Playing chess with the Red Check: or, why Verizon’s insurance plan covers … nothing

I’ve had my BlackBerry PRIV for almost two years now, and it’s a fantastic smartphone.  Probably the smartest smartphone out there.

And last Wednesday, the dummy who owned it dropped it off the edge of a table.  Chuck is a dummy.

Yep.  Crack in the screen.  Nasty one.

But not as nasty as what I had to go through with Verizon’s phone insurance company, Asurion.

Continue reading “Playing chess with the Red Check: or, why Verizon’s insurance plan covers … nothing”

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Verizon’s gonna hate me … like they don’t already…

There’s two significant reasons why Verizon hates me.  The first is that I’m one of the last subscribers to sign up for the original “lifetime unlimited data” plan, and no matter how many times they’ve tried, they can’t get me to walk away from it.  Nyah.

The second reason is that I am not interested in getting an iPhone or a Galaxy phone, the two phones that Verizon is hell-bent on shoving down everybody’s throats.  See, Chuck is (and will always be) a BlackBerry user. Seven out of the last eight cell phones I’ve owned in my life have been BlackBerry products, including the last two – the BlackBerry Q10 and my current cell phone of record, the BlackBerry PRIV.

And if you’re saying, “Geez, Chuck, they still make BlackBerry phones?” I say to you, yes they do still make phones and you should be ashamed of engaging in such vulgarities.

Now granted, I still love my PRIV and don’t have any plans on getting rid of it.

That was … until BlackBerry debuted a brand new phone for 2017.

Continue reading “Verizon’s gonna hate me … like they don’t already…”

Another Verizon “nickel and dime” trick

verizonfailIt started last week, when I noticed something different about the phone numbers on my Caller ID feature from my BlackBerry PRIV cell phone.

Normally, when I receive a call from someone, their phone number pops up as a Caller ID message.  And if I’ve programmed their name into the phone, then their name comes up as well.  Then again, I also sort my calls by giving the most important people in my life special custom-made ringtones.

But last week, I noticed that a new caller had appeared on my Caller ID.  And not by number – by name.  And the name wasn’t one that I had previously programmed.

Apparently during one of my phone updates, I somehow “subscribed” to a free trial of Verizon’s Caller ID Name feature.  With this little feature, Verizon would graciously add the name of the person or business or entity calling me, just in case I wouldn’t be able to figure out the caller by a telephone number.

Yesterday, I discovered how “free” the service really is.

Verizon sent me a message saying that my “free trial” was finished, and if I wanted to continue using the service, it would be added to my bill for the low cost of $2.99/month.

Wow.  Talk about “opting in.”

Nice try, Verizon.  I don’t need to pay an additional $3/month for get something that you should be providing to me for free anyway.  My PRIV has the ability to already program numbers and names and faces into my phone; and there’s even an option where it will match up a person’s name with their Facebook photo, should I possibly forget who they look like.

Seriously, Verizon?  You’re going to nickel and dime me over this?  What’s next, you gonna charge me an additional tariff for making phone calls to left-handed parties?  You gonna charge me a surcharge if I dial the old Times Union pre-recorded sports hotline from 1996?  You gonna charge me additional if I take more than one carry-on bag with me on the flight?  Sorry, got my Verizon rant mixed up with my United rant.

I tell you what, Verizon.  I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll pay you the additional $3/month tribute … on one condition.

In return for paying this vigorish, you immediately block all the spambots and robocallers and swindlers and scam artists who seem to think my phone is some sort of home base in a game of scam Tag.  Block all those vehicle service contract companies and timeshare sellers and phishers from “Windows Technical Support” and give me some peace of mind.

Because right now I’m in a very bad place, healthwise and psyche-wise.

And I shouldn’t have to deal with nickel-and-dime surcharges from Big Telecom.

Yeah.  I hope you can hear me now, Red Check.

Or maybe, as always, you’re giving me the Rhett Butler response to my concerns.

You know … “Frankly, Mr. Miller, we don’t give a damn.”

Jim Rome hooked me on BlackBerry…

My loyalty to the BlackBerry cell phone came from an unlikely source.

