Got my cell phone on Thursday. I got service through VoiceStream since their rates seemed pretty low, and I only had to sign my life away for a minimum of one year. AT&T and others wanted me to contract for two years. Their coverage is probably lowest of the big carriers, though I think they have the biggest GSM service in the US (Deutsche Telekom bought them a year or so ago).
Coverage isn't really a problem for me. I'm planning to use this phone instead of a land line, at least for the summer, so if it works outside of the local area, I'll just consider it a bonus. I found out it doesn't work at my office, but that's a windowless room in the middle of the building, behind at least two layers of concrete... Signal is good at my current apartment, though the meter blips off occasionally -- I'm curious why that happens..
Anyway, I just got the free phone they had, the Motorola T193. It's tiny, slightly smaller than Sarah's Nokia, at least (I think she has a 3360, but I'm not sure -- it has the same form factor, whatever it is).
I think VoiceStream had sent me a text message when I first got the phone, informing me of the phone number, but I think I accidentally deleted it. I'd gotten another text message, telling me I had a voicemail, but that was someone leaving a message for a girl named Brooke, IIRC. Anyway, I deleted the text message informing me of that, and then I think I deleted another one, which was probably the phone number. In the end, I used the phone's text messaging facility to send myself an e-mail, and the number was on the From: line ;-)
I was pretty surprised when I started looking into various phone services. For some reason, I expected companies to be upfront about the various services they offer -- what's included in which plan, etc. I suppose I might have gotten a clearer picture if I'd gone into one of the cell phone shops to get it, but I didn't want to get railroaded into a plan I didn't like. The information on the web was just awful, though.
I still don't know exactly what services I get, though. I realized after a while that the Internet service that had been promised wasn't working. After searching high and low to try and find some information, I called customer service. I was informed that I'd been put on a plan different than what they advertised on the web.. The code for the plan was apparently just one character off, so the guy switched to what I thought I ordered.
I've seen people complain about the customer service department, but I haven't had trouble yet. I suppose I'm just lucky. However, I have a suspicion that my Linux user habit of trying to find the solution myself by searching and trying various things probably makes me more prepared when I call them.. We'll see what happens in the future.
I've found VoiceStream's websites to be very inconsistent. They contract out various services to different organizations, which probably contributes to the mess. It's not hugely inconsistent -- that'd probably be better! I've found myself browsing around, having buttons suddenly disappear on the next page, etc. They also have some very short session timeouts. I've had to re-login many times.
I've noticed that the various websites seem to use different technologies to power them.. VoiceStream's main websites appear to be powered by ColdFusion, the iStream pages (iStream is the name for their data service) appear to be running Microsoft's Active Server Pages, and my billing info is brought to me by servlets. Very weird, IMHO..
The phone I got has similar inconsistencies. I think it has at least four different font sizes, but I can only pick two in the phone settings. Composing text messages uses the smallest font, browsing the web uses the next smallest. The default interface font is the second-largest, and there's a huge font that is the other option. Going between big and huge is not my idea of configurability.
Even the instructions for activating my phone weren't very good. I knew about SIM cards and whatever beforehand, but someone who didn't know about that would probably be really confused. There were at least two sets of instructions, but I think they started with "turn on your phone," neglecting the "insert your SIM card" part.. One set of instructions said I had to call someone with my IMEI number (apparently the handset serial number) and a number printed on my service agreement. Well, I didn't have a service agreement in the box I got, so I was glad that the phone seemed to work right out of the box, once I figured out exactly how the SIM card was supposed to be put in it's place..
It'll be a while before I can say whether I like the service or not. With all of the weird things I've seen already, I could never give it a strong thumbs up, but it's relatively cheap and I can text Sarah whenever I want ;-) I'm paying $30/month for 200 daytime minutes, unlimited weekend minutes, toll-free long distance, 300 text messages, and 1MB of data. I paid an extra dollar this month so I could have a "Smooth Criminal" ring tone, too, but nobody's called me yet.. *sigh*