2010 Reliability and Service Survey: Smartphone and Wireless Providers

Apple’s iPhone and Verizon‘s wireless service are the favorites of respondents in this year’s survey.

By Jeff Bertolucci, PCWorld

R&S 2010 Survey Results
R&S 2010 Survey Results

Apple fans love the iPhone, but they’re not particularly thrilled with AT&T, which at press time was the exclusive iPhone carrier in the United States. Readers rate AT&T last in voice call quality and data speed, while Verizon Wireless is the overall favorite.

John Moncure, an iPhone 3G owner in South Carolina, says AT&T’s 3G service is unreliable where he lives. “Sometimes walking from one side of the house to the other–and I live right downtown in the county seat–I lose connectivity,” says Moncure, headmaster of a Montessori school in Camden, a small town of 7000 people.

“I like the iPhone, it’s a good machine. If it were available with all the providers, I would pick the provider that gave me the best service–and I don’t think that’s AT&T, not out here,” he adds.

Research In Motion (RIM) should take note that BlackBerry users aren’t a happy lot either. RIM’s widely used smartphone received below-average grades in nearly every reliability and usability category, although BlackBerrys arrive with few out-of-the-box problems. Nearly 1 in 3 BlackBerry users report at least one significant problem with their phone, compared with roughly 1 in 5 Motorola handset users.

RIM has another serious issue to contend with: Younger consumers in their twenties tend to favor phones from Apple, HTC, and vendors that use Google’s Android mobile operating system, according to a recent Yankee Group study. RIM’s demographic skews a little higher–in the 30-plus range–mostly because a BlackBerry “tends to be used a lot in work environments,” says Yankee Group mobile analyst Carl Howe.

T-Mobile deserves kudos for its customer support. While the fourth-place wireless carrier’s overall service rating is very close to its competitors’ scores, the company excels in phone support, readers report. T-Mobile’s average hold time is 4.6 minutes–significantly lower than the others, which have times ranging from 5.2 minutes (AT&T) to 6.1 minutes (Verizon).

And 84 percent of T-Mobile customers report that they’re satisfied with the voice call reliability of the carrier’s network, second only to Verizon’s 86.7 percent. (AT&T was a distant fourth with 72.8 percent, no doubt an indication of the dropped-call problems many iPhone users have reported.)

We should also note that Motorola takes the honors in phone reliability.

After reading this article, you may want to jump to PCWorld’s Facebook page, where readers can add their own stories of product reliability and vendor service.

The four charts below summarize our survey’s findings on smartphone reliability by brand, wireless carriers’ customer service, smartphone ease of use by brand, and satisfaction with wireless network service. For more on the measures used in the charts and the survey methodology, see “The Tech Brands You Can Trust .”

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Teens Deliver Word of Mouth

– Mark Dolliver, Adweek
Anyone who has tried to shut a teenager up will be unsurprised to learn that teens produce a disproportionate amount of “word of mouth” about products and services. A recent report from Keller Fay Group has the numbers to document this phenomenon.

Based on data collected during a one-year period (July 2009 through June 2010), the report says teens “engage in a significantly higher level of word of mouth about all categories than the total public.” For instance, 78 percent of 13-17-year-olds, vs. 57 percent of the general public, engaged in word of mouth about “media & entertainment” brands during that period; 67 percent of 13-17s, vs. 39 percent of the public in general, talked about “technology” products. Seguir leyendo “Teens Deliver Word of Mouth”

The Next 5 Years in Social Media

Adam Ostrow

Social Media ImageOver the last five years, social media has evolved from a handful of communities that existed solely in a web browser to a multi-billion dollar industry that’s quickly expanding to mobile devices, driving major changes in content consumption habits and providing users with an identity and social graph that follows them across the web.

With that framework in place, the next five years are going to see even more dramatic change. Fueled by advancements in underlying technology – the wires, wireless networks and hardware that make social media possible – a world where everything is connected awaits us. The result will be both significant shifts in our everyday lives and a changing of the guard in several industries that are only now starting to feel the impact of social media. Seguir leyendo “The Next 5 Years in Social Media”

12 Ways the Tech Industry Is Screwing You (and How to Fight Back)

Whether you seek out cutting-edge tech gear or keep to a strict budget, the tech industry has ways to nickel-and-dime you out of your hard-earned cash. Here’s how to fight back.

