Monday, January 25

Verizon Wireless and the BlackBerry Tour 9630

Last August, I bought a BlackBerry Curve 8330 for my wife. She's an attorney and their addiction to BlackBerry phones is the stuff of legend. Because my Palm Treo 700p was getting long in the tooth, I decided that I ought to get a BlackBerry as well.

I chose the BlackBerry Tour 9630. It was smaller than the Curve, had a sharper screen, a higher resolution camera, and more memory. It is also a defective phone. I don't mean MY phone is defective, I mean it's a defective design. It's bad, it's broken, it's crap.

Six weeks after buying the Tour, it turned into a brick with "Error 552" on the screen, telling me to reload the software. Which is impossible, given that the phone won't boot or connect to your computer. So I went back to the Verizon store. There, a helpful tech said she knew a way to fix it. She slipped into the back for a while and returned with the phone working again.

By this time, I'd also begun having problems with the trackball. Vertical movement was fine, but horizontal movement was sticky. Often you couldn't move the cursor left or right at all. (If you want to have some fun, just Google "BlackBerry Tour trackball error 552" and see how many complaints you find. Not hundreds, but THOUSANDS. It's an epidemic.)

In December, about six weeks after the Error 552 crash, my phone did it again. Same error, same result. The phone won't boot and your BlackBerry is now BrickBerry. So back to Verizon I go, again. This time I complained about the trackball also. I'm told at the store that you can't fix an Error 552, you have to get a new phone. Since my trackball sucks, I'm happy to hear this.

Verizon overnights me a new phone. I move the battery and media card from my old phone to the new one, and I'm back in business. (I have to note that what's irritating about this is how Verizon sends you a phone, makes you do the work swapping parts, and gives you 10 days to get the old phone back to them or they'll charge you for a second phone. That's right, the phone they sold you broke, and now YOU have to do the work and do it quickly or they charge you hundreds for a new phone.)

Which brings us to today, about six weeks after the last crash. Once again, my phone stops with an Error 552. Yes, the new one. It's a brick, again. So back to Verizon I go. This time, I want a different phone. Another model BlackBerry, a Droid, it doesn't matter. I just don't want a Tour any more. Verizon's answer was that they'll overnight me another Tour. That's it. That's all they will do. I told them this was happening every six weeks, but because the first visit occurred "off the record," with the tech girl fixing it in the back room, they only show one visit from me thus far. They won't even CONSIDER helping me switch to a different phone until they've had to replace this one three times in 90 days. (Let that be a lesson to you. When someone offers to do something special for you, say no. You want all support calls and visits to be in their computer. You shouldn't let Verizon do anything for you without a paper trail.)

So I've had enough. I tell the girl I want to cancel the data plan associated with my BlackBerry and I'm going to port my number over to AT&T, and buy an iPhone. That's when I'm told that Verizon's contract is with the LINE, not the PERSON, and if I move my number I will be breaking my contract and subject to a $150 early termination fee. I'm sure that's in the fine print that I signed, but do YOU ever read all that crap? No, I didn't think so.

What's the moral of this story? Two things.

First, do NOT buy a BlackBerry Tour 9630. That model is a bad design. I can't speak to other BlackBerry models, but the Tour is crap. Bad trackballs and Error 552 crashes are common. If you already have a Tour and it's working well for you, consider yourself lucky and do NOT fill it up with apps. (Running a large number of apps on the phone appears to be what triggers Error 552.)

Second, and I can't believe I'm saying this, do NOT do business with Verizon Wireless. If you pick a bad model of phone, and I don't mean a bad phone - I mean a bad MODEL, they will do nothing to help you get into a better one. All they will do is overnight you a new phone. And, for what it's worth, they treat you like you've somehow mistreated the phone. Even though it's a software error, and my phone looked absolutely untouched, somehow it's my fault.

And then, when you've had enough of their "un-support" (let's coin a new phrase here!), you find out that you can't even take your number elsewhere without breaking your contract and being hit with a large fee. Even though you're NOT trying to cancel the entire contract and you will leave the rest of your lines in place, taking a number away from Verizon is "breaking your contract."

Bad phone, bad service. Learn from my hard lessons and avoid them both. Someone ask Verizon if they have a map for THAT, eh?