Random thoughts about cell phones and service industry usage

Google Android

Google Android

Homeland Secure IT is stuck in the past! That’s right, a high-tech business is using what most consider to be antiquated technology.

It isn’t because of the cost, it is because of the features. We are actually paying more per month for our cell phone plan than if we were using the latest devices and connectivity.

What we use and why we use it:

Our handheld devices are Blackberry Curve 8350i smart phones, on the Nextel / Sprint network, using iDEN with Direct connect and Blackberry Enterprise Server connectivity. As mentioned, this is an expensive data plan. And it is a slooooooooow connection. However, we use what we have because it provides:

  • Instant communications with our techs via Direct Connect (a phone call takes so much longer, and we can DC multiple techs at once in an instant)
  • Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) provides us with INSTANT transfer of mail, contacts, calendars from our Microsoft Exchange Server. Mail generally moves in a matter of seconds, instead of minutes with ActiveSync Push
  • The Blackberry Curve has a very fat-finger-friendly physical keyboard on it that allows rapid typing, without even looking at the display.

What we dislike about this:

  • iDEN transfer speeds are horrible. Try browsing on one of these phones if you are not around a WiFi connection sometime.
  • Cell calls are dropped CONSTANTLY and we are out of range constantly (Verizon phones have a signal, almost always when ours do not)
  • People who call us while we are in a Direct Connect conversation get “Please hold while the subscriber you are trying to reach is located”
  • If you try to direct connect someone while the phone is being used for email, you get “User busy in data”
  • Many times the phone will never ring, but we will get a voice mail notification (presumably because we had no signal)
  • This service is expensive in comparison with Verizon

That list is just off the top of my head, I’m sure I will think of a few more points after I hit submit.

What we would like:

  • A major reduction in service interruption due to signal path. Verizon appears to be the best bet in regards to that.
  • Instant mail transfer to allow our clients to send/receive email INSTANTLY with no delays, like we have with BES. Our customers are used to getting responses in a few seconds after sending their email, going from that to a delay of several minutes means that a conversation spread out over a half-dozen emails could take 10-15 minutes to complete due to the transport delays.
  • A push-to-talk experience like Direct Connect, or something very similar. Of course, there are some push-to-talk Apps for the Android, but they are not “instant” in functionality, they actually appear to record your comment, then send it, and play it on the remote end. I am unaware of a Push-To-Talk Verizon Android phone, and obviously, iPhone does not offer it at all.
  • An Android or iPhone rather than the old Blackberry, but with a good keyboard on it, not just a touch screen. Something we can run the latest and greatest apps on and feel a little more “with it”. The only Android phone offered for iDEN is the Motorola i1 which has Android v1.5 (lagging behind the rest of the world by far)

So here we are, stuck in the past, and feeling unhappy, but unable to make a move.

We could move to Verizon, get a modern Android phone like the Droid 2, with a keyboard, have great signal most everywhere we go, and give up Direct Connect as well as suffer with slower email, but make up for it with faster internet browsing.

We could move to the Motorola i1 Android device on Nextel, but still have slow internet, and an outdated Android…

We COULD go back to carrying two phones, one for feel-good experience, and one for Direct Connect and email.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. Especially if you have used a “walkie talkie” or “push to talk” app on Android that gives a more “Direct Connect” like feel, closer to real-time communication.

Comments 5

  1. Thought I would do a follow-up….

    I am disappointed in Nextel / Sprint beyond what words can convey. We get constant dropped calls, sketchy direct connect, and horrible internet speeds. I have called several times asking about what is up, as it was not this bad originally, and has gotten worse in the last 3 months.

    They (Nextel / Sprint) tell me it is due to tickets that are open in the area, cell sites, etc… Then they tried to move me from Nextel to Sprint, if I will only sign another 1 year contract. Of course, I will lose Direct Connect, but as mentioned in the original post, there may be an app for that (PTT)….

    Something is going to change though. I am going to break my contract with them and defect to Verizon more than likely, as I never had issues on Verizon.

    Switching to Sprint, from Nextel (Dumping the iDEN and going straight to the Sprint 3g network (4g in larger cities), sounds like a sure way to get myself trapped for another year (or more).

    Your comments are welcome…

  2. John,

    Right now I am well farther in the past than you! My phone is supplied by my employer. I am on Verizon using a Motorola Razr.

    In the past I have used AT&T and Verizon, never with a smart phone though. I like the clarity on the AT&T network, but they are plagued with no signal areas in the upstate. Try traveling to northern Greenville county. Sucked when I was cycling regularly. From just north of TR I had no signal most of the time.

    My girlfriend has/had a Blackberry through the hospital on Verizon(losing it today!). Calling and texting were great. Browsing… slow! Not sure about email speed.

    My boss also has a Blackberry on Verizon. It is his second one. Again, calling and texting are great. Browsing is slow. Not sure about email. His phone has bugs though. It randomly makes calls while in the holster. Verizon is not willing to do anything about it even though he has insurance on the phone. They will upgrade the phone if he re-ups the contract.

    We also have Nextels at work. Never been a fan. No one has a Blackberry though. They are all the big clunky Motorola flip phones. I can’t get used to the push to talk feature. It always sounds like they have the mic in their mouth… down around their tonsils.

    I don’t have the requirements you have for a phone. My girlfriend is most likely getting a smartphone once the hospital takes theirs back. We are looking mainly at being on the AT&T network even though the coverage can be spotty. Probably an iPhone (even though I really like some of the Droids).

    In the past, Sprint has offered some pretty great sounding deals on their services. That is the main reason I considered them. Right now, I think for personal use, AT&T’s offers are hard to beat.

    FYI… We tried Verizon PTT at work. It stinks. Their is a pretty bad delay. It isn’t instant like with Nextel. I think maybe it is the network?

    P.S. TiKL for Android promise PTT features…. http://www.androidtapp.com/tikl-touch-to-talk-ptt/
    No idea if it works or not.

  3. Wow Bradley, excellent reply. I appreciate your thoughts too. And kinda glad someone feels the way I do about some things at least.

    I think for me to be happy, it will take getting me off the slow iDEN (Nextel) network, forfeiting the Direct Connect and Blackberry in favor of something like TiKL (WOW, that looks very promising too, thank you for the tip!),

    Direct Connect takes some getting used to, and training of the people using it, so it sounds natural. In our field, having Direct Connect saves precious time because there is no time to dial, we simply beep the other person back and forth, quickly, with no dial delay. No delays like Verizon’s PTT (And you are not the first I have heard mention the delays with that service)…

    I think the best carriers in the upstate, from my personal experience combined with input from friends, ,family and clients are:

    Verizon – Awesome coverage, awesome reliability, great customer service.
    AT&T – Only because it offers iPhones and a fair coverage, but lousy customer support from what I understand.
    Sprint – Decent coverage, average reliability, average customer support.
    Nextel – The only provider of a decent Direct Connect product, but slow data, horrible coverage. Disappointing reliability & customer service and a lack of good phone products such as an Android with v2.2

    I’ll keep you posted on what we finally end up doing and look forward to hearing from you about your cellular future….

    Thanks again for the reply!

  4. My husband and I are the only two on our cell phone plan, but we rely on our phones for business. Our contract will end very soon and we will definitely be using the information from this discussion to make a decision on what service to use in the future!

    1. Jan, I hope you find the best service and the best phone! I think the Verizon Droid II would be perfect for me, and the Verizon Samsung Fascinate comes highly recommended by Phil Yanov, @thinkhammer said it was the best phone he had ever used…

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