Sprint gave me a free cell phone. What’s the catch?

Sprint Samsung A920
Click here for more photos of the Samsung A920 which a bunch of us bloggers strangely received…

A few post ago, I mentioned how Sprint had been sending out invites to select tech bloggers for their Sprint Ambassador Program. I read about it first on Paul Stamatiou’s personal blog and wondered if I’d ever get “popular” enough to get kickbacks like this… the very next day I got that same email from Sprint.

Apparently they liked my blog as well, so today I have the Samsung A920 cellphone in my hands. With unlimited phone and data services (free for 6 months), you can watch TV shows on it, surf the web, playback mp3s, take photos/videos, and all that she-bang. Good or bad? My thoughts on it later.

What’s the catch?
Sprint didn’t state anything other than for me to give them feedback about the phone on their site. Still, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is more guerrilla marketing than market research. Giving away a free phone with unlimited service is a nice way of asking for a plug, since Sprint knows we’d probably blog about it anyway. Question: What if we gave it bad reviews? Perhaps online search presence is more important to Sprint than actual reviews.

To fellow bloggers, I’m sorry if you didn’t get invited to the club (evil laughter), but maybe this might give you some perspective… Justin thinks that Sprint searches for blogs that discuss mobile phones and consumer electronics, then invites them in for the program. While it’s up to them to find you (invite-only), you could try contacting Sprint about it and ask them nicely to check out your blog. No harm trying.

So, how’s the phone?
If you look at my Flickr set, you’ll see everything it’s capable of doing, so I’m not going to repeat. I will talk about my experience with it thus far. Do note that I’m more of a Danger Sidekick kind of guy and since I talk less than I type, a big screen with a full keyboard is the way to go, so watch my bias.

First off, the Samsung A920 is a well-built phone, with lots of features to keep any gadget-fetish fiend at bay. The face of the phone did interest me since it has MP3 player controls embedded on the front with a tiny LCD screen to show you what’s playing. Samsung paid homage to Apple by a “Shuffle” button right there. Popping open the flip phone, I was greeted by a typical menu system, with a cheezy looking interface that’s oh so ninties (I’m a decerning Mac user).

Anyway, there are three things that piss me off about this phone:
1. The phone restarts itself whenever I fail to connect to the Sprint Power Vision network. This occurs pretty often for some reason and I can’t reliably connect to the web nor watch mobile tv.
2. You can’t transfer mp3 files easily to the phone. There are workarounds, but Sprint essentially turned it off to force users to buy tunes off their Sprint Music Store.
3. I can’t easily sync my AddressBook contacts via bluetooth.

To be fair, here are three things I like about it:
1. It works well as a normal cell phone (dual LCD screens help)
2. You can use the phone as a wireless data modem (Internet anywhere!)
3. The built-in 1.3MP camera does well for photos and video recordings.

Here’s how you can sync your contacts and mp3s with your Mac (it’s tricky!). If you’re interested to know more, just drop me a comment.

20 thoughts on “Sprint gave me a free cell phone. What’s the catch?

  1. Awesome, you got it! Mines in my PO Box back at school but I’m on spring break so I won’t see it until monday. Glad to see the phone is nice. There’s a how to somewhere out there for getting the phone to work as a modem for a mac via bluetooth. By the way, what number did they give you? Like area code wise.. something local to Buffalo or just a random one?

  2. While this is an interesting and smart form of marketing, it is an example of corporate encroachment on web sites owned by public individuals as well as the commercialization of a cultural and public space — the internet commons. Unfortunately, bloggers have become complicit in this act of enclosure. Right now, I’m ambivalent about writing about this on my own web site because doing so ironically contributes to this encroachment. Thus, this comment 🙂

  3. Paul S: I got an 816 area code, that’s Missouri. I’m in Buffalo, NY, so I guess it’s random. Shouldn’t be a problem with nationwide service. 🙂

    DT: Some bloggers won’t say much about it, and for good reason too since essentially it’s commercial, which might work against the precious notion of our blog’s authenticity. Essentially, corporations are finding news ways to tap onto our reputation as bloggers.

