Verizon Wireless Again Accused Of Crippling Handset Features

from the same-old-story dept

An anonymous reader has submitted a story about Verizon Wireless apparently crippling the GPS functionality on the BlackBerry 8830 handsets it sells, after advertising the feature as one of the device’s selling points. This sounds a lot like the situation Verizon found itself in a few years ago, when a bunch of pissed-off customers filed a class-action lawsuit against the operator (which it ended up settling) after it advertised the Bluetooth functionality of a Motorola handset, then crippled it so it would only support certain functions. The legal or liability ramifications of what Verizon’s done here aren’t clear, but judging by forum posts, there’s a number of annoyed customers out there. Of course, Verizon’s done this sort of thing before, whether it’s continuing to cripple Bluetooth, keeping its customers in a walled garden so they can only access data services that make Verizon money, or by making misleading claims about the “unlimited” aspects of some of its services. While Verizon’s strategy seems to result in plenty of unhappy customers, it’s unlikely to change until a good number of them start voting with their wallets and fleeing to other operators. After all, the bad publicity and occasional class-action suit doesn’t seem to be having much effect.

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Companies: rim, verizon

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Comments on “Verizon Wireless Again Accused Of Crippling Handset Features”

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DittoBox says:

Re: No Choice

Or areas that have fair to poor coverage of other networks. I live in an area where I get Verizon anywhere I go but my friends and colleagues don’t get sprint, t-mobile or other carriers more than about 75%-90% of the time.

I’d jump ship in a heart beat if they had decent coverage. I hate my Verizon crippled phone.

Ryan... says:

Re: No Choice

I know I know… man I feel your PAIN!!! I want to switch to T-mobile and get the unlocked HTC Diamond (I am going to Shanghai for 6 months next year so the GSM is perfect for me)… BUT my mom cant switch becaue verizon is the best in her area. :S —> VERY PISSED… I would NEVER buy the HTC Diamond from Verizon… I would rather have one of their free ones…

Ryan... says:

Re: Re:

Isn’t all of this technology SUPPOSSED to be HELPING US!!!! If these carriers would quit wasting our time and money and alow us to use our phones the way they were made…(not taking out the built in GPS like the HTC diamond so we have to pay for the GPS service they offer, not making us pay for data packages w/ a WIFI phone when we are ALWAYS around free WIFI and do NOT need the package,..etc.)… the whole cellphone situation should be and could be sooooo much better than this… it has become a fight against the wind…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Example…. My friend has T-mobile (non “crippled” phone)… so the WIFI feature on his phone is NOT deactivated to where you have to pay for the data package if you want Internet (~35/ month) like Verizon…. anyway… we got lost driving around Chicago one day and all he had to do (while driving) was use his WIFI to get a google map to where we where!!! AWESOME!!! Thnx T-mobile for saving the day lol(from a Verizon customer… not by choice… we dont get good coverage through Tmobile in rural Indiana)!!!!

Joel Coehoorn says:

I think it points to the fact that most people don’t use most of the features that are on their phones. And yet having the feature on the handset does seem to help drive handset sales. An odd contradiction, but I think there are a few things that help explain it:
1) Bragging rights/bling factor of whipping out a cool phone.
2) People buy the phones just to get a phone, and see extras features as a ‘bonus’. If it works that’s great, but if it doesn’t work as well as they hoped it’s not worth complaining about- they still have the phone.
3) People buying based on buzzwords without understanding them completely, afraid that if they don’t have the latest buzzwords their phone won’t work well.
4) People getting advice from more technical savvy friends, who do use some of the advanced features.

kl2real says:

Contract countdown...

I’ve been annoyed repeatedly by Verizon’s interference in the operations of the device that I own. For instance, my Mac recognizes my phone, but Verizon prevents me from linking my datat to it due to an agreement with Microsoft. My contract with Verizon will be complete in February. By then, hopefully, Congress will have passed a law allowing you to use your device with the carrier of your choice–essentially a free market system driven by the consumer instead of the current provider monopolistic system. Once that happens, I’ll get an iPhone and go with the carrier with the lowest cost, best customer services and most relevant features to my needs–and interoperability with my other electronic devices. You know–the American way! V that!

JT says:

Typical Verizon stuff

Have Verizon lost the plot on openness, and giving the customers what they want when it comes to additional features. Maybe they plan to sell GPS service?

GPS is just another example (it is ENABLED on my T-Mobile 8800 BBerry and free) This commentary in article has been documented in other parts of the Verizon business as well – they actively disable WAP push too (why???).

