The Cell Phone Fairy Cometh

Posted: February 26th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: District of Columbia, Sprint Mobile Phones, Technology | 11 Comments »

Those who know me well know I have had something of a complex relationship with Sprint. They’re the cell phone company everyone loves to hate, and in my nearly four years with them I have had my share of customer service problems and billing irregularities. I also paid far more than my fair share of huge phone bills when I went over my minutes. Yet, I never switched because when I investigated options competitor’s plans didn’t seem that much better, and Sprint kept me locked in 2-year service plans (with the $200 penalty to quit) as a result of my habit of modifying my plan. Also, their service for the places I lived in Ann Arbor, Maine, and Washington, D.C. was generally pretty good. As a result, I bought their fanciest phones and stuck with them.

This weekend, I got an unusual email from something called the “Sprint Ambassador Program,” which I think is some kind of sophisticated marketing project. (More on that later.) They said that they are testing their new high-speed data network (I am assuming EV-DO), and wanted to know if I would like a phone with:

six months of all-access service (at no charge). You’?ll have access to the Sprint Music Store(SM) live TV broadcasts, gaming and more. Yes, you will also have unlimited free calling and data service.

After scouring the terms and conditions it appears the offer is without any strings — I can send them as much feedback as I like, and get to keep the phone after the 6 months are up. Yes folks, this was cell phone nirvana. And I didn’t even have to send my bank account number to a middle man in Nigeria. Of course I signed up, and am awaiting for my new Samsung MM-A920 to come in the mail. This is one of Sprint’s newest phones and retails for $300. It comes with a 1.3 megapixel digital camera and all the latest bells and whistles: high speed web browsing, gaming, live TV, and the ability to download and listen to music.

The email they sent me says I was identified through this website, which has left me wondering exactly how they found it. Perhaps they were just looking for some blogs in the D.C. area to test the network, or perhaps they stumbled across one of the few times I wrote about Sprint phones. I also stumbled across this tidbit about how Sprint is testing another high speed data network in D.C., so perhaps I’m not even an EV-DO tester.

After doing some further googling, it seems Sprint has sent phones to at least a hundred (possibly a lot more) bloggers recently. I imagine this is all part of a “viral marketing” campaign of some sort as they don’t seem too interested in the feedback part. Buzzmachine speculates it’s an advertising campaign, pearsonified thinks it shows great marketing saavy, this blogger spins the experience into a odd story, another blogger wonders why they chose him and his non-A-list blog, Gawker’s Consumerist is in the program, and one blogger has even posted some photos they’ve taken with their free phone to Flickr. And here I am, blogging away about Sprint.

I must say, if the brave new world of viral marketing means more free stuff for me, I’m all for it.

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11 Comments on “The Cell Phone Fairy Cometh”

  1. 1 Kristine Miller said at 1:28 pm on February 27th, 2006:

    Remember the saying “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!” I will have to come back and see what the catch is here. I just have a hard time like most people do when it comes to something with NO STRINGS, my guess is they are sort of like fishing line, really hard to see sometimes.

  2. 2 Eston Bond said at 3:26 pm on February 27th, 2006:

    I’m in on it too, and I’m wondering why as well. I’m not awfully popular except in a really, really small community, so I’m unsure as to what Sprint’s decision was behind giving me a phone.

    That said, Kristine: Check out the terms and conditions for Sprint’s Ambassador program: although it’s a lot of legalese, there’s really not much of a catch to it. It’s funny how the first people they sent these phones to were A-list Advertising executives. It’s nothing more than really clever marketing, but it does seem expensive to me. I’m going to be talking with Jaffe about it in NYC on Thursday, so I’ll see if he can provide any more insight into this. I’m certainly no marketing guru.

  3. 3 Rob said at 5:32 pm on February 27th, 2006:

    Well, for a company that routinely drops tens of thousands of dollars for lavish newspaper ads, TV commercials, and billboards, it’s really not that expensive to send out a few hundred phones …

  4. 4 Neil said at 9:10 pm on February 27th, 2006:

    I’ve been using the phone as a “Sprint Ambassador” and I think the idea was very clever on Sprint’s part. If they had offered the phones to the usual suspects like Engadget, it would have just smelled too much like product placement. Instead, they sent it to a broad range of bloggers, most who have written about it in one way or another — creating a buzz that cost them practically nothing. And I really appreciate that they didn’t ask for anything in return, so you don’t feel obligated to write a fake review just to get a free phone for six months. I’ve been impressed with their service and I might even switch over to them from Cingular when my contract is over.

  5. 5 Martin said at 11:36 am on February 28th, 2006:

    I’ve been a lot more impressed with Sprint since I got my Treo. The phone itself is prone to some truly astounding glitches and screwups–yes, Rob, I hate you because yours works perfectly :)–but Sprint’s tech support and customer service has actually improved noticeably in the last few months.

    Maybe they realized that simply buying out Nextel wouldn’t give them the kick in the arse they needed, and they’d have to–gasp–provide better service.

  6. 6 The Goodspeed Update » PR and Blogs said at 5:33 pm on March 5th, 2006:

    [...] I’ve been thinking about PR and blogs quite a bit lately after giving two presentations on the topic. For both I emphasized two general approaches: to understand and strategically engage the blogosphere, or the larger task of utilizing the medium yourself for promotion purposes. During one of the presentations I found myself giving several examples of how companies have successfully engaged bloggers. The first was the Sprint Power Vision Ambassador Program which is sending free phones to bloggers to generate buzz for their new multimedia phone technology. Another company, Soda Club, sent me a free soda-making machine to test for DCist. I know of at least one friend who purchased a machine as the direct result of seeing mine in action, and I have no idea what impact it had in DC after I ran the review. With over 10,000 hits a day and many more using the archive, even if they sold just a handful in the city their initial investment would have paid off. [...]

  7. 7 dumi said at 7:25 pm on March 9th, 2006:

    And I now present… Dumi’s things to do for April

    1) Make my blog happier. I hear the advertising guys like happy stuff. My current sociopolitical rantings don’t go over well with the over 30 white demographic.

    2) Mention that I’ve been obsessed with my Treo repeatedly on my blog and link to my favorite treo blogs, but complain that I don’t moblog because data packages cost too much.

    3)Hit Rob up for his “new” now old treo since he got a “new” phone.

    4) Wait for the perks to roll in ;)

  8. 8 The Goodspeed Update » My New Sprint Phone: First Impressions said at 1:53 am on March 13th, 2006:

    [...] Readers of this blog will know that I was recently sent a free cell phone from Sprint to use for 6 months as part of an “ambassadors” program which seems to be both a mechanism to collect feedback about their service, and also promote their new “Power Vision” technology. Basically, the Power Vision network is their new high-speed data network and phones which allows you to watch live and on-demand TV, listen to streaming radio, and download music on-demand. The phone they sent me, the MM-A920, is both a phone and also plays MP3s and streaming content. I am fairly sure they are trying to run a blog payola gig where they give me free stuff with the hopes I’ll write about it, but I decided because I have been gadget obsessed for many years an blogged about my Sprint phones in the past, I didn’t face too much of an ethical quandary about assessing the new phone. [...]

  9. 9 Bill J. said at 7:37 pm on June 1st, 2006:

    whats the new motorola music phone go for?


  10. 10 Marisa said at 1:24 pm on December 27th, 2006:

    Thanks Nick, it helps when you’re a web developer by trade ;)

  11. 11 lot dan said at 12:26 pm on July 6th, 2008:

    please can i get a blackbery cell phone for free, or any phone please