Verizon Wireless News

I was planning on writing a somewhat negative post about Verizon Wireless last week, but luckily for them, I just didn’t have enough time. Instead, after reading a couple of news items today, they’re back on my “Good List”!

Grand Forks, North Dakota, where I live with my wife, is not a high priority for companies when it comes to introducing new products and services. For example, it was only a couple of years ago that only cable company in town, Midcontinent Communications, began offering cable modem service to subscribers and DSL coverage from Qwest is spotty at best. We are also pretty limited in options when it comes to mobile phone carriers. Sprint PCS, Nextel, or Unicel might cut it if you never leave Grand Forks or Fargo, but they’re not even options for us when we have family in western North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. This narrows our choices down to a slim two: Verizon Wireless, or Cellular One.

Having had Cellular One as the carrier for my personal phone for about a year back in 2001 and as the carrier of my work phone for almost four years, I can tell you that there is really only one choice: Verizon. A recent ranking of the country’s largest mobile phone providers by Consumer Reports confirms my personal experience: Cell One received the second-worst rate for total complaints and for billing problems, behind only Cingular/AT&T.

Overall, my wife and I have had a good experience with Verizon Wireless the last three years we have been customers of them. I can’t think of the last time I’ve had to call their customer support center, which is a pretty good indication of their levels of support (they received the lowest number of complaints per customer among national carriers in the Consumer Reports ranking). Their coverage area throughout North Dakota is the better when compared to Cell One, and they make it really easy to change plans if needed. I’ll give them an “A” for those two.

I do have a couple of gripes with Verizon, the major one being their lack of innovation in the phones they offer. Verizon is very picky about the phones they allow on their network, meaning many of the newest phone on the market take 6 months to a year before they are certified and available for sale, if ever. Verizon seem to be happy with letting other carriers test new phones on their networks at the expense of their customers, who end up getting year-old technology. A great example of this is Palm’s Treo 600 smart phone. It took almost a full year from when the Treo 600 was available from Sprint PCS to when it was available for Verizon. A few months later, Sprint received the updated Treo 650, as did Cingular Wireless. It was only today that Verizon officially announced the future availability of the Treo 650. Better late than never, but really, why the long wait?

My other issue with Verizon is the way they handled the discovery that they were selling a crippled version of the Motorola v710 phone. That in and of itself isn’t the issue – it’s that they sold the v710 to customers without letting them know that several basic functions were disabled while other similarly equipped phones from other carriers have the features. This review and interview on Nuclear Elephant describes the controversy nicely, and has an interesting interview with a Verizon spokes person. As a business person, I respect their decision to modify phones for their network, but I totally disagree with the secretive nature of how they went about it, as do a lot of other people – there is even currently a class action lawsuit against Verizon for their deceptive marketing of the Motorola v710. It appears they have learned a lesson from the experience, however, as this notice appears at the bottom of the page announcing the Treo 650:

Disclaimer: The Treo 650 supports the following Bluetooth Profiles: wireless headset, hands-free accessories, file transfer and synchronization with compatible PC’s. It does not support all profiles, for object exchange (Obex). Accessories sold separately. See verizonwireless.com/bluetooth for details.
Up-front disclosure is a Good Thing and does a wonderful job of preventing your customers from becoming your enemies!

Update: I forgot to link to a pretty cool story about a day in the life of a real Verizon Wireless test guy. I especially liked the photos of the quarter million dollars of testing equipment they use, along with the standardized audio recording used to verify call quality. Cool stuff!

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