Verizon Wireless and Research in Motion should be thanking one particular customer service rep for stopping at least one customer - me - from defecting to AT&T and the iPhone this week. I had called in to find out about altering my existing family plan and porting my phone over to AT&T when she asked me if I'd heard of the Blackberry Storm. Of course, I had - but I let her go through her pitch as to why I should wait for its arrival before making a decision.
The Blackberry Storm, you see, is supposed to be a real contender for the iPhone, she said. And though a date hasn't been announced for the release of the Storm, the customer service reps are expecting it to become available anytime now. Nothing is official, of course -Verizon is being quiet about details of the release. But my rep, a veteran who has seen excitement around new phones in the past, said that when the advertising and marketing campaigns kick into high gear and when details about some of the phone's features start trickling down to the agents, the launch date is getting close.
The launch isn't getting as much attention as the iPhone did - but there's clearly a lot at stake here for both Verizon - which is starting to feel the iPhone churn - and Research in Motion, which was outsold by Apple this most recent quarter. Earlier this week, Verizon Wireless said it wasn’t worried about churn, but customer service folks, who seem to have a ready script to keep customers from jumping to AT&T and the iPhone, telegraph a different story. Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan, senior editor David Grober and I called placed calls to Verizon - not as journalists but as legitimate customers - to dig up some details on the Storm.
My Verizon rep's best guess on the availability of the Storm was maybe 2-3 weeks, she said. Pushing further, I asked if early 2009 was a more realistic target. Her quick answer: "very unlikely." I even asked: "If you were a gambling type of gal, would you bet that it would be before Thanksgiving?" After a pause, she said yes.
David's rep gave a pretty clear "I have no idea," but added that it couldn't be soon enough. His rep offered to take down his name and number and call when the Storm becomes available. (You can also sign up for e-mail alerts.)
Larry's rep, on the other hand, wasn't making any promises or offering much hope of an upcoming announcement. "We don't have a date but it may not be available until Christmas," she said. She also noted Verizon’s LG Voyager experience last year, which seemed to slip. The rep remembered the Voyager rollout because a lot of folks ordered them for Christmas.
Of the three of us, he's the only one serious about staying with Verizon and getting the Storm (he's done with the Motorola Q, he said.) His contract is up in November so he would be free to pick another carrier - but he has no interest in an iPhone or an account with AT&T.
As for me, I'm even more undecided now than I was before. If you have strong thoughts on the iPhone, the Blackberry, AT&T or Verizon, I'd love to hear your reasons. Please take a minute to vote in this poll and maybe even share some of your thoughts in the Talkbacks.