Apr 3, 2011

Tech update

Technology - a curse, a cure, an addiction? Yes, a little of all of these, and more.

When we bought our house, it was listed as "high speed internet available". I didn't do proper checking to find out what, precisely, they considered "high speed internet". Turns out they meant satellite internet - because they were leaving the hardware from their subscription to WildBlue.

We considered it and after a lot of research, quickly nixed that, choosing instead to survive on dial-up as needed. I think that lasted about six months before I was going nuts. It's better to simply not have a network connection than to have one that's unreliable or horribly slow.

Almost exactly a year ago, I upgraded my phone and went to the Palm Pre Plus via Verizon, explicitly because of the free Mobile Hotspot (MHS) promo. I reviewed the phone shortly after getting it and was pleased at the time.

It's been a year and it's time for an update.

Several weeks after I got the phone, it stopped letting me turn on MHS - giving me an error about "needing the feature enabled by Verizon". I went through all the troubleshooting I could think of and got nowhere, so went back to the store and had them poke at it. The only option was a hard reset of the phone, erasing ALL my apps and data in the process. Most of them were backed up, but restoring data was a headache.

I'd also noticed a disturbing trend with the phone heating up while charging and especially when using MHS - to the point that it was uncomfortable to touch the phone. A month later, the "feature required" problem occurred again, and combined with the heat issues, I decided to use the warranty.

I took it to Verizon and politely but firmly insisted on a new phone. The tech balked at first, saying the phone was working fine, it was normal for it to get warm, etc. I stuck to my guns and they sent a new (refurbished) phone by two-day shipping.

The new one didn't have the heat issue, so that was a plus in its favor. However, it has continually had issues with other things. The MHS has had the "feature required" error a few times. The "Mail" app has lost count of unread messages in my inboxes, indicating that there are new messages when there aren't any. The fix for that is either a hard reset of the phone, or deleting and re-adding ALL the mail accounts.

The touch screen is not bad, generally speaking - except that it doesn't respond if your skin is dry, as mine usually is in winter. Licking the tip of a finger just to use the phone is aggravating at best.

And since I'm calling it a phone ... actually making a phone call is arguably the worst part of dealing with this thing. It just seems tedious. If the slider is open, as I tend to prefer when talking on the phone, snapping it closed *doesn't end the call* - you still have to punch the "end" button on-screen. Perhaps I've been spoiled by ten-plus years of flip-phones.

MHS still works mostly-OK, as long as it has decent signal. Sometimes it has signal but won't exchange data - either via MHS or on the phone itself - and I chalk that up to a network problem, not the phone. If the signal drops to 1X (2G), data speeds tend to be slower than dial-up. Unless I'm trying to do something critical, I'll close the laptop and go do something else. One major issue with MHS - when a client device connects, the phone loses network connection for up to a full minute.

The last nitpick - the charger doesn't have enough juice to keep the phone charged while running MHS. A constant data stream (IRC, AIM, Skype, etc) will kill the battery in 2-3 hours on 3G, and less on 1X. If its being used for web browsing, 4-6 hours is more likely, and relatively reasonable. For off-charger use, sixteen hours of "in pocket" time is about it - without heavy data usage or game playing. In other words: the battery isn't sufficient for the device.

I've just ordered a Samsung Galaxy Tab that I hope to use for most of my mobile data. We're going to look at a Verizon Mifi for our home internet connection, and dropping both MrsZ and myself back to "dumb" phones for daily usage - perhaps even pre-paid phones if we can find something with moderately-acceptable coverage at home.

Short form: Palm Pre Plus NOT recommended.


Old NFO said...

Thanks for the review... I've been staying away from Verizon for over 10 years due to bad service/a**hole service managers... Sad to see looks like nothing has changed.

ZerCool said...

NFO, if there was another option for us I'd consider it - but no one else seems to have even moderately reliable coverage at home.

The Bad Yogi said...

Yeah, I had real issues with the Pal Pre Plus: Keyboard skips, lost emails etc. First real problem with Verizon phones in 11 years, but they were real jerks about it.

Spikessib said...

We have Verizon Mifi and it works ok except from 7 to 9am and 3:30 to 6:30pm. If it works at all those hours it might be as fast as dial up. Of course, we live halfway across the country from you so YMMV.

Speaking of living halfway across the country, I found a place for you. 20 acres, 20 minutes from Little Rock, has a range on the property as the current owner teaches shooting. It is a doublewide instead of a house, but to me that just means I get to build what I want.