A Cellphone Store Expedition

We had a expedition the other day when I had to try and replace my lost cellphone. Amazingly, on a 1/4 mile stretch of West Springfield road there are stores for all four major cellphone companies, so it was easy for us to shop and compare. Each has its own vibe and feeling, and distinctly unique followers. It’s funny how ubiquitous phones are, now everyone has their own company they tithe each month.

We began at the Sprint Store. Sprint is the most financially strapped of the five, losing subscribers each month and nearly in bankruptcy after their disastrous merger with Nextel. The store was busy with young people recharging their pay-ahead phones, and had a main desk where you give them your name and they call you. We sat for a while, waiting, and when we read the pricing plans we decided not to stick around. Hard to explain but it felt disorganized and the menu was too complicated. Plus I didn’t really like their phones.

Our next stop was T-Mobile, where we’re already customers. A friendly guy with a nametag that said “Jennifer” came over and began singing the praises of his beloved Blackberry. I asked him about the vaunted “Google phone,”and he sneered that he didn’t think much of it. The plans for T-mobile were the cheapest we’d find for a family plan, but I kept thinking about the iphone, so we didn’t sign anything. The store was very busy with recharging customers, but the salesman was kind and gave us all of the info we wanted despite the crowd. My service here in rural Deerfield isn’t great with TM, so that’s one reason we’re leaning to switching.

Next was the AT&T corporate store. (I point this out because there is an AT&T store here in Deerfield, but sadly, the owner told me that they can’t sell the iphone, only corp stores can.) Here, a pleasant and persistent salesman came over and began showing us his line-up. I am leaning toward the iphone since I love my itouch so much; he made it very appealing and the cost would only be about $40 more each then we’re paying now for internet and email anywhere. Ohh, I like that. It was nice not being crowded out by boisterous prepaid cell customers, and the guy was sincere…we wanted to make sure to give him our business if we signed up.

Our final stop was Verizon, a bigger store than all of the rest. The Big V dominates the cellphone business in the US, it’s owned partly by Vodaphone, Europe’s giant provider. But their phones are CDMA, versus GSM for every other company so they don’t work overseas. Their plans for two lines were higher than the rest of the pack, and they of course don’t offer the iphone. One thing they did have that we both fell in love with was a tiny HP laptop with internet anywhere. It uses 3G, or cellphone service, to give you internet wherever you are. Plus even though it’s about 7″wide the keyboard felt great. And it’s only $199!They also have the MiFi, a tiny card that creates a five-person personal wifi zone when you use it. Tempting but it would be $69 a month for two years.

After I had pretty much decided that the iphone is too hard to resist, I heard that Apple is coming out with a completely redesigned, better iphone. Dóh! So now I have to wait, so if you want me, call me at my office, I don’t have a cellphone yet.