Overheard At the Verizon Wireless Store

My wife and I have been trying in vain to keep her dying iPhone 4S alive. Last night, 1/3 of the 4S touchscreen gave up on us, and we conceded defeat and headed to the Verizon store to get her a 5C. Getting the new phone was fun, but it was even more entertaining to listen in on the various conversations and transactions around the store!

Hands down, the most common conversation was customers complaining that Verizon has mis-billed them, since “There's no way I used this much data!” I saw Android and iOS users alike complaining about this, with attitudes that ranged from confused to indignant. The store employees have been well trained, and I noticed all of them calmly reviewing with their customer how to use the various data-tracking apps, as well as reviewing the installed apps to see where data was sneaking out. But it did strike me as interesting that in a store of around 30 people, at least 3 were there to complain about data use! My guess is that this is going to increase as a common complaint as more and more people buy smartphones on small data plans, and are surprised the first time a heavy month of GPS/Pandora/YouTube use triggers an overage or warning.

We also did some people watching, and it was fascinating to see which demo devices received all the attention. Hands down, the iOS displays were the busiest-when Sarah wanted to go look at the 5C, she couldn't get to the display because it was too crowded! Meanwhile, the standalone displays for the HTC One and the Galaxy S4 were very nice, but very empty. It was also interesting to see which phones were given slots on either side of the iPhones. You'd think that Verizon would merchandise similar Android phones nearby, but instead the Blackberry display sat to the left, and Windows Phone (and the new Nokia 2520) sat to the right. It's possible that Verizon put less popular devices around the iPhones to avoid clogging the whole area, but then it occured to me that they may have been keeping the Android and iOS fans as far apart as possible to avoid bloodshed!

What really surprised me was the salesperson's reaction to Sarah's 4S issues. She explained she had been suffering through some issues (spontaneous reboots, slow performance, and a battery life equivalent to a fruit fly), but the dead touchscreen swath was the final straw. Apparently, aside from Sarah's unique touchscreen issue, many 4 and 4S users have been complaining to Verizon that the iOS 7 update caused their phone significant issues. Now, this is hardly a scientific sample size, and it's not like people happy with iOS 7 are popping into carrier stores just to tell them they like the update, but, to quote customer service, iOS 7 was “like putting a big motor into a little car-sometimes it just burns it out.”

You can learn a lot about smartphones from hanging out in the Verizon Wireless store. None of it is terribly shocking (People don't know how to check their data! iOS 7 was too much for older phones! People like playing with iPads!) but it's different to see it all in action!


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4 replies

  1. It would be interesting to see whether those three people had the smallest data bucket.

    >You’d think that Verizon would merchandise similar Android phones nearby, but instead the Blackberry display sat to the left, and Windows Phone (and the new Nokia 2520) sat to the right.

    Where were the Android phones in relation to this? Further back into the store perhaps? The Register had a post a few days ago about how Apple doesn’t allow carriers to send back unsold phones, and that Verizon had signed an agreement for $23 billion worth of iPhones but had managed to only sell about half of that. I wonder if maybe they don’t want customers comparing iPhones and Android phones too closely…

    • I am reasonably sure based on the conversations that at least one person had the lowest data bucket.
      Oddly, the Android phones had a ton of displays. They had standalones for Samsung and HTC, and Apple had a section of the main displays.

  2. Thinking about the crowds at the iOS displays, along w/ your own experience – this really confirms to me what the real role of the 5c is. All the hand wringing about how the 5c was an overpriced failure because it didn’t post big numbers on launch day – shows how silly that was.
    The 5c is designed to be the phone that you buy to replace a broken or off contract phone – just like you did Carly. I think, outside of us geeks, as long as a phone falls into a range w/ basic functionality – camera, low price, reasonably new tech under the hood etc – that people don’t really differentiate between the fine details. The 5c gives Apple a foothold w/ those buyers and, when pitted against the Galaxy or HTC One, the 5c does pretty good – maybe just because it has pretty colors.
    Rene Ritchie from iMore I think said it best. The 5s is the blockbuster movie, that everyone goes to see on release day. The latest and greatest that everyone talks about. The 5c is the Modern Family / Big Bang Theory – a great show that runs on mainstream television that is just there – for people to enjoy all “season” long.

    • Definitely true! And it depends so heavily on the audience. If it were me, I would be all over a 5S even with the extra cost. My wife, who didn’t even want to replace her 4S until it literally was unusable, was happy with the 5C and didn’t see the benefit of the extra cost!
      Sent from my iPad