Galaxy S3

Grandma gets a smartphone

Actually, despite the title, I don’t exactly have my new phone in hand yet. In theory I should have it, but there have been a few stumbling blocks along the way.

First there were about two days of intensive web surfing and browsing, trying to make sense of all the calling plans offered by the four main carriers — Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. I had pretty much dismissed AT&T before I even started, based on all I’d heard the last couple of years about how they always finish dead last in consumer surveys.

wireless carriers

My benchmark for the actual phone was my son’s Galaxy Nexus. I knew he liked it a lot, and he’s quite a geek, so I compared everything to the Nexus. (Calling plans are an insane mess of options, limitations, exclusions, etc., and I just couldn’t see adding to the chaos by trying to sort out all the different features of all the different phones.)

I was also well aware of how zealously The Son guards his aging contract with Verizon which includes unlimited data. They are trying their darndest to trip him up and get him rolled into a limited data plan — so far without success. Plus, when I checked with them, it appeared the only options they offer now are “Share Everything” and involve paying a bloated rate to allow pooling of all your devices — and all I wanted was one phone. It seemed the only low-priced plan they offered with seniors in mind assumed that we elderly types would only want to call or text the grandkids; no data whatsoever. I was pretty set on getting unlimited data and that brought my choices down to Sprint … or Sprint.

So, I’d finally narrowed my options down to a particular phone and a particular plan with Sprint, had my online shopping cart ready to go … and decided I’d wait till the next day and go see the phones at the nearest Sprint store to make sure I really did like the white better than the blue. (These details are important, you know.) I took with me a printout of the shopping cart so I’d have all the relevant information with me when I asked the sales rep if, hey, is there any chance you’d do this online deal for me here in the store — knowing full well that online deals are often online-only specials. Not sure why such deals exist when brick-and-mortar stores are fighting for business, but anyway …

I walked in, told the young woman I’d like to see both the blue and white phones, and asked if, since I was already there, was there any chance she could give me this deal in the store — and showed her the printout. “Sure!” she beamed. “No prob.”

For reasons I can’t begin to explain, I was there for four (4) hours! (I spent less time buying a new car.) She kept asking what I intended to use it for, as though someone who’d never owned a smartphone before would have a good grasp of all its potential uses. (Look lady, just sell me what I asked for and skip the pop quiz.) Part of the delay was time she spent figuring out how to port my old TracFone number over to the Sprint phone, and part of it was her manually typing all my contacts from the old phone into the new phone after failing to find any better way to do it. They want you to be ready to go when you leave the store; I’d been ready to go for several hours before I finally got out of there.

The four hours were from 10 am to 2 pm, notable because I hadn’t eaten anything before I headed to the store. By the time I finally got home with my bag of new toys and a couple of chalupas from Taco Bell, I had a splitting headache. (I’d also missed all but the last ten minutes of the Olympic women’s soccer championship I’d planned to watch.)

But I was triumphant! I had successfully entered the world of smartphones and I had my prize, a brand new marble white Galaxy S III. I spent the next few hours playing with the phone, figuring out the basics — on, off, change screens, ringtones, contacts and email, etc. Believe me, there are a lot of basics if you’ve never had your hands on one before, right? (I know it’s been a long time for the rest of you, but you do remember your first smartphone, don’t you?)

Galaxy S3

Then, at some point, for some reason, it occurred to me to double-check the phone’s packaging for information I couldn’t find on the phone and … dammit! … she’d sold me the wrong phone! The printout I showed her specified the Galaxy S III 32GB and she’d given me the 16GB model. It never occurred to me to double-check it at the store; after all, I’d shown her exactly what I wanted in print. It was there on the counter in front of her the whole time. Besides, my head was spinning with discounts (surprise, a AAA discount! More than the AARP discount!), freebies, a case, a screen protector, a car charger, Sprint’s Phone Connect for my home phone (“knocks $100 off your total!”), and four hours of chatter about things I wasn’t at all familiar with.

But never mind all that. It was the wrong damned phone! I was so angry and frustrated … and had such a gawd awful headache …

So I called the store. The sales girl was extremely apologetic and said they’d have to order the 32GB model; they didn’t have it in the store. Of course not. Several days to get it in. Uh huh. Grumble, grumble.

