Why UMA Still Matters, Especially On Smartphones

I’ve often wondered why UMA doesn’t get more playing time in today’s T-Mobile world and, to be honest, it frustrates me. A service so simple, so powerful and yet seemingly avoided on T-Mobile smartphones, save for the Blackberry. I can’t wager as far as to say it’s a hardware problem, or a software problem that prevents T-Mobile and their partner manufacturers from getting this service up and running on Android, Windows or even Nokia smartphones. When I lived in my old house, it was a cell phone dead zone for everyone but AT&T. Verizon, nope. Sprint, not a chance. T-Mobile…well that didn’t work so well either but UMA was a dream come true. Not only did I not get stuck with the death star (AT&T) but it allowed me to use my phone inside any room, or outside, even on the driveway. It was like paradise had found me and I was living the dream. Remember the Nokia 6085? Oh yes, I sported that for a while, that was my home phone and my Pearl was my going out to impress people phone. I sim card swapped every day and I was perfectly fine with it, because I had my magenta inside my home and I was perfectly happy.

Nowadays, those looking or, more importantly, those needing UMA services are forced to skip out on every smartphone worth buying on T-Mobile. I’m not saying the Blackberry 9700 isn’t worth anything, it’s a perfectly awesome phone but Blackberry just isn’t the cup of tea for a large contingent of smartphone buyers anymore. Let me go on record as saying we’ve heard, on more than one occasion and from more than one source that T-Mobile will be bringing a UMA Android device to the masses this year. Of course, this is, like all things, merely rumor and speculation until we get something concrete and on paper. We’re holding out hope, but more importantly I’m ready to beg T-Mobile not to give up on this service, not to avoid its advantages in favor of trying to score points on the HSPA+ front.

I know it might be an image problem where T-Mobile doesn’t want to put a focus on a service that basically says “hey, we don’t have good enough coverage in your house but by using your broadband we can fill that gap.” Look the bottom line is I understand that, from a marketing perspective, it’s not a good look. With so much talk of 4G this, HSPA+ that, who wants to emphasize Wi-Fi? This feature isn’t something that makes T-Mobile look less effective; it makes them look more efficient and more likely to fulfill customer’s needs. Say what you want about Verizon’s impeccable marketing, they very well may be the most reliable carrier in America. That doesn’t make them the best carrier for everyone and we all know plenty of locations where Verizon works, T-mobile doesn’t and vice versa. UMA isn’t an end all be all problem and some people don’t want to consistently rely on a Wi-Fi connection for service and I get that, it’s not something you should have to rely on. However it’s also something you shouldn’t ignore because, frankly, what’s the difference between that and a Microcell? When push comes to shove they are both tools to increase signal capacity in a low signal area. The reality is that’s what matters to the consumer, the ability to make calls and reliably make them. If T-Mobile can provide an alternate method for customers who want to keep T-Mobile service, or lived in a dead zone for cell service like me, then why not do more to up sell this service.

The bottom line is I think T-Mobile is missing a golden opportunity with UMA and has ignored it for some time now. It came out with a lot of hoopla but died down quickly and whether or not that was due to poor marketing, poor implementation or just a stigma on needing to piggyback off a wifi connection to make a call is anyone’s guess. I think T-Mobile can handle both an HSPA+ rollout and a redoubled UMA service because what it’s really about is providing the customers with alternatives and selection. Why can’t I have both? I know HSPA+ is going to come to my area eventually, maybe by the end of the year or maybe in 2011 but it’ll come eventually. In the meantime, for those of you who still live in a house like I did why shouldn’t you have the option to enjoy the T-Mobile service you love on a wifi connection that’s readily available? Come on Magenta, give us our UMA!

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