Is Verizon Wireless Sabotaging Older Cell Phones?

I have long had a Nokia 5180 phone (since Xmas 1998, to be exact). It was on its second battery, but eventually couldn't even keep that charged, and I finally decided, this past February, to claim on my insurance and have them send me a new one. Whaddaya know, there's a $50 deductible that nobody ever mentioned to me. OK, fine, here's my credit card number, send me the damn thing.

They didn't have any more 5180s, so they sent me a 5185i. Fine so far, except that this one had the exact same problem as my old one: you turn it on, it lasts three seconds and shuts down. Besides which, it had a manufacturing date somewhere in 2000. I send this back and they send another; this one at least has a sticker saying it's a refurb with a date of 5/04, so at least I know they haven't just sent me someone else's old broken phone.

Fast forward six months. I'm standing there with the phone in my shirt pocket, minding my own business, when the thing beeps. I look at the screen to find the legend "Invalid roaming list", with a stop sign, after which it says "Searching for service" and stays that way. I call

611 (from my wife's phone) and ask what's up, and they tell me it needs to be flashed. Finally get to a Verizon store, leave it there for an hour, come back and find that, like about 50% of the phones with this particular failure mode, it has failed to accept the flash.

The following conversation resulted. Me: What now? Them: How would you like to buy a new phone? Me: What of this New Every Two that you advertise? Them: You aren't eligible. Me: Why not, I've had this same phone for six years? Them: But you never had a two year contract. Me: (walks out).

So I called Asurion (the insurance carrier) back, and told them that the phone they sent me has crapped out. Them: Sorry, you only have a six month warranty on refurbs, and you got that one six months and eighteen days ago. Me: WTF, was there a countdown timer in it that told it when to break? Them: You can file a new claim if you want. Me: I don't want, as that would cost me another $50 deductible. Them: Sorry, can't help you. Me: Lemme talk to a supervisor.

Supervisor echoes the above. I point out that at $5/month for six years of premiums, plus the $50 they already got from me for the old phone, I've already paid in at least three times the cost of a new phone; besides, it was very likely that the phone they sent me was defective from the get-go, as the exact same thing happened a few months ago (but the flash worked that time). They check the records, find that in those six years I've only had the one claim, and tell me they're making an exception and sending me another new phone, but they have no 5185i's left either, so I'm getting a 6015i instead; received this last Friday, it works, so I'm set. It's too darn small, and the Select button is where the Clear button was on the old phone, plus the belt clip, car adapter, data cable and so on don't fit it, but these are minor annoyances.

Except that I did some go0gling over the weekend, and find that I'm not the only one with this particular phone failure, and it always seems to happen to the older Nokia phones, mostly on Verizon. There are two hypotheses advanced to explain this:

Hypothesis 1, the more innocent one: The roaming list has gotten so huge over the years, what with nationwide roaming &c, that the limited memory in these older phones wasn't enough, and the resulting overflow clobbered the phone's firmware. (As evidence, when I tried to put my phone in test mode (*3001#[security code]#), it crashed hard: screen blank, backlight on, random ticking noise in both earpiece and ringer, unresponsive to any keypress except to increase the rate of ticking. Geiger counter anyone? Removing the battery and replacing it cured this temporarily.)

Of course, this implies some stupidity on Verizon's part, as they know exactly what kind of phone each customer has, and *should* know the memory capacity of each type; if the phone is listed as one that can't handle the full roaming list, then send it an abridged version, and inform the customer that in some remote areas the roaming indicator will indicate improperly, due to the age of the phone, but the phone will otherwise function correctly. (Does the roaming list do

*anything* but tell the phone whether or not to light up the roaming indicator?)

Hypothesis 2, the more paranoid one: Some people have been suggesting that Verizon have been deliberately breaking these phones. The reason given is that they aren't E911 compliant, and if they were still functional, Verizon would have to *give* you another one in order to be in compliance with the minimum 85% that the FCC wants. Now that it's "broken", they can *sell* you another one, or lock you in to a new 2-year contract. (Note that this doesn't necessarily contradict the first theory.)

So: What do y'all think about this? Is there any evidence for one or the other scenario?

Shalom Septimus Reply-To: works. From: also works but isn't read much, if at all.

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Shalom Septimus
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