Smartphone Frustration

man-holding-smartphone-gesturing-image-from-shutterstockSmartphone Frustration: a reader asks…

I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 I bought online almost a year ago, and I use Consumer Cellular phone and data service. A few months ago I noticed two problems start to happen, but not all the time, just intermittently. First, my cellular service is nowhere near as good as it used to be, especially in my home. Before June I had rock-solid cell service just about anywhere in my house, now I have to stand near one particular window in order to be able to make and receive calls. Second, my Wi-Fi seems to stop working at odd times, for perhaps a minute or so. The result is that I’m having a frustrating experience with my smartphone. People call me but the phone doesn’t ring, and my email and calendar don’t always stay synced up with my Google account, and I sometimes can’t send or receive email. What should I do?

Problems such as yours can be really hard to diagnose. The reason is that there are a lot of different things at play in here. Such as the smartphone manufacturer’s equipment (Samsung), the Android operating system’s reliability (Google), and your cell phone service provider’s reliability (Consumer Cellular). The hot mess you’re in is that the problems could be any one area, or a combination of multiple areas. These are among the most difficult to adequately diagnose, and the most difficult to get resolved. It’s not like you can go to one place and get the problem solved.

Given that you’re experiencing intermittent problems with radio communication (both cellular and Wi-fi), it’s quite possible that your smartphone has developed a hardware problem. Since you’re still in your first year of ownership of your phone, you might want to do a quick check to see if warranty service could help. It’s likely the online store where you bought your phone won’t do anything for you, so go to Samsung for warranty service (which is good for the first year of ownership). Find your proof of purchase, and call 1-800-SAMSUNG (800-726-7864) to get a location where you can send your phone in for Samsung warranty service. Of course, you’re going to be without your smartphone for up to 2 weeks, so this may not be a reasonable solution for you, but it’s worth a call.

frustrated-man-trying-to-press-smartphone-touchscreen-image-from-shutterstockToday’s smartphones are certainly not the best in terms of longevity, you often see these devices go belly-up within the first year or two of service, particularly in the case of the plethora of Android-powered smartphones from dozens of manufacturers. Hence you see many 2-year service plans, extended warranties, and service replacement plans that carriers try to sell. Unfortunately, the reality of our current state of technology means that you need to look at your smartphone as a ‘consumable’. It may be better for you to simply replace the phone, given all the hoops you’d have to go through to repair it (and the good chance the repair won’t really fix it). After wiping your old phone you can donate it so that it could have a new life somewhere else (or be recycled for parts), and you can avoid the unpleasantness of being without a cell phone for any length of time.


You might also want to give consideration to buying your replacement smartphone at a major cell service provider, such as Verizon or AT&T. And buy the cell phone and data service from them to go with it. There’s something to be said for having a human in a Verizon or AT&T (or T-Mobile or Sprint) store you can look in the eye with your malfunctioning device. Since you purchased your smartphone from an online company, you don’t have someone you can confront with your malfunctioning device.

Furthermore, by buying an integrated device and service from multiple entities, it’s all to easy for any single entity to point the finger at another entity for service and support. Your cell phone service provider could simply say it’s a problem with your equipment and send you to the equipment manufacturer. Your equipment manufacturer could easily say it’s a problem with your cell phone (& data) service. This finger-pointing adds to the frustration you’ll feel, after all, most consumer technology companies’ customer service departments are pretty abysmal territory.

woman-holding-two-cellphones-shrugging-image-from-shutterstockMy guess is that if you visited a Verizon Wireless store and presented your situation, they’d bend over backwards to gain you as a customer. That means giving you price breaks to equal (or nearly so) the low rate your AARP-recommended service provider is charging you, and give you a new smartphone at an attractive price. You could consider the phone replacement plan they’ll offer you, it can be worth your while! For instance, I did buy the replacement policy for my son’s smartphone, it cost less than $10/month. Within the first year, his smartphone required replacing, so it was well worthwhile. But everyone’s experience is different, so consider your own before deciding.

Lastly, and not to be a fanboy, my experience has been that the reliability of Apple’s iPhone has been rock-solid compared to the competition. You pay more up-front, but your total cost over time isn’t significantly different (after all, your cell phone and data service charges month by month are the same regardless of which type of smartphone you use). You can also wait a few weeks for the new iPhone to be released, at that point, last year’s models will be heavily discounted.


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