10 Ways Mobile Carriers Burn Customers

The cost of owning a mobile device can be pretty high and it doesn’t help that the carriers that are supposed to be taking care of you are more often than not trying to take advantage of you.

Droid X2

Just recently, we made a bit of a stir with some people after talking about how we didn’t agree with the way that Verizon rolled out the reboot update to HTC ThunderBolt owners. Some people agreed with the carrier, some didn’t. And just yesterday, we learned that Sprint may or may not be bringing back mail-in rebates this month. Well, both of these things got us thinking, thinking about some of the ways that mobile carriers take advantage of consumers.

The following is a list of those very things, things that wouldn’t exist in a perfect world.

Mail-In Rebates

With the amount of information that is passed electronically these days, you would think that mobile carriers would put an end to the practice of mail-in rebates. We’d argue that the only reason that they still exist is that companies make a killing off the fact that people forget to send them in. A few of us at GBM have in the past been guilty of that and we have a feeling more than a few of you out there have let this completely slip your mind.

Sprint Rebate

Instead, why not just offer instant rebates? It’s what the people want.

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Inaccurate Coverage Maps

If you look at 4G coverage maps for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon for San Francisco, you’ll notice something very interesting. According to all of them, their networks blanket the entire city. Well, a few of us live here and own 4G phones and can tell you for a fact that the entire city is not covered in 4G which makes us think that coverage maps in lots of other places are probably embellished as well.

Some carrier maps even go as far as going down to street level and even then, they still aren’t as accurate as they should be, especially when these maps are key research points for those looking to get a phone.

Why not just tell the truth? Sure, it might look bad showing off the true colors but we bet that consumers would appreciate it, especially because of how expensive owning a smartphone can be.

Charging for In-Home Reception EnhancersAT&T Microcell

You’ve probably heard that AT&T is offering a device called the AT&T 3G Microcell. It acts like a mini cell phone tower in your household and it can, according to AT&T provide “5-bar coverage in your home!” These should either be given out for free or not sold at all. It’s rather telling that on the Microcell’s page, AT&T lists this as a feature:

Improved coverage for voice and 3G data* more bars in your home or office.

Notice the star? From AT&T’s website:

*Wi-Fi is the optimal solution for home mobile data use, and doesn’t count against your mobile data usage bucket.

Why not just work on improving your network, AT&T? Customers already pay ludicrous amounts for service, why should they have to buy a mini cell tower just to get service in their home?

Unlocked Bootloaders

HTC has promised that all of its future phones will ship with unlocked bootloaders. Motorola has announced that phones coming out later this year will arrive with unlocked bootloaders. However, that means nothing. It’s up to the individual carriers to decide whether or not the bootloader is unlocked and so far, their track record has been miserable.

Why not just unlock the bootloaders and allow smartphone owners the freedom that they want and deserve?

Bloatware

If you’ve ever owned an Android phone, you’re probably familiar with the applications that carriers put onto your device before you boot it up, software that is affectionately called ‘bloatware.’ Not only does this software take up precious storage space but often times it can’t even be deleted without rooting the phone. Throw in the fact that carriers like to tout this stuff as beneficial and we have yet another disservice that carriers bestow onto their customers.

Why not just allow bloatware to be deleted? Sprint is going this route it seems and it would be nice if other carriers did too.

Unfair Early Termination Fees

Ever tried to leave your carrier but were told that it would cost you hundreds of dollars to do so? Yeah, that’s an early termination fee otherwise known as the dreaded ETF. Verizon charges $350 for that and while that price might decrease each month, the discount is still often not as high as the difference between buying a phone with a contract or paying the full retail price for it.

Why not bring back or offer cheaper 1-year contracts instead?

Not Allowing In-Store Cancellations

This one is mind numbingly frustrating and we know for sure that Sprint does this. You walk into a store and you try and cancel some type of service or a product. Well, instead of taking care of it for you right then and there, the salespeople kindly direct you to a 1-800 number that is blatantly designed to make your life difficult in an attempt to keep you on board.

Why not just allow for in-store cancellations? It would make customers happy, especially those that are within walking distance to retail stores.

Use of the Word “Unlimited”

Carriers throw this word around like its going out of style. Unlimited 3G, unlimited 4G. Fact is, only one carrier offers truly unlimited data services and that carrier is Sprint. But you’ll see carriers like T-Mobile toss that word around like it actually means ‘unlimited.’ This is just a small portion of an over-arching problem with carriers and their plans.

T-Mobile

Image courtesy of TMoNews.

Often times, they are so confusing that even the mobile carriers can’t keep them straight. There are so many little policies and loop holes that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what some data plans actually offer or how much they actually cost.

Why not just eliminate the term ‘unlimited’ from their vocabulary and start trying to work on making data plans decipherable to the average person.

Mystery Charges on Bills

Ever got your monthly statement and noticed some odd charges tacked onto it? You’re not alone. Today, Verizon’s billing and sales practices were put under investigation by officials in Maryland. Seems the carrier has been charging people for services that, lo and behold, they didn’t request. And don’t think Verizon is the only carrier in the U.S. that does this either.

