My Android nightmare

It's only fair. When iPhone 4S customers complained about poor battery life, I raked Apple for ongoing design problems. Now that I'm having problems with Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and AT&T, the Android camp deserves its due. Perhaps with different AT&T customer service you wouldn't see this post at all.

There's a problem with the Skyrocket I purchased on November 8 from AT&T. Battery life sucks. But it wasn't always that way. During the first 3.5 weeks, battery life was exceptional -- on par with what I had with iPhone 4. Then something dramatically changed, quite suddenly, like someone cutting the electric lights and replacing them with candles. My experience went from bright to dim, and I don't like living in the darkened room.

I posted to Google+ on December 12:

Say do you have Galaxy S II Skyrocket? How's your battery life? Mine dramatically changed about a week ago -- from 24 -40 hours between charges to, ugh, much less. I'm 9 hours and 50 min on current charge. Battery is 14 percent, after setting idle overnight.

It's likely local issue. Cell reception sucks in my apartment building and could be sucking dry the battery. But this is iPhone 4S-like drainage on a handset with stellar battery life just a week ago. So, while troubleshooting before writing about it, I'd like to see how anyone else is doing with their Skyrocket.

Looks like I was right about the antenna sucking the battery dry, just wrong about the reason. But I didn't know that until last night.

Troubled Troubleshooting

Occam's Razor suggested software problem, which I investigated. I hadn't installed anything new in the days before battery life started draining fast -- most shockingly just setting idle. For example, the phone had 71 percent charge went I crawled into bed about Midnight last night. At 4 am PT, Skyrocket woke me with the chime for low charge. It was dead when I got up 90 minutes later; it's charging now.

That's not just bad, it's terrible. Worse, my wife uses Skyrocket now. This battery thing isn't good for the relationship. I may have to move her back to Google Nexus S. She inherited the S2 phone after I purchased Google Galaxy Nexus 14 days ago from Verizon. We waited until Christmas week, when I ordered her a new phone case, before switching handsets. In process, I restored Skyrocket to factory settings, assuming still some errant app was cause. Nothing changed; charge still drained fast.

I moved next to the battery. Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S II Skyrocket use the same 1850 mAh battery. I bought a charger and spare from Amazon and swapped in the new battery. Nothing changed, and that really surprised me. I was so sure bum battery had to be the problem. This had become a matter to take up with AT&T. I've been busy here at BetaNews and couldn't get to the AT&T corporate store until last night, where, like troubleshooting the Samsung smartphone, things didn't go as I expected.

AT&T Disappoints

Perhaps Apple customer service spoiled me. Apple Store has always stood by its products, at least with me, with amazing tenacity. Most recent example: In March, my 11.6-inch MacBook Air failed. This is a computer I purchased in November 2010, so the hardware failed after about four months. How did the Apple Store resolve this problem? I walked out with a brand new MacBook Air. Now that's customer service! Surely AT&T would replace my smartphone, which I purchased less than 2 months earlier.

Fat chance of that. A store rep, and later the manager, told me there is no replacement after 30 days -- that is at their store. AT&T has a service center, which conveniently is located about half-a-mile away, that could swap phones. The rep called to make sure the service shop was open (this was around 7:15 pm before 8 pm closing) and whether there was a Skyrocket replacement on hand. Open, yes; replacement, no. I would have to get one by mail order. "Say, what?"

So I asked to speak to the manager about getting in-store replacement after the service center determined the Samsung smartphone was in fact defective. Absolutely not, he said. I scolded him: "You make me regret not buying iPhone. Apple would have replaced it already".

Busted Antenna

I trucked off to the AT&T Service Center, where Skyrocket was examined. But first, while waiting my turn, I noticed something really, really odd. LTE occasionally showed up under the 4G in the upper right-hand screen. LTE!!! San Diego isn't supposed to have the service yet. So I installed app and readied for mind-blowing results, which I got but at the wrong end of the scale. Cough. Cough. 678kbps.

My turn came. The tech did some quick diagnostics and then we talked about the troubleshooting I had already done. He honed on the antenna. The signal indicator danced around dramatically, something I hadn't paid much attention to before. He also noticed LTE lighting up, and told me the going from one to five bars to LTE and variations in-between was abnormal and indicated that something was wrong with the antenna. Before he explained further, I understood. The phone gobbles up heap loads of charge as it constantly looks for a signal across the networks, 3G, HSPA+ and LTE. He said that being a LTE phone that's the network Skyrocket would look for first.

The phone needs to be replaced. Wrinkle: I would have to take a remanufactured (e.g., refurbished) Skyrocket, sent by mail, the tech told me. Like hell! I have a practically new phone that has been properly cared for -- never dropped or otherwise mishandled. The problem started suddenly, within 30 days of purchase. But that's failure I must take responsibility for, not rushing down to the AT&T store.

I took the phone home. The tech made notes in the account, and I will call AT&T customer service later today in a last ditch effort to get a new phone. I had expected more from AT&T and perhaps too much, having been spoiled by Apple.

The AT&T employees were friendly and helpful, but their corporate procedures left this customer dissatisfied. When Apple replaced my MacBook Air after four months, I wrote about it here at BetaNews, as I likely would have done about getting a new Skyrocket. Instead, it's a story the Apple Fanclub and those folks hating AT&T will delight in. The point: Customer satisfaction should be the only goal to any transaction. It's one reason Apple's brand is so popular -- satisfied customers leaving the Genius Bar. AT&T needs to raise its customer service IQ. Perhaps I'll have to settle for less, but I won't forget when it comes time to renew cellular contracts.

Update: I contacted AT&T customer service, and spent 45 minutes on the phone. The initial rep kicked me up to a "customer retention" specialist after I asked what the termination fee would be for my existing lines. He attempted to assist but claimed AT&T's system wouldn't allow any other option but remanufactured phone under warranty.

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