FYI: WAP push is what is used for example if you use for the Starbucks MYSBUX store locator – you text a ZIP, and their system replies back with SMS with embedded links – all other operators enable WAP push, meaning the link works and brings you to a little map showing where the Starbucks is, but NOT on Verizon; they go to lengths to DISABLE the link(s) from working – Why? Maybe they’re paranoid that they’ll “lose revenue”?

Are AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile “losing revenue” based on allowing a WAP link to work? Of course not, they are stimulating data usage. What if your ISP disabled you to send a link in email? I doubt faced on market reality that Verizon can produce a valid excuse for not supporting WAP push. It’s just old-school thinking.

The author of this article speaks an ugly truth – that it seems Verizon remains the epitome of walled garden practices in the US market for mobile operators. I’m not sure how long these practices will hold up either since they’re not the largest operator anymore… it adds up to a limited user experience.

comments welcome

Dan says:

Verizon already offers some mapping features that use the built in location functionality of cellphones for positioning.

I don’t know if this would have anything to do with why they would shut off theGPS functionality though.

I have a v3m RAZR from them that came without the ability to do any sort of file transfers. I ended up having to perform a seem edit to allow them (with the official Motorola software no less). I can see why they would shut off this functionality as it forces people to use their proprietary and broken music and ringtones service (Get It Now).

Unfortunatly, Verizon is the least bad of half a dozen terrible companies, and after being an Alltel* customer for 2 years, I would rather have a cell plan from Satan himself, so Verizon is a step up.

What a broken industry.

*: Alltel still sends us a bill for $0 every month, 6 months and 6 calls after our account was closed

Mr. RcGuy says:

Verizon Deception

Just typical Verizon. I had/have a Bberry 7130e that I got through work. When I changed jobs I no longer needed data or email so turned off the service. A few months later I needed the data again and called Verizon up: “Hey can I turn this on for just a month or two while I’m out of town?”
Verizon: “No problem ,, just call us when you are done and we’ll turn data off.”
When I did indeed call them back I was informed that I could no longer turn data off. End of story. I managed to get them to comp me a new, non PDA, phone though. Pissed me off because I love the UI of the PDA style phones.
Very next month my phone bill was mysteriously 10x that of my normal bill. Hmmmmmm. No coincidence there.
Verizon: “So sorry. A mistake in the switch.” WTFE

Dosquatch says:

Re: Verizon Deception

You don’t have to take Verizon’s overpriced “unlimited” data plan. If you don’t, billing defaults to charging per kb for data usage – something 1.2cents per K. If you have a smartphone for the UI and don’t use a lot of data (I don’t), this is fine. I’ll take the $2-10 per bill that I rack up in per K over $60 for unlimited.

If you pull more than 5MB of data services each month, unlimited makes sense. If you just peek at gmail every so often, and maybe the odd google map, like I do, you’re likely to stay well under that threshhold.

Verizon does not advertise the per K option, does not like to admit it, and many of their sales critters aren’t even aware that it’s an option, but if you find the right one it’s completely possible.

Vero says:

My mom and I picked really nice Motorola phones when we first got our cell phones. Only problem is Verizon turned off the computer-sync options at the factory because they want you to spend money pix-texting yourself all your pictures and they want you to pay for their over-priced ring tones that you have to re-purchase every few months. If you hack your phone to turn the options back on, you void your warenty.

Only problem with the whole situation is Verizon is the only provider that offers a discount at my school and it is the only provider with full service in my area.

necrosis says:

Would never buy...

I would never get Verizon for 2 reasons:

1) Everything thats stated above. I use BT to sync my phone constantly, and to use it as a modem for when im on the road. I heard that once the people that certify BT devices tried to sue Verizon because they would send the phones over to be BT standard certified, then nuter them back to the point the BT group would not call it a BT device. No idea what came of that.

2) Verizon cant leave the damned makers OS on the phone. They always have to load the butt ugly, completely unchangeable/unskinable OS theme. Get a razor from say AT&T and one from Verizon, completely different. Only phones they dont dick with are the PDA ones IIRC.

Juniper says:

Used to work for handset manufacturer

I used to work for a large handset manufacturer. Part of my job was to analyze the UI requirements from operators, and find out how to implement them.

Verizon were the most picky. They delivered a huge manual for the UI. Most of that work was to turn of existing features, so create their sandbox. It was a fight, as we slowly killed off existing as well as new and cool features that we had spent years developing. We knew it was bad for the consumers, but if we did not, Verizon would not buy the phones from us.

My worst day was helping to turn of side-loaded content, so that all MP3 files had to be bought from verizon. Both over Cable, Bluetooth, etc.

My personal opinion is that it is appalling how they screw over consumers, and I would never personally be on their network after seeing how their management tries to milk consumers for every dollar they can, instead of fostering openness, and compete on features, support and simply being better.