Patrick Miller, PC World

You can’t install the apps you want on your smartphone. You can’t play the movies you bought on your PC. You can’t even walk into a store without getting upsold, enrolled, restocked, and recalled. Welcome to the world of tech in 2010, where your phone doesn’t work–and companies tell you that “you’re holding it wrong.”

Just because you venture into the tech marketplace with a credit card in your hand doesn’t mean you deserve to get screwed. Check out these 12 ways that the tech industry is pulling a fast one on you–and learn how to fight back.

Ridiculous Restocking Fees

Bought a laptop and realized it wasn’t for you? No problem, you can return it within 30 days–that’ll be $150, please.

Restocking fees are an easy way for vendors to make a tidy profit from a consumer’s buying misstep. The rationale for such fees may be to discourage cheapskates who have no intention of keeping a device from buying it, using it for a short time–say, for the length of a vacation–and then returning it; but the practical result is that you can get slapped with a fee ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent of the purchase price just for the privilege of returning a gadget you’re not happy with.

For example, Best Buy charges 10 percent for iPhone returns; 15 percent for opened laptops, projectors, digital cameras/camcorders, and GPS systems; and 25 percent for any special-ordered item. Amazon.com, Sears, and Newegg all charge a 15 percent restocking fee for computers and electronics, though each vendor’s specific rules vary–for example, Sears charges only if the returned item doesn’t include the original packaging, whereas Newegg dings you for anything you return after opening it.

Take the restocking fees into consideration before you buy. It’s illegal in some states to charge a restocking fee without notifying you in advance, but the notification could be buried in the return policy on the back of your receipt, so ask a salesperson before you swipe your credit card. You might discover that the $5 you save by buying a product from a particular vendor could be negated by the $50 it charges as a restocking fee. Buying a gift? Get a gift card if there’s any chance that the recipient might want to return the item you’re tempted to choose. Seguir leyendo “12 Ways the Tech Industry Is Screwing You (and How to Fight Back)”

Your Smartphone Will Soon Double as Your Wallet

By: Dan Macsai

Wallet, over filled, credit cards, receiptPhotograph by Sue Tallon

The race is on to transform your smartphone into your wallet.

The Japanese call it osaifu keitai (cell-phone wallet). Flash your phone virtually anywhere you go for almost any purchase and it’s automatically logged into a digital expense report. Eat frequently at McDonald’s? Tap your phone to pay and your all-in-one debit card/receipt tracker/loyalty program may instantly offer you 10% off.

Today, if you want to enjoy these benefits, you have to go to Japan. But after years of talk, wireless carriers, banks, startups, and handset makers are now actively working to transform Americans’ cell phones into mobile wallets. The goal: to snag a share of the processing fees associated with the $3.2 trillion in annual retail credit-card charges, and to turn the $1.2 trillion in cash and check spending into digital transactions. Seguir leyendo “Your Smartphone Will Soon Double as Your Wallet”

Is the Future of Mobile Broadband Pay As You Go?

Over the past few weeks, I have been considering a mobile broadband solution. My reasoning is two-fold: I’d like a backup in case my regular connection fails–Comcast here has become somewhat spotty as of late–and something for when I’m on the road at a conference and don’t want to depend on the available Wi-Fi, which is sometimes unreliable.

For the time being, I have settled on Virgin Mobile’s Broadband2Go offering (I’ll have a review of it coming in a week or two after I’ve put it through its paces). It’s cheap, the initial cost of startup is not high, and it’s now Mac compatible. But while at Wal-Mart, I was shocked to see Verizon and AT&T are now offering their own prepaid plans. I must have missed their announcements–and it’s kind of surprising to me that those companies be interested in getting into the game. Seguir leyendo “Is the Future of Mobile Broadband Pay As You Go?”

The FCC’s Crusade to Keep the Internet Free

Logo of Comcast
Image via Wikipedia

Verizon and Google want to exempt wireless networks from rules

By Todd Shields and Brad Stone
Imagine an Internet for which consumers paid a low price for basic service and higher prices for add-ons like 3D video. Or imagine if Comcast (CMCSA), now seeking approval to acquire NBC Universal, allowed its customers to download Universal movies at superfast speeds, while relegating the latest Harry Potter film from rival Time Warner (TWX) to the slow lane.