Again, why not just be transparent and honest with your loyal customer base?

Restricting Applications

Carriers bullying Google into restricting third-party tethering applications is probably just the beginning of the stranglehold that’s going to be put on the Android Market. You also might remember how AT&T completely crippled the BlackBerry PlayBook by blocking the BlackBerry Bridge feature. It finally unblocked it but of course started charging outlandishly in order to be able to use it.

BlackBerry Bridge

Why not let smartphones owners use their devices as intended without having to pay extra fees?

So, while we wish all of these things would be abolished by mobile carriers, we’d be willing to settle for the adoption of two or three across the major U.S. carriers. Can you think of any other ways that mobile carriers take advantage of their customers?

  

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    They take advantage of their customers by being anything more than bit haulers, and by charging by the bit.

    • randy:)cartman says

      I can’t believe how people like you mikeorama thinks its ok to charge per how much you use. As you said dollar per bit. Outrageous. I mean what is your logic behind that its terrible. I don’t get charged to listen to the radio in my car per song I listen to or for that matter at all. They use rf signal just like cell phones uses just on a diff frequency. you think I should have to pay to use sheetz WiFi if I want to per how much I use. Your terrible reasoning is why this country is in trouble

  2. randy:)cartman says

    That’s a terrible example mikeorama. A power station has to constantly run in order to create electricity. It never stops running. They are constantly working to generate electricity it makes sense it is done that way by the kwhr rate. It takes mad man power and expenses to run just one power plant. The turbine it self is as long as a bus and they cost over 100 million. Are you kidding me. That is the worst example ever comparing electricity rates to a radio wave frequency. Cell phone carrier puts up a flimsy metal tower and it emits radio frequency and thats it. No one has to stay there and work on it constantly. They put them up and leave and are relatively inexpensive compared to dollar signs carriers make. An electric company barely gets back profit. They are a civil service. They make enough money to operate mostly. A better example would be comparing cell phone service to your internet setvice provider which charges you for the speed you want. They don’t charge you by how much you download. It’s freaking unlimited. I could see maybe if cell phone carriers wanted to charge a little more for 4g compared to 3g but that would still be bull shit since they didn’t charge more for 3g compared to 2nd generation.

    • Argo says

      Randy, You really don’t understand how this technology works, do you? “flimsy metal tower” Comparing music radio with cell phone technology. Trying to compare  why one business model works and why its not comparable with another? You really are not convincing me, your just on a rant about how unhappy you are with your position. Pull yourself up by your boot straps and get over it. It is what it is.

      • randy:)cartman says

        Lol Argo your dumb too I’m in no position lol I am locked into the unlimited tier plan. Tell me than Argo why doesn’t your isp charge per data huh? Tell me that. Because thyself compRing apples to apples so its an appropriate example. And yes your dumb again have you ever seen a tower put up by Verizon. It is a normal radio tower dude. they are super inexpensive. Once they are put up they last for decades without any maintenance. Argo I can you are the type of person who just doesn’t logically think things through in this world which is a lot of people these days your not a alone. Obviously you can’t take some sarcasm when I said flimsly metal towers. Of course they are flimsy lol. They are cheap and inexpensive to make and can be made in a matter of a few days.

      • randy:)cartman says

        Oh I forgot to mention to you I have absolutely 100 percent k.knowledge how this tech works. I am a mechanical and electrical engineer. I can go way beyond your basic concepts as to how it works and by that I suppose your mean the rf. Either way I bBstorm every bit of knowledge to how it works. I am currently working with feeder root as project engineer developing a new electro microscope that will allow scientist to see at the pico scale which is revolutionary since today everything is nano. You need to be careful sometimes the person you say things too.

  3. randy:)cartman says

    That’s a terrible example mikeorama. A power station has to constantly run in order to create electricity. It never stops running. They are constantly working to generate electricity it makes sense it is done that way by the kwhr rate. It takes mad man power and expenses to run just one power plant. The turbine it self is as long as a bus and they cost over 100 million. Are you kidding me. That is the worst example ever comparing electricity rates to a radio wave frequency. Cell phone carrier puts up a flimsy metal tower and it emits radio frequency and thats it. No one has to stay there and work on it constantly. They put them up and leave and are relatively inexpensive compared to dollar signs carriers make. An electric company barely gets back profit. They are a civil service. They make enough money to operate mostly. A better example would be comparing cell phone service to your internet setvice provider which charges you for the speed you want. They don’t charge you by how much you download. It’s freaking unlimited. I could see maybe if cell phone carriers wanted to charge a little more for 4g compared to 3g but that would still be bull shit since they didn’t charge more for 3g compared to 2nd generation.

  4. Ansrgal says

    Dude, you demand a $499 device for $49.99, a low rate plans, towers everywhere and then no contract besides?  Europe does not have contracts because they pay retail for the handset.  There is no free lunch.  I work on the wireless industry and the whole “free phone”  concept is what ushered in the era of contracts and early termination fees.  There is surely a special place in hell for the marketing person who came up with the free/subsidized phone idea as we are all still dealing with the fallout from it.

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