanting to have a little fun; when he asked me if there was anything else he could help me with , I said yes. “The Verizon email? Does it always take an hour to deliver an email? Is that standard?” He launched into the tech support speech that I call “you are a dumb person with technology and let me tell you why….” He went on about how Verizon can’t be held responsible for the whole Internet and that was obviously the problem. After he finished reading from the prepared speech on his PC (obviously not a Mac) . I asked him , “If that’s the case, why did my email stall in a Verizon server for 67 minutes?” I gave him the server name and the IP address. I am not sure what I gained by that, so to that Verizon CS guy…..sorry.

He then connected me the e-desk. Finally some satisfaction? I got a recording that the e-desk ‘s hours of service had ended two hours ago. Click, disconnect. Oy.

Hey Verizon, I could have gotten this treatment from Comcast!

Epilogue:
In this change over of home technologies I had to cancel Vonage and Comcast. This is almost as frustrating as my Verizon help desk run around.

First Comcast:

comcast21After working my way through the automated phone system I finally got to they “cancel service” option. I nice upbeat guy answered and I told him I was cancelling my TV and Internet Service. He told me he was “Shocked” to hear that. That I was such a good customer. (paid my bills?). Then he starts to launch into the “Save this customer “script. These scripts can last 15 minutes. Once he launched into all of the new special offers and services that Comcast could bring me, I asked him to stop, jump to the last page of the script where you give me my cancellation confirmation number. He was “deeply saddened”, and asked Why would I leave?
I told him “Its not you, It’s me” and I promised to still be friends.

Next breakup call was Vonage. The guy on Vonage was “amazed” that I was a Vonage user for 5 years. I was one their longest tenured customers, practically a celebrity. I also asked him to skip the next 10 pages of script and just give me my cancellation confirmation number. He decided to read the next 10 pages anyway.

I also told Vonage , “Its not you, it’s me”, and my new BFFL Verizon. He could not believe I would leave Vonage. I even asked him if he wanted me to put Mike, the Verizon tech on the phone? Now, that’s a good Verizon commercial in the making.

So – To Comcast and Vonage – Bye, Loved it while it lasted, but we grew apart and you are not a match for Fiber.

And to Verizon, Please get your CS act together. Just because you provide the same services as cable companies does not mean you have to provide the same customer service experience! It takes your tech 8 hours to install your service, you need me to stick around for awhile to re-coup those kind of costs.

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