Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forMarch, 2008 | back to home

30 March 2008
Filed under:Gadgets,Mobile phone and PDA at12:49 pm

Don’t let three’s ingenious blog marketing campaign for the Skypephone fool you – this bright-sounding idea is not ready for prime time. I won’t repeat myself about the shortcomings of the phone I ran across in the first few days of use – if you want to know more read my previous post. Suffice it to say that I now understand why having a branded phone is important. Amoi, which built the phone, knew how to fit in attractive hardware features and hit a pricepoint but not how to integrate the phone to PCs properly or design a good UI – that’s where larger phone manufacturers have the edge. And since three’s offerings seem aimed squarely at Internet-using, techie users like myself, this is an important issue.

But the main reason I am going to stay away from three, attractive as its PAYG feature package appears to be, is that their customer service is dire. In brief, days after purchase I discovered I had to remove the SIM card from the phone in order to register online. When I did so, a tiny metal stud on the phone’s circuit board broke and unfortunately rendered the phone completely dead. It took me several calls (more than an hour) and two mis-handled courier pickups to send the phone to be repaired and a few days later the phone was returned to me with a note saying because it was damaged I would have to claim it on my insurance (without indicating what it would cost). I argued that if it broke that easily in removing a SIM card it was bad workmanship not user damage but the customer service person in India somewhere was adamant there was nothing to be done. I only had the phone for three days!

True, the phone is apparently a write-off (something that wasn’t indicated on the returns notice) but since this was not my own fault (it’s in mint condition except for the damage to the circuit board) and since I and my wife would have been potentially customers for several years to come you would have thought the company could have given me the benefit of the doubt! It’s not that I can’t afford to pay another £50 and get a replacement – it’s the principle, and the fact that the poorly organized and rigid way they’ve dealt with me so far bodes ill for the future.

I was surprised that when I asked around none of my tech journalist friends appeared to have signed up with three – I now suspect I know why.

As an aside I am also surprised that none of the reviews I read of the Skypephone online turned up any of the user interface or software sync problems – they just concentrated on the phone’s specifications (which you can get off the company’s website anyway).

Update: Having spoken to Three I requested that they email me their reply so I would have it on file. And they have done so… a month after my original query.

14 March 2008
Filed under:Gadgets,Mobile phone and PDA at3:11 pm

I gave our household a technological upgrade and it has been a rather frustrating experience. First I bought a three Skypephone then an iPod Touch. A number of the weaknesses of the Touch I was aware of – at least on the hardware side. No Bluetooth, no built-in ability to edit rich text documents, no microphone (though one has been hacked onto it). I knew less about the weaknesses of the Skypephone prior to purchase. Indeed, both from a hardware and a network proposition perspective it seemed a very attractive proposition. But in both cases I have run into what seems to me an extraordinarily long list of what seem to me to be entirely un-necessary and irritating problems.

In no particular order:

3 Skypephone

  • 3 Customer service is lousy – it takes 20 minutes to half an hour on the phone to sort anything out, things that are sorted out don’t stay sorted etc. Of course that may just be the normal things-not-working that one can expect from any company these days…
  • If you are a pay as you go customer and go abroad to Austria, Hong Kong, Ireland or Italy then it’s as if you were at home – cool! But on pay as you go their international roaming is very patchy. I could understand their not covering most of Eastern Europe but they don’t cover Canada or Scandinavia or even Switzerland! And it appears you can’t use their Internet services like MSN Messenger or Skype except in the 5 “home” countries – even at £3/Mb MSN messaging would probably be cheaper than texting between two Skypephones I am guessing
  • The Skypephone has a button on the side to activate the camera, but it doesn’t seem to over-ride whatever application you are in at the moment. So to take a picture you first have to use the task switcher to switch to the “idle” start screen then push the button.
  • You can email a picture from the phone but you can’t skype it to someone.
  • The PC ‘syncing’ software doesn’t sync with Outlook – you have to import and export. As far as I can tell you even have to import/export Outlook events individually!
  • At least there is PC sync software – the Skypephone is not supported by Apple’s iSync at all.

As for the iPod Touch I thought originally “OK its functionality is limited at the moment but what it does do it will do well with Apple’s customary attention to UI detail.” Er… not really. Particularly note the first two inexcusable oddities:

  • You can’t copy and paste?!
  • The touch’s version of iCal doesn’t support todos so you can’t sync todos from your Mac’s calendar
  • There’s no way to create, edit and sync rich text documents. In the January software update Apple added a “notes” application but a) it isn’t rich text and b) it doesn’t create a file you can read (or paste into) on the Mac – the only way to get it onto your Mac is to email it to yourself
  • The only way to read PDFs is to email them to your Touch.
  • The Touch has no bluetooth

I had rather hoped that for a fairly modest expenditure these new gadgets would help ease the transition into my 43rd year but all these hassles have rather ruined the fun! At least the Apple iPhone/Touch’s fanbase among early adopters encourages me to think some of these flaws might be addressed in the coming months…

12 March 2008

I just realised I have made at least 55 edits on wikipedia since mid-2005 (I don’t always remember to log in so some won’t show up). Recursively enough my last edit was to fix a link to We Think, a new book about online collaboration…