My Sprint Saga: Five Phones And Four Funerals

Reader O says he’s been a Sprint customer since 2004, and things went smoothly until the beginning of last year, in which some sort of black cloud cell phone satellite has hovered over him, zapping him with terrible luck that’s forced him to pour 40s on the street for four fallen phone homeys.

Here’s his rundown:

(New phone – #1)

In Dec 2009 I renewed a new two year contract with Sprint to obtain two new phones (a pair of LG Rumor Twos) – I just want to focus on my personal phone issues in this letter- the second phone and contract issues are another long story. Everything was working well until about six months in – the LG phone would have serious delays with input (typing/dialing would lag around 15 seconds), the phone would reset frequently and would not hold a charge for a full day.

(Six months in, Phone #2)

I called Sprint and was referred to a store near work – at the store, through some bungling on the tech’s part (beneficial to me, or so I thought) I walked out with a refurbished HTC Touch pro. This new phone worked properly for about two months, then demonstrated the exact same issues as the Rumor 2 phone with the wonderful addition of heating up enough that I really did NOT want it in my pocket. I called Sprint and lo and behold – the phone is not properly registered on my account, and despite being in my possession for less than three months, is not under warranty. I am told to go to a store yet again for a repair estimate. After 79 minutes at the store (I timed it!), the tech stated he updated the software and I had a “bent pin” in the charging port and the repair cost was ~ $70. I ask him to document the issue for me and please give me my phone back. I got a business card with a sloppy paragraph describing the issue written on the back along with my phone. After many hours on the phone with Sprint, I was directed to their “Multiple Device Replacement” department and was thoroughly grilled regarding this issue. The end result was if I renew my contract, I can be sent a new phone. I needed a working phone – I tell them to send me the phone. They did not have any HTC Touch Pro phones in stock, but were willing to and do send an HTC Touch Pro 2

(Three more months, Phone #3)

So I receive a brand new retail HTC Touch Pro2 in the mail – a very nice phone – which works for around three months. All of a sudden, the phone keeps on attempting to perform a “Hands Free Activation” process. Essentially, the phone thinks its brand new, and will not contact the Sprint network – the phone’s cellular radio appears to not work. After multiple calls, multiple resets of the phone, the only progress is the addition of another intermittent error message stating: “The device in unable to boot because either you have turned off the device incorrectly or tried to install an application from untrusted sources”. I ask for a replacement phone – and am told by one CSR that they no longer send out replacement phones as of the 7th of October. The next CSR states I must go to a store. I insist on a fix, so back to the Multiple Device Replacement dept. They decide to ship me a replacement refurbished HTC Touch Pro 2.

(Not even one day in, Phone #4)

Four days later I receive a tiny box from sprint with a refurbished HTC Touch Pro 2 inside, just the phone and a back cover – no battery, and no SIM card (I know, you say Sprint does not use SIM cards – this is a world phone and is one of two sprint phones can than can use SIM cards). I call up sprint just to be sure that this is ok – I am told it is NOT typical to ship a phone without a battery, however I can use my old battery. We attempt to activate and guess what? The replacement phone’s MEID is NOT registered on their network! Ok, we get this settled, make a test call to an automated voice that states “Congratulations, your phone is now activated!”. Great! I think this is all behind me – thank you CSR! The next thing I do is call my girlfriend (I wanted to let her know that I can actually receive phone calls now, I have a working phone!) – and tragedy strikes: The new phone’s microphone does not work! I can hear perfectly, however whomever I call hears silence…they cannot hear me. No matter what I try, any phone call I make with the new phone is essentially a one way conversation – nothing I say is heard. I call Sprint back – totally disheartened. After more than two hours on the phone, I finally get sent around to the Multiple Device Replacement department again…. the best they can do is ship me a phone. With other carriers now in mind, I say just send it to me. I am now awaiting Phone #5.

(Phone #5 – currently en route to my mailbox)

O says he’s ready to give up if the fifth time is no charm.

Have you had bad luck with the phones O has tried, or were his experiences freakish?


Edit Your Comment

  1. wrjohnston91283 says:

    What’s the question here?

    • MrBryan says:

      What does Consumerist choose to post on a slow Monday afternoon?

    • jimmyhl says:

      There is not always an explicit question, but it helps sometimes to open dialogue about consumer issues. Sometimes the story itself is enough for that purpose. Here, for instance, our hero has had four phones, each hobbled by bona fide impairments, i.e., they don’t work properly. The provider has been pretty good about repair/replacement, but……..the provider is not very good at inspecting its product before getting it out to this customer. In days past, this itself was considered a lapse in the buyer/seller contract, especially when repeated 4x. If you truly seek a question, you may ask: should there an enforceable ETF clause in the agreement when the provider fails repeatedly to furnish services or goods that objectively fail to perform as promised? Or more broadly: has corporate governance in this godammned country of ours succeeded so well in ratcheting down consumer expectations that we now believe that the OP doesn’t have a grievance?

  2. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Buy a phone off of ebay. At this rate, it just might work better than the one’s you’ve gotten.