That source was sports broadcaster and commentator Jim Rome.

Yes, that Jim Rome.  Van Smack.  Host of a very popular radio sports show, and a few stints as host of a televised sports talk show.  You know, have a take, don’t suck or you’ll get run…

One day, I was listening to a tape-delayed episode of the Jim Rome show on 980 WOFX way back in the day (Jim Rome used to get on radio station program directors’ cases for tape-delaying his show, he would encourage the “clones” – his fans – to get on the phone and “bang their monkey” to get the show aired live), and Jim was talking about the soreness in his thumbs from using his “CrackBerry” phone all day and night.

Yep.  It was the BlackBerry.

And I wanted one badly.  Listen, if a cool sports talk guy like Jim Rome just off-the-cuff mentions his BlackBerry cell phone, then dang I want one as well.

Eventually I acquired a used BlackBerry off eBay and replaced the cheep-cheep cell phone Verizon sold me.  I stuck with that BlackBerry until it died, and then went through four more Berries – including my last two, the Q10 and the PRIV.  I still have the Priv.  And I’m not letting go of it.

Thus came the news.  This week, BlackBerry will no longer manufacture their own cell phones.  Future phones will be manufactured by a third party; whether they contain the BlackBerry brand name and BES software and all that remains to be seen.

Yeah, I’m disappointed.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m cutting loose my BlackBerry addiction.

Far from it.

Right now, for me, the BlackBerry PRIV is the best choice.  It has equally dedicated levels of speed, security and functionality.  Plus, it has that swank slide-out keyboard that the old BlackBerry Torch phones possessed.

So if, God forbid, my PRIV starts to die, I will go on eBay and get another PRIV 100-2 (that’s the designation for the Verizon-based phone).  And I will keep getting BlackBerry PRIVs until I can’t find any more out there.

Because I don’t want to live in a world soldered to planned obsolescence.  I don’t believe that a product should only work for a few years and then you replace it because something shinier and prettier comes along.  We’re in a disposable world, but that doesn’t mean we have to live our lives as if that was the only choice.

Yeah, Jim Rome hooked me on BlackBerry.  Even to the point where I still have my BlackBerry Q10 phone in case my PRIV ever completely dies – gotta have a BlackBerry to back up a BlackBerry.

Kinda wish there was still a radio station around here that broadcast the Jim Rome show, or at least someone who could simulcast it on SiriusXM radio.

But yeah.  BlackBerry may not make their phones any more, but that doesn’t mean I’m switching my cell phone loyalties.

That’s it.

Rack me.

I’m out.

Testing Verizon’s grandfathered “unlimited data” policy

verizonfailI’ve always felt that one of the most fortunate moments of my being a Verizon cell phone customer was when, at one moment in time, they offered an unlimited data package for those of us who were longtime Verizon customers and were no longer on two-year contracts.  I was grandfathered into the plan, and was immediately notified that, yes indeed, I would be locked into the unlimited data plan, so long as I purchased my cell phone outright, and that I didn’t enter into a new contract of any sort.

Woo hoo.

And for the past five years, I’ve heard rumors about Verizon trying everything to convince those who were fortunate enough to have the unlimited data package to give it up for the promise of lower rates – only to discover that the rates will skyrocket based on data limits in new contracts.  No no, not me.  I’m staying with the unlimited data plan, thank you very much.

So now I’ve got this big beautiful BlackBerry PRIV cell phone, and yesterday I was watching the Discovery Channel when I saw they were offering a cell phone app called Discovery GO.  No, you’re not walking around the neighborhood, using your cell phone to find and capture the F/V Northwestern or the latest Gas Monkey Garage restoration.  The Discovery GO channel actually allows you to watch your favorite Discovery Channel shows on your cell phone.  Okay.  Downloaded.  Installed.

And while I was downloading it, I discovered that there’s also a channel for the Investigation Discovery channel, called ID GO.  No, you’re not walking around the neighborhood, using your cell phone to try and capture Lt. Joe Kenda.  My, my, my…  No, the ID GO channel also allows you to watch your favorite Investigation Discovery channel shows, which for me include programs with such low-key titles as Scorned: Love Kills, Wives With Knives, Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda, and Deadly Women (which for some reason has a fascination with Albany-based murder cases).

Yesterday, I tested the online apps out.  I watched the premiere episode of Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove (really intense show) and two episodes of Scorned: Love Kills.  That’s three hours of broadcast, plus maybe half an hour of commercials.

This morning, my BlackBerry PRIV notified me that I may have exceeded what it perceived as a data cap.  Now before anyone panics, this was the phone itself having an arbitrary data cap warning, which is not out of the ordinary.

So with about two weeks left in my billing cycle, if I didn’t have that unlimited data plan, I’d be freaking out at the possibility of seeing a phone bill with a ginormous AMOUNT DUE notice.

Still, it does give me a bit of pause.  What if I didn’t have the unlimited data plan?  I could get screwed by watching three hour-long dramas and suddenly I’m in an overage situation?

Urgh.

Trust me.  I know full well that big business will try ANYTHING to squeeze money out of Joe Consumer.  You know how all those “As Seen on TV” shows make extra profits on their mail-order products?  Watch as each one of them says, “And we’ll send you an additional whatchamadingle free! Just pay separate shipping and handling.”  Yeah, that separate “shipping and handling” is just straight sugar profit for those companies.  Nice trick.  Sneaky sunovas.

It’s the same thing where Time Warner Cable promises a low entry subscription for their cable service, only to trap you into higher rates one year later.  Companies do this.  It’s as common as sunrises.

So yeah, I’m holding on to this unlimited data plan for as long as ever.  For as long as I can.

And maybe if I can find the right app for this…

I wonder if I can download Netflix for this phone.

Can I get through an entire season of one of the Marvel shows before my BlackBerry’s battery dies out?

Now that would be a different type of “data cap,” wouldn’t it?

Verizon reneges on its “unlimited data” plan

Five years ago, I was lucky enough to be “grandfathered” into an unlimited data plan with my cell phone carrier, Verizon Wireless.  There were provisos, of course – I had to purchase my cell phones at full retail price; I had to stay out of contract (going month-to-month), and if I made any changes to my cell phone plan, I’d have to accept new terms regarding data.

verizonfailIt’s like getting the genie to give you three wishes… but you couldn’t use the wishes to wish for more wishes.

Of course, once Verizon made this maneuver, it discovered that people who had unlimited data plans were using every unlimited megabyte of that data plan.  Yep.  You could watch Netflix and chill on your cell phone if you wanted to.  You could binge-watch and live-stream whatever your heart desired.

Hey, I’ve got unlimited data, too.  And it’s handy for watching YouTube clips now and again.

But now comes the news that Verizon is once again taking away what it promised.  Ever since they’ve offered the unlimited data plan, they’ve tried to scale it back.  They’ve raised the monthly charge for unlimited dataThey’ve throttled download speeds of unlimited data users.  And they’ve tried – at nearly every possible opportunity – to convince unlimited data users like me to switch our plans.  “You’re only using a very small amount of data, Mr. Miller, you really should sign up for this deal.”  Yeah, right.  Not until I get an electron-microscope to read the fine print in that contract.

Ars Technica has reported that if you are a Verizon customer who uses at least 100GB of data per month on an unlimited data plan, Verizon will drop you from their phone service after August 31.

That’s right.  Verizon offered you an unlimited data plan, and now they’re punishing you because you’ve actually USED it.

Verizon, being the kind and benevolent telecommunications company that it is, says that those users can return to Verizon’s services after they agree to sign up for a new contract that includes surcharges for data overages.  Oh, and Verizon does offer a 100GB/month plan… it’s only $450/month.

Wow.  Talk about your strong-arm tactics.

This really concerns me.  It’s the same tactics as when your electric services provider suggests you conserve energy to lower your bill, and you do just that, to the point where the electric services provider jacks up the rates to make up for the loss in revenue.