Open-Internet advocates say such cable-television-like tiered services and virtual toll booths would violate “Net neutrality,” the concept that all information coursing across the Web is equal. Seguir leyendo “The FCC’s Crusade to Keep the Internet Free”

Morning Brief: HPOA Girl a Hoax, EFF Analyzes Google, Samsung Tablet on the Way

Christina Warren

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on three particular stories of interest today:

HPOA Jenny Was a Fake!

Yesterday, we fell in love with “Jenny,” a young woman who quit her job through a series of amusing whiteboard messages. Alas, this one was too good to be true. “Jenny” is really Elyse Porterfield, an aspiring actress from Glendale, California.

The prank was created by brothers John and Leo Resig for their humor site, theCHIVE.com. Peter Kafka from AllThingsD grew suspicious of the story yesterday and did some digging. Porterfield has also tweeted confirmation of her role in the stunt. Seguir leyendo “Morning Brief: HPOA Girl a Hoax, EFF Analyzes Google, Samsung Tablet on the Way”

Net Neutrality: What’s Really Going on?

Brad Reed, NetworkWorld

Net neutrality is dead!” “Net neutrality lives!” “Google has sold out!” “Google denies selling out!”

The past couple of days have seen contradictory reports about the state of the Federal Communications Commission’s push for network neutrality, all culminating yesterday when the FCC announced that it had called off closed-door net neutrality talks between major industry players such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Google. Net neutrality refers to the principle that ISPs should not be allowed to block or degrade Internet traffic from their competitors in order to speed up their own.

What you need to know about the FCC’s broadband plan

Since the flurry of activity surrounding net neutrality yesterday was often confusing, let’s try to pin down what we know.

The New York Times got the ball rolling two days ago when it reported through anonymous sources that Google and Verizon were near a deal that would let Verizon “speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.” While the deal between Verizon and Google was separate from the talks the FCC had been having with major industry players, the newspaper noted the deal between two major industry players “could upend the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to assert its authority over broadband service.”

It didn’t take long for net neutrality advocates for sound the alarm, as Free Press President Josh Silver wrote at the Huffington Post that the Verizon-Google deal would mark “the end of the Internet as we know it.” Google, which has traditionally been viewed as a proponent of net neutrality and has worked with consumer advocacy groups to press for net neutrality in the past, quickly denied that it had reached any sort of deal with Verizon. The FCC, fearing a backlash from consumer groups over its backroom negotiations, soon after called off its separate talks with industry leaders.

Artwork: Chip TaylorSo where does all this leave network neutrality? The answer is that no one really knows, although the commission could always go back to its previous plan outlined by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski this past May, where the commission would reclassify ISPs as common carriers while at the same time insisting that ISPs be exempt from the vast majority of regulations in the current common carrier rules. But this plan has run into a buzzsaw from both the telecommunications industry and from members of Congress in both parties, who implored the FCC to drop its reclassification plan and instead either work with Congress to get net neutrality rules or simply drop the subject all together. Seguir leyendo “Net Neutrality: What’s Really Going on?”

Is Google Working With Verizon to Upend Net Neutrality?

It sounds unlikely, but sources close to Google and Verizon have said that the two companies are working together on a deal that would help Verizon charge some Internet content providers more than others in exchange for priority data transfer speeds.

Such an agreement would fly in the face of net neutrality, a philosophy of web content previously promoted by Google.

The news comes from The New York Times, which cites “people close to the negotiations who were not authorized to speak publicly.” The two tech giants will reportedly make the deal “as soon as next week.”

