Well, if your employer is paying for it, I'm not certain why you're upset. "Free" is hard to argue with, even if the quality isn't there.
I hear ya on the vocoders, though in my experience (12+ years as a VZW customer) it's oftentimes the phones themselves. This is my own perspective, and yours may differ, but I've noted that Motorola phones sound the best, even when set to the same vocoder as other models. Most phones will let you tweak the vocoder, it's just a matter of figuring out the service/programming code.
I switched to a Samsung phone a few months ago, mainly because I grew tired of Motorola's locked bootloader nonsense, and while I really
enjoy the Samsung for ease of hacking/programming (currently running cyanogenmod and loving it), it's no where near as good as any of the Motorola phones I've owned in the voice quality/reception department. Voice calls are muddled, regardless of bluetooth use or not (ruling out the microphone/speaker in the phone), and the phone drops calls in areas where my Motorola phones had no issue maintaining a connection.
The best voice quality I ever had on a cell phone was when I experimented with T-Mobile and had a Motorola V195s. T-Mobile was all GSM back then, didn't use half-rate, and the call quality was out of this world. Not quite as good as a POTS line, but damn near, and way better than any other wireless provider I've used.
The Facetime block is nonsense, I'll concur with you. Games like this are the reason why I'll never do business with AT&T. They have just as much arrogance as Verizon, but at least Verizon has a reason to be arrogant. AT&T's network is nowhere near as good as Verizon's, yet their chutzpah is unrivaled.