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Archive for the ‘phones’ Category

The Summer of 2015 and a new Phone

Lots going on right now…

izmir[4]After what seems like a lifetime as IT Director and National IT Chairman of the FSB, I’ve decided to give it a miss. The reasons aren’t simple and include changes in the FSB itself – it is simply not the organisation I joined. Every year for the past 14 years, I’ve re-applied for the post and have never been opposed.

I’ve had a rarely- equalled freedom to take things in the direction I’ve wanted IT to go with unqualified support from the other directors. This year, the job role and authority changed, in my view in the wrong direction and when it came to putting in the papers I just could not bring myself to doing it. At the time, I didn’t know if anyone else was going for the role as this was handled externally. I wrote in to decline and left it at that.

GibraltarI’ve only just found out that in fact someone did go for it – so perhaps it’s as well I stepped down – keeps my unopposed record intact if nothing else. Hah!

Dell Tech ThinktankThe role has been great fun and has helped me travel to Microsoft’s HQ in the USA, UK and Brussels, Google’s European and Irish offices and the Dell Thinktank in Amsterdam to name but a few. I’ve made friends with the EU ESBA team and travelled with them to Brussels, Ireland, Izmir and meetings at the top of the rock in Gibraltar where I’ve met with Gibraltar luminaries and learned so much about the place (as well as discovering what a pain the Spanish are being over there).

Would-beI’ve vice-chaired a multi-national EU team representing many nations, I’ve met Prime Ministers (and would-be Prime Ministers)  and countless ministers, been to Numbr 10 and the House of Commons many times, I’ve met stars of stage and screen, visited the various offices of Microsoft, Dell, Google and so much more – and now it is time for a break.

And so we’re planning a long summer in Spain, something we should have done a long time ago because Britain is NEVER going to have a fine summer whereas it is odds-on that when we stop over there until autumn, we’re unlikely to see more than a couple of days of heavy rain. Lovely.

BrusselsBut first, having just finished (more or less) work on Hollyberry Cottage which is now occupied through to the autumn, we’re working on Willow Cottage with a view to clearing the place out in the next few weeks (to rent as it happens) before we head off to the sun complete with cats. I am, accordingly, covered in paint.

Google - Peter McAvoyMeanwhile the change has prompted me to look at phones! My last contract phone was the excellent Samsung S4 and I had planned to move onto the S6, but recently, two things happened to the phone – firstly the chrome started to come away from the front a little and secondly, being someone who uses LOTS of apps, I found myself running out of internal memory (even though the Samsung can use external memory for Apps (I have a lot)– they still eat up a good chunk of the internal and limited memory) and having seen that Samsung are not entirely invincible I decided to have a look around, concentrating on features rather than name.

ToyahIt just so happened that a good and knowledgeable friend of mine had been trying out a Chinese phone and I asked him how the new phone was going – he replied saying that it was so good he’d bought more of them! I decided to investigate. I sold the Samsung to a friend who will love it…  and sent off my order for the new phone.

Now, in order to do this justice, you really are going to have to turn a blind eye to the name of the phone.. it’s called a Zopo (Mind you, even some of the big names sound silly – did you know that LG were originally called “Lucky Goldstar”). Yes, Zopo sounds like a cigarette lighter… but once you get past that, lets’ see why this might be a good phone or indeed, an excellent phone.

ThinktankThe model Z999 Pro Lion Heart is big, bigger than the S4 and the new HTC, but just as thin. It has two SIM sockets – rather handy for, erm, travelling to Spain! It also supports external microSD and it just so happens I have a fast 64GB microSim. It has 3GB of RAM – three times earlier phones… and finally it has 32GB of internal Flash memory – and to power all of that, an octal processor! My DESKTOP has an octal processor!!

ZopoWith an HD screen who’s pixels are so small as to be utterly invisible, rendering text as good to the eye as a quality magazine and with superb colour rendering, this phone was off to a good start but here’s the thing – it is cheap enough to buy – hence I’m on a SIM-ONLY contract with THREE (I stayed with them for two reasons – firstly you can use your minutes overseas and even some data overseas and secondly, they have a little app that allows the phone to work where there is no signal as long as you have WIFI. I also have a 3 BOX that sits in the window sill and does the same thing  – gone are the days of having to drive up the hill to use the phone.

