Friday, May 28, 2010

My TracFone Experience Has Been Pretty Shitty

Shortly after the new year, I bought a TracFone.  Right after activation I noticed that I had no signal most of the time in my house, but if I drive pretty much a block in any direction I have a full signal.  Note that going a block in any direction from my house involves going uphill.  Now, TracFone isn't really to blame here since they don't have their own network.  They use the networks of larger cell phone companies, mainly AT&T and T-Mobile.  Googling my phone's SIM card number (TF64SIMC4) tells me that it's an AT&T SIM card.

Adding minutes is pretty simple, right?  Buy the minute card, scratch off the thing covering the PIN on the back, and enter the PIN in the phone's Prepaid menu.  A minute or so later you get a message telling you that it succeeded, and then the phone's home screen shows the new service end date and number of minutes.

Well, you need to have signal for it to work.  And you need the card to actually scan at the checkout of whatever store you're buying it from.  The checkouts at both Giants here won't actually successfully scan the cards.  Despite how they have hundreds of them in stock.  I haven't seen them in the other stores around here.  So, thankfully, you can buy online.

Online you can buy multiple cards at once, so I was going to get the double minutes for life card and a 60 minute+90 day card in one transaction, but I sat there and thought about it.  Could I trust them to add the cards in the proper order, such that the 60 minutes get doubled to 120?  I didn't want to risk it.  I bought the double minutes card and drove to where I could get a signal to receive it.  Then I came home, bought the 60 minute card, and again drove to where I could get a signal to receive it.  I needed the service days much more than the minutes, but either way, I'm set.  It would be nice if they had a card that added a ton of service days and only a few minutes.

Lately the phone (a Motorola W260g) has been randomly WSODing on me.  Closing the phone and opening it back up will make the phone useful again, but I don't know when the WSOD will be permanent.

Now let's talk about how TracFone deducts minutes.  For a text message, it deducts 0.30 minutes.  So if you're at 45.00 minutes and send or receive a text message, you're now at 44.70.  Another, you're at 44.40.  One more, 44.10.  Again, 43.80.  And so on.  You use 3 of your minutes by sending or receiving 10 text messages.  Thankfully, the system messages they send out, both to tell you of promo codes and to tell you that adding airtime was successful, don't deduct minutes.

For a call, it deducts a minute immediately.  A full minute gone, just by placing or receiving a call.  Even if the call is only 30 seconds, a minute is gone.  If the call is a minute and one second, congratulations, you just used two minutes.  Basically, they round up.  I don't agree with this, it appears extremely unethical.

Let's look at the phone itself.  The phone charges via a USB Mini-B port on its side.  Motorola says you can charge this phone with your computer, which is very attractive.  Have a USB cable, charge your phone.  I have a friend who has a phone that charges via USB and when I take my PS2 over to his place he charges his phone using one of the USB ports on my PS2.  It's just convenient.

Of course, you can't do that on the TracFone version of this phone.  Plugging it into a computer just makes it say that it can't charge.  I have to use the charging cord that came with the phone, which adapts a wall outlet to USB, to charge the phone.  Assholes.

The phone is very slow and lags from time to time while I'm navigating its menus.  While playing one of the three shitty games on it, I think I get maybe a bit over two frames per second, no higher than three.  I honestly didn't expect blazingly fast performance, but when the phone lags just from navigating its menus, something's wrong.

I'm not going to complain that the phone doesn't have a camera, MP3 player, ability to use real ringtones and wallpapers, better games, etc. because I only need it to be a phone.  If I want a camera, I'll go buy a fucking camera.  It'll take much better quality pictures than a shitty camera stuck in a cell phone.  The same for the rest of that stuff.  I would like to have a real wallpaper, but so much of it would be obscured by all the shit that needs to be displayed on the home screen that it's not really worth it to bitch about it.

Overall, if you need a cheap phone for something nonessential, or you want to get a phone with no personal information linked to it, go prepaid.  Otherwise, there's no excuse for not having a better phone from a better company on a better network.  It would be nice if there was a prepaid company that actually gave major carriers a run for their money.  But instead you get utter crap all around.

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