July 2, 2007

My Miserable iPhone Experience, Part 4 — A Happy Ending

Filed under: Apple, Gear, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 7:02 pm

Here it is — the resolution to my long road to AT&T’s network. You can check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to see how I got to this point.

It seems my problem all stems from the fact that I took bad advice early on from an AT&T rep and activated my phone in Oregon. Unfortunately, mobile telecom is still mired in its landline origins. Area codes are still area codes tied to a specific geographic location.

Mobility creates problems. As frustrating as this experience has been, I’m not particularly angry about it. Businesses like AT&T want to know how much revenue they generate in a certain region. States want to collect taxes. Cities want 911 fees from residents paying phone bills. I’m sure the city of Chicago isn’t going to cut Portland a $15 check just because my billing address has been here for the last year.

In 2003, local number portability was mandated by the FCC for wireless numbers in metropolitan areas. It was never intended to create a lifetime phone number; the purpose was simply to reduce end-user switching costs between carriers within a market. AT&T’s porting system is just strictly enforcing the rules.

Still, I’m not big on rules. They don’t always make sense. There are countless laws still on the books that seem silly or bizarre today. Just because tax rules and government regulations haven’t kept up with the way society uses mobile technology, that certainly doesn’t mean that I have to play along and just deal with the major hassle of changing the phone number that all my business associates and friends use.

But now things appear to be fixed. I can make outgoing calls and caller ID shows them coming from my Chicago number. The transfer from T-Mobile appears to be under way. Here’s what happened:

First, if you haven’t activated yet and you’re living in a different region than your area code would indicate, try the trick laid out by AppleInsider.

It was too late for me — I’d already contacted AT&T and been advised to just activate the phone and port the numbers after. So I went to the AT&T store today and said that I needed a way to keep my iPhone — if I can’t move my number, I’m returning it. The AT&T guy was really nice — as everyone has been, even when they couldn’t find a way to help me — and wanted to help.

I discussed the AppleInsider tip and asked if he could move my account to Chicago so I could get the port to work, or perhaps I could cancel the account and just start over. He thought that I should call to cancel, where I’d be put through to a special group tasked with trying to hold onto departing customers. He said they’d ask why I was leaving and might be able to resolve the issue. (I’m guessing some of their compensation may be based on hanging onto customers — maybe this could tip the balance in my favor.) I asked if I’d need a new SIM card if I had to re-activate; he said I would and gave me one just in case.

I called AT&T and ended up speaking with a guy in the cancellations group (or whatever they call it). I kept getting put on hold as he tried to find out how to fix it. We had some false starts when he thought I was having a problem moving a Chicago AT&T number, and momentary panic when he said they couldn’t move the T-Mobile number. But he went back to it and eventually he put me through to a girl in relocations. She would help me with my move; she would then put me through to porting who would move my number over.

She also got a bit mixed up at one point. But she eventually found the right process, cancelled my new Oregon account, created a new Illinois account and linked it to the new SIM card. She transferred me to porting. He initiated the port, told me to put in the new SIM and connect to iTunes.

He didn’t think any re-activation through iTunes would be needed (he was wrong); by now I’d been through enough to cover my bases. I confirmed that if I did need to re-activate in iTunes, that I’d be selecting the option to use the iPhone with an existing AT&T wireless number.

We briefly discussed trying to port over my girlfriend’s number and completing the whole family plan thing, but agreed that’s best left for after my phone is up and running. We hung up. I’d been on the phone for an hour and forty-five minutes.

The iPhone recognized that the SIM had changed and insisted that I re-activate. I plugged into iTunes and things went smoothly, although I now got the option to add a data plan to my existing plan rather than select one of the iPhone plans. Now I’m just waiting for the port to go through.

There will still be some clean-up to deal with — who knows what’s going to come of the cancelled Oregon account, Illinois account created to receive the port, how I’ll get on the correct iPhone plan, and what will happen when I try to port over Diane’s number. But I think the worst is over and I’m keeping my number!


January 24, 2007

Mobile Phone, Reinvented

Filed under: Apple, Gear, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 12:28 am

Seth Godin recently blogged about how the iPhone doesn’t really “reinvent” the cellphone very much. And while he makes some good points about what a reinvented cellphone would be like, I think that Apple may already be ahead of him on this.

Apple’s iPhone

There’s been a lot of criticism of Appe’s decision to tie itself to Cingular for the first couple of years. But once you get past all the whining (come on, people, phone exclusivity isn’t exactly a new model in the cell phone world), the decision starts to make a lot of sense.

It looks like Apple didn’t want to just build a device and throw it out there — they want to change the market itself. The iPod was successful because Apple did more than market a device. They provided a tightly integrated music library management tool and a fairly seamless user experience. (I’m not forgetting the store, but that came about much later.)

