Monday, August 14, 2006

Chocolate

No, not the yummy stuff. I mean the new phone from Verizon Wireless. I just upgraded my phone to it the other day, and I'm developing some pretty strong opinions. So here's my review:

The Good

Ignoring everything I describe below, I love this phone. It's Bluetooth enabled, which means you can get all sorts of wireless goodies (such as an ear piece) for it. It has an MP3 player, though you have to buy the memory chip separately. The camera takes the best pictures I've seen on a phone. The navigation touchpad is sleek. You don't have to press, just lightly touch. It takes a little getting used to, but once you do, it's great. The phone slides open to reveal the number pad at the bottom and the camera at the top. This is especially nice because it'll prevent scratches to the lens. The battery life seems pretty decent so far, which is good. I'd hate to wipe out my phone battery after listening to three songs.

So, as I said, the phone itself is a great little piece of electronics.

The Bad

The main bad thing I've found about the phone itself is the new proprietary interface, of which it only has one. That means my old car charger is out the window. As are normal headphones. It does come with an adapter for a 1.5 mm ear piece plug, but standard headphones use a larger 2.5 mm plug. Since it has the 1.5 mm adapter, I can still use my old ear piece. But I can only use that until the battery runs low, because there is only one port for both types of input. I understand the reasoning, as they're trying to push the Bluetooth capabilities. However, that means, in addition to the phone, I have to buy a new $30 car charger, a $30 "music essentials" kit (more on that in a second), an $80-$100 Bluetooth ear piece, and possibly another $100 Bluetooth set of headphones (so I can listen to music in both ears, not just one!). Of course, it also comes with almost no built-in memory, so I had to buy a $100 2 GB Micro SD chip.

The other bad thing about the phone is the volume factor. [I know this is going to make me sound like an old fogey, but c'est la vie.] The MP3 player has 15 volume levels. I am currently listening to the lowest level, and it's a few decibels louder than I would like it. Doing a very unscientific comparison (Chocolate ear bud in the right ear, iPod ear bud in the left), the lowest level on the Chocolate is roughly comparable to having the iPod volume at 1/3 of the total capacity. The upper half of the volume capacity on the Chocolate is excessive and frankly dangerous. Apple has faced a lot of criticism regarding the risk of hearing loss with the iPod. LG should have heeded these critics. Instead, they produce a louder player. That is utterly irresponsible.

The purchase of the "music essentials" kit is another annoying factor. If you buy the phone as-is with no accessories, you have no way to transfer music to your phone and no way to listen to it even if you could. Enter the kit, which contains driver software, USB cable, and some earbud headphones with built-in microphone. Of course, the driver software is proprietary and only works with Windows Media Player. So remember all those songs you bought from iTunes? Can't use 'em. Your laptop is a Mac? You're S.O.L. There's no way in hell I'm going to get it to work with my Ubuntu laptop without some serious reverse engineering. The proprietary issues that come with MP3 players are such a headache and do nothing but punish legitimate users. Hackers will always find a way around it. But that's a rant for another post.

So the net sum of the bad is that you better be ready to toss in a few hundred more dollars in accessories, and you better have a computer running Windows XP.

The Ugly

How can it get worse than the extra cash you have to throw in? Customer service. Or lack thereof.

The wife and I started at Best Buy, thinking the prices for Micro SD may be cheaper there. Um, no. They had the 1 GB chip for $79, but no 2 GB, which would have been over a hundred. So we were on to the Verizon store in Westfield. After waiting in line for close to 30 minutes, I finally got to the front of the line. They were out of 2 GB cards. So we were on to the Verizon dealer in Circuit City in Clay Terrace. We've previously had bad service there before, but we decided to give them a try anyways. We look around and see that they do have the chip. So we stand in line.

After about 10 minutes, a Verizon rep explained that they were doing training, so they were down to one terminal. We would have to stand and wait 15-20 minutes just to buy the chip. There were a few people getting in line behind us, as well. So how much of a moron do you have to be to force potential customers to wait exorbitant amounts of time while you ignore them to do some training? Anybody with an iota of common sense would put the training on hold for a short while and actually serve the customers that want to give you money. Disgusted, we left. An hour and a half trip (including waiting and driving time), and we get home empty-handed.

Then comes my lunch break today. I head to the Circuit City Verizon in Castleton. Waiting in line again. One person is helping customers. The other is doing inventory and checking e-mail! After 10-15 minutes she decides that it might be worthwhile to offer to help a customer. After checking, they're out of the 2 GB chip. She calls the other Verizon in Castleton, and asks for the 2 GB *Mini* SD chip. Note to salepersons in technology fields: It is important to know the difference between your own products. Mini SD and Micro SD are different. You know that brand new, hot product you're releasing? It only uses Micro SD! She says that the other store is out of the 2 GB, and that the other store claimed all Verizon dealers in the area were out of stock. Ugh. So I leave.

On a hunch, I decided to try the Clay Terrace Circuit City again, so I hop in for the 25 minute trek up there. Loathe as I was to give them money, they had the 2 GB chip. Fantastic! Well, not quite. Verizon was actually doing a promotion where you got the 2 GB chip and the "music essentials" kit for $99 (after mail-in rebate, of course!). It works out rather oddly. The 2 GB chip is marked at $129, and the kit is another $30. But you only pay the $129 in store, then you get a $30 rebate. Anyways, they have the chip, but they are out of the kit! I ask if they can call the store across the street because they have the kit, but not the chip. You know, work some kind of deal to serve your customers better. It turns out, they actually did have more in the back of the store after checking.

So now, after 3 hours of driving and waiting in line, I finally have the chip and can listen to music on my phone. This is ridiculous. The only company that I've heard of with worse service would be Dell (search for "Dell sucks" for stories). After my experience trying to buy accessories for this phone, I would think long and hard before buying another phone from Verizon.

Oh, and I get a corporate discount through my employer. I'm sure I'll have to call customer service again and gripe because the contract renewal probably wiped it out. That's what happened last time I got a new phone.

Summary

So, if you decided to skip over the details and jump to the end, here's the short list:


  • Great phone with wonderful features

  • Very expensive -- add on a couple hundred dollars for accessories

  • The volume level could stand to be a little lower

  • Atrocious customer service

3 Comments:

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Brianne said...

My beef with Verizon and Circuit City (or their cell phone accessory supplier/manufacturers) is that they don't create earphones for people with smaller-than-average ear canals! None of the ear buds will fit in my ears, and the around-the-back-of-the-ear ones are also oversized so that the foam-covered ear piece hangs down around my lobe. Ergggh. My ears aren't THAT small, just smaller than average! Little-eared people of the world need to unite and manufacturers to create comfortable earpieces for special-needs ears!!!

One nice thing to say about the Chocolate: it has nice-sounding ring tones. Very pleasant to the ear (even small ones)!

 
At 1:31 AM, Anonymous Leesa said...

Aaaaaahh yes, someone else with the same problem. small earcanals.

 
At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

iTunes will work with these phones. It's not the software, it's the format of the song -- Chocolates can only play MP3s, and iTunes usually saves as MP4s. Right click a song in iTunes, save as MP3, and export to your phone. It'll work fine.

 

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