Oh why must they taunt me so?!

25 09 2007

This evening saw me visiting the New and Improved [tm] [reg us pat off] Natick Mall here in sunny Natick, MA. There’s been a major rebuilding going on over there, and seeing as this thing is only about a mile from me, and the fact that I had an evening free, I felt it was time to go take a look.

First, the original mall was of average size and layout. Natick Mall has always been slightly ‘upscale’ compared to others, but with the other biggies nearby like the Burlington Mall renovating and upscaling, some developer it was time to upgrade the Natick mall

And boy howdy did they.

I don’t want to get into a review of malls, but did you know that there are Wikipedia entries on malls? Weird, eh? But the entry for the Natick Mall does have pictures of the inside of the renovated space. According to the article:

This expansion project includes the renovation of approximately 100 new stores and the addition of two new anchors, (Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus), making Natick Collection the twelfth largest in the country, fourth largest on the East Coast, and the largest in New England.

Now, in this vast space, you’d think I could find something interesting.

Think again.

The newly expanded space has nothing of interest in it. It is huge, to be sure, well decorated, elegant to a fault, and simply drips of sophistication. It is, however, populated with… clothing stores, perfume stores, and luggage and pocketbook offerings. Many were outlet names, but it was simply store upon store upon store of clothing. A vast wasteland of chrome, steel, glass, and fashion manikins.

Until… in the midst of all this rampant hoity toity consumerism, I see one beacon of elegance that does not involve silk, tweed, or leather.

Apple has opened a store within this vast new space. Yes, it is similar to all the other stores, with the genius bar, young hip store attendees, and ranks of elegant hardware, but now they’ve gone and done it. They’ve put this store in my back yard.

So, naturally, I went in.

Those who have been in an Apple store need not hear the details of what the store was like. It had by far the most customers I’d seen in that entire bleak landscape for the mall, but wasn’t crowded, and it only took me a moment to find a free iPhone and start playing with it.

This was the second time I had touched an iPhone, and while there were no clear revelations from my first exposure, I was again impressed by the design, elegance, clarity of purpose, and all around “rightness” of this device. I left the store after a brief chat with one of the employees, and went in search of food, visions of well designed hardware and software systems dancing in my head.

I chanced by a Verizon store and had a chat with the folks there. My aging Treo 650 is on a Verizon plan, and I had recently heard about a possible offering for ‘tethered mode’ modem operation for $15/month. That might be handy, thought I, and went to ask them about it.

Oh no, not so fast. Sure it’s $15 a month. On top of an ‘unlimited’ data service plan ($49/mo). Oh, and it won’t work with the Treo 650, you’ll need to upgrade to a Treo 700p. “Oh, that should be fine. I’m within my upgrade window now, I should get a big discount” *flipflipflip* “Yep, you are, you’ll get a $150 discount on a new phone.” “So, if I wanted to upgrade from my 650 to a 700p, how much would it be?”

The sales person actually walked around and started referencing various displays, and said “$450, minus the $150 credit you’ll get.”. I glanced down at the display for the 700p there, and a brand new service, with the 700p, would run me $345. “But that sign says $350 if I buy a Treo 700p now, why don’t I just apply the $150 to that?” “Ah, that’s just for new subscribers.”

I’m really really really done with Verizon.

It looks like AT&T’s plans have FAR better data services, as well as a platform I’m interested in supporting. (The Verizon droid basically said I should ditch the Palm platform and use a Windows device. Not in my game plan, thanks)

There are only a few things stopping me from running pell-mell for iPhone land…

  • Initial cost is high. Even with the $200 price reduction, we’re still talking $400 out of my pocket (I’d get the 8gig version. Just makes sense). I don’t have that sort of cash right now, not to mention the new service activation with AT&T. My phone number SHOULD port. Will it?
  • Bluetooth limits. The iPhone is not a full bluetooth device. It supports only the Hands Free Profile (HFP) and the Headset Profile (HSP). No support for data access, OBX, A2DP, any of the cool things that Bluetooth can do. My biggest whine would be the lack of bluetooth keyboard support. I can get a mobile bluetooth keyboard that’s quite functional, and about the size of my Treo. But I couldn’t use it with the iPhone. Will Apple update this? A huge unknown.
  • The jump to Apple. I’ve avoided purchasing Apple products for me personally. It’s a slippery slope, but I cannot ignore that Apple’s designs are fantastic, and their support policies are the best in the business (see a recent post by a self-avowed Windows adherant). Should I make my first real foray into Apple land an iPhone?
  • Last but not least, do I really need it? In all honesty, the answer here is no. My 650 is working fine for me for now, though it’s aging, the Palm platform is most likely dying, and it’s twice the size and heft of the iPhone. I don’t need to change devices now.

