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While it’s not 100% official, both the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch are reporting that the long-rumored story that Apple will produce a CDMA version of the iPhone for Verizon, starting in Q1 2011, is true.

As an iPhone owner on AT&T, what will it take me to switch to Verizon? Let me write an open letter to their management and marketing team.

Download the podcast from iTunes, or play it below for maximum ranting entertainment (recommended):

 

Dear Verizon

Congratulations! I hear that you’ve convinced Steve Jobs to build you your very own iPhone for your CDMA mobile network. You must be soooo excited.  I read that an analyst said it could mean 10 million more customers for you.
I also saw that you have about 27% of the smartphone market, while AT&T has 38%. That’s a pretty decent lead to make up.

However, here’s the good news for you.  Nearly 7 out of 10 of the smartphones that AT&T customers have are iPhones. So if you can get those people to switch, those numbers might change in a hurry.

I have a few suggestions for your marketing department.  First, let me tell you a bit about myself.

- I’m 41, live in Manhattan, and have a Bachelors of Science in Computer Information Systems. I have been around technology all of my life.
- I work for a website called Wired.com, teach a social media class at NYU, and with the money I have left at the end of the month, I often buy gadgets like the iPad and high end digital cameras.
- I also have my own blog and podcast, and am very active on Facebook and Twitter. Not to brag, but I’m pretty connected and a lot of people come to me for tech advice.

In short, I am your dream customer.

Let me tell you what the mood is right now in case you missed it. For the most part, people HATE AT&T. The best way to describe it is we tolerate them, because we’re such fans of Apple and love the iPhone so much.

Dropping calls is so commonplace that it’s just accepted right now. They’re lucky that we’re so wrapped up in texting and email and apps, that we barely speak over the phone anymore. But people want out.

But we’re not stupid. Sure, you can TELL us that your network is better, but we’ve been burned before. It’s all too easy to envision a scenario where millions of AT&T fans flee to Verizon, only to overwhelm the network and find themselves in the same exact situation.

So here’s what I suggest:

1) PROVE your network is better.
I don’t know how, but you’re going to have to figure it out. Don’t just show us charts and graphs, but send an engineering team to Manhattan to demonstrate.

Remember the Pepsi Challenge back in the 80s? I do. They literally set up tables in front of department stores and did blind taste tests because they were that sure. That’s what you should do.

2) Emphasize the improvements to your network.
I’m not sure how much money you have to invest in bandwidth, but I’d start with a bajillion or so.

3) Emphasize customer service.
At least in the beginning, we need to be able to talk to you. Whatever it takes, get some geeks working the customer service lines and require them to pick up in 2 rings or less. And don’t even think about outsourcing. One of the most frustrating things in the world to me is when I know more than the tech support guys.

4) Tell us why you’re better than the Google phone.
For me, Apple has me by the horns because I have a Mac and iTunes and an iPod and an iPad. So why not own the iPhone too. But don’t think I don’t see Android gobbling up market share. Even if it’s only mostly true, throw us a bone so we can defend ourselves.

Got it? Good. I’m about ready to switch.

But just before I do, I have a small list of demands requests.

Before I get started, let me tell you a bit about myself. And my friends.

- I’m 41 and I live in New York freaking City. It ain’t easy. In fact, there are 19 million of us here, about 1,000 per square kilometer. And we ALL use our phones. ALL the time. You don’t understand. We don’t have cars, so by city law we MUST use our phones while walking, while talking, while waiting for the bus, and while eating a delicious slice of pizza.
- I have a BS in Computer Information Systems. That means I know that Ruby on Rails isn’t a new flavored vodka from Smirnoff. I have been around technology all of my life. So don’t try and pull any bull with me. Same for the rest of the new dialed-in generation.
- I not only work for Wired.com, but I’ve written for them. Did I mention they have 11 million uniques a month? And that I often run their Facebook and Twitter feeds? Oh, and that social media class at NYU? That means I’m filling the heads of the next generation of geeks with MY ideas. And there are lots and lots of people like me with similar digital networks.
- And all that social media stuff you hear about? Blogs and podcasts and Foursquare and so on? I LIVE for that stuff. Nothing makes me happier than sharing information among my worldwide network of hyper-influencers.

