Thursday, May 26, 2016
When cellphones become more irritating than helpful
Miss D. and I have just 'upgraded' our cellphones. I say 'upgraded' in quotes, because it's not really a technological upgrade. Our new units are a lot cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy 3 and Note 2 that we respectively replaced, and their performance is probably on a par with our earlier units. However, we simply don't need all the bells, whistles and fancy features of the current-generation (and much more expensive) Galaxy 7 or its equivalents, so when Miss D.'s phone began to show signs of wearing out, we bought much cheaper replacements through the upgrade program. Our two phones together cost less than half as much as a single Galaxy 7, which is much more to our budgetary taste.
I've got to give credit to Verizon: the upgrade process (online) was about as painless as it could be. We backed up all our data, called the support number, had the old phones 'disconnected' and the new ones 'connected' to our accounts (in a wireless sort of way), and were up and running within half an hour. However, that's where the fun started. Our new phones are from different manufacturers to our old ones, and their setup software and implementation of Android are different. It took a while of poking and fiddling to figure out how to configure them to our liking.
One of the most frustrating things was that changes were hidden under innocuous settings that bore no outward relation to what the phones were doing. For example, Miss D.'s phone would announce loudly, "Verizon Wireless" before receiving or dialing a call. We couldn't figure out for love or money why it was doing that, and it rapidly got on our nerves. Miss D. confessed she was on the point of throwing the phone into our town's water reservoir and switching service providers entirely, she was so frustrated by it. I had similar issues configuring a couple of features where I knew precisely what I wanted, but couldn't get the phone and/or its apps to provide it to me. Frustrating indeed!
This also exposed an issue with Verizon customer support centers. Some are run by the company, with no excess charges or overhead. Others, however, are franchises, charging far more for the same phones than Verizon itself, and "making up" for the difference in price by (loudly) claiming to offer "superior customer service" as a justification. I found that argument unconvincing, to say the least. After one such franchise unabashedly tried to get me to pay three times more for my new phone than Verizon itself wanted to charge me, I rapidly began to lose faith in its objectivity - and that's putting it mildly!
Fortunately, in the 'big city' nearby we found a Verizon-owned and -run customer support center. The staff there were very helpful, and although the nice young lady assisting us was initially as puzzled as we were by the loud announcement of the carrier by Miss D.'s phone, she plugged her way through menus and settings to find the culprit. It seems, on that particular make and model of phone, a setting will make it announce the identity of the cellphone service provider it's using before each call, incoming or outgoing. Apparently this is so you always know whether you're using the 'home network', or roaming and using a different provider. We found that an intensely irritating feature - as Miss D. observed bitterly, some software engineer deserves to be hit upside the head with a clue-by-four for not realizing how irritating it would be, "and his manager too, for approving such a dumb idea!"
At any rate, with that setting disabled, the phone is now blessedly silent about such matters. My few problems have also been sorted out, and our new phones are serving us as efficiently as we hoped they would. Kudos to Verizon for having some smart and helpful people staffing its support centers.
Aah, technology . . .