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

Archive forMarch 30th, 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.