Then the manager called back and said “how ’bout if we just put in a 32GB SD card. We’ll only charge you half what the more expensive phone will cost, and you’ll end up with 48GB!” I was immediately suspicious. Not at all sure if that was going to be comparable to what I’d wanted originally, I ultimately called him back and said no, I wanted the exact deal they’d agreed to when I walked into the store. Glad he was so accommodating, because my old TracFone was long gone into their recycling program, meaning there was no way I could indulge my inclination and just cancel the whole deal; I’d be left cellphoneless. Shortsighted of me not to hang onto it until I was sure I was happy with the new one, but a cagey move on their part to ensure I didn’t back out of a sale.

I’m also returning the Phone Connect device. Never even opened the box. I didn’t understand in the first place how it was supposed to work, and after getting home and doing a little research, I concluded I wanted no part of it. Cheaper than my land line, yes. But iffy 9-1-1 locating, no security alarm support, poor voice quality, and non-functioning during power outages, according to some of the comments. As an old lady living alone, I don’t want to risk those problems. Not to mention that the gal’s pitch on it sounded like one big snow job, considering, I’d discovered, that the device is free online. It should have had no bearing on the cost of my new phone.

Long story short (you can see now why I was in the store for 4 hours!), the correct phone should arrive Monday or Tuesday. Meantime I’m keeping the first phone to play with and learn on, while not downloading a whole lot of stuff in case it can’t be transferred to the new one (during my third trip out to the store; the second trip was because I had to pay for the second phone before they’d ship it).

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little voice keeps reminding me that the success of this entire venture ultimately depends entirely on how good or bad Sprint turns out to be as far as area coverage, dropped calls, etc. I think Verizon is supposed to be the best in the Denver area; I just didn’t like the calling plans they had. So, I’ll just have to wait and see. The way I am, I’ll probably assume any dropped call was my fault — I must have done something wrong.

Right now I’m practicing how to get my big fat fingertips — previously thought to be rather slender — on those tiny little screen keys and type the intended letter with some consistency.

Now if I could just remember where I saw that setting for larger fonts …


But the story doesn’t end here …

This post was Freshly Pressed


78 thoughts on “Grandma gets a smartphone

  1. Good golly! Now I have a headache! I can’t get a signal here at the house but do once I get into Evergreen or Conifer. So why would I need a smartphone when most of the time I’m not using my old flip? I think I’ll steer clear of the whole mess. I might consider an iPad though–maybe. πŸ™‚

  2. I know several people with the S3 that are very happy with it. I use a Galaxy S2, and the S3 came out a few months after I got it. I was, of course, bummed after looking at the S3 that I didn’t get it, but not really bummed. I’m quite happy with my S2. It’s a great phone, and now that the OS has been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, it’s been even better.

    But, as you’ve probably noticed with cell phones, it’s the carrier that really makes a difference. You have to deal with these people like used car salesmen, because they DO try to cheat you and get you to sign up for crap you don’t need. All of them, without exception, are conniving bastards bent on making money. Is that surprising? Not really. It’s just commerce, and I don’t hold it against them any more than I hold it against car dealers. You can say they’re scumbag and hate them all you want, but in their position, how would you operate? Tell they client, “oh, you don’t need that feature, don’t bother,” and lose the money? Nah…

    T-Mobile (my carrier) is one of the worst in this regards. They’ve yet to get a single bill correct, and it’s never been as low as they originally quoted. Their service is horrible, although their sales people have so far been happy to help us “try and get the bill” corrected. We show up at their door once a month when the bill comes in to get it fixed. When I’m in the ubiquitous dead zones that frequently show up (like my parents house, or several spots on the freeway) my connection goes down or my calls get dropped.

    My brother uses an iPhone, and tells me, “just get an iPhone and you won’t have these problems.” But the problem isn’t the phone. He’s on Verizon. He gets much better coverage than I do. The problem is the carrier. I test phone applications on a regular basis. I have a several Androids, an iPhone, and a BlackBerry on my desk right now. I love the Android far more than the iPhone, and enjoy the ability to tweak the interface and develop my own apps without having to join the Apple Developers programs (although I’m in the Apple Developer program anyway, but my company foots that bill). Anyone can develop Android apps for free. Apple charges 100 bucks a year, and is far more restrictive about putting things on their store. But I digress. The connectivity issue isn’t the phone’s problem, it’s the carrier’s. And right now, your choices between carriers are really a balance between a combination of things: cost, service, features, and coverage.

