Not so bad

Friday afternoon I was having lunch with a friend when I remembered I needed to go to the AT&T store and move my iPad from a standalone plan to my family plan. Oh the dread.

Fortified with a meatball sub I made the short drive. On the way I thought “going to the cellular store is about as much fun as going to the dentist.” But then in the next minute how unfair that comparison was. My dentist is nice and my visits to her office are often reasonably enjoyable. So no this was nothing like going to the dentist.

It doesn’t matter where you go cellular stores for the carriers like AT&T and Verizon are much the same. You go in and talk to the “greeter” who is more of the list-maker. Adding you to the seemingly endless list of people waiting to be seen.

After a few dozen circuits of the store playing with the phones that are out and reading every scrap of information you find some uncomfortable corner of the floor to crowd into and hope that you have enough battery to keep yourself entertained while you wait. And wait. And wait.

An unusual iPad 3G activation problem

AT&T Logo This afternoon I got a call from the folks who had spent hours trying to activate the cellular data plan on an iPad. Having called Apple and AT&T didn't help. The frustration level was understandably very high. At the end of the day it boils down to an odd little problem that AT&T never anticipated.

First the interface for activation isn't great at dealing with errors. The cycle would run like this. You enter all the data and submit it. The system doesn't like your physical address and tells you so. When it presents the form with the error it also removes the password you've entered in your last attempt. However it doesn't highlight the password field so you don't know readily it's been removed. Your next submission is rejected for not having a password. Once you fill that in it gets rejected for the address again and around, and around, and around you go.

Follow the money

AT&T LogoThe FCC's call for information on why the Google Voice iPhone app was withdrawn is going to uncover some interesting details. First up AT&T responded with a carefully crafted statement that amounts to "we don't do that". What wasn't said, however, is what control AT&T contractually holds over Apple's process.

Let's back up a minute and look at who stands to gain from this. If the iPhone supports a VoIP application who stands to lose? AT&T. Apple will still sell iPhones and iPods to these customers with their VoIP apps. In fact in many cases Apple may well sell Apps to them as well. Even if the particular app is free trends show iPhone users will buy plenty of other applications to make up for it. So Apple gains nothing and in fact loses quite a bit by having these apps rejected. AT&T on the other hand doesn't get the same black-eye and gets to think it's protecting it's dwindling cellular voice market.

Check iPhone minutes using only SMS messages

While I love my iPhone it has been frustrating that there wasn't a quick way to check minutes from SMS. The phone tells you there are two ways to check minutes (which amount to the same thing). One method is to navigate to the phone preferences, then AT&T and finally to the button to check your minutes which actually sends the *646# code to get the SMS message. So there is obviously the option of adding a "View minutes" user to the contact list and bringing it up that way. For me the annoyance has always been that I wanted to send an SMS to get this information.

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