The saga continues

Posted by Garth on Thursday, June 21, 2007

So I spent a fair bit of time this afternoon at the Amp'd store. I had a list of questions for them, specifically:

Q. Can you write the unlimited data / max overage charge into the contract?
A. No. Their reasoning is that Telus will not allow them to publish nor log the max overage charge anywhere for fear of getting kicked out of the CCCC... the Canadian Cell Carrier Cartel (I made that up). But I did have multiple managers give me their cards and their "personal" guarantee that either a) it would not change, or b) if it does that they would let me back out of my contract. A personal guarantee is nowhere near a professional one, cuz really what's stopping them from saying "Garth who? I never spoke with you. You must have me confused with someone that cares." if/when I need to call them on it. But, as they pointed out to me, none of the other 3 cartel members would even give me personal guarantees, which is true.

Q. What is the EVDO upgrade path / timeframe?
A. There is not solid date set for an upgrade to EV-DO Rev. A. They did say that it should be live by fall though. And that it supposedly only requires a software upgrade. Now, these guys are definitely not propeller-head phone geeks, but they do at least seem well informed.

Q. Is the Q crippled in any way? (i.e. absent bluetooth profiles, restriction on using as modem, etc.)
A. No. Again, I'm somewhat skeptical of this as these guys aren't propeller-heads. But after spending some time with the Q in the shop today everything SEEMED intact. However I'd really like to install some software to test. Good thing they loaned me a Q on consignment so that I could do some signal strength testing relative to my Rogers phone. I might just have to install an unsigned app or two and see how it goes.

Q. Windows Mobile version on the Q? (I already knew the answer but asked it anyway)
A. Windows Mobile 5.

Q. WinMo upgrade path on the existing Q (knew the answer to this as well thanks to google)?
A. They said that they'd provide upgrades as available. The problem though is that Motorola isn't providing upgrades (or doesn't seem to be from last night's googling), so if Motorola doesn't do it, none of their carriers can.

Q. New phone availability / discounted hardware upgrades?
A. Same as any carrier - based on customer loyalty and duration.

Q. Talk and data at the same time? (being new to CDMA and EV-DO I wasn't sure if this was possible)
A. No. However the cutover is pretty graceful. I was getting a streaming video demo when a call came in. Hit the Ignore button and it flipped back to the video, rebuffered and started playing. Not bad.

Q. Option to back out of the contract within a period of 10-15 days?
A. No. For this reason I was able to convince them to loan me a Q for a couple of days so that I could test signal strength. Don't think this is really gonna tell me anything (the Q isn't active, so I can't make calls on it, but at least I get a visual comparison).

Q. Can I extend this offer beyond Sunday?
A. Depends on Slingbox availability. I was actually asking more about the unlimited data aspect, and that they said is good forever. So that's a plus I suppose, but the lack of documentation around this is still disconcerting.

The other thing I did while there was try to get the Q working as a tethered or Bluetooth modem. Tethering and enabling the Modem applet caused Vista to try to install drivers, which it didn't have. And since I was trying to use this to go online I obviously didn't have an internet connection with which to d/l the drivers that Vista was requesting. Catch-22. So, instead, I gave up on the tethering bit. The Bluetooth side of things seemed to be going along well until Windows told me it needed a username, password and dial string. With a little googling (using my Dash as a modem) I was able to determine that the dial string was #777. The username and password escaped me though. The sales guy called Telus support to get the information, and after talking to a number of unknowledgeable people finally got someone that knew what he was doing... but he still didn't have the right info. So, here's what DOESN'T work:
They were pretty adamant that the password was the phone's ESN, so that remained static. Now, I admit that Amp'd is relatively new, and that these guys deal with Telus' network and support so they're not all that technical, but the fact that we spent quite some time on the phone and trying to get this working, to no avail, worries me. And is another reason why I wanted the 10-15 day backout period. Who knows what I'm going to encounter only to find that no one in the organization knows how to do it?

Overall, I like the guys in the store. I like the personal approach (I don't think Amp'd has more than a few dozen employees, but I could be wrong). I like unlimited data. I like the Q. I like a free Slingbox. I like Playboy TV Mobile (which is one of the channels included with the plan).

I don't like a verbal agreement regarding unlimited data and nothing written down. I don't like the lack of technical know-how. I don't like the fact that I have to use their phone (stupid CDMA and it's lack of SIM cards).

The WM5 vs. WM6 thing doesn't really bother me. To be honest, WM6 hasn't given me anything that WM5 didn't, other than that stupid 0x85020006 error (which has been recurring in the last day or two, and which seems to be totally random) and what seems to be a worse media player (movie playback stutters much more than it did on WM5 unless I use a really low bitrate).

Odds are good that I'm going to jump on board, but I don't feel great about it, only good. I suppose time will tell, and to be honest it will cost me less than with Rogers anyway. But at least with Rogers I know where I stand. Isn't there some saying about the evil you know being better than the evil you don't?


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