Technology reviews of computers, tablets, wireless phones, and information security are the one section of the news, next to automotive, that I enjoy reading (usually very little drama). The down side I see to reviews of the latest gadget is that most of the time the reviewers are given a device that is already tested to assure it is functioning properly. Very seldom does one get the opportunity to read a review from the everyday Joe who is just trying to find the best product at the lowest price. The vast array of digital devices now belong to a separate and distinct ecosystems with their own bugs, worms, and viruses. Some ecosystems are safer than others but they all have dangers lurking to take you down at the most inopportune time.
Until the smart cell phone, ecosystem referred to the natural environment made up of plants, animals, bacteria, water, desert, etc. Now it can also mean a digital ecosystem made up of Apple, Android, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Blackberry, Facebook as well as some other small players. Within the Android ecosystem one can find subspecies. Then there is the darkweb which is akin to living in a bad neighborhood run by organized crime.
In the connected world we now live in, which digital ecosystem we choose can end up costing us a lot of money or we can seek out the best deal we can possibly find. In my search for the most economical ecosystem, I have learned that diversity, as in the real world ecosystem, can create the best overall experience. My digital ecosystem has evolved into Apple for my music, Android for my tablet computing, Microsoft Windows for my computer environment, and the much maligned and misunderstood Windows Phone for my wireless phone which this review is about.
Microsoft does not seem to consider customer loyalty in their business model. This was proven when they went from Windows Phone 7 to version 8. Those of us with version 7 would have to invest in a new cell phone to use version 8. In the technology ecosystem, the Windows Phone has become an endangered species here in the USA. In Europe and other parts of the world, the Windows Phone enjoys a larger user base. Then last year Microsoft acquired Nokia’s cell phone unit with big plans to take on Apple and Android. This past week Microsoft announced they are now laying off most of the employees who came with the Nokia cell phone unit acquisition. Microsoft did not help the situation by offering only cheap and poorly made phones over the past year that are easily damaged. No doubt this has led to the endangered status of what in my opinion is the best cell phone operating system (OS). As of this past week, Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) has not instilled confidence that his company will continue to support the Windows Phone.
So what is a gear-head to do when his beloved, cheap, and poorly manufactured cell phone is on what appears to be a path to extinction, again? Before I answer this question, I need to point out that I believe that the cell phone in general is the biggest rip off when it comes to cost. T-Mobile CEO John Legere has done a good job exposing just how expensive it can be to own a cell phone with their Uncarrier campaign. If one purchases their device unlocked, one can lower their monthly costs substantially. All the other companies hide the true cost in their multi-year agreements. My monthly cell phone cost is $40 for unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data (which I don’t even come close to using the full amount due to only one social media account).
Unfortunately, T-Mobile does not have a very good offering of cell phones unless you happen to have a lot of disposable income. Apple, Samsung, and HTC are some of the most expensive cell phones imaginable ($500 to $800 U.S.). These are the Bentley, Maserati, and Porsche (in no particular order) of the cell phone ecosystem. Then I discovered a company that is taking John Legere’s Uncarrier idea and manufacturing a high-end cell phone with an affordable price. OnePlus only sells two models of unlocked cell phone with high-end specifications via the web and ships them directly to your home. After researching this new company and reading as many reviews as I could find, as well as much deliberation, I decided to abandon my Windows Phone for a OnePlus One.
The day I was finally able to pick up my OnePlus One phone at the post office (they required a signature and identification, both of which are with me at work when my mail arrives) I was excited to see if what I read was true. Being a subspecies of the Android ecosystem, I figured it would be easy to set up since my tablet is in the same ecosystem. All went very well until the phone would not recognized my SIM card. Right out of the box I was given the opportunity to fully vette OnePlus’ technical support and later their customer feedback system. Six days later my phone is on its way back to OnePlus via DHL (don’t even ask why they use an international shipping company for an in state return delivery). Needless to say there was a lot of my free time that was spent with OnePlus to prove the device was actually the problem and not the SIM card or owner. From the day I placed my order to the time my defective phone was picked up was 13 days. This is by no means acceptable and would have been longer if I did not press the issue. At this point I am waiting to see if OnePlus is able to send me a working phone. Stay tuned for Part Two…