Thursday, February 19, 2009

Unicel is dead and I'm unhappy

And I'm still not interested in buying an iPhone.

So we stopped at the UnicelAT&T office in Montpelier to see what's up with our phones and along the way switched over to AT&T and got some new free phones (Sony Ericsson W350s). I immediately moved the SIM (excuse me, SmartChip™) into my Windows Mobile smartphone (a Ubiquio 503G) and found... nothing. In a few spots I get roaming onto AT&T (does that make sense?) and in most places, including the whole area around my house, I get no service. The same SIM works in my old Motorola Razr as well as in the Sony.

I'm going to do some research when time allows (hah!) to see if this is something I can fix. The Ubiquio supports virtually every protocol out there (Quad-Band GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, WCDMA/UMTS Tri-band 850/1900/2100 MHz, HSDPA 3.6 Mbps), it's never failed to get a signal no matter where I've roamed, it's supposed to get solid coverage even overseas, but AT&T manages to stump it? If so, I'm trebly surprised. First, that they bought Unicel only to ignore its entire infrastructure of cell towers? Second, that their SIMs manage to disable all the roaming options that would work on those ubiquitous protocols that Unicel uses? And third, that whatever they do limit me to is something the Ubiquio, one of the most universally protocol-compatible phones out there, can't do?

If I am forced to give up on using my phone as my phone, this is going to be very disappointing. Admittedly, I don't do as much texting as I used to, but the idea of using interpretive entry again for what little I do do is maddening. Not having my address book sync to my address book is crazy. Having to wear a second device is nuts. And worst of all is my Bluetooth headset situation. I don't know if either the Razr or Sony will even be able to use it as a headset at all, since it's stereo, but even if it does, I can't have it playing music from one phone and able to handle calls from the other.

What's really odd, though, is that AT&T's own coverage map speaks only of GSM coverage in Vermont, and the Ubiquio offers the exact same support that the Razr does for all four GSM bands. There's no reason I can see this shouldn't work.

Of course AT&T has no sympathy; all they'll be able to suggest is I pony up $450 for an HTC Fuze. Which of course would be delightful to have, except for that $450 part. They don't truck with the whole unlocked phone thing. Generally speaking, I much prefer the way the rest of the world does it, where you buy a phone from whoever you like and a SIM from your provider and mix-and-match. People in the US prefer the convenience of getting a "free phone" (i.e., the price is rolled into the long-term commitment contract you sign up for when you get the service) to the cost savings of paying for the phone only once and getting to choose your own.

I am running short of optimism that I'll be able to find a solution to this. As far as I can see, I'm simply out of luck.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I am very unhappy with that switch. My plan with unicel offers me free roaming in Canada, 600 day minutes and unlimited text messaging. A comparable plan at AT&T (without the roaming part) will cost me at least 20$ more than what I pay now. I chose Unicel as my carrier and I don't understand why I have to switch to At&T!!!!! I hope there will be some king of legal mean in which I can get rid of my contract without paying a 200$ penalty!