AT&T Wireless screws up bigtime

Here’s a quick overview of what’s happening: AT&T Wireless is sending out new phones to upgrade malfunctioning phones to its customers for free. Sounds good, right?
Well the new phones that it’s sending out are newer, but in almost every case not as good. Take a look at the comparison between the new T226 and my T68i, while it has a nicer display and polyphonic rings it lacks Bluetooth, IR and a calendar (which are important for iSync) and has half as much memory among other things.
As for the phones malfunctioning, as it turns out they’re malfunctioning because AT&T has decided to turn off the 900Mhz band in favor of 850Mhz. I have to assume that they had been planning this for a while, this isn’t the kind of thing you decide to do overnight. So why were they still selling 900Mhz phones to customers when they had obsolescence plans in place? Engadget provides even more information, including a neat looking map.
I suspect that the timing has something to do with their acquisition by Cingular. Either they need to convert to 850Mhz to work with Cingular or they don’t have to worry about their share price any more and feel they can jerk around their customers.
I recently switched from AT&T to T-Mobile because my T68i had been acting up for a while. I had them send replacement phones but that never really helped. Maybe if they had been more forthcoming with their customers I would have stayed, but I doubt it. My phone became unusable on their network and if I had been more motivated I probably would have looked into class action suits for people in the same boat as me. I suspect that’s what they’re trying to avoid by sending out these token phones.
When I called T-Mobile to have my number transferred from AT&T to T-Mobile, they said it could take up to 14 business days. As it turned out it only took 6 hours, but during that 6 hours I was SMS’d by AT&T saying that I would be receiving a free T226 in the mail. I suspect their organization isn’t responsive enough to cancel my order after I cancelled, so I’m half expecting it to show up.
Some people are saying that if you don’t send AT&T a phone back (old or new) you’ll be charged by AT&T. Fortunately, it’s illegal for AT&T to charge you for unsolicited merchandise. Personally, I plan to get my T68i unlocked as a backup T-Mobile phone and sell any other phones that happen to arrive in the mail. It looks like I’m not the only one with that idea.
So what can AT&T do to make things right? According to Phones Under Lock & Key AT&T has a habit of refusing to unlock phones that are owned by customers; I chose T-Mobile because they appear to treat their customers with more respect. What they should do is offer affected customers the choice of leaving the service with unlocked phones and discounted early termination fees, so that they can use the super nice phones that they bought. They are rightfully pissed off that their nice phones are being dropped and should be offered a compromise.
On a slightly different subject, I’ve been bookmarking useful sites for my new phone over at del.icio.us in case you’re looking for cool stuff to do with your 3650.

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