We just burned a cool $50 to sign up for MetroPCS’s LTE network in Las Vegas. Clearly, MetroPCS launched LTE today to upstage Verizon’s VDC Conference. And, we bought the first Samsung Craft at the store a mile from Verizon’s conference.
While some have unboxed the phone, we actually have it in an area where LTE coverage exists. So, we made a command decision and switched focus to doing what we do best; picking apart the customer experience and suggesting real-world improvements.
Step 1: Finding a Samsung Craft
This was actually pretty easy. All of the corporate-owned stores in Las Vegas had the Craft in-stock. However, we were told only one other store actually sold one. This was around 4 PM in the day… but it wasn’t much of a surprise to us.
Why? The main reason may be the Samsung Craft is a test mule phone. It’s a feature phone with TouchWiz, BREW, and zero smartphone functionality. The phone is over $100 more expensive than Samsung Code; MetroPCS’s Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone… and it doesn’t even have a smartphone-grade browser such as Opera Mini.
Clearly this phone is aimed at people that understand the words LTE… and few others. Samsung sells multiple models sans TouchWiz for hundreds less, with the only other feature of significance being the lack of Wi-Fi. We’re not really sure why the Craft has Wi-Fi… it just does not make sense on this phone.
Step 2: Purchasing the Craft at a MetroPCS Store
This was a bit more difficult. It took the better part of an hour to actually leave the store with the phone. Being as we were the brave pioneers to actually purchase the phone (despite its glaring shortcomings), we expected this a bit. Store staff needs to know what to do, and the intranet training guides aren’t really going to satisfy that necessity.
Additional note to MetroPCS: Please, please, please, ban chewing gum from your employees. Nothing kills a sale faster than someone cracking gum in your face. If we weren’t on the job, we would have bolted. It seemed to be an infection spreading to most of the employees in the store. These are customers, not cattle… treat them with the respect they deserve.
Ahem, anyways, back to the activation. The store wasn’t too happy when we told them we didn’t live in Las Vegas. They said that was a dealbreaker. We told them to pound sand. Long story short, risking the loss of a sale, they bypassed the imaginary policy and continued to set up the phone… with a Las Vegas area phone number.
Then came the choice of plans. There are two LTE plans, one $55/month with all the smartphone features, and a $60/month plan that adds unlimited video on demand.
As usual with MetroPCS, no contract was required, but it’s not clear if you’re going to be able to easily switch between Craft and other CDMA devices. The device has a
SIM UICC, but MetroPCS appears to be using that as an ESN. According to the store (which we stress we haven’t confirmed), MetroPCS SIM UICCs are bonded to the device at the factory, and losing the SIM UICC results in the phone becoming a glorified paperweight.
If true, this would point to LTE networks not allowing for
SIM UICC swapping. Especially since the phone was activated via the CDMA-standard *228. That may be fine if in-the-field device swaps are possible via *228 or similar services, however, there’s no promise you’ll have that, either.
It also means unlocked devices may be a thing of the past.
Step 3: Well, that’s about it.
Five minutes after the *228 was completed, we had an LTE signal.
And, there’s the letdown. You now have LTE… in a Samsung TouchWiz BREW feature phone. We’ll be posting a full set of unboxing photos and first impressions later today.