I've determined that cell phones are a necessary evil. They never work quite how you expect them to, or the service isn't quite as good as you expect it to be, or something else causes you to be less than 100% satisfied. I've been pleased with my cell phone 70% of the time, except that other 30% of the time when I'm at home in my apartment, and it insists on giving me terrible signal strength. This is all the result of Cingular merging with AT&T Wireless back a year or so ago. Through my own research, I've determined that I get excellent signal (full bars) when I am connected to the AT&T (blue) network, but only 1 bar with the Cingular (orange) network. Despite this fact, my phone ALWAYS will prefer the 1-bar orange network over the 5-bar blue network. It's terribly frustrating, especially considering my cell phone is my only phone at home. The official word out of the Cingular home office has been that eventually they'll get the blue and orange networks all integrated, and nobody will have this problem anymore.
Well I got sick of waiting for this, and I called Cingular Customer Service today. Surprisingly enough, while I fully expected and was prepared for the reality that the first person I talked to on the phone wouldn't be able to help me and would probably give me the runaround, I was refereshingly proven wrong. The nice woman I talked to on the phone listened to my polite complaint, and proceeded to do some manic typing on her keyboard. She seemed well aware of the problem and provided me several solutions. First, she pushed out a software update to my phone while I was on the line (I could tell, because the screen on my phone did some wonky things while it was updating). She suggested that just the more recent updates may actually solve the problem. She also noted that my phone has an old 32K sim card, and recommended that I upgrade to a 64k sim card. She told me I could stop by any Cingular retail outlet and they can upgrade me on the spot, I'd just have to purchase the sim card which ranges from $20-$25. She said I can't avoid paying for the new card, BUT, she'd put a $25 credit on my Cingular bill to offset the cost of the upgrade. Even if the simple software update works, she recommended that I upgrade sim cards anyway.
Finally, as if that wasn't enough, she said that if after upgrading everything, if I was still having problems, to give them a call back and they'd arrange for a replacement phone upgrade to a newer model for no charge. Shocked and pleased at the service, I'm anxious to go home after work and see if it's working any better. Despite the fact that I've over the past many months found the precise optimal location in my apartment for best cell signal, I won't mind eliminating the need to contort my body into odd positions in order to use the phone. Stay tuned for late-breaking developments as the story progresses.