    Both Verizon and AT&T have better coverage, but their customer support is not good, and they’ll all screw up bills frequently. T-Mobile and Sprint both have major coverage issues (not in the cities so much, but once you get out of the cities, you’re going to notice). Service-wise, T-Mobile has fairly good customer support, but their horrible coverage and their tendency to overcharge on bills ensures that I will be switching carriers when our current contract runs out. Next time, I’m buying an unlocked phone and picking my provider, which will probably be Verizon (although I’ll have a look at AT&T and compare the costs before I decide). We had Verizon before, and they screwed up our bills on a regular basis too. My next phone will probably be an Android, because I enjoy modifying my phone (although I’ll look at Windows, since I really like the idea of being able to control my XBox with my phone. I’ll see what they can do first). BlackBerry is pretty much dead at this point, and just fading away on life support. I think they’ll be going the direction of Palm in the future. Windows phones will likely supplant RIM, changing the choice to iOS, Windows, or Android. And with all of Apple’s lawsuits against Android, it’s hard to see what affect that will have on Samsung and other Android developers in the future.

    As of this writing, T-Mobile is still charging for tethering. Verizon can’t do this anymore. “The FCC has ruled that Verizon violated the rules governing the C Block of LTE spectrum by preventing consumers from using any application of their choice. The end result: Big Red will have to open up its airwaves and allow customers to circumvent its $20 a month tethering plan using apps from the Play store — so long as you’re on a “usage-based pricing plan.” T-Mobile will probably have to follow suit, or follow suit (if you know what I mean). But tethering may not be an issue for you. It’s just an example of how things differ. And there are many differences in regards to data plans and unlimited data, as you noted.

    As always, buyer beware. You have to watch these guys like a hawk. They’re always out to screw you.

    1. Based on my son’s lengthy experience, I really wanted to go with Verizon. And he was also the one who seemed to think unlimited data was so important. Verizon looks the most expensive, but who can really tell? By the time Sprint added in taxes and all the other charges, it added up to as much as Verizon would have been — but of course Verizon would have added charges to the price they were quoting, too.

      My son uses his tethering capability a lot and told me about the recent case being settled; he predicts it means soon no carrier will be allowed to charge extra for tethering. Which I figure means they will just charge more in the first place. I’m not sure what tethering involves or if I’d use it. I think my son uses it to get wi-fi for his laptop when he can’t get it any other way. But he has work, with some travel. My laptop never leaves the house.

      I’ve resisted buying a phone for several years because of the high monthly rates. They look exorbitant to me, and I hardly ever leave the house anyway. I’ll likely just be carrying around a paperweight most of the time. But I finally broke down and look what it got me. I’m sitting here still angry that the phone I have isn’t the right one, the right one isn’t due in till Wednesday, and then I’ll have to go out to the store again to switch them out, and worry that I’m somehow getting charged way too much in the process. Frankly, I woke up this morning thinking screw it, I acted on impulse, I’ll just cancel out the whole deal and pay for a new TracFone, which will also make a nice, but much cheaper paperweight. And it will only cost $100 a year instead of $100 a month!

      1. It’s probably true that you “don’t really” need a smartphone. I think it comes down to having that access when you’re not at home. Which then comes down to “how often are you not at home and need to access the web?”

        If you don’t care about social media, don’t require instant contact with other people when you’re out of the house, don’t need to read your email when you’re out of your house, and don’t care about instantly sharing video and images when you’re out of the house, then what are you going to use it for? Sure, you can always play games on it, but are you actually going to do that?

        I use my phone to check email, but if I couldn’t, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Mainly, I use it to send pictures of the kids doing stupid crap to my parents. They love that. If you’re just interested in sending images and text messaging, you can get a limited plan and a more limited phone much cheaper. You’ll still be able to send and receive texts (not emails, but you can also tweak that depending on your email provider). In short, you’re correct, you could save a lot of money. You won’t have all the cool games, but if communication is your primary goal, you can go cheaper and still get what you want.

        The Galaxy S3 is a premier phone. It’s awesome in what it can do. It’s a computer in your pocket, and just as capable as your laptop. Heck, you can connect a BT keyboard and mouse to the thing and write on it if you want. (I do this with my S2 and my Nexus 7 all the time). You can get the WP plugin, and read and post articles straight to WordPress from anywhere (including images from your phone). The question is, will you use these features? I’ve yet to send a WP post from my phone (although I do check comments and read blogs on my phone – usually when I’m on the elliptical at the gym).

        Once you get your phone (the new one) and you start using it, you’ll probably want to keep it. So the time to decide is now before you start liking the abilities it gives you. Will you be able to justify the expenditure? Probably not. But you’ll want it anyway just because it’s too damned fun.