    Either you’re really REALLY rough on the phones, or something is wrong with the environment you’re housing them in.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      My wife has had a similar situation…

      We both got original LG eNvs at about the same time, right after they came out. They were awesome, and to be honest, might be my favorite phone to date. Anyway – rock solid for like a year. Then I had to get a Blackberry for work, so my eNv went to my brother. My wife wanted to upgrade to a swanker phone, so she gave her eNv to a friend, and got a Voyager.

      She went through 4 Voyagers in rapid succession, and then we talked Verizon into givng her an eNv Touch – and she’s had 3 or 4 of those. And she’s still a few months away from the end of her contract.

      And those original eNvs? Yeah…both sill in use.

      Once her contract is up at Verizon, we likely won’t be using them anymore…and we sure as hell won’t be buying any more LG phones.

  3. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Also, its SOP (for AT&T at least) to ship you replacement phones without battery & back cover. They specifically state this in the script AND on their website. Sucks if you get a phone that’s a different color from the one you started with.

    Refurbed phones often are not registered to your account when you receive them, you have to take the initiative and do that yourself.

    Either get a new phone on your own outside of the Sprint Machine or go elsewhere.

    • darcmosch says:

      I guess you’re not under warranty? Because everytime I had one shipped to me (about 7 times in the last 2 years) it came with everything. I have also found out through extensive research (receiving 7 refurbed phones) that refurbished never work. They say they are fixed to A+ quality or whatever, but there is still always something screwed up for some reason

  4. AlexTheSane says:

    I don’t know, maybe this guy generates a magnetic field. I’ve been with Sprint for 10 years now. Six phones (none of which broke,) with nary a problem.

  5. eiberri says:

    Seems user related.

  6. BlkSwanPres says:

    That many phones, or different types, failing in similar ways, in similar time periods… Sounds like a PICNIC error, well I guess in this case a PICNIP.

  7. devwar says:

    Maybe the guy should stop buying HTC Touch Pro 2s? Sprint seems to be dealing with him in more than a fair way.

  8. Mom says:

    I’ve never had a problem with any mobile phone, other than breaking the back cover off of my current phone. Totally my fault. A little duct tape holds the battery in place just fine, thanks. At least until next week, when I’m eligible for a new phone.

    My partner, however, who has the exact same model, has had 3 or 4 warranty replacements in 2 years. Go figure.

  9. backwerds says:

    It actually sounds more like an issue with getting refurbs and then something the user is doing wrong. I’ve been with Sprint for about 6 years and I’ve had no issues. When I have had phones replaced, they have been pretty good about getting it back to me fast and if not; giving me a better phone.

    Take a look at what you do with the phone to make a better assessment of what the issue is and preventive measures. Maybe you are plugging the phone into a car charger and then talking on the phone all the time (this caused my battery to swell and i got a replacement for my blackberry curve off this). I have the HTC Evo and its absolutely perfect; no complaints, no issues. and I am very hard on all electronics

  10. Blooberriz says:

    I work for Sprint Repair . I deal w/ stuff like this all the time. The HTC touch pro & Touch Pro 2 are probably the worst phones in history. Windows mobile is garbage.

    I get sent bad phones from Sprint all the time. They are called bounces- failures within 30 days. In fact, I just had a touch pro 2 come in last week for a replacement and the mic didnt work either…

    For this guy to have 4-5 phones over the period of a year is not a big deal at all. Ive got customers who can trump that no problem..

  11. MrEvil says:

    You got quite an upgrade on your phone. The Rumor Two isn’t even considered a Smartphone and they gave you a Touch Pro.

    However Touch Pros are known to be fickle and the Touch Pro 2 is the same goddamn hardware in a different package (same CPU, same RAM, same everything). I have my Touch Pro loaded with a hacked Touch Pro 2 ROM so I can use WinMo 6.5.

    Also, the Touch Pro does get hot. Mine certainly does, I just live with it though because I am like one of 2 people in the world that seem to not mind Windows Mobile.

    I’d try to talk them into letting you have like the Samsung Moment or HTC hero.

  12. teke367 says:

    Once, I had a phone that broke after a couple months, they weren’t making the phone anymore, so I got some “comparable” phone from Sprint. Every two months, the phone would break, and I’d get some new refurb. The last phone I got was about 1 day before the warranty expired. Different phones than the OP, but I guess when you get into refurb territory, that probably isn’t too strange.

    Other than that, no problem, except for one time when a phone I bought in 2007, had a problem, I had a little hassle because the batter was out of warranty because it was from 2004. They never explained why they sold me a new phone with a 3 year old battery, but this was an “authorized dealer” and not a corporate store, so I’m not sure how much that had to do with it. I don’t let Sprint off the hook though, they need to take responsibilty for stores they allow to carry their name.

  13. coren says:

    Well if nothing else, I would hope Sprint lets him out of his additional two year contract (if I read that right, due to the in-store fuck up he had to reup to get his problem fixed even though he had already done so in the last year). You shouldn’t have to sign two two year contracts to have a working phone (and that at the barest definition of working).

