When cellphones become more irritating than helpful

Miss D. and I have just ‘upgraded’ our cellphones.  I say ‘upgraded’ in quotes, because it’s not really a technological upgrade.  Our new units are a lot cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy 3 and Note 2 that we respectively replaced, and their performance is probably on a par with our earlier units.  However, we simply don’t need all the bells, whistles and fancy features of the current-generation (and much more expensive) Galaxy 7 or its equivalents, so when Miss D.’s phone began to show signs of wearing out, we bought much cheaper replacements through the upgrade program.  Our two phones together cost less than half as much as a single Galaxy 7, which is much more to our budgetary taste.

I’ve got to give credit to Verizon:  the upgrade process (online) was about as painless as it could be.  We backed up all our data, called the support number, had the old phones ‘disconnected’ and the new ones ‘connected’ to our accounts (in a wireless sort of way), and were up and running within half an hour.  However, that’s where the fun started.  Our new phones are from different manufacturers to our old ones, and their setup software and implementation of Android are different.  It took a while of poking and fiddling to figure out how to configure them to our liking.

One of the most frustrating things was that changes were hidden under innocuous settings that bore no outward relation to what the phones were doing.  For example, Miss D.’s phone would announce loudly, “Verizon Wireless” before receiving or dialing a call.  We couldn’t figure out for love or money why it was doing that, and it rapidly got on our nerves.  Miss D. confessed she was on the point of throwing the phone into our town’s water reservoir and switching service providers entirely, she was so frustrated by it.  I had similar issues configuring a couple of features where I knew precisely what I wanted, but couldn’t get the phone and/or its apps to provide it to me.  Frustrating indeed!

This also exposed an issue with Verizon customer support centers.  Some are run by the company, with no excess charges or overhead.  Others, however, are franchises, charging far more for the same phones than Verizon itself, and “making up” for the difference in price by (loudly) claiming to offer “superior customer service” as a justification.  I found that argument unconvincing, to say the least.  After one such franchise unabashedly tried to get me to pay three times more for my new phone than Verizon itself wanted to charge me, I rapidly began to lose faith in its objectivity – and that’s putting it mildly!

Fortunately, in the ‘big city’ nearby we found a Verizon-owned and -run customer support center.  The staff there were very helpful, and although the nice young lady assisting us was initially as puzzled as we were by the loud announcement of the carrier by Miss D.’s phone, she plugged her way through menus and settings to find the culprit.  It seems, on that particular make and model of phone, a setting will make it announce the identity of the cellphone service provider it’s using before each call, incoming or outgoing.  Apparently this is so you always know whether you’re using the ‘home network’, or roaming and using a different provider.  We found that an intensely irritating feature – as Miss D. observed bitterly, some software engineer deserves to be hit upside the head with a clue-by-four for not realizing how irritating it would be, “and his manager too, for approving such a dumb idea!”

At any rate, with that setting disabled, the phone is now blessedly silent about such matters.  My few problems have also been sorted out, and our new phones are serving us as efficiently as we hoped they would.  Kudos to Verizon for having some smart and helpful people staffing its support centers.

Aah, technology . . .



  1. What did you guys end up with? I've had a Galaxy 5 for about 2 years (my second Samsung) and I think I'm about done with it and Samsung phones (though I love my Samsung tablet).

  2. As I'm in the same boat with regard to replacing phones – or better described as "up the creek", maybe you could follow-up with your (selection) thought process, and with the model you chose?

    There are many of us who neither need nor use all those bells & whistles. Who knows, you could start a trend . . .

  3. I've resisted getting anything more than the most basic cell phone for 12 years, but a couple of weeks ago decided the price/performance ratio was good enough that when Verizon started a buyone/get one free deal on Samsung S7 or S7 Edge phones, my wife and I decided to upgrade. S7 Edge is big enough and powerful enough (with a 4-core Snapdragon 820, 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a good 12 MPixel camera) that it's actually useful for a wide range of tasks. I figure that if you're going to buy anything more than the basic, you ought to get the best you afford within your budget. I've found my local north Texas metro Verizon store very helpful and knowledgeable. Fortunately, this
    model wasn't loaded with all the bloatware and adware some come with. A default setting like that would drive me mad! I found my phone can do it, but it's not on by default.

  4. Heh. Phones don't last as long as they used to… wear is a real problem.

    Although, a Samsung Galaxy S3 (i9300) is a good one still and might even be worth having repaired if it's only a minor problem. Especially if you can get CyanogenMod 11 loaded on it too, for fresher security updates than Samsung's own for that hardware. (CM 13 / Marshmallow isn't quite stable on it yet, it seems, but it'll probably get there eventually.)

    I keep saying that in a lot of the technical stuff, for regular users that don't wish to fiddle with technical details, it's very often better to buy good-condition used ex-high-end than new budget grade. In phones the problem is spotting the problems… the micro-USB connector is the most common one.

    Actually, the best value for money might be in previous-generation low/mid-range used phones. (Moto G 2014 LTE, and such. That one for example seems to be fairly durable too, one of the kids has one.)

    And the most important features in a phone are, user experience and physical construction. The former so that you can actually get things done with it, and the latter enough for your needs so it doesn't break too soon (waterproofing etc, the aforementioned Moto G has some of that) – whatever those needs do end up being.

    A lot of name-brand previous-generation Android phones, if unlocked/unlockable, can be switched to a custom Android version such as CyanogenMod; these days those aren't necessarily any worse off than factory versions for security, any more, and could even be significantly better. And the user experience is often better too.

  5. @Bob Mueller and Carl S.: We went for simple and reliable, since neither of us use apps very much (we simply don't trust the security on cellphones, so we don't shop, bank, etc. using them). As long as it can provide phone calls, text messages, voicemail, a Kindle app to read e-books, a couple of games for my wife, and occasional navigation using GPS, that's about everything we need. We ended up with a LG K4 LTE and a HTC Desire 626:



    So far, so good with both of them.

  6. The only reason I have more than a basic phone is I get paid to use my smartphone. If the job goes away, the phone goes away.

  7. My coworkers phone buzzes twice every 16 seconds and he has no clue as to why it is doing it. Gets REALLY annoying when you hear that all day long.

  8. They swapped out our BlackBerry Z10's at work for S6's. I spent hours on youtube learning how to manage the thing. Marked down a whole day for training. ugh…..

  9. @Brother Pilot: I'd say there are two ways.

    1. Ask them. (Of course, if they lie, that won't help.)

    2. Look up the prices of Verizon phones on their Web site, then ask the prices at the store. If the latter are significantly higher than the former, odds are it's a franchise, not a company-owned place.

    Hope this helps.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *