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    At my wits end.



      In August, 2010, I bought a Samsung Vibrant smartphone from T-mobile for five hundred dollars, plus eight dollars per month for the Premium Handset Protection.  This brings the total cost of the phone and warranty over the course of the two year contract to approximately seven hundred dollars.


      I’ve invested dozens, if not hundreds, of hours researching and perusing this issue, and have put up with this defective, expensive device for over a year without achieving a successful resolution.


      T-mobile acknowledges that the phone is defective; however, they will only exchange it for significantly less powerful models, with limited capabilities and smaller screens (which cause reading problems for me).  The phones that T-mobile is offering under the warranty exchange are worth around $150 – about a fifth of the cost of the original phone and warranty.


      Furthermore, T-mobile has also indicated that the models that they are willing to use as exchange are excess inventory that they no longer even sell.   Additionally, T-mobile refuses to even apply the value of the phones that they are willing to provide as a replacement against the cost of a phone that has the same level of functionality, a comparable screen size, the same bundled applications provided, a similar interface and the same input mechanisms as the defective smartphone.



      Detailed History:


      In August, 2010, I purchased a Samsung Vibrant from T-mobile.  The cost of the phone was $499.00. This cost was paid partially initially, and partially through the two year plan that I signed up for.  Additionally, I purchased the Premium Handset Protection plan for 7.99 per month.  Over the course of the two year contract, that means that the total cost of the phone plus the protection for the phone comes to 690.76, not including tax.


      This was the absolute best phone (on paper and by specification) that T-mobile sold at the time.  It had the most features, most memory and processing power, highest screen resolution and the largest screen.  Furthermore, it came with a number of “for pay” applications included.  Obviously, it was also the most expensive.


      Soon after taking possession of the phone, I discovered that the GPS almost never could get a “lock”, thus rendering a good portion of the smartphone’s functionality useless:



      I purchased the phone in part for the GPS based functionality that comes with all GPS enabled smartphones: Google maps and locators, mass transit schedules, restaurant finders and so forth.


      Additionally, part of the what I paid for with the phone was a bundle of applications, including Telenav GPS (a GPS program that makes your smartphone look and act exactly like a car GPS system), Layer (a gps based program that gives information about your surroundings), and several other applications that are based on having a functional GPS feed.  Obviously, none of these worked.


      I did not replace the phone immediately because T-mobile indicated both through personal contact and through various postings on their web site and forums that there would be software patch forthcoming for the phone that would fix all of these problems. While T-mobile never did provide a specific date for release of the patch, it was always implied that it should be out “soon” and that I should just hold on to my phone until it did.   Replacement of the phone under the warranty was disallowed at that point in time because of the forthcoming patch.


      Finally, in early October of 2010, the patch was released:



      The on-air updates were staggered, and it was not until near the end of October that I received the update.


      The patch did not work.  I was able to get a GPS signal occasionally, but rarely, and when I did, it was often inaccurate, or it drifted.  None of the GPS based applications were in any way effectively functional.


      During the months that followed, I did a fair bit of research on the T-mobile forums and website, without much luck.  For example, there were several solutions that involved modifying the core Android software (“rooting” the phone) that I rejected out of hand given that it violates the warranty and is against the contract that I signed.


      It also became apparent from reading the T-mobile forums and other sources that this was a hardware level problem:





      The Samsung advocated solutions revolved around using wireless networks to triangulate position, as opposed to GPS.  This is really not a viable solution, as in a moving vehicle; there is not time to get a wireless network signal.   Furthermore, Samsung’s solutions often also revolved around simply resetting the phone to factory defaults (which, in my case, don’t work):




      Note that this approach also includes allowing Google to collect additional information about me.


      Another possible solution that I rejected involved downloading special software (Kies) from Samsung and applying more patches to the phone myself.  I rejected this solution for multiple reasons.  First, according to T-mobile, this could lead to other problems with the phone:



      Second, application of the patch required that I turn off all firewall and virus protection on my computer, a risk that is insane for me to take with the amount of personal data on my machine:



      Regardless of other considerations, none of these considerations work particularly well from what I’ve read. The GPS stays at best inaccurate and still drifts:




      Finally, I went to the T-mobile store on multiple occasions in order to follow up on this.  No one was ever able to successfully help me.  The last I attempted to address this problem was in February or March of 2011, when I was in the store to get an issue with a gmail account on the phone resolved.   While in the store, the technician did a factory reset and attempted to fix the issue with the GPS, without success (though, he was able to fix the email issue).


      At that point, my work schedule and other time commitments really did not allow me to continue to follow up and get a successful resolution to this issue until recently.  Additionally, I felt that the high end devices offered by T-mobile were potentially still somewhat unstable, given the detailed research that I'd performed at this point, and that I could live for a while with a broken phone if it meant that I could eventually exercise my warranty in order to get a working phone.


      Boy was I mistaken.


      On Saturday, December 10th, I visited the downtown T-mobile store, and spoke with a salesperson for about 40 minutes.  The salesperson acknowledged the problem, but said that my only option was to trade in my current phone (which sold initially for five hundred dollars, and was covered with 200 dollars of insurance) for one of four phones that listed in the $100-$150 range and were, in fact, no longer even sold by T-mobile but, rather, were excess inventory.


      These possible replacement phones did not have anywhere near the same screen size, which would have created a problem for me reading the screen.  Furthermore, these phones had less processing power, had a different input mechanism (“chicklet” keys instead of the large on-screen virtual keyboard), and did not come with the applications that had come bundled with the original phone.


      In short, the offered replacements would have been a significant downgrade even at the time of purchase of the original phone, let alone now.


      I rejected this “offer” and returned on Sunday, December 18th.  During this encounter, to which my wife was both a witness and participant, we spent half an hour talking to a salesperson, and another hour and a half talking to the store manager.  As in previous instances, the store manager indicated that I was limited to the choices previously offered (i.e., a significant downgrade in value and specification of the phone).  Furthermore, he indicated that it was not possible to apply the value of the defective phone against the current (working) version of the phone I possess:  the Samsung Vibrant IIS.


      During the course of the conversation, the manager did examine the phone.  He indicated that the 2.2 patch was not present on the phone.  (I believe that it was removed in February when the T-mobile technician was setting up the second gmail account for the phone; however, this is not verified.  Regardless, either their over the air patch in October 2010 failed, or it was removed during the factory reset performed by the technician.) 


      The manager suggested that I should perform the 2.2 patch myself, using the Kies software from Samsung; however, as previously noted, this is not a guaranteed fix, will destroy all data currently on the phone, including applications, and requires that I set up a Windows computer with no firewall and no virus scanner – something that is far too risky to do with my home computers, given the personal data on those machines.  The manager said that their IT department did not allow him to run the Kies software on any computers in their store; given the fact that in order to run it, one must turn off all computer security, I am in no way surprised at this.


      It should be noted in the interest of fairness that my wife and I, who are on a joint subscription plan, were able to re-negotiate our monthly fee to their current market plan, with the manager waving the transition fee of $100 because my wife was a ten year customer, and we were within a few weeks of the zero cost transition point to move to the cheaper plan.  However, with this said, this meant that we were extending our contract with T-mobile, thus making it to his advantage to do this.


      Following our unsuccessful visit to the downtown Seattle T-mobile store, I attempted to call the T-mobile customer service line.  I reached a customer service representative, and after explaining the issue, was again told that I could accept one of the antiquated, excess inventory phones or simply live with my current phone, and that there was no way that they could apply warranty credit towards a phone that was anywhere near as good in specification as the phone that I currently have.


      At this point, I’ve exhausted every viable avenue that I can conceive of to get T-mobile to honor the warranty that I am paying for.  I’ve spent dozens if not hundreds of hours researching and perusing this issue.  I do not consider taking a phone worth 20% of what I paid originally and with significantly less features and a smaller screen to be in any way a fair exchange, nor do I consider it reasonable to potentially compromise my home computers by dropping all my computer security in order to attempt a fix that may well not even work.


      Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

        • 1. Re: At my wits end.

          Hello, thank you for the post if you could private message me with the following I would like to look into the issue further for you.


          Your name


          Your mobile number


          private message me by clicking my name and then the "send private message" on the right


          Thanks for contacting T-FORCE.

          • 2. Re: At my wits end.

            With this phone should still get a lock but is going to drift that is normal with this model of phone.

            If you are not getting a lock and taking more then 5 minutes with a clear view of ski on a clear day then there maybe something wrong.

            I would make sure you aer on 2.2 and after a fresh master reset try with no apps and run their GPS restore program and none of the other fixes.

            After doing that mine has seems to lock ok typically in or under 3 minutes but does still waiver a little  occasionally but with movement should go back to good. My old blackberry was the same exact way that is just the fact that does have a weaker gps reciever.


            If a exchange is needed you can choose to use t-mobile to replace it with what they have. Last I heard the Cliq2 was a available option for replacement on this phone and is comparable spec wise.  Main difference being that is a little bit of a smaller screen but not by that much and a little thicker since it does have the benift of a keyboard as well.

            But is also a 1 ghz processor phone and also has a flash for the camera which the vibrant don't.

            If you don't like those options is really beyond what t-mobile can do. You can call Samsung the manufacturer of the phone and see if they can fix it.

            • 3. Re: At my wits end.



              Afte talking with keith_m, I agreed to a swap of the phone I had for a Cliq 2, which I received yesterday.


              After doing some further research, it is my intent to return the Cliq 2, and if necessary, deal with the phone without GPS.


              The primary reason for this is that the replacement phone (the Cliq 2) does not provide parity of functionality, nor does it meet the requirements of the original phone that I had.


              Specifically, the screen is too small.  I use my smart phone for reading emails and a certain amount of web browsing; as indicated in my original post.  The new phone's screen does not lend itself to such use.  It might be a great phone for texting, but it is not a good phone for reading professional emails.


              There are other factors involved; while I won't say that keith_m explicitly lied to me, his goal was to get me to accept a sub-par phone instead of a true functional replacement for my current phone.


              It is not worth trading a functional GPS for being able to read the screen.


              Extremely disapointing, especially since, as previously noted, I paid $500 for the original phone and $200 for T-Mobile extended waranty coverage, and T-mobile insists in trying to pass sub par hardware tha is worth half in total what I gave them to attempt to get out of their contractual obligations.

              • 4. Re: At my wits end.

                .The phone is actually quite comparable is just that you don't like it sounds like. Biggest difference is really the memory on the phone.

                Screen size is not that much different that it would make it hard to read the screen. only .3 inches smaller not that much different.

                Just a little bigger but has comparableprocessor, and a flash for camera.

                • 5. Re: At my wits end.

                  I've had the Vibrant over the same period as you,  and had the same experiences with GPS.


                  You are,  however,  mistaken about many assumptions. 


                  You've included the full cost of your PHP in your valuation of the device,  but that really isn't a valid assessment. The charge is optional and the majority of the cost buys protection against accidental damage or loss.  The value of that option shouldn't be factored into your assumption about replacement value.


                  It always has been possible to use Mini Kies without compromising security.


                  Adding a Gmail account or doing a reset would not have removed an OS update.


                  Having been active in the Vibrant forum for that whole time,  I am certain that you would have been offered whatever help you needed to do any update with the minimum inconvenience by any one of several knowledgeable fellow users.


                  I too made a choice to keep the device at the end of my remorse period,  believing that the GPS issue would be fixed,  but I only did so because GPS isn't that big of a deal to me.  If I cared that much about the functionality,  I would have returned the device when I had the chance,  as you had the opportunity to do.


                  Whether you now like it or not,  when you choose to keep a device instead of exercising your right to return it under remorse provisions,  you accept the known performance of that device as-is. There's no point complaining 18 months later about something you could have easily prevented.



                  • 6. Re: At my wits end.

                    So just to cover a few things:


                    The GPS patch was an update provided PRIOR to the update to Froyo (Android 2.2).  The 2.2 update includes the GPS patches. 


                    Resetting the phone does NOT remove the 2.2 update.  In fact, the 2.2 update can only be installed using the process you outlined.


                    Regarding disabling antivirus and your firewall, it is only temporary.  I bet you didn't know that there are regular Microsoft security updates that will actually 'bypass' Antivirus and will quickly 'suspend' the firewall when they are applied.


                    In fact, if you have ever installed any software on your computer, you are likely to note that the installation wizards will almost always recommend you disable antivirus and firewalls, so this is a normal practice (Regardless of updating phones). 


                    Anyhow, I would strongly recommend updating to the latest 2.2 update for the device.  After that, reset to factory defaults.  The GPS on the device is not perfect, but it is very usable.  I used Google Navigation for Turn-By-Turn directions from San Francisco, California to Portland, Oregon and it did have to adjust a few times along the way, the rest of the trip was very functional (even did a re-route in Eureka California to see some sites).


                    Regarding the offer of the CLIQ 2, it's a reasonable device.  Initially you said you NEED GPS, but then you would rather have the larger screen of the Vibrant than the GPS feature of the CLIQ 2. 

                    Contrary to common belief, there is no perfect smartphone.  They all have trade-offs.  I would be very happy that T-Mobile USA is willing to offer a CLIQ 2.


                    Smartphones are much like computers. You need to do your research.  I see the same type of complaints every day on verizon and att forums across the web for various phones from various manufacturers.  At the end of the day, you need to research, buy, and try during your return period.  If it doesn't work, return.  End of story. Don't wait for this or that. 


                    As I tell people all the time, buy a smartphone for what it is that day, not what it 'could be' with some updates.


                    Hopefully you'll be able to weigh your priorities accordingly and either live with your Vibrant, or accept a possible CLIQ 2 alternative.  In either case, you do have options.  That's more than many folks have.

                    • 7. Re: At my wits end.

                      I think you'd be much happier with an iPhone next time around.

                      • 8. Re: At my wits end.

                        "buy a smartphone for what it is that day, not what it 'could be' with some updates."


                        That might just the most sound advice I've ever read on this forum.Very well done rinthos.

                        • 9. Re: At my wits end.

                          I am really unclear as to why so many non-t-mobile employees are telling me "caveat emptor".  T-mobile will not remember your "forum loyalty"; you will not get a free phone out of them for spinning their lines for them here.  And you weaken your own position by weakening all customer's positions.


                          Regardless, a few points I'll address.


                          First, there is a significant difference between the screen sizes if you want to display an entire page without having to scroll horizontally.  You say it's only .3", but remember, area is not a linear function; rather, area grows by the square.  Also, perhaps it's not a big deal to your youthful eyes, but to mine, that are getting a bit older, yes, there is a difference.


                          As far as not exercising my warranty rights previously, and being in an optionless position now, what you are basically saying is that it is up to me to (1) be aware the t-mobile would not tell the truth, and (2) be able to tell when they aren't.  Again, caveat emptor, right?  Note that t-mobile refused to swap the phone initially, saying that the patch would fix it.  And this basic pattern has continued throughout the course of this saga.  Should I have been more dilligent?  Obviously, yes.  However, I've never been in a situation where an entity was so able to flaunt its responsibilities to the customer, and was able to so flagrently ignore its obligations.


                          Claiming that the additoinal $200 paid on top of the phone is somehow not part of the cost of the phone (is it like magic money that's different from real money here?) is rediculous.  It is money paid for a warranty.  It is part of the overall cost of the phone, and the purpose of the cost is to protect against damage, loss and defects.  T-mobile has pocketed that money, and yet refuses to make good on its obligations.


                          In closing, while perhaps I should have done more research that I did at the time of purchase, and while perhaps I should have realized that  t-mobile's promises of a fix amounted to less than a hill of beans, t-mobile still has a certain obligation to me, their customer.  They sold me a non-functional product, and have consistently for 18 months refused to honor their obligations.  They took my money, made promises, but never made good on them.  They try to pawn off excess inventory that they don't even have in their showroom's (at least in Seattle) of a subpar quality.  They sell me an extended warranty and refuse to honor it.  They refuse to take the phone back based on a patch they've got in the pipeline, and when it doesn't work, they put the blame on me, the customer.


                          In short, their behavour has been unethical, unprofessional and dishonorable throughout this entire saga.

                          • 10. Re: At my wits end.

                            Your insurance contract is with asurion,  not TM and only $2 of the amount you pay them goes towards the extended warranty. The rest covers accidental damage or loss.


                            When your car is a total loss after a wreck, you don't get to factor in the amount you have spent on insuring it in the loss settlement.  Similarly the total paid as your insurance premium is irrelevant to the value placed on your phone in any resulting settlement.


                            Whether TM/Samsung indicated that there would be a fix or not,  you best decision over a deal-breaking fault would have been to return the device in the period allowed and either await them making good on their perceived promise,  or selecting an alternative device from TM or elsewhere. 


                            I personally never saw anything that approximated to a promise,  just a statement that Samsung were working on a fix,  which came after a couple of months. Yes,  i assumed it would be fixed,  but when it wasn't I recognized that it was my own fault that I had chosen to hold on to the device when I could have been more patient.


                            There was a long period of time when you could have received a Vibrant as a warranty replacement.  Im sorry that you encountered someone initially who wouldn't address the warranty exchange,  but before the end of 2010 TM did exchange thousands of Vibrants.  I had no problem getting mine exchanged (though i elected to keep my original in the end).


                            At some point,  when a device is so old and end of life,  the supply of worthwhile refurbs has to dry up.  Despite your feeling that you have been short-changed throughout,  the vendor can reasonably assume that you have had 18 months value from the device,  and therefore its residual value is relatively small, meaning its replacement now will be the cheapest possible option that approximately matches the functionality. That's just how it is... But by all means keep on arguing with them,  as you may find someone who is willing to go further than their obligation demands.

                            • 11. Re: At my wits end.

                              Just out of curiosity, philyew, are you a t-mobile employee?

                              • 12. Re: At my wits end.

                                To address your fundamental point, though, philyew, I did indeed get some value out of the phone.  However, what I paid for and expected was a Porsche.  What I got was a Pinto.


                                And as noted, I did make significant efforts to get this taken care of, between August 2009 and March 2010, without effect, from t-mobile.  I did my dilligence on reading the docs, and following those procedures that seemed promising.  This is documented above, but to summerize:  t-mobile promised a fix, the fix didn't come, then I was told that there was nothing to be done.


                                From March through December, my work was incredibly intense.  60 hours a week was the norm.  There is only so much energy that one can put into additional efforts, such as this one.  That does not mean that I didn't feel extreme frustration during that time; it simply meant that I just didn't have the time to dedicate the amount of time required to persue this issue during that period.


                                Finally, in reference to the insurance portion, if the $2 a month that you claim that t-mobile gets is not adequate to cover their obligations, then they should raise the price.  With that aside, let's say that I had lost the phone, and had been presented with the sort of garbage that t-mobile is offering in replacement for the defective phone.  I'm still paying for the insurance, note.  Would you also argue that providing excess inventory that they can't othewise move would be a fair replacement under the terms of the insurance, when I find such junk hardware even less suitable to my needs that the current lemon that I'm stuck with?

                                • 13. Re: At my wits end.

                                  Nope. Not now or ever. You can see from many of my other responses that I am HIGHLY critical of many TM business practices which I consider to be unethical. I just don't think that what you are describing ranks anywhere near the stuff that they having been doing in the last few months, involving bogus contract extensions, service disconnections/reconnection charges, unjustified migration fees etc.


                                  I think you made an unfortunate, if understandable error in judgment at the outset and are now over-valuing the residual value of the device. 


                                  I can understand why TM balked at doing a warranty replacement when they were being told by Samsung that a fix for ALL Galaxy S devices worldwide was being prepared for the very issue about which you were complaining.


                                  However, when that failed to fix the issue they did start to do warranty exchanges and SOME people did benefit from that, receiving devices where the GPS performance was improved - significantly in some cases. Had you persisted with your request at that time, you may have been one of the lucky ones.


                                  You have written a lot to go back over and re-read, but did you try a direct approach to Samsung at any time? You would have experienced an interval without a replacement phone, but they might have been able to help.


                                  Anyway good luck!

                                  • 14. Re: At my wits end.

                                    My previous post crossed with this.


                                    It seems odd that you were persistently refused warranty replacements when others reported exchanging as many as 5 or 6 Vibrants under warranty! Were you asking for a replacement Vibrant, or a different model?


                                    It's also hard to believe that you can characterize the Vibrant as a Pinto, based only on its failure to perform the GPS function to your satisfaction. Even before I chose to root and customize my device last year, despite the several annoyances caused by Samsung's file system implementation, the device was WAY better than a Pinto. It may not have been a Porsche, but relative to most other devices available at the time it was a cut above, with occasional glitches that could be overcome by periodic resets.


                                    But if you had problems other than the GPS, it beggars belief that you must have been the only person in the country with a Vibrant who was unable to persude TM to do a warranty replacement. I got mine because my battery needed recharging after 4 hours of actual use - even if that occured over a 10-12 hour time span. It's hard to believe, therefore, that you couldn't find something that led you to characterize the device as a Pinto, for which you could achieve a warranty replacement.


                                    The insurance you pay goes to Asurion, even though it is collected by TM. The replacement device is determined by what they are willing to pay for, not what TM say you can have. Whether it's excess inventory or not, Asurion will be paying TM for the device. Blame them if they are failing to provide you with value for money and are extracting too high a margin from the insurance arrangement.


                                    You don't have to take out insurance with Asurion and there are other insurers who provide this service, apparently with a higher level of customer satisfaction.


                                    The warranty is adminstered by TM on behalf of Samsung, but it is unquestionably a MANUFACTURER'S warranty. If Samsung don't have refurbished Vibrants any more to provide as replacements, they will have to provide TM with some financial compensation which TM then use to balance their books for the alternative device that they are providing.


                                    We don't now whether TM are skimming anything off the top of that arrangement (ie. receiving more from Samsung than the real book value of the device they use as a replacement). I would hope not, but unless we have evidence, it's a bit of a speculative and hollow accusation.


                                    I do think that the US carriers have encroached into difficult territory by attaching contract obligations to subsidized phones, because the promise of the phone's performance is part of the inducement into a two year contract, with strict cancellation restrictions. However, those issues don't pertain in your case, where you paid full price for the phone and therefore any service contract you entered into was entirely independent of the device you chose to use.

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