  14. Fjord says:

    My family has 3 TP2s and they work flawlessly, 2 years so far. Little slow but manageable.

  15. framitz says:

    Leave the 40s at the store, that’s your problem right there.

  16. RayanneGraff says:

    Usually when someone keeps getting dud after dud after dud… I hate to say it but it is most likely user error. I have had both the Touch Pro & the Touch Pro 2, and never had such issues with either phone. My ex on the other hand… his phones broke every couple months cause he didn’t take proper care of them.

    Not to say I’ve NEVER gotten a replacement. The Touch Pro had issues with overheating & battery failure, and I had it replaced a couple times in the hopes that they’d upgrade me to the TP2 for free(no such luck, lol, I had to cash in my upgrade). I also had to have my HD2 replaced a couple months ago cause I messed up my screen, and it didn’t come with a battery or back cover. My sprint phones did, oddly enough.

  17. nashguy615 says:

    I just went through something similar with Sprint- and also with a Touch Pro 2! Received a refurbished unit and the radio chip was faulty so could not receive all of my text and picture mail messages. So went into the store (I have insurance) and they send me a replacement refurbished Touch Pro 2. This unit was worse off than the first! I could hear people- they couldnt hear me, when I pressed 1 letter key- 8 random letters would appear on my screen, etc. Is the Touch Pro 2 a piece of cr@p phone?! I went back to the store and DEMANDED that a brand new, non refurbished phone be issued to me. No more lemons! I got it in 2 days ago and so far so good! Just worried that this one will go bad in a few months and I will have to start the chain over with the cr@ppy refurbs…

  18. alulim says:

    1. LG phones don’t work quite right on sprint. They seem to always ship with some sort of software problem that may or may not get fixed. Granted, my experience is about 2 years out of date but the problems date all the way back to VX series circa 2001. The “Rumor I” had active developer code that wiped a device if you were unlucky enough to input the right key combo.

    2. Day 1-90 demand a brand new phone. Some states require this by law, carriers have been hit with enough class action suits to put this in their Standard Operating Procedures. Be firm but polite, the first person you speak in customer service/retail may not know this or be able to do it. Go up the chain.

    3. Contact the OEM for replacements. When a new phone first launches all the replacements will be new by default (no one has refurbs). At some point refurbs will be issued out. As a customer you don’t know the supply chain. They may be from the manufacturer with the the broken aspect completely replaced, “certified” by an in house technician, or from a third party. Basic or limited “feature phones” with software problems can usually be reflashed or the onboard memory replaced fixing the issue. Smart phones are more complex and rely on more inter-working components. Bluntly, they tend to get reflashed, “certified”, and passed along by carriers. You need to understand verizon didn’t make your phone, they only do warranty replacements because its cheaper than losing a customer (assuming the customer doesn’t know the difference between OEM, blackberry, and network operator, verizon). Keeping with the cost theme, the cheaper the better. Basically whoever made your phone is going do a better job repairing/replacing it. The downside to dealing with an OEM is they may require you to send in your phone without offering any sort of backup.

    As for O, he’s past the point of return for everything i just wrote. Your average rep is gonna see all the replacements already sent and clam up. I’d suggest contacting the bbb, your state ag, or an eecb.

  19. brandloyal says:

    Had these exact same problems with my touch pro phones. My first one was fine for a few months until it slowed down and froze all the time (I had downloaded software on it). So I reset and erased the phone and started over, it still froze all the time and the battery got extrememly hot and drained in just a few minutes. It then refused to charge randomly, sometimes it would and sometimes wouldn’t. I took it to Sprint and they couldn’t find anything wrong with it, so they shipped me a new one. The new Touch Pro’s battery wasn’t the right size and would fall out and lose connection, resetting the phone (even with the cover on). So they shipped me a new one, which also overheated immediately and had to be returned to Sprint.
    They were out of stock so I got a touch pro 2 as a replacement (which i’m currently using). After having to activate the phone 2 times because of a clueless Sprint in store worker, I immediately loved this new phone, thought the software was better and it seemed a lot faster. However after a few months the HTC Sense slowed to a crawl without ever downloading or installing anything new on the phone. I went to the settings and switched to the basic windows default, which sped it up again….until recently. Now it freezes and is slow all the time, and will sometimes turn itself off or reset when i close the sliding keyboard. The ONLY positive on this phone is the battery life.

    I am so fed up with Sprint and HTC that I am debating getting the Epic instead of the EVO to avoid another HTC disaster.

  20. Dyloted says:

    My girlfriend had the same problem with a new sprint phone as your #4 phone. The phone was set in Hands free mode for Blue Tooth. CSR didn’t know what to do. She found it just before she was to get it replaced.

    On another note…. I hate sprint!!! more than any other company i’ve ever dealt with. I’ve never had a service company lie, cheat, and steal from me. 2 years and hundreds of hours explaining what other CSR’s have said and how they have changed my ‘PLAN’. I know how there system is set up better than most of their reps… I have tons of stories. The best one is finding 2 hours later i made a phone call to sprint, 20 minutes after that i was free from thier tyrancy without paying the 600 dollar Early Termination fee.