Consumer advocacy groups and many content creators have argued in favor of net neutrality, which would ensure that the consumer’s ability to access certain pieces of web content would not be tiered based on expense like premium channels on cable television, or first-class and coach seating on airlines. Seguir leyendo “Is Google Working With Verizon to Upend Net Neutrality?”

iFive: Google History, TV Tablet, Flickr Makeover, BP Progress, Tree Fight

BY Jenara Nerenberg

1. Google news dump! The search giant is letting all of us forgetful people now rely less on our memories to recall recently searched items and websites. “History” is the tab to look out for. Plus, Google’s keywords business opens up copyright restrictions to allow competitors’ results in searches. (Looking for Chevy info? Expect ads for Ford to pop up, too.) And finally, you can sign into multiple Google accounts at the same time in the same browser. Seguir leyendo “iFive: Google History, TV Tablet, Flickr Makeover, BP Progress, Tree Fight”

Motorola Droid Upgrading to Android 2.2 Next Week

We’ll just go ahead and say it: Android 2.2 is just about to be on everything. And it looks like, unlike the previous updates to the Android version, every major carrier and manufacturer out there is taking the update to Android 2.2, or Froyo, very seriously. And that’s perfectly fine with us. This time around, we’ve got official word from Verizon that the Motorola Droid is getting updated to Android 2.2 next week.

Motorola Droid

Moto Droid 2.2 update 1 379x500 Seguir leyendo “Motorola Droid Upgrading to Android 2.2 Next Week”

Home Page Improvement

– Noreen O’Leary
The official Web sites for most consumer brands aren’t very exciting. You can pretty much bet on what you’ll see: A huge photo of the product, a button you click to see a list of ingredients or retail locations, perhaps some company history — and of course the ubiquitous “Contact Us” form. With the exception of some fancy Flash graphics (meant to impress viewers, but more often something that gets in their way), it seems like many home pages are trapped in time — circa 1996.

Frito-Lay’s home page, however, is a notable exception.

Amid a background of simple graphics (an ordinary wall lined with picture frames) is an easy-to-navigate array of option bars based not so much on touting the brand, but on consumer-lifestyle issues. There’s dietary information and recommendations for “sensible snacking.” An “Our Planet” feature discusses the company’s stance on a roster of ecological issues including water conservation and waste reduction. A new “Snack Chat” blog tackles topics like sustainability and health/wellness, while also featuring a Twitter link and a slide show tour of the company’s recently opened “green” distribution center. Seguir leyendo “Home Page Improvement”

HTC phone featuring Windows Phone 7 finally appears, meets expectations. Sense coming eventually?

by Malatesta

We’ve been hearing about the code-names for awhile and now we finally get to see one. We’re of course talking about Windows Phone 7 on an HTC device and this one is reportedly for Verizon (and presumably Sprint).

Rocking some current-high end specs, the device features:

  • 3.7″ SLCD screen (Sony‘s ‘Super TFT LCD‘, nothing big)
  • 3 touch-sensitive lower buttons (similar to EVO)
  • 8MP camera (No dual flash, not even a single one!)
  • 1GHz Snapdragon
  • No HTC customizations in sight

Too early to tell if this will be a release device, what it’ll be called and where it fits in with HTC’s planned offerings (maybe this is an entry level device, not their flagship?)

Our take: it’s exactly what we’d expect from HTC and in that regard, it’s a bit underwhelming although we think it’ll get the job done admirably. Still, we’re sort of hoping for ‘an HTC EVO moment’ where we really go ‘wow‘ instead of ‘meh‘.

Are our standards and expectations too high? Yup, and we’re okay with that as Microsoft needs to wow us.  Your thoughts?  Is that Dell Lightning looking better yet? Seguir leyendo “HTC phone featuring Windows Phone 7 finally appears, meets expectations. Sense coming eventually?”

Verizon, AT&T & Cisco Talk Up Internet of Things

Image representing ReadWriteWeb as depicted in...
Image via CrunchBase
Written by Richard MacManus

You know that a trend is ramping up when big companies begin to namecheck it. It’s happening now with the Internet of Things, a term for when real-world objects connect to the Internet. Senior executives from two major U.S. broadband and telecommunications companies – Verizon and AT&T – plus the CTO of the world’s biggest network systems provider Cisco, have recently discussed the Internet of Things.

As part of a patriotic statement about how the U.S. leads the world in Internet innovation, Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg said today that the “‘Internet of Things’ will infuse intelligence into all our systems and present us with a whole new way to run a home, an enterprise, a community or an economy.”

Seidenberg said that “in a 4G world, wireless will connect everything” and that “there’s really no limit to the number of connections that can be part of the mobile grid: vehicles, appliances, buildings, roads, medical monitors.” Seguir leyendo “Verizon, AT&T & Cisco Talk Up Internet of Things”