. The Transom .

Thursday, August 23, 2007

US Cellular: When ad slogans contradict reality

Cell phone carriers make big claims. They come up with catchy jingles and tag lines. At some point, the tag lines and jingles should probably reflect reality more than a sales pitch. Case in point, US Cellular's tag line is "We Connect With You." The company's new advertising slogan is "Wireless Where You Matter Most." Sounds safe and reassuring. If I have a US Cellular phone, I'll be connected and it will work everywhere, right?

Not exactly.

Keegan Hamilton reported this month that when it comes to 911 calls from your cell phone, there's a good chance the dispatcher won't know where you are or have your number. Hamilton's example was forty days of recorded cellphone calls in St. Louis county to 911. Each call followed the same pattern: urgent pleas for help followed by 10 - 15 seconds of dead silence. The problem is in a chip that US Cellular has in their phones that is supposed to actually help 911 dispatchers use GPS to identify a caller's location. The catch is that in order to do that, the audio connection is disabled.

Now I'm not real smart, but it seems to me that hearing what a panicked caller says might be slightly more important that waiting 15 seconds to pull up a longitude and latitude location. And even worse, dispatchers are hanging up on callers because they think the connection has been lost or it's one of the hundreds of wrong numbers or prank calls they get every day.

As for their advertising claims, it appears that US Cellular isn't exactly 'wireless where I matter most,' because when I dial 911, it's a pretty high priority. And if they are dropping voice capabilities during my 911 call, they aren't exactly 'connecting with me.'

Of course you can't hear me now. It's because I just switched to T-Mobile.

2 Comments:

  • I think you have your facts about US Celluar mixed up as when you dial 911 from your phone you do get the dispatcher, and she can locate you. The technology your upset about is not on the end of the wireless carrier, they have been able to track phones for years, the landline carriers or the police do not have the required tools to track.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, March 20, 2008 6:35:00 PM  

  • I never said you wouldn't reach a dispatcher. I'm pointing out the fact that the audio portion of the calls in the USC phones tend to go dead for 10-15 seconds while the cellular location is determined. And as for who carries the responsibility for the technology, it doesn't matter when it comes to USC's advertising claims. Saying "Wireless Where You Matter Most" and then blaming the landline companies or the police for screwups is like being Papa John's with their 'always fresh' ingredients claim and then blaming the food companies for supplying them with rotten veggies. If you can't control your supply chain, don't make claims you can't control. It just pisses everyone off.

    By Blogger Rob Amberg, at Friday, March 21, 2008 5:32:00 AM  

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