        1. Your last paragraph, of course, is the crux of the whole thing. No, I can’t really justify the expense, but I decided to jump in for the fun of it. I’ve watched the kids do everything but cook dinner with their smartphones … and tech envy finally did me in.

          The fun just keeps on coming. I dug up the shipping notice; the right phone won’t be in till Wednesday, and the guy I’m dealing with now is off that day, so it will be Thursday at least before this all gets straightened out. I also noticed on the phone this afternoon, and then on all the paperwork, that they misspelled my name when they set up the account! And I can’t get to the account information online with either of the phone numbers they’ve given me to see how the charges and everything else are set up. The word snakebit comes to mind. πŸ˜₯

    2. I have the HTC Sensation (Android, I’m sure you know this though) with T-Mobile. I’ve used tethering quite a bit, and have never been charged extra for it. I’ve also never had a problem with bills or customer support.

      The only bad thing about T-Mobile, is that when I moved from Utah to New York City, I learned that T-Mobile coverage isn’t great on the east coast, and the buildings often block the signal. I have to use the wi-fi connection to make calls from in my apartment. But I rarely had problems with coverage or dropped calls in Utah. I can’t imagine that it would differ too much from Utah to Colorado.

      My ex-spouse had Sprint, and it was nothing but endless problems. The lies they told us just to make a buck, oh the lies.

      1. T-Mobile’s “free” tethering ends with ICS upgrades

        I had a long talk with them about tethering. If you’re on a 5GB “unlimited” plan (you know what that actually means), then they don’t charge extra for tethering – just for the plan. I have a 2GB family plan (which is fine for us since we use wifi in the house and at work). I refuse to pay extra for tethering. It should be free. Hopefully they’ll change this thanks to the Verizon lawsuit, but I’m still waiting. Really, all I want to do is tether my Nexus 7. Why should they care? If I can’t tether, I’m going to use the data off my phone anyway. Either way, I use the data. So they shouldn’t restrict this. Now if I were sharing my data with other users, I could see it being an issue.

        1. Bummer. Yeah I have the 5G Unlimited plan. I totally agree with you that they shouldn’t charge if you have paid for the plan. It makes sense that they’d choke it up once you’ve used 5G’s… but hey if I’ve paid for them, I want to use them. Tethering or not, it shouldn’t make a difference.

      2. If I can keep the numbers straight, maybe I can catch all the lies. But it’s tough when everything is new too you and you don’t even know all the terminology. You don’t even know what questions you ought to be asking.

        Yes, I’d expect coverage to be similar to Utah. No real problems except in the mountains.

  3. Oh grandma, I know exactly what you mean-me too. They are smart, extremely smart and my fingers are fat and fumbly – I think I have the hang of everything now (a month later) except for taking calls! Cheers

  4. This is why so far I haven’t gotten a smartphone. I am not enamored of bureaucracy and having to keep an eagle-eye on paperwork lest I get screwed out of something. I just do not want the annoyance. So I keep my little Captain-Kirk clamshell phone in my handbag and am completely happy with it. I may or may not get an iPad to have the mobile happymaking that a smartphone would let me have, but my phone will stay simple and antediluvian, the way I like it.

    1. I’m beginning to doubt my sanity for giving up the TracFone. A pretty little antediluvian blue Captain Kirk thingy. I could still cancel this whole thing and order another TracFone … but the clock is ticking.

  5. This story sums up what is so wrong with the cell phone industry, and you told it wonderfully.

    My G-pa just got an iPhone, mostly so I can facetime my children with him. My G-ma? Still has old flip phone because there is no way she could hear or type on a touch screen. Plus, every time she’d tap on something, she’d use her land line to call and go “I clicked on something and I don’t know how to get out!” I know this based on her PC usage for the last 10 years. She doesn’t do well with change.

    I hope you end up loving your phone, once you get it. Just be careful about installing Angry Birds. It will suck your time away. πŸ™‚

    1. Too late. I’ve had Angry Birds on my computer for quite a while. But it’s actually the perfect little game for killing time on a phone. Thanks (I think) for reminding me to download it to the phone when I get squared away!

  6. Great blog – your issue appears to be common in retail shops – have another friend had a similar experience – and ended up with the wrong phone as well – apparently it was substituted because of no stock either. Good luck with your new acquisition

    1. I’ve been wondering for several days how quickly and easily I’d have gotten my phone if I’d ordered online. I had exactly what I wanted in my cart — no more, no less. Next time I’ll know better than to set foot in a carrier’s store.

