When I returned from my recent trip around the world one my first tasks was to get a new cell phone. The process of choosing a cellular service provider and phone turned out to be more frustrating than I expected. Since I expect to be doing a lot of traveling in the future, I need a phone that will work overseas. Cell phones in the US operate over two different networks – CDMA and GSM. Though each technology transmits voice and data, they do so in different ways, which makes them incompatible. As a result, you can’t take a CDMA phone and use it on GSM or vice versa. For the rest of the world, the standard is GSM, so I was limited to the only two companies in the US who have GSM networks, AT&T and T-Mobile. I chose an AT&T cell phone, simply because of their strength as a company, then tackled the nightmare of choosing a model.
I wanted a phone that could be hooked up to my Macintosh (Macbook) computer and used as a modem to connect to the Internet. Unfortunately, I found that AT&T does not provide support for Macs and could not even tell me which of their phones would work with a Macintosh. I find this almost unbelievable. Macs are no longer the stepchild – they now command a respectable 17.6% of the market share for laptops and are increasing their market share by more than 2% per quarter. I regularly write at the local bookstore/cafe in downtown Sarasota and there are always at least a half dozen laptops sitting on the cafe tables. Of these, at least 60% are Macs, so I am amazed that a company as large as AT&T is ignoring such a large market share.
Additionally, I need a phone to store my contacts, sync with my calendar so I have my appointments at my fingertips, and provide Bluetooth so I can pair the phone with my car and operate in a “hands free” mode whenever I am driving. I really don’t care whether my phone has a camera, radio, calculator, or video recorder. Simple, right? Wrong! Based on the best advice of the salesperson, I ended up with Samsung’s newest model, the a717 (photo above), assuming that the newest model would be the most technologically advanced. After two extremely frustrating days, unsuccessfully trying to use the phone as a modem with my Macbook, I returned the phone to the store only to be told that they could not guarantee me that ANY of their phones would work with a Mac. Instead, they recommended I get a Sierra AirCard for the laptop, as Sierra supports Macs. I relented and signed up for the AirCard (below, left) for an additional $60 per month and took the salesman’s advice when he suggested I just keep the Samsung as my phone.
Now, two months later, the phone drops every third call, sometimes losing its connection to the network for ten minutes at a time. Other times it appears to still be connected, with the minutes ticking away, but neither party can hear the other talking. It’s impossible to open with one hand and difficult to dial with one hand. Most of the time the volume is so low I can’t hear the person on the other end of the line and when I do use it in the hands-free mode there is such a long delay that I am constantly talking over the other person. To add insult to injury, the other day I discovered that the phone won’t sync with my calendar and that Samsung is adamant about not providing support for Macs. So, once again I marched down to the store, this time determined to get a different phone.
Finally, I have a great phone – the Nokia N75. It does everything I need it to do without any of the hassles. I’ve even discovered that it can be used as a modem with the Mac to connect to the Internet, but since I signed a two year contract for the AirCard, I’m stuck with that extra $60 per month fee. Makes me wonder if AT&T planned it this way….