Sad story, really.

Anonymous Coward says:

This has been SOP for Verizon for quite some time. However, every time I think of switching over to Cingular so I can pick up an awesome phone, I call my friend and he br–e-aks up and the call disconnects.

Seriously. Damned if you leave (inferior reception, at least where I go), damned if you don’t (neutered phones). What the hell are you supposed to do?

Anonymous Coward says:

This has been SOP for Verizon for quite some time. However, every time I think of switching over to Cingular so I can pick up an awesome phone, I call my friend and he br–e-aks up and the call disconnects.

Seriously. Damned if you leave (inferior reception, at least where I go), damned if you don’t (neutered phones). What the hell are you supposed to do?

Verizon says:

Previous Case

The previous case where verizon got in trouble was I think with Motorola v710. I had 2 of this cell phones and ended up getting 2 free months as the settlement.

So far I have tried the others, they may have the best cell phones but Verizon has the best coverage and customer service.

Can’t wait for Tmobil to blow up soon so I can try them out.

BNLaneville (profile) says:

but are te rest any better?

Usre Verizon cripples functions, but ATT used to haved 2 hour customer service wait times, T-mobile has the crappiest plans, ALLTEL has poor coverage area, Sprint is splotchy with service as well and has crappy handsets. So who really is the best? Unless our Gov’t steps up nothing is going to happen. It’s unfortunately a case of bad capitalism, and it pitifully mirror a caste system in which we’re all peons.

jj says:

Dear ,

Thank you for your recent e mail to Mr. Dennis Strigl, who has asked me to respond to you on his behalf.

Verizon Wireless’ advertisements do not represent the autonomous GPS receiver and you may be referring to and Ad by the manufacturer. There may be disclaimers that not all carriers will sell the unit with the GPS system active.

In the 4th quarter of 2007, Verizon Wireless is expecting to launch VZNavigator in many of our PDA devices. The software to utilize this program would be available to our customers at no cost.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me directly.

Steve Schwed
Verizon Wireless
HQ Executive Relations Supervisor

Talion says:

Not Just Verizon...

8830 GPS won’t work in Europe.

I did a google search and came up with this from: and last updated 15 August 2007.

Quoting: “Q – Does GPS work internationally?
A – No, the GPS chipset on the 8830 is disabled when the device is in GSM/GPRS mode due to Qualcomm requirement.”

The only mention of a tie between GPS and CDMA in Blackberry’s own user manual is:

Quoting: “About assisted GPS support
Your BlackBerry® device is designed to support assisted GPS when your device is connected to a CDMA network. If you make an emergency call or your device is in Emergency Callback Mode, an emergency operator might be able to use assisted GPS technology to estimate your location.”

I have been unable to find any info on Blackberry’s website or their user manual that the 8830’s GPS will not work in Europe. In point of fact, in a phone conversation with a local Alltel/Blackberry salesperson he indicated that he too believed that the 8830 GPS would work in Europe. Seems like a deceptive business practise on Blackberry’s part to me.

Hardly a “World Edition” GPS-wise.

Travelers beware.

Stephen A. Brown - Missouri (user link) says:

An Open Letter To Verizon Wireless - And An Invita

I believe it is time for a call to action.

What Verizon Wireless is doing to its customers is having a negative effect on the mental health of a lot of people, nationwide.

Misleading and sometimes outrightly-false advertising, crippling native features of their phone offering, and thinking they can get away with it is what I see as the start of Verizon Wireless’s downfall.

Many companies have gone this route; just look at Enron!

Enough is enough! There is a certain amount of understanding by consumers that a product sold in the United States of America is suited to “being fit for a particular purpose.” When carriers negate nearly most of the “more useful, new, and most practical features that ‘further and advance the radio art,'” then it is time for everyone to get involved!

This country’s leaders, corporations, governments of all types, and manufacturers of the products THAT WE BUY, must, on occasion, be reminded that they are enjoying the level of success they experience due to the end-user, be they consumer or enterprise.

Customer Service is the mainstay of American Business Success. Without it, a company can only last so long. Verizon Wireless must succumb to what it’s end-users need in terms of what they believe that they are getting for their money.

I bought my BlackBerry 8830 with the understanding that GPS was available on the phone. Subsequent Internet research has shown that Research In Motion (RIM), the company that manufactures the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition (and other BlackBerry models), built the device with a built-in GPS solution.

No need to add a Bluetooth External GPS unit, just use the internal one.