  7. I like the way you write. Anyway, despite its fancy, using smartphone does lead to extra complications. i’ve called people unintentionally while browsing through my contacts, had difficulties calling 3-digit numbers, my 3 yr old son occassionally called my boss while playing around with it, and i had to delete hundreds of uncounted-for shots my son took for its flashy flashy 8 megapix camera. yet, a blessing in disguise, my son benefits a lot from both fun and educative games, and i definitely love using the camera. I’m sure you’ll enjoy too πŸ™‚

    1. I forgot to mention the camera, which is as good as the separate camera I have, although without the zoom. No kids here to play with it, but grandkids will be eager to get their hands on it. Hell, based on what I’ve seen at their house, I’ll be asking them how to operate my phone! And yes, I anticipate doing all sorts of unintended things like you describe.

  8. You’re wise not to rely on cell phone to call emergency services. The one time in our lives that we needed an ambulance, they couldn’t really find us, and we had to drive our injured baby to the hospital ourselves. We don’t even own a cell phone, but our land line had gone down in bad weather, and my husband had his office’s on-call phone.

    Hope you get the phone of your dreams soon!

    1. Thx. That’s the one thing that’s kept me hanging on to my land line. I resent the cost, but I really want the assurance that when I dial 9-1-1, they’ll know exactly where I am whether I can tell them or not.

    1. I typed this on my computer, which I’m very comfortable with. The phone is a whole ‘nother deal — but at least I’ve figured out how to zoom its screen for reading. Big step! Tada!

  9. Hilarious post!!!! I haven’t gone the smartphone route (yet?). Instead I got an iTouch to do everything I would use a smartphone for, except actual phone calls. So far I’m happy. The only downside is that I need WiFi to go online, but that’s pretty easy to find most of the time. I still have my falling-apart flip phone for phone calls.

  10. hahaha! this is amazing! get it gurl! seriously though, it’s really an accomplishment. my mom has a cell phone and she still asks me how to turn it on, make a call, etc.

    good luck with your phone!

    1. lol I’ve mastered off and on. Haven’t tried making a phone call yet. Oops, I take that back. I called my own land line just to see if I could do it. It worked! Am I awesome or what!?

  11. awww, what a great article! Believe me, sometimes I wonder how I am going to adjust to the yet uninvented technologies in the (still quite) far future when I reach some respectable age. I guess we all hope that it will be all fun and games… πŸ˜‰ good luck with your phone.


    1. Thx! When I retired, I kept up with computers but let the smartphones, iPads, etc., slide. Now I have a lot of lost ground to make up. That’s one reason I took the plunge. I didn’t want to get any farther behind. Every year it gets harder to understand new stuff.

      1. Hat down to you! You have my admiration! I hope that you will have the phone you originally wanted and that you will enjoy it after all the stuff you have been through πŸ˜‰ Many happy explorations πŸ™‚

  12. Having a smartphone is a totally different life experience and I completely understand all you went through! And yes, typing on a touch screen with your fingers is rough to learn, but you’ll get the hang of it!

    1. πŸ™‚ I figured I’d better get started while the fingers still work! A few more years and it might be a different story. Still, watching how fast and how confidently people text on those tiny screens just amazes me.

  13. That does sound like a headache. Personally, my problem with Verizon is that while they have excellent coverage, you pay for it. I hope you get it all sorted out, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed. πŸ™‚

    1. That was my conclusion. Two years from now, who knows. I may decide it’s worth it to switch to Verizon. Or I may go back to a TracFone. And thx, I’m thrilled to be on Freshly Pressed.

  14. ARRRGGGHHH! What an adventure…a not so fun one. We have Verizon because it works best were we live/travel. …and we still have that great unlimited plan, too! I did get a smart phone as my old motorola one finally crashed and burned…decided to get one like my kid’s – so if I have an issue I have someone with the exact phone that is a wiz on it that can help me.
    Great post! Loved the pacing – and could definitely identify with the subject!

    1. Like you, I got pretty much the same phone the kids have so they could answer all my questions. I’d have gone with the same calling plan too, if Verizon had still offered it, so they could help me straighten out any billing problems, too. I should have dragged my DIL to the store with me; she shreds incompetent sales reps as a hobby.

    1. That certainly would have made things easier. Actually, I think they are plotting to get me one of those “help-me-I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” pendants someday. πŸ™‚

  15. The title alone made me run over here. LOL – you, me and my friend Zelda could do some damage to these younger whipper snappers with their smooooooooth smart phone talk. Hope it turned out to be everything you wanted. LOL, I’m still giggling – thanks for that.

... and that's my two cents