In short, if you mess this up I am your worst nightmare.

Ready? Here’s what you can do.

1) Straight cash.
Yes, like a star NFL player coming off a contract year, I want a fat signing bonus. How about $100?

You know what? There’s going to be a lot of us coming over and I want you to have money left over for more towers. $50 ought to do it. Straight cash, don’t let PR try to sell you on “Verizon Bucks” or something.

2) Money back guarantee.
Listen, other companies do this all the time, and this is a HUGE risk we’re all taking. Our cell phones have become our lifelines, and it’s an expensive pain in the ass to switch over. Just suck it up and do it. In fact, I’ll save you a few million in ad agency fees by writing your marketing campaign. You ready? Here goes.

“Switch your iPhone plan from AT&T to Verizon and try us for 30 days, risk free. If we don’t deliver faster data, fewer dropped calls, and a better customer service experience, you can switch back no questions asked and we’ll give you your money back. Act now and for a limited time, get $50 just for signing up.”

Done and done.

3) Lower monthly bills
You heard me! Don’t you flinch or it’s off. You know what my last AT&T bill was, for basic minutes, data, and unlimited text? $124.89!!! How about we shoot for something in the $75 range. OK maybe $89 or $99, don’t hyperventilate. But again, don’t mess with us either. We KNOW those text messages don’t cost you a damn thing… why not come out and say so? Say listen, AT&T charges you $20 for unlimited texts — $1310 per megabyte! — but in reality they cost us fractions of a penny. Let’s say $5 and call it even.

4) Tethering.
So right now I pay the cable company a huge amount for home internet. I pay money for data on my iPhone. And then AT&T has the nerve to charge me $25 a month if I want 3G data on my iPad?  Ridiculous. Let Steve have an app that gives me 3G service from my iPhone to power my iPad when I need to, OK? Don’t worry about it, I’m in WiFi most of the time anyway.

5) Free upgrade to a 4G phone
I told you we weren’t stupid. We know the difference between the iPhone 4, and an iPhone running on the 4G network. The TechCrunch article predicts that Apple is going to wait as long as a year for 4G to work out any kinks, like they did with 3G. It will be embarrassing to have all those Sprint fanboys shoving their 4G network in our face! We’re early adopters, dammit! Look at 2011 as a trial period. Give us a nice little 3G phone and keep us happy, then reward us with an easy upgrade to 4G in 2012.

6) iPhone-palooza party
Yes, we want a party. A big one. At minimum, everyone in New York City and San Francisco is invited, and we’ll figure out the rest of the guest list from there. The party will happen March 17, 2011 in Austin, TX.

Yes, that’s right…

On St. Patrick’s Day.
During South-by-Southwest.

- Activities will be planned by social media superstars, via social media. I nominate Gary Vaynerchuk as emcee (he’d crush it), and Julia Allison as party committee chairperson (don’t be a hater, you know you trust her in this role).

- There will be an online vote to see which bands should perform, and you will bring in the top 5

- There will be unlimited beer, alcohol, and Grade A Texas Ribeye steaks

- Each attendee will receive an iPhone-palooza cool laptop case, fleece, hat (choice of frat boy baseball cap or sulking programmer skull cap), and Gore-Tex windbreaker. We’ll even let you throw in a ‘Sponsored by Verizon’ branding somewhere on there as long as it doesn’t look dorky like every other corporate freebie, and is fully approved by the style committee

- Above all else, unlike AT&T at SXSW in 2009, your service Must. Not. Fail. So go over the top. Don’t just tweak existing towers. Don’t bring in mobile units. Build a one-time-use, 50 foot tower in the middle of downtown Austin for this event.

This sucker should hum from 100 yards away, and require SPF 50 to get near it. It should be a location on Foursquare and have it’s own Twitter account and Facebook page. There will be races where people must scale to the top, take a 3MB photo, and then email it to their entire contact list.

So, as you can see, I’m very excited about moving over to Verizon this spring, and look forward to your response to my suggestions. Oh by the way, just send me an email or text – don’t bother calling.

Sincerely

Jim Hopkinson

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