NYT’s David Pogue Takes on Cell Industry


Pogue_hiUPDATE: more cell phone company d-baggage.  Apparently with the advent of the potentially-amazing-but-not-quite-yet Google Voice, most major cell providers have banned the various Google Voice apps that allow it to integrate into your phone’s operating system.  Ugh…

I really hope everyone out there knows who David Pogue is by now (his personal site can be found here). He is the main New York Times Tech Columnist, and he is great. His main job at the NYT is to make technology make sense to the everyday consumer, and he is really good at it. He’s so knowledgeable and yet is so funny and comes across as such an Everyman, you have a hard time believing he’s not your next door neighbor or at least your new best friend.

I follow him on Twitter and it is definitely one of my favorite feeds. He recently finished writing a book over Twitter where every night he would have some sort of game that his followers would play along with and the best responses ended up in the book. It was great. He has a very loyal Twitter fan base. He regularly crashes websites by posting links to interesting videos or articles, just to have most of his 700,000+ followers go to these sites all at once and crashing the servers.

Anyway, Pogue has recently drawn some attention for a recent article he wrote about his “Everyman” frustrations with the cell phone industry. After a brief defense of the industry over phone exclusivity contracts (ala AT&T and the iPhone) where he explains why this is an unreasonable frustration to have with them, he outlines six legitimate frustrations to have with the cell industry. The gripes are as follows (but I still really encourage you to actually read the article. He’s a great writer.):

  1. Unreasonable text-messaging fees
  2. Double-billing (where you get billed for sending and receiving a call)
  3. Unfair Phone Subsidies Practices (you spend the first half of your contract paying off your phone, but still keep paying the same price even after your phone’s paid off)
  4. Crazy International Phone Call Rates
  5. Way Too-Long Voicemail Instructions Just To Waste Your Minutes
  6. Miscellaneous (dead spots, data caps, customer service, etc.)

(You’ll see why I wrote that outline out here soon) That was last Wednesday, July 22nd. Apparently that article put into words the frustrations of many, many Americans, awakening a small public relations disaster for cell phone companies. I know I felt really good after reading it.

So how did the industry respond? Did they rush together to serve the interests of their customers? Did they begin more research to see if in fact a huge percentage of their clients felt similarly? No. Instead, two days later, on July 24th, Lowell C. McAdam, CEO of Verizon, sent an open letter to the publisher of the New York Times (I have no idea why he didn’t just send it to Pogue) accusing the New York Times of publishing “myths” and “highly misleading charges at wireless companies”. He then goes on to carefully rebut these “myths” and “charges” leveled against his industry by Pogue’s article. Now, I would love everyone to look back up and reacquaint yourselves with Pogue’s outline of complaints.

Done? Good. Now here are McAdam’s counterpoints to Pogue, presented in Myth/Fact fashion:

  • Myth 1: American’s pay less than Europeans; Truth: they pay an average of ten cents per minute less (as long as you don’t factor in international calls, text messages, data rates, and overage charges).
  • Myth 2: The cell phone industry isn’t competitive; Fact: Al Gore at some point said they were very competitive (seriously, that’s what the letter says)
  • Myth 3: Bad customer service; Fact: 84% of customers are satisfied (really? I’m “satisfied” with a lot of things, but I’d much rather be “pleased”. We kind of have to be satisfied with what we got anyway)
  • Myth 4: Wireless companies don’t look out for the rural guy; Fact: Verizon looks out for them.

Wow. Eat it, Pogue. McAdam really took you to task. How did Pogue respond to such an “onslaught” (are you catching the sarcasm yet)? With this tweet and this brief article. Personally, I think it’s pretty bad when someone attacks you, you attack back, and that person proceeds to promote your attack as amusement for his supporters. Shortly afterward, Pogue continued to tweeting about other things, but several hours later decided he was going to start a campaign to get rid of the long voicemail instructions, so he asked his followers for potential “war-cry” slogans.

I really hope this causes some real discourse and perhaps even change in how cell companies treat their customers, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy playing along with Pogue as he milks this exchange for all of the entertainment it’s worth. Good for him.

So, read his stuff, buy his book, follow his Twitter, watch his song and lecture below from December on 2009 cell phone trends, and enjoy the ride.

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4 thoughts on “NYT’s David Pogue Takes on Cell Industry

  1. I don’t think it is altogether a bad thing if there is a bit of a shake-up in the wireless industry. David Pogue made some very valid comments.
    Why are we paying roaming charges on our contracts? My daughter has a prepaid phone from NET10 and she does not pay any roaming charges. I’ve worked out I pay more per minute on my cell plan than she does on her prepaid. She can also call a number of international destinations at local rates – I can’t.
    These and other things make me wonder – am I being exploited by my cell carrier? I would certainly like my representative to look into this.

  2. All I can say, Paul, is that you have excellent taste. :)

    And I think you’re really going to like the campaign that I’m launching on Thursday!

    –David

  3. Pingback: Pogue vs. Cell Industry, pt. 2: “Take Back the Beep” Campaign (and some thoughts on Capitalism) « the long way home

  4. Pingback: i made it on Derek Webb’s homepage! « the long way home

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