Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mother Smurfing Cell Phone Companies!

The other day I was trying to find a text only device I could give my sister as a gift so that we could send eachother the silly random thoughts that one forgets at the end of the day. It would be like being kids again and we wouldn't have to worry about racking up a phone bill and still feel connected. She has her reasons for not wanting a cell phone, and she's so busy she doesn't have time to sit at a computer every day.

In my search I found a couple of things. The Sony Mylo looked pretty darned cool, but it depends on the availability of a hot spot. If you're not near one it doesn't work. Plus it's over $200.00. Most cell phone companies have text plans, but only in addition to a regular plan and a two year contract. T-Mobile had the best idea - a SideKick for around $200.00 with a text only plan for $30.00 a month. Again, it came with a contract. I hate contracts. Isn't it enough that you're buying a device and paying monthly to use it? I mean, if you don't pay they cut you off. It's not like you can buy any phone and use it with the provider of your choice like a home phone, but it should be. You have to take the company that comes with the phone you're in love with - kind of like inlaws. And if you decide after a year that it's just not working out, you get slammed with a high cancellation fee - like a bad divorce. You actually have to pay to stop paying. Even if I eliminate the voice plan on my LG Env I still have a $30.00 unlimited text plan, and I got rid of the unlimited internet plan because Verizon hiked it up to $60.00 for 5GB a month or $0.25 per MB! Are they getting advice from Exxon? Cause it's as if my cell phone ran on gasoline. Mother smurfers!

Then I came across the OGO. What a cool little device. Sturdy clamshell, large display and a comfy qwerty keyboard (say that ten times!). Text, internet, IM, all things data and no voice. A teenager's modern dream. AT&T had it briefly for $100.00 with a monthly plan for $18.00 - unlimited usage. For that price I'd marry them in a heartbeat and send one to both of my nephews as well. Then Cingular Wireless took AT&T over and the OGO went the way of the DODO. No doubt because they couldn't squeeze enough out of customers with only $18.00 a month. The Cingular marketing genuises devised a sneaky plan to make it seem as though no one liked the OGO, so it was disposed of. Turns out the OGO was hugely popular among parents with teens who texted more than they spoke on the phone anyway. The deaf and hard of hearing community loved it, and were very aliented when it was taken off the shelf and not replaced with anything even remotely similar. Considering there are about 32 million deaf or hard of hearing Americans, that was a really sucky move.

Enter Swisscom. This Swiss company originally launched the OGO in 2005, and it turns out the OGO is alive and well in Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, France and England. It's so popular you can get one at any Swisscom shop for 49.-*. The latest version has all kinds of features. So why can't we get one here? Verizon is in international business cahoots with Swisscom. They also happen to be my provider. It doesn't seem like rocket science to get the OGO back to the States. Don't these phone companies even know their market? Not only that, in this insane economic flushing toilet we're stuck in, wouldn't it be a great thing to offer people who simply can't afford a cell phone for each family member? I wrote to Verizon asking them just that. They told me they were sending my message to their marketing division. I'm assuming it's a room filled with "can you hear me now" clones talking to eachother on cell phones about how amazing it is that every grey jacket comes with a free helicopter thanks to the generosity of their enslaved customers.

All I wanted was a simple, affordable, fun way to keep in touch with my sister, who I happen to miss very much and lives very far away. I guess I'll just keep searching, but really, all this just makes me want to find a phone booth, fill it with all the old stupid cell phones I've been accumulating since the 90's and send it to the White House with a note that says "Talk is cheap my ass".

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