The Z999 is powerful, great looking and cheap – it does not have infra-red which was a shame (most phone don’t but the Samsung S4 and 5 do) but there are ways around that. It does however have a VERY sensitive GPS which unlike many phones, works indoors a treat. It also has Bluetooth, NFC, an FM radio, compass and all the other sensors and features (gesture recognition etc.) you’d nowadays expect with a top phone.

It came (very unusually) with a screensaver already fitted to the glass and a spare included. The camera is a particularly sensitive 14Mpx job and contrary to various articles it does have HDR.

Battery life is not stunning but then it isn’t with any of the top-end phones so I’ve ordered a rather large solar charger to take to Spain with me. I finished the long process of installing satnav maps for Britain and Spain – and then on a trip to Manchester I took some pics to check out the claims of it being better than the Samsung camera – I would say YES. Up to now I am VERY pleased with the phone.

A Very Annoying THREE

It has to be said so I will.. “against my better judgement” my wife bought an HTC ONE X recently from THREE. I’d suggested an iPhone but no, she wanted Android. The move to THREE was partly my fault – as I’d ditched Orange as they kept backtracking with their “unlimited data” offering and generally support was useless – Indian call-centres with people working off scripts – and not very well.

I’ve had no cause to griped at THREE and to be fair the ONE X is a powerful and sleek-looking phone, but today, Maureen’s sparkly HTC ONE X decided it was ready for an operating system upgrade. We followed the simple instructions – and before long we had an updated phone.

No problems, absolutely fine – except that whereas before it was working with WIFI perfectly, now the WIFI was stone, cold dead. Nothing I could do would make it find either of our access points it had previously worked with perfectly.

So at around 5pm I rang THREE. Guess what – Indian call centre, same routine. I could tell within minutes that the guy did not know how to solve the problem – his amazing answer “well sir, we’ll have to restore the phone to factory settings” – in this day and age – do people REALLY find this acceptable? All your settings gone – all your apps needing reloading-  it was THEIR fault the upgrade didn’t work.

The fellow decided the best way was to LOGMEIN remotely to my PC (good job I had a PC). He installed the HTC Sync Centre – the idea being to backup all the files to the PC – well, it would NOT talk to the phone under any circumstances –while he was struggling, I was looking on Google –apparently this is a common failure with the HTC phones! All I got when I pointed that out was a “?”

After 4 hours he ended up telling me how to backup music etc. which I already knew – the hard way. This would not of course backup Apps or contacts – but I’d pretty much figured that out.

I thanked him and put the phone down, backed everything up (4 hours of my time is worth – well half a day!) and reset the unit to factory settings, including removing and re-inserting the SIM.  All done – all back to just-purchased status quo… but no WIFI!!

So we rang THREE up and explained. Would you believe they were offering options like sending the phone for repairs with up to 28 days downtime!!! This is a virtually new and expensive phone. You can imagine how we handled that. Right now after much shouting and bawling, we’re down to 10 days down-time – as against a replacement phone on Monday, which is what we need… not to mention compensation for all the time I spent and will spend re-installing everything – it’s being escalated to complaints and they will ring us back tomorrow. What a USELESS BUNCH.  A phone that can’t handle an update and a company that don’t know what to do about it. This would NEVER happen with Apple – I’ve upgraded my iPhone and iPad umpteen times without a single hitch!! I’ve also had stuff out of warranty replaced at the Apple store without question. Customer first.

Update 30/8/2012 – Only after getting stroppy with customer services did we eventually get them to agree to send an envelope to arrive Monday – with a “promise” verbally and “we will try” in writing to return the phone in 5 days. The PROBLEM is if they don’t find a fault they want to charge £20 !!! 

Here’s the deal, we went to the market today and lo and behold the WIFI started working – great – went home – as we approached home – one of our WIFI signals started to work – GOODNESS…. but by the time we got up the hill to the house – the signal had vanished. In the living room with the router – nothing – not a SAUSAGE. By now I was beginning to have ideas – so I went to the bedroom at the far end of the house – CONNECT. I did a series of APP downloads – flawless. I then walked back downstairs to the living room where the signal originates and unbelievably – the signal got weaker – and eventually disappeared as I got to the living room.

