Cingular Sensation

t616I've had service from Cingular for well over a year, and due to their unique policy of offering a rollover of unused minutes from one month to the next with most of their above-basic plans (with an expiration of those minutes after 12 months), they've proven to be a good carrier in terms of managing my ongoing cell cost.My wife has had AT&T Wireless, almost by default, for a couple of years because they had a decent inexpensive plan. We decided to move her number and service to my account because we'd save at least $20 per month, and we'd save even more minutes with Cingular's free mobile-to-mobile feature since we talk to each other fairly often during the day, and we'll save another $10 to $20 a month on home long distance by both of using some of the 5,000 weekend and evening minutes. All in all, I sound like an ad, because the offering fits our needs so well. In the process, I picked up a new Sony Ericsson T616 cell phone, an upgrade the T68i which Lynn was happy to use (have I said I love my wife?), for just $99 with a two-year contract. Given that AT&T Wireless has a full-blown EDGE cell data network and that Cingular is buying them out, I figure that I'll be sticking with them for some time unless prices drop enough that it's worth buying our plan out. Here's the rub. We had to spend an hour in a company store in Seattle with an extremely competent, nice, helpful guy who managed to switch Lynn's number from AT&T Wireless on the spot (we got confirmation there and the ring-through happened within two days), get us a new phone, and set up the account. He had to enter a few thousand keystrokes to carry it out. What's most interesting about what the fellow did is he had to use extremely specialized database software with unique screens and code-based entry not too far off from the world of airplane reservations. But I believe with a little work on a Web site, I should have been able to carry out the same tasks. Switch plan: family plan. Switch over: end of month to preserve rollover minutes. Transfer phone: yes, here's the number, check a "we certify" box. New phone: yes, with a 2-year contract. And click OK. Cingular's site isn't this sophisticated yet, but I can add and remove features, change my plan, and buy new phones. Wouldn't it be worth making their site better and removing an hour of a staffer's time that could be better spent? I've made my Cingular minutes go farther, by the way, by switching a few months ago from a $135 (with tax) 1350 minute per month roaming plan to a $115 (with tax) 1250 minute per month roaming plan. (Go figure: why 100 minutes is worth $20 less has to do with competition, not sensibility.) I'm spending $27 (with tax) per month for a limited Vonage account that has unlimited incoming and local calls and 500 minutes of long distance. I also pay Cingular $3/month for Fast Forward, which lets me plop my cell phone in a cradle at the office and have its number forwarded at no per-call charge to my Vonage line.