So, I haven’t bought an iPhone yet. But durn Apple for putting a store right in my back yard. It’s a plot I tell ya.

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10 responses

25 09 2007
Doctor Memory

My advice would be: wait until version 2. EDGE data is even slower than the 1xRTT data service your Treo has, and the future direction of the iphone OS platform itself is still very much unknown.
By the time the next version ships, we’ll know what kind of detente (if any) has been reached between Apple and the app developers (and unlockers), we’ll know if they’ve got any intention of expanding bluetooth functionality, and hopefully some of the of the bit of UI roughness (like, um, cut and paste) will have been smoothed out.

25 09 2007
Perley Mears

Don’t listen to that Verizon droid. The Treo is the single most popular phone with the Sales droids at Sun, in the Northeast at least, and the word from them is a cable is all you need. I’ll pin down more details, but these guys tend to be surprisingly cheap and not surprisingly technologically challenged, so I doubt they have anything more than the std Treo data plan.
Of course, this may be due to lack of diligence on Verizon’s part, as I recently discovered when switching phones on AT&T and was trying to make sure I had the same funtionality with the new plan, dictated by there insistence that I switch from the AT&T (old) SIM card to a shiny new Cingular SIM card (just before the at&t change). They said that they had not been carefully monitoring ‘tethered’ mode in the past, but now had a special option, for more money, for that, which is why my new phone wouldn’t do it automatically like my old Nokia would. Ah well, Sun is paying for it, so I only worry about the day when I retire. 🙂

25 09 2007
sconstant

The Verizon people aren’t being as idiotic (w/r/t pricing) as you seem to think. As someone who is out of their contract period, they want to sign you up to a new contract. The value of this to them is $150, making the price of their phone $300 to you. Someone who walks in off the street, they want them on a contract too, but slightly less (as a current customer, you’re somewhat easier to deal with and a proven payer), so they want that $100, making the price of the phone to that person $350.
This doesn’t seem to be ridiculous to me. It likely was explained badly, of course, but you know, phone store salespeople do fine with the 95% of the people who come in and don’t ask tricky questions.

25 09 2007
dbs

Perley said:
and the word from them is a cable is all you need.
I would double and quadruple-check this. The tethered mode on the Treo 650, as far as I have been able to determine, is non-existant. There are some 3rd party packages out there that try to enable tethered mode, but I have been unable to get them working.
If you have a pointer to how to make it go, I’d love to see it! But everything I’ve seen has said “Treo 700p!”

25 09 2007
dbs

sconstant said:
The Verizon people aren’t being as idiotic (w/r/t pricing) as you seem to think.
I’m not really implying they don’t know what they’re talking about. What I was poking at was that being a loyal customer to Verizon means squat. I get no price break for renewing my contract, and their ‘discount’ for upgrades is completely nullified.

25 09 2007
bonnie

it’s not Verizon that gives no discount for loyalty, it’s all the phone companies. they all handle upgrades in roughly the same way, which is to equate you to being a new customer.

25 09 2007
Sarah T

Verizon is an expensive provider, but they do still seem to have the best coverage. Sprint is the cheapest data service package I’ve found. You also, if you can live without a phone for a day, could let your contract expire and then go back in to negotiate 🙂

25 09 2007
sconstant

I’m not really implying they don’t know what they’re talking about. What I was poking at was that being a loyal customer to Verizon means squat. I get no price break for renewing my contract, and their ‘discount’ for upgrades is completely nullified.
Sounds to me like you get a $50 price break for renewing your contract, since the phone would have been $450-$150 for you, and $350 for a non-renewing customer. But I possibly missed something.

25 09 2007
dbs

Sarah sez:
could let your contract expire and then go back in to negotiate 🙂
Well, I dunno. That would put me in a very poor position with them. I’m no different than the unwashed masses, and I’m without a phone.
The flipside of this is I’m on the verizon account via Cat’s ties with her employer, so there’s -some- discount there.
If there’s absolutely no benefit in staying with Verizon (no incentive when my contract time is up), I don’t see a reason to stick around. I need to go back to them and clarify the numbers.

25 09 2007
Ted

You will probably get better results by going through their phone tree, and trying to reach their Customer Retention (or similar) team.
“This is what I’m going to do, unless you can offer me a better deal.”
The store people don’t usually have the same tricks at their disposal, if they even know they exist — like larger discounts on phone purchases, better plan rates, and more.
Every cellular company has this team, but they’re not all known by the same name….

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