And maybe I’d be okay with Verizon doing something like this … but I’m not.  Because we don’t know what Verizon constitutes “data.”  If I use my cell phone’s GPS functions to drive from the 518 somewhere, should I be concerned that the GPS is siphoning tons of data from the Internet, and therefore adding overages to my life?

I quickly checked my BlackBerry PRIV to see how much data usage I’ve incurred.  Hmm… 7GB/month at the most.  So I shouldn’t be affected by this new Verizon muscle tactic.

At least I hope they don’t target me.

But yeah, I know Verizon has been itching to get rid of its unlimited data customers.  We’re the ones that saw the sweetheart deal Verizon offered and we took it.  And for Verizon to turn around and threaten us for actually taking the deal… that’s just evil.  Shame on you, Red Check.

What’s next, Verizon?  You gonna tell me that I can’t own a BlackBerry on your network?

Honestly, at this point I’m tempted to start my own cell phone company.  I’m going to call it “Two Soup Cans and String,” and it will cost whatever it takes to string a fishing line between two tin cans.  Hmm… on second thought, maybe I don’t want to get tangled up in that idea.

Just another day, another moment with the Big Bad Red Check.

Can you hear me now, Verizon?

Oh wait … they only listen to me when I send them their “pound of flesh” tribute every month.

Meh.

Facebook can’t take my BlackBerry away…

The news certainly surprised me.  And initially not in a good way.

Reports from CNET and from Yahoo! Tech have confirmed that by the end of March, Facebook will disappear from BlackBerry phones.

Here’s what I know so far.  BlackBerry phones that use the BB10 operating system, or who have the earlier BlackBerry 7.1 operating system, will lose the ability to navigate to Facebook in a couple of weeks.  And the end-of-life period to use the WhatsApp messaging system on BlackBerry ends in a few months.

With that information, if you want to use Facebook through a BlackBerry phone, you would have to navigate to the web-based version of Facebook, which would severely limit your ability to experience the same level of Facebook activity as you had in the past.

bb_frontYep, doom and gloom.  I know.  Look up, Chicken Little.  Watch out for falling pieces of sky.

Viewing the headline, one would think – “Wow, Facebook is cancelling support for BlackBerry products.  Anybody who still has those BlackBerry phones needs to get a brand new iPhone, just like the ones I saw at the Apple conference with the rose gold and the burnished stainless steel and the touchscreen that was hand-crafted by skilled artisans…”

But here’s what the reporting about the Facebook / BlackBerry story completely missed.

The Facebook app for BlackBerry BB10 products wasn’t designed by Facebook.  It was designed by a third party to work with BlackBerry’s network.  And with that, those third-party operators needed Facebook’s API to continue to update that application.  Well, Facebook decided to stop providing that API to the developers, and without that API, the BlackBerry app couldn’t be updated or repaired or patched.

And there’s one other thing that the reporters didn’t mention.  Listen carefully.  Not all BlackBerry phones operate with the BB10 operating system.

In fact, BlackBerry just built a brand new phone.  It’s called the PRIV.  You know.. that waycool new BB phone with the slide-out keyboard?  And it operates on an Android hierarchy.  And Facebook has a nice little Android-based FB app, works wonderfully with my PRIV.

Yep, this marriage of BlackBerry and Android can run well with Facebook. And it can run Facebook’s Messenger service, and it can do so quite well.

So yeah, I’ll continue to use my BlackBerry PRIV to connect and communicate with Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and everything else.  And it will work as well as – or, as far as I’m concerned, much better than – all those iPhones and Samsungs and whatnots.

And I still have my old BlackBerry Q10 phone… and it still works.  I don’t use it as a dedicated telephone any more, but it still works as a WiFi hotspot, it still takes pictures and video and audio, its GPS and turn-by-turn navigation is still robust, and it still has native and downloadable photography apps in it (including a light meter, some star charts, some moon phase charts and a couple of weather channels).

As far as I’m concerned, BlackBerry hasn’t died.  It’s evolved.  And the PRIV is the cell phone company’s best example of evolution.

Hey Facebook… take a listen from this BlackBerry user, one of many who use your website.

There’s an old saying …

You may think I’m dead…

But don’t throw dirt on my grave just yet.