As a result of some extremely awful customer service I received from Bell Mobility recently, a helpful soul stepped in from the company’s “Executive Office.” (Sounds exalted, eh? I think it’s the just place they send customers so pissed off they don’t know what else to do with them.) He very kindly terminated my outstanding contracts without penalty and waived some other fees. And for that, he has my eternal gratitude.
Suddenly, for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, I was without a mobile phone contract. It was as though I’d been set free. But I quickly realized, of course, that spending most of my time in the Horse required me to have a CDMA-capable phone. (A landline wasn’t an option: the $31.33 monthly cost of a featureless Northwestel line is highway robbery.)
The choices were limited: back to the awful Bell Mobility or the local subsidiary Latitude Wireless (I’ll never understand why a massive geographic region of just 32,000 people needs two mobile providers). A third option was Telus, but they aren’t permitted to provision 867 (Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut) area codes, so I’d be forced to get a number from a different region of Canada. Since my primary reason for a mobile is to provide my son’s school with a local number to contact me at in case he has a seizure, I was stuck with either Bell or Latitude.
Being a gadget freak, my next realization was more painful: the Bell (and, hence, the Latitude) stable of mobile phone offerings is desparately lame and pathetic.
What an unfortunate predicament for anyone to be in…
Bell’s flagship phone is the awful Blackberry Storm, a device so bad it was labelled by the New York Times‘ tech critic David Pogue as, “the BlackBerry Dud” (No Keyboard? And You Call This a BlackBerry?). And regarding RIM, BBC’s Stephen Fry says, “it is clear that with the release of this dog they don’t know their tits from their tibias” (Gee, One Bold Storm coming up….)
What’s worse, Bell wants $250 outright for this headache-generating device, along with a three-year contract.
I don’t think so.
A second choice might be the HTC Touch Pro, at $240 on a 3-year contract. But I’ve been twice bitten by the lame WinMo operating system and am now shy, having sworn off it completely. CNET Australia describes this device as “sluggish.” They stated that when typing texts or emails, “we could be two full words ahead of what we could read in the text field and were kept waiting for the software to catch up” (CNET Australia: HTC Touch Pro Review).
One might consider the Palm Centro, for a mere $50 on a three-year contract. But that would be a mistake. The unfortunate truth about the Centro is that, though it’s new to Bell, it comes from the dark ages. Originally released in 2007, the Centro is based on Palm’s last-generation (aka, discontinued) operating system. CNET describes the Centro as, “toylike”, “plasticky”, and “cramped” (CNET: Palm Centro Review). One can only wonder what possessed Bell to suddenly introduce such an ancient piece of technology to their line-up; I think it may have something to do with jockeying for Palm’s next-gen product (keep reading).
I won’t go through the whole line-up of phones currently offered by Bell and Latitude, that would be too painful, but suffice to say they can be summed up in a phrase: significantly lacking.
The major problem that Bell and Latitude – and even Telus – have with their hardware lineup is the simple fact that the pickings are slim on the CDMA front. The global standard is GSM, so nobody really develops new technology for CDMA. Instead, CDMA providers get the older, worn-out, hand-me-downs from GSM providers. For example, in Canada only Rogers carries cutting-edge phones like the iPhone, the Blackberry Bold, and the latest Curve. For Bell and its CDMA brethren, it’s all about last-gen.
On that point: these phones (with the exception of the iPhone) will eventually come to Bell. But, as with the old-school Blackberry Curve, it won’t be for at least a year after its release on the GSM network, and only after a new generation of technology is released on GSM. So if Bell is lucky, they might be able to offer the Blackberry Bold to customers for Christmas 2009.
And this really points out a major gaping hole in the entirety of Bell’s lineup: no device offers Wifi capability. That means that with any device you buy from Bell, you’re stuck to their astonishingly slow and expensive mobile network. Were you to pick up a Blackberry Bold, a Blackberry Curve, or an iPhone from Rogers, however, you’d have the option of saving money and speeding up your mobile experience by swapping over to a Wifi network when you’re at home or out at a cafe.
Of course, there is a light on the horizon for Bell. The upcoming Palm Pre is, for some strange reason, CDMA-capable right out of the gate. Rumour has it that the Pre will premier on the Sprint network in late March. New CDMA phones are normally available on Telus about 2 months after their Sprint debut, and Bell usually takes another 30 days after that to get them onto their network. So we’re looking at a June or July arrival of the Palm Pre on the Bell network.
And that’s exciting for Bell because the Pre represents the next generation of mobile technology. It’s a device that will truly give the iPhone a run for its money, and it will trounce RIM’s recently lame efforts with the Blackberry (yes, even the Bold).
The Pre will offer an entirely new Palm operating system that leverages the tenets of what I call relationship technology. Beyond the basics of calendaring and communication, the Pre can maintain an awareness of its user’s state. So the Pre will know where you are, and where you’re supposed to be, and it can calculate whether you’re going to be late or not and offer suggestions for remedial action as required.
So all this is to say one thing: now is not the time to enter into a contract with Bell. Their current selection of phones is lame, offering only last-generation technology without key capabilities such as Wifi. If you’re thinking of signing on with them, hold off. The Pre is on the horizon, so you’d only be hurting yourself to sign a contract with Bell between now and the summer.
What can you do in the meantime – and, in fact, what did I do?
We all have decrepit old phones hanging about in drawers around our homes (and if you don’t, your neighbour does). Dust one off, charge it up, and activate it on Bell’s prepaid system.
So the phone you use won’t be cutting edge but, face it, neither is anything you could get new from Bell. If you cut back on your voice and text use, you’ll save a pile of money and you’ll avoid making a commitment to a company that simply doesn’t offer anything worth committing to right now.