I can and will REPEAT this and put a video on YouTube – because otherwise tech support at Three won’t believe me.

Ice-Cream Anyone? The new white HTC ONE X

Against my better judgement (but then it’s usually that way) my wife, desperate for a new phone and frustrated by continued delays with the forthcoming Samsung S3, decided today was going to be the day she got her new phone and so off we went to the Metro Centre in Gateshead.

She headed to the Orange store where she got her original HTC Desire from – and I managed to persuade her to pop firstly into the 3 store – where I got my iPhone 4. Having been an Orange customer for many years, some time ago I’d simply had it with their utterly useless technical support and wavering definition of “unlimited data”.. I went to get my iPhone 4 and they informed me that I could have unlimited data – but that I would have to pay an extra £10 a month to share that data with my iPad. Well, you can imagine how I felt about that and to cut a long story short, I simply got out of the contract and went elsewhere.

3 offered truly unlimited, unrestricted data- and sure enough having bought my iPhone 4 with 3, I could share it with my iPad – and have done ever since, not to mention playing endless Internet radio when in the car. Marvellous. I have no complaints – batter life could be better but then that applies to virtually all top-end phones.

tmpD4FDFor the above reasons alone I did my best to convince my wife to change suppliers. She was not convinced until today, we went first to the 3 store and they were offering the new HTC One X for £29 a month with unlimited data. Back we went to the Orange store wherein we asked the assistant if they had the new Samsung – no. Ok, did they have the HTC X1 – yes – at £41 for unlimited data. This apparently is the best they can do – when asked if they still matched other people’s rates the assistant INSISTED EMPHATICALLY that they’d never done that. Sadly for him we both have long memories of having had Orange do just that on several occasions… by this point we were so disgusted with Orange I didn’t have to do any convincing – straight across the road to the 3 store and shortly thereafter out came my wife with a brand, spanking new HTC One X.

I’m not that keen on HTC having had many years of dealing with their phones supplied to staff.. and having watched buttons drop off etc.… but I have to say, they do seem to be improving. Whether this model will compare to Samsung S3 or the forthcoming iPhone 5 is another matter but the setup (Ice-Cream Sandwich) was devastatingly easy, the large screen is stunning and the phone is very light and thin. With a 1.5Ghz quad-core processor the screen is lightning fast and transferring information from the old to the new phone, I did in the store while she was filling in forms.. a trained monkey could have done the job. 

Key things to note, the HTC desire, though capable of handling a large external memory was screwed by having only 256 meg internally – and no matter what you do – you have to use a small but of that memory for every application you install – even if that application itself is stored in external memory.

The ONE X is very different – out of the box it has 1 GB of internal memory but ALSO has 32GB of permanently built-in “external” memory.  Installing the Sat-Nav software we use along with Spanish and UK maps hardly made a dent in the available storage and I’m confident the phone will handle more Apps than are likely to get installed by a long way. The S3 incidentally will have a higher monthly cost so that needs to be taken into consideration when comparing the two.

As time and experience progress I’ll update this blog. Up to now the white model is looking very nice. Would I swap for my iPhone? No, they still have a long way to go – but Ice Cream Sandwich is a very welcome improvement on the previous operating system version…  First thing to get tested once the battery is fully charged will be the 1080p HD video recording capability…  I mean – in a PHONE for heaven’s sake!!

Orange Crappy Modems

Despite my own issues with Orange as a phone company, Maureen has her own longstanding account and continues to use them – the reason is simple – as an Orange mobile customer, for a while they were offering home broadband for a fiver, including free calls (VOIP phone) to /orange mobiles.  As our mobile phones don’t work in Wark, it’s handy to be able to call the kids on their Orange mobiles for free.

Before anyone is daft enough to go down this route however, consider this… originally we received an Orange modem with the deal – you have to use theirs, a large, ugly grey thing, otherwise the free calls don’t work (this is deliberate – you CANNOT use another modem and still get the free VOIP calls). It is without a doubt the crappiest modem I’ve ever owned both to look at and to operate, so much so that I realised some time ago, when it continually packed in at random but about once every few days, that the only way to keep it going was to fit a 24-hour timer and reset it every night. That seems to have done the job. Hardly ideal.

