Call, The Question: Your Wireless-Phone Choices
Full disclosure: I hate doing columns like this morning's guide to wireless-phone service.
That's not because I don't like the subject matter, or because the people with whom I deal aren't pleasant individuals. No, it's because I have to spend so much time interrogating PR reps for data that ought to be plainly and publicly listed on each carrier's Web site. I knew I was in for some pain gathering these details, based on my experience doing this type of column in previous years, but the level of aggravation exceeded my expectations.
Here are some of the finer points I spent much of yesterday and Tuesday nailing down:
* AT&T Wireless won't unlock the SIM card slots of the phones it sells until you're out of your contract -- except for iPhones, which it won't unlock at all. But I couldn't find this detail listed anywhere on the site, and an AT&T publicist needed the entire afternoon to pin down the correct answer.
* T-Mobile is much more generous about unlocking the SIM card slots of its own phones, aside from its Sidekick line of smartphones. But it may take a couple readings of the convoluted syntax in its description of this policy to grasp that exception.
* Both AT&T and, more recently, Sprint, now say they ban more than 5 gigabytes a month of Internet use on their phones, following a policy Verizon implemented years ago. But the only warning of this new policy at AT&T's site appears to be confined to a long page of fine-print legalese -- and Sprint does not seem to document this rule anywhere.
* The best description of Verizon Wireless's mobile-broadband plans that I could find resides at the bottom of a page titled "Business Voice and Data Plans."
Even the price plans listed in reasonably large type can confuse a would-be customer. AT&T's price structure is clear enough, but T-Mobile and Verizon offer a few different types of individual and shared-use plans. And then there's Sprint, which seems incapable of shedding itself of any of the various plans its Sprint and Nextel components once sold as separate companies.
It's all enough to make me long for the transparency of the U.S. tax code.
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