My hope is that Apple chose to partner with someone because they have features and services in mind that require more than a nifty phone — they require changes to the cellular network. Visual voicemail is the first of these but probably not the last. The kinds of features that Godin imagines, like using a group to distribute a voice mail or make a conference call with multiple people, will also require changes to how the cell network handles calls.

As to the question, “Why Cingular?” Why not? Does it matter? So what if you hate Cingular — you’re a cliché. Everyone has a story about the cell carrier that done them wrong that they’ll never use again. The bottom line is that Cingular’s the biggest — the second runner-up is as much as 20% smaller. Why partner up with number 2 when number 1 would be happy to have this dance?

Only time will tell whether Apple’s strategy pays off or whether they really have a series of cell phone innovations planned for the future. I’m guessing that it will, they do, and I am.

January 22, 2007


Filed under: Gear, Weight Loss — Tom @ 1:07 am

As part of my new attempt at fitness, I thought I’d see how I do with the 10,000-steps-per-day minimum recommended activity. I bought a shiny new pedometer, the Omron HJ-112, based on some Amazon praise.

Omron HJ-112

The gist of the reviews there was that the sensor tracked continuous steps, ignoring intermittent jostling and only counting once you walked for four seconds or more. It was also advertised as accurate whether it was on your belt, in a pocket, or tucked away in a bag.

This was what I really wanted — a “set it and forget it” pedometer that I didn’t have to wear on my belt and proclaim to the world my exercise habits. (Um, yeah, I realize I’m blogging this and there’s a contradiction in there.) I wanted to put it in my pocket and not worry about it for the rest of the day.

Unfortunately, the HJ-112 doesn’t live up to the advertising. It’s a great pedometer, but it suffers from the same limitations as any other pedometer I’ve ever used. It needs to be kept reasonably perpendicular to the ground — although not mentioned in the description, “pocket” is limited to a shirt pocket.

I tried using it for a couple days in my pants pocket and jostling about while I sat was still a problem. It credited me with over 2,000 steps during my drive to work and another 1,000 while I sat at a computer all day.

So it’s a bust. I would still recommend it to anyone who wanted a high tech pedometer. It automatically resets its count each day, it stores a week’s worth of walks in memory, and tracks “aerobic steps” (walks longer than 10 minutes at 60 steps per minute) separately.

But if you just want something to track your walks and think you’ll need to mess around with this less, think again. You’ll still need to remove it while sitting to avoid false steps being counted. I now use it to count steps for single walks, rather than trying to get an all-day step count.

December 29, 2006

Portland Not Magic Fitness Vortex

Filed under: Gear, Portland, Technology, Weight Loss — Tom @ 2:15 pm

I’ve mentioned that Portland’s a pretty fit, healthy city. Unfortunately, it looks like it is not caused by something in the water or some magic Portland pixie dust.

People actually get out and do stuff. And not just walk across the street and get some blue cheese steak fries at Leona’s kind of stuff. They ride bikes and run and all kinds of activities that are completely alien to me, a guy who mostly reads books, watches movies, plays video games and spends hours and hours on a computer at both work and home.

So it’s time to change. I’m going to include some discussion of losing weight here to keep me honest, from the standpoint of the tools and technology that’s out there to keep a geek like me interested in fitness. We all have our own motivation — mine’s going to be a chance to buy new gadgets.

December 20, 2006


Filed under: Gear, Technology — Tom @ 4:27 pm


I hope you understand. It’s not you, it’s me. I just don’t think we’re right for each other anymore. I still care about you a lot.
I love your VoiceSignal dialing and would be happy to never use a mobile phone keypad again. You’re trim and sleek and, I’ll admit it, your one-handed flip is still really, really sexy. I wish we could work this out.

So why do you have to make things so difficult? You let me bluetooth to my MacBook Pro and sync up all my contacts — but when I’m in a noisy place and can’t voice dial you only let me enter in the first letter of someone’s name? And then you beep at me every second because I’m scrolling through my 820 contacts too quickly for your tastes? Why won’t you just let me enter in letters until we find the person I want?

Your calendar is so basic. I know you’re smarter than that, so why don’t you let me snooze an alarm or see more info? And your menu structure? Why is it so obtuse? Maybe I’m overreacting, but I feel like you’re keeping something from me.

I just can’t live like this. You’re a wonderful phone and I’m sure you’ll find the right person someday.

Oh, me? Well, I’m… uh… I’m going back to my Sony Ericsson P910i.


Yes, I know I said it was over. But we’ve got a history and things were great for a long time. It lets me put in as many characters as I need to find a contact, using keypad or thumbboard or stylus. The Symbian OS and UIQ interface are really elegant — not that you’re not, in your own way.

Oh. Well, it’s kind of rude to say so, but yeah, P910i is a bit thicker around the keypad. But sometimes you have to see the inner beauty in things. What?! I’m shocked — shocked! — that you’d think something like that. Of course P910i isn’t going to be just some transitional thing until June. I haven’t even looked at the iPhone. Honest.

I hope we can still be friends.


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