Well, Verizon Wireless has had it’s last hurrah. If I do not see full gps functionality restored via a personal request, then I am going to file criminal negligence charges against the carrier for disabling what I consider to be a safety feature: the internal gps chip in the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone; this under the premise that I could use the internal GPS chip for my own, personal, third party gps mapping and location based applications to enhance my own personal safety and security.

By crippling the gps capability of my BlackBerry, Verizon Wireless did indeed restrict my ability to utilize the full, safety-enhancing, gps functionality of the device. Not all locations in the United States have full Emergency 911 (E911) capability implemented, so the use of such third party gps applications is definitely something that I should be able to use.

Besides that, sometimes I just want other people to know where I am. Let me, the end-user, decide–via my own choices in software–whether or not I wish to be located. One can always turn off the GPS device by setting it to “911 Only” in the Options>Advanced Options>GPS configuration dialog.

Verizon Wireless possibly bringing up the E911 issue in defense of their practice of crippling the gps features are negated by my argument, which holds more water. I think I might be able to convince a jury or a judge of this, so I’m going to go ahead with the action if they don’t open up the device for me. Note that I said for me. I don’t know if I can get them to do this for everyone. If I’m successful, referring back to this post might help your argument.

Class Actions are good. Criminal accusation is better, more prolific, and, so long as it’s plausible, may make a larger company stand up and take notice.

Settlement will not be an easy matter. Verizon Wireless’s entire infrastructure will have to change. They must stop disabling safety features on their handsets. Our NAVSTAR-GPS satellite location system was designed to keep military and government personnel safe and secure, and the governement extended that to the United States Citizenry in mid-2001, when then-President William Jefferson Clinton turned off Selective Availability–a type of scrambling practice intended to denude accuracy of received GPS signals.

The turning off of Selective Availability heralded a new dawning of intensely accurate positioning devices that have now worked their way into a host of technologies. Verizon Wireless, by crippling native GPS features on the phones they use–at Verizon Wireless’s own request–is destroying the safety net that GPS security offers the everyday citizen!

I plan on making the above points very succinctly. I will also ask that Qualcomm be implicated in the safety issue regarding United States Citizens traveling overseas. By disabling GPS when in GSM International Mode (Roaming and/or Otherwise), Qualcomm contributed to a state of lessened safety to the users of the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone.

I will wait until the November rollout of the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone firmware update patch–which, I believe, is going to be timed with the release of the BlackBerry 8130 (Pearl 2) smartphone. If I’m incorrect of the release timeing regarding both items, please post a correction.

CC says:

More restrictions from Verizon

My daughter just purchased a Blackberry 8830 World phone from Verizon to upgrade her phone so she could receive e-mail. After several failed attempts to load her Hotmail account and access her My Space page, she called Verizon only to be told that Blackberry devices do not support those programs. It’s funny but several of her friends with other servers receive their Hotmail messages and they can access My Space and other sites without problem. When I questioned a Verizon tech he said the phone does not support these programs. When I told him my phone (with T-Mobile) receives my Hotmail e-mails and can access all the sites he mentioned, he said, “maybe it is a Verizon thing.” I think it is about time we took this to a higher authority as it seems Verizon sells these phones under the guise that one can use all these features on the Blackberry phones and then they block them so users must pay for another feature through Verizon where they pay a monthly charge along with a per minute or kilobyte charge for receiving e-mails. It’s about time the consumers were getting what we paid for instead of empty promises and shadow games with these wireless carriers.

Mary Beth says:

Verizon crippling new phones for MP3 content

I’d love to join a class action suit or find a way around the programming that only allows Verizon MP3 songs to be downloaded now. I can’t even put my own ringtones I saved to my computer as an attachment and send it to myself anymore. Do we own the phones or not? I distinctly remember paying for them.

I don’t know about any other customers, but losing $150 worth of ringtones does not make me want to extend my contract another two years for a newer phone without access to them.

There should be a separate component to cell phone access that does not screw with the features the manufacturer puts on a phone.

VZW Sucks says:

Typical for Verizon Wireless

Reading this blurb about Verizon Wireless doesn’t surprise me in the least. They blow off regulators, block postal correspondence from disgruntled customers and much more:

I’ve filed a complaint about Verizon Wireless with the Federal Communications Commission as well, and they’re trying to blow them off, too.

GaLiberal says:

Crippled Phones

The Samsung Omina has the same problem. Verizon blocks the GPS from other software except for their crappy Navigator for which they charge $10/mo. They claim it’s to safeguard users, but it’s pretty obvious it’s about revenue. Verizon has this any app, any phone policy yet they have to approve any outside apps.

Verizon said they would release a patch in 2009 to uncripple the GPS, but it is subject to their approval. What? Am I missing something here?

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