Announcing "Las Vegas: Underfoot"
Expert advice about Windows virus and spyware removal

Ceiva: Rising prices for declining service

So far, this year is shaping up to be my year of bad tech support experiences. First, there was HP Tech Support, then the never-ending hold-and-transfer game at Linksys tech support, and now I've been going around-and-around with Ceiva Tech Support.

In case you're not familiar with Ceiva, they sell digital photo frames that download new pictures to display every day. You can either load them up with your own photos, by putting the pictures in a private account on their servers, or "subscribe" to commercial galleries with a wide variety of art and information. The Ceiva frame has a built-in modem for downloading the photos, and you have to pay an annual subscription fee for the service.

Every year the cost of the service increases slightly. This year, it jumped about 15% and now stands at $95 a year. Yikes!

Accompanying the increase is really bad technical support. Ever since the new year, my frame has had trouble downloading new pictures from the Ceiva server. The message on the frame says that the server I'm calling into did not answer the phone. I've reported this to Ceiva tech support repeatedly, and in response they always send a brain-dead auto-response that tells me to make sure that my frame is connected to a phone line (duh) and that the phone line works (duh, again).

When I reply to the auto-response and repeat that, yes, my phone line works and none of the voodoo steps they suggest has resolved the problem, and that clearly something is wrong on their end, they always respond that I must call and talk to a tech support person to resolve this.

Excuse me? How is talking to me going to fix the problem of their dial-in node not answering? Perhaps its nearby and they're going to ask me to drive over and reboot it for them. Otherwise, it defies all logic, and is disrespectful of my time as a customer. Apparently, until they talk to me personally, they refuse to report the problem to their network administrators. So, the next time it fails (which is about 50% of the time lately), we repeat the same ignorant, inefficient dance.

And for this they want more money per year? As you may surmise, I've stopped recommending Ceiva as a useful device.

UPDATE: Someone from Ceiva saw this post and contacted me. Kudos to them for searching out complaints on the web. I was told that they ran some diagnostics and decided my frame needed to be replaced and that it was not a dial-in problem. When I got the new frame, the exact same problem still occurred, and when I reported this, I was back in the same circle of tech support. Shortly thereafter, I let my Ceiva account expire.

Comments

Mr. Tangent

I was thinking of buying a Ceiva but the cost of the service is a LITTLE outrageous (and I clearly have a real problem spending money so for me to think it's too expensive is something). I think there is probably some neat open source version of what Ceiva is doing but I haven't found it yet. Apparently you can hack your Ceiva and put Linux on it and run your own server, but that's too much work (I run Linux myself but I don't want to spend that much time on this project).

Do you know of any open source, easy-to-use FREE (or nearly so) Ceiva-like services? Ideally one could buy a WiFi/broadband connected picture-frame like Ceiva's, and forego their ridiculously overpriced service and use an open source version. I mean, it wouldn't be hard to do. Let me know if you find anything out: tangent@mrtangent.com

MJA

There's a company making digital frames that can be updated via WiFi, with no monthly fees. I got one on Woot! to replace the Ceiva that I gave to my mother. The company that sells them is at Momentolive.com...so far, so good. And good riddance to Ceiva!

andrea aikins

Hmmm..looks like Momentolive is out of business...As far as CEIVA goes, it is still going strong and the annual PicturePlan service is still only $99.00. Seems like a fraction of what it would cost to buy film, develop film, and buy frames for printed photos...and saves a lot of paper & space. Kudos to CEIVA for the invention!

Dean Pennington

Outward appearances today (6-30-09) are that Momentolive is conducting business, but I could be reading those tea leaves wrong. I hope they are in business, because I'm betting hardware and all they compete well with Ceiva. What I am not reading wrong is the ever increasing annual cost for connectivity being passed along by Ceiva. Since I only want to send my photos and none of their pre-fab panels (like weather/news) I don't see any justification to keep paying them more each year, and they apparently think they can keep raising the cost without customers bolting (wrong assumption). In my case I let the service lapse this month. The Ceiva annual fee doesn't warranty that their frame will make it through the same service year which means each annual renewal has that risk as well. These days the annual renewal fee for Ceiva can buy a bigger screen with more capacity, I'd rather buy a new one of those and just send my mother-in-law new SD chips by U.S. mail, or then again Momentolive may have a more elegant solution for somewhere near the same cost.

Dean Pennington

CORRECTION: My last sentence above should read "These days the annual renewal fee for Ceiva could instead be applied to other choices where it will buy a bigger screen with more capacity. I'd rather buy a new one of those and just send my mother-in-law new SD chips by U.S. mail, or then again Momentolive may have a more elegant solution for somewhere near the same cost."
ADDENDA: Momento (which is way larger in screen size and capacity than the Ceiva) retails at $299, but I found 8 of them new for $129 at one outlet. Functionally it opens up more options than Ceiva, one of those involves an on line service that would make you a subscriber of momentolive.com. If Momentolive is in financial trouble, then a subscription or warranty on the hardware would be a risk. Out of the box the Mementolive frame can take its updates (remotely and wirelessley) through an internet connected PC, it doesn't require that service. It also accepts input via Wifi (Wireless 802.11 b/g), USB, and pluggable memory in these form factors: SD/MMC/xD/SmartMedia/Memory Stick. For about $29 more than Ceiva's annual fee one can leave behind ALL annual fees and gain increase functionality of what and how much is displayed and how its delivered as well as step away from old equipment to new. Frankly that Momenolive may be having financial troubles is something we're going to start hearing from a lot of tech businesses so consumers may be risking more down the road even if the road signs don't make that clear.

Gordon Meyer

Good news, folks. The Ceiva picture plan now includes warranty coverage. And their new frames are much, much nicer. See my follow-on story here:

http://www.gordonmeyer.com/2009/08/ceiva-chapter-2.html

mbt sko salg

Every year the cost of the service increases slightly. This year, it jumped about 15% and now stands at $95 a year. Yikes!

B. K.

Adding the warranty is a huge benefit (reduces risk). They always offer some renewal specials, so can save $10 or so off the $99. Yes, still a lot for the service provided.

If anyone can find a simple solution that I can setup at relatives houses (with no computers or internet - pre-technology generation) I would change from Ceiva, but until then I am pretty happy with the solution. I wish they could do email support, but they helped my 90 yr old aunt debug a failed power supply, sent one free under the new warranty, and helped her get it plugged in.

My biggest complaint is they lose much quality when down sampling images which are submitted with high resolution (you know, modern day cameras). Photoshop (and others) do a much better job.

The comments to this entry are closed.