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Sprint Ambassador, meet your Mac Citizenry

A couple of months ago I received an email from Sprint inviting me to take part in its Ambassador program. I poked around a bit to make sure I wasn't going to get reamed, and after talking to Anil Dash about it (also an Ambassador) who assured me it was on the up and up, I went for it. And today, my friends, I am a Sprint Ambassador.1

Here's the deal with the program: Sprint sends you a free phone, a Samsung A-920, which you get to keep, along with free service for six months. Naturally, the first thing I did when I got the phone was to download Madonna's Hung Up, and then dance around the kitchen in my skivvies. Repeatedly.

But you must be wondering: why the free phone and service? What's the catch. The only catch, as far as I can tell, is that Sprint wants its diplomatic corps to provide feedback on the phone (and, one would assume, though they do not state it directly, blog about it). Which leads me to the second thing I did.

The second thing I did was to try to sync my contacts using iSync--something I've done effortlessly with my Cingular phones, a Sony Erricson and Motorola Razr. No dice. Nor could I use the phone to connect my Mac to the Internet via Bluetooth, which wasn't quite such a big deal, but again is something that I expect to be able to do with Bluetooth.

But the contacts were another story. This effectively was a deal-killer for me. I've got scores of contacts. Scores! As in multiples of 20. No way I'm going to re-key all those manually. I might have been able to accomplish this with USB, but since this is a superfluous phone I didn't bother to take the time to find out.

Instead, I used the web feedback form to send the following message:
The first thing I wanted to do when I got the phone was to sync it with my contacts using Mac OS X's iSync program. However, iSync tells me that the phone is not supported. Support for this would be a great addition. Manually entering contacts is a crummy option.

Sprint replied almost immediately:
Although we support Windows 98 and XP with Connection Manager (which is 94% of the US installed base for OS's), it's not cost permitting to develop for Linux, OS X, and other OS's where there isn't sufficient demand. You can still use DUN in Windows and/or System Preferences/Network in Mac OS X to access the Power Vision network. Using Bluetooth, you should be able to push and pull contact info (one contact at a time) from a PC/MAC with no issues as it supports PIM Synch functionality.
One contact at a time? It would be faster for me to go ahead and do the development work myself. And I'm an idiot, with no development experience whatsoever. Still. Scores. Scores!

And then just yesterday, I received the following email:
Be Your Own Hot Spot
Sprint Ambassador Update

Your Sprint PowerVision phone is now equipped to provide a high-speed wireless internet connection to your computer. You can send and receive email, browse the Internet, and access your company's network anywhere on the Sprint Power Vision Network with DSL-like speeds (300-800 Kbps). This service has now been applied to your phone and is ready for use!

(brief how-to section snippped)

Please note: The phone as modem feature is not compatible with Mac OS at this time.
D'oh! Now see, I am more than grateful for the free phone. More than. Grateful. And I've been happily making all my calls with it for the past month now. I even tried to call Europe and Brazil (you can't).

But while I may be a Sprint Ambassador, I'm a Mac citizen first and foremost, and it irks me when companies pull out the too-few-Mac users song and dance. For starters, it's not like we're talking about some itty-bitty mom and pop shop. If this was a small business, I could understand investing your resources where they are most likely to produce a return. But it's not; it's a major corporation. And can you imagine if that logic applied elsewhere?
Oh, you live in North Dakota, do you? Well, sorry, Jack. That's a mere .002 percent market share so we're not going to build any cell phone towers there. But Bismarck's the capital city you say? True that, but it constitutes a mere .00019 percent of the US market share. You should be able to send your messages one at a time, however, using smoke signals. There are Sioux there, aren't there? I'm sure you can find one to translate for you. Or maybe you'll need two. But you get my point. TTYL!

I'm being facetious, and overly hard on poor Sprint (whose only crime after-all was to give me a free phone, which, after this post, is probably going away). But although the Power Vision data service does indeed kick-ass and I can understand why they would want to show it off; if I'm going to be an Ambassador I feel that it's my duty to not only talk about how great the service may be, but also to represent for the Mac users out there.

This isn't 1999. And OS X isn't System 7. Sure, the market sahre may be small, but there are other factors to consider as well. Today, the overwhelming majority of highly-influential early adopter types I know are also Mac users. If you want to reach out to the tech community, Mac support is the bare minimum. It's table stakes if you want to play. Which you may not.

1. It's worth noting that being a Sprint Ambassador does not give you diplomatic immunity. Chalk that up to a learning experience for me. Stupid public nudity laws.

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  • hi, i'm mat honan, a writer in san francisco, california.
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