Sprint’s Data Plan Racket

After 2.5 yrs, my original cell phone is battered and bruised, not to mention way too thick to fit in a pocket. Wanted to take advantage of Sprint’s 15% discount for UC Berkeley employees, and wanted a halfway decent camera in a phone. Yesterday finally sprung for a Samsung A-900.

First of all let me say I’m in love with this phone. The form factor is excellent, display is brilliant, reception is keen, UI is intuitive, camera is much better than the VGA on my old LG. I also love that I can now mount the phone on my desktop via USB and drag images into iPhoto.

My gripe is with the virtually forced upsell to the data plan. I’m in front of a computer, what, 12 hours a day? I have absolutely NO need for web access on a phone. But I’m also interested in creating custom MP3 ringtones. iTunes makes the first part easy — get info on a track, set start and end points for a 30-second selection, pump up the volume, and re-encode as AAC. Use Cmd-R to find the newly created file. So far so good. I’ve got some Bo Diddley, Beefheart, Godley & Creme, and Mike Watt samples ready to go.

With the phone mounted on the desktop (FAT 16 filesystem), I see a friendly little “MEDIA” folder. But oops, it’s write protected. Posix permissions look wide open and it’s not locked. Looks like it should be writable, but no dice. Capitulate and decide to consult the 248-page manual, which covers every nuance of every function. Not a single mention of any ability to put media onto the phone from a computer. Why not? I’m about to find out.

Start scanning the BBs (Howard Forums is supposedly “the place” where phone geeks hang out) and discover I’m not alone. Seems the only way to get my custom ringtones onto the phone is to upload them through an online service like FunForMobile. The service makes easy (and free) work of it, but of course you have to connect your phone to the internet to use it. And you’ll pay $20/month for the privilege.

Excuse me, no. DSL is now available from SBC for $15/month, and Sprint wants $20/month for data service for a damned phone??? I guess for people who are rarely near a computer and need remote web access, the price might be justifiable, but not for me.

Whatever. If the market will bear it, then I suppose it’s a fair price. I don’t have to subscribe to data services if I don’t want to. My objection is not that an add-on service I don’t want is available – my objection is that there’s no way to get my own content onto the phone without paying the ransom, even though it attaches to my computer just fine*.

So take your choice: Either purchase commercially available ringtones that expire in 90 days for $2.50 a pop, or create your own ringtones for free but pay $20/month to get them onto the phone. It’s an obnoxious racket. Are other carriers this greedy, or is it just Sprint?

* I do have one complaint with the USB connectivity: When I try to unmount the phone’s storage volume from the desktop, the Finder says I can’t because it’s “in use.” But if I use the phone’s “Disconnect from PC” option, the Finder throws one of those “Improper device removal” errors — “Please unmount before disconnecting.” So there’s no way to elegantly unmount the storage area.

Update: Learned at the Sprint store today that while it’s no longer possible to get images off the phone on a pay-as-you-go basis (you need the full data plan to do that), it is possible to download pay-as-you-go, which means you can just pay by the kilobyte to transfer in custom ringtones, which makes the whole thing a bit less annoying.

Music: Burning Spear :: Farther East Of Jack

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4 Replies to “Sprint’s Data Plan Racket”

  1. Yep. It gets worse – some carriers have eliminated the ability to do any data transfer (gotta DL your photos via data service, can’t use iSync). Telcos are still telcos.

    Fortunately, Cingular has done no such cripple-work on my Motorola Razr – and I can use bluetooth to iSync my contacts and calendar, not to mention transfer pics, backgrounds, and homebrew ringtones.

  2. Here in Australia, the only Crippling of Handsets performed by Carriers is Optus Lock Pre-Paid Handsets to only accept Optus Sim Cards.
    Other than that every feature the Manufacturer Include in their Phones is fully functional.

  3. Mikepop, intersting idea (though I would not expect them to leave a loophole in their barricade that wide).

    OK, just sent myself a plain SMS message via email from computer and it went through. Then sent another one with an .m4a attachment (same file I’ve loaded in successfully through FunForWeb) and the whole message went into a black hole – never arrived.

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