Specifically, while the device, which has well-reviewed, comes with Bluetooth, Verizon has disabled the Bluetooth dial-up networking capability that would enable the Treo 700w to act as a modem for laptops. That means subscribers who buy the Treo 700w and a $50 monthly subscription for EV-DO service on that device must purchase a second subscription for $60 monthly, plus an EV-DO card to access the Web using a laptop.
According to Verizon, the Treo doesn't currently meet requirements they specify for their network. Russ Brankley, director of data network services for the cellular operator, said that the company hopes to enable modem functionality for the Treo in the third quarter of 2006 and expects, but would not commit, to the fix being backward compatible with existing units.
"We have a history of taking care of our customers," Brankley said.
Brankley also added that, while the capability might be enabled in the future, users will still have to pay more for the capability, although it likely will be less than the $60 monthly fee for EV-DO service. He said the specific fee will depend on the service plan the user selects.
Not The First Time
This isn't the first time Verizon has limited Bluetooth functionality in its phones to prevent users from accessing services they otherwise would have to pay for. The cellular operator was a defendant in a class action lawsuit in the state of California over their advertising of the Motorola V710 phone, which had many of its Bluetooth capabilities removed by the company.
Verizon eventually settled with the plaintiffs, although they admitted no wrongdoing.
Besides the Treo 700w, all of Verizon phones used for its V Cast service, which accesses media and games over the EV-DO network, have had their Bluetooth and USB DUN abilities turned off. V CAST doesn't provide broad access to the Internet but, rather, only to specific content made available by Verizon Wireless. It also costs considerably less than full EV-DO access.
Brankley said that Verizon plans to enable DUN on most of their new consumer-grade phones by mid-year. He said that the currently-sold V CAST phones do not properly interact with their network when used as a modem, but refused to cite examples, claiming that such information is proprietary.
Verizon also has disabled the ability to install ring tones from the Motorola v815 flash card to the phone without paying to e-mail them to the phone, although crafty customers reportedly have discovered work-arounds for that problem.
Ironically, some customers reportedly have re-enabled their outgoing dialup functionality on the v815 by pressing ##DIALUP, and may be getting free data calls because Verizon has no system in place to sell data services for anything but smartphones and PCMCIA cards. Sprint, which also offers EV-DO service, offers the ability to "tether" their phones to laptops for a $25 fee, which includes 40MB/month of data transfer. Usage above 40MB incurs separate additional charges up to a maximum for $70 per month.
Making Customers Unhappy
After months of build-up for the new Treo 700w, however, Verizon's marketing approach has angered some of its customers.
"It's insane to have someone with a Verizon phone with EV-DO, and expect them to pay another $60 a month for another phone account with EV-DO so you can use it on your laptop," said Tyler Endicott, who described himself as a help desk technician from Southern California. He added that employees and even store managers in Verizon Wireless stores know nothing about this limitation.
According to one member of EVDOForums.com who goes by the handle xenophon, "Verizon tends to behave like a vendor that allows only very specific services - to steer customers towards services that they market."
Besides limiting use of the phones as modems, Verizon and other cellular carrier also place usage limits, as previously reported, on their so-called unlimited service plans. EVDOForum users have, for instance, reported having their EV-DO service cut off for "excessive usage."
Although Verizon sells their EV-DO service as unlimited, the actual terms and conditions of the service limit EVDO use to Internet browsing, e-mail and intranet access. Specifically, large file transfers could lead to termination of service, even if the material being transferred is legal.