Last week we went to the Orange store and asked about an upgrade. Well, apparently when Maureen’s contract is up for renewal, she can also get the latest modem. I thought there might have been a ray of light here as the model on show in the Orange shop is a sleek black Netgear modem…. that is until I looked at the reviews on Amazon – Orange, true to form have done it again.

Take a look at these reviews… not hand picked but straight off the page. Pretty much says it all, really… this is the new modem – not the old!!! I can see a move elsewhere coming on.

Orange modem reviews

The Future could not be further from Orange

Even when I was WITH Orange they could never get it right – and now that I’ve LEFT them they STILL can’t get it right.

Until recently times I’ve had an Orange mobile phone since, oh, well, last century. I’ve never had a signal in Wark but we live in home and from time to time I’ve written to Orange to try to push them along to improve the signal. Along the way their customer service has been attrocious to say the least and recently it’s been just too much. I’d had enough by mid-2011 and due to that and continued utter lack of signal at my home and no plans to get it, I finally managed to get Orange to agree that I could scrap the mobile contract and go elsewhere – this was in May 2011.

This agreement was put on my record.  I rang them up and confirmed I wanted to leave Orange – and asked what the procedure was. I was to put my phone in an envelope, send it off to them and I’d then get a final partial-month bill – and the info I needed to transfer my number elsewhere.

I sent the phone off and verified with the post office that it was delivered and signed for – that was 2 weeks from first writing the this blog in May. I heard nothing. I wrote to them – and heard nothing.  I went online to their ATTROCIOUS website which never works properly – I had SO MANY attempts…. just to get my final bill for £36.  It said there was a PDF waiting for me – but every time I went there…

tmpEF35

I am SO glad I dumped these losers. Oh yes, I went to mobile company THREE and yes, their website works, NO they don’t have a “fair use” policy – and they give you a free premium subscription to Spotify… and their 3G works in every rural area I’ve been to up to how – Orange say they have better COVERAGE – but I think I’m safe in saying that THREE have better 3G coverage. I can play music almost anywhere I go as it streams it off the web, be that Internet radio or Spotify…  what a different world….

Check out this catalogue of errors…..

Update 5th September 2011 : I’ve just returned from holiday to find a bill from Orange (I never did hear any more from them otherwise).  No, it’s not for the outstanding £36 – but for a whopping £114.68 AND they’re threatening to "disconnect" the service – that should be good for a laugh as it has been disconnected since June (07773 819894 – discontinued) – it’s as if they have no knowledge AT ALL of the contract ending. I spoke to someone on the phone today and they have records of me ringing in… but could not progress as the guy I spoke to may be on another shift – or some such excuse  – so I’ve written off to them to point out they have the phone and the contract’s been dead since June…  Amazing.

Update 9th September 2011 : After writing off to Orange a less than pleasant letter in the post regarding the so-called £114.68 overdue bill, I received a call today to apologise for the screw-up – it says “With reference to your recent enquiry, we can confirm that your account is now settled and that no further action will be taken against you. Your credit reference records will be updated accordingly.”

Update 13th October 2011: All the time I was with Orange I had to put up with their total inability to get things right. I’d almost forgotten what it was like – until this morning.  On the 9th when I spoke to them – as you’ll see above, all was well. Well, THIS MORNING I got a bill for £69.33 – I’m sure they just think of a random number, hopefully if ANYTHING still works over there, there recorded messages from the 9th should clarify that this is WRONG – you have to wonder…

Update 14th October 2011:  2 days after Orange sent a bill for the wrong amount – they sent off a THREATING LETTER. This one says they’ve contacted me a number of times “ERM NO!”. Apparently if I’m still within my contract (which they KNOW I’m not) I’ll be liable for monthly service plan charges.  What is it about this lot that make me think of a large office of people walking in straight lines, banging their heads against walls then bouncing off in search of another wall. Dealing with Orange has been this dis-organised since I bought my first Nokia Smartphone from them last century when we lived