  4. I emailed the Sprint Ambassador program to see if they would hook me up. I wrote a fair amount about my a900 when I got it (one of which you linked to to sync with a Mac).

    I think it is pretty cool what they are doing. I just wish they would include me 😉

  5. We get even better Samsung phones than yours! The camera is 2 megapixel and MP3 capabilities are kind-of the norm (especially in the Sony Ericsson Walkman Phones)! evil laughters

    In reality, I won’t be able to afford it anyway… 🙁

  6. If Sprint is reading this they have a lot of fixing to do on the Samsung A920 phone!! Syncing contacts back and forth with PC or MAC does not work (vcards) – readers are reporting the ability to push contacts to the phone with vcard2.1 or 3 but not read/sync. No calendar sync support. No music/video file transfers (FTP) via bluetooth – you must handle the tiny microSD card and manually move it back and forth between phone and PC/MAC. No way to delete files that you accidently uploaded to the phone via strange methods. I heard the a920 was discontinued already anyway. Kudos to Sprint for finally adding Bluetooth to their phones!

  7. Also I need to mention that you can’t play/stream music files over bluetooth to bluetooth headset/bluetooth speakers/etc. While you can use the “wired” stereo headset without a problem. Who needs wires when you have wireless bluetooth available?!?!

  8. RonInAustinTX: Thanks for sharing. I encountered similar problems with bluetooth syncing, but then again, Sprint is trying to cash in on their music store… that’s why the lock down. 🙁

  9. I’ve had my samsung a920 phone for about 5 months now and love it. I haven’t had any problems with going on the web. You may trying doing the software updates that are avaliable i think they have come out with two of them. The phone has not been discontinued. If you want to transfer mp3s i know sprint doesn’t publish it but it’s not too terribly hard to do. If you have an SD slot in your computer (if you don’t then you can buy a reader/writer from radio shack instead) from there all you do in put the transflash memory card in the SD adapter that came with the phone and copy the mp3s on to the card.

  10. Thanks for sharing Julie. Perhaps it’s Buffalo or something, because I can never get data network connectivity, so no action for me other than normal phone calls. Yup, no updates as well 🙁

  11. Hi, Does anyone actually know if there is any way to get your pictures off a Samsung Phone onto a mac. It is very frustrating that i cant! 🙁

  12. send some info about bluetooth which is used for connecting pc and the cell phones to copy songs, videos, pics. xtra’
    send me the concept behind that

  13. I’ve had my A920 for 2 months now. One other thing that I do not like about this phone is the call waiting feature. While on the phone and someone beeps in I see both numbers even after the other line has hung up. It give the false impression that you are on the phone with 2 lines versus 1.

  14. I agree with Lisa, the call-waiting feature is a bit confusing at time, switching back and forth between calls can be mind-numbing. The only other feature I don’t like about this phone is that sometimes when I send picture-mail, they get stuck in queue and I have to turn the phone off and on to get them to send. I do love the camera, the trans-flash, the stereo speakers are great, and it has decent battery life. Does anyone know if there is a way to play your own video’s similar to your own mp3’s?

  15. I wish there was a way to record more audio. What I liked about my iPod was for an extra $30 I could turn it into an audio recorder, and record lectures and interviews with people.

  16. You guys that are having trouble transferring files really need to invest in a memory card. It’s completely trivial to put MP3s on the phone or get pictures off just by transferring the memory card, and a 1 gig micro SD card is like $10 now and will hold tons of MP3s and photos.

  17. I plaed an order for the Samsung Instinct. Then on the following day I cancelled the order. Two days later, the phone was sitting on my couch. I called sprint (I kind of fibbed a little) and I told them that UPS sent me an email saying that my phone was on the way. Sprint asured me that my order was indeed cancelled. So I called them back, I activated the phone with the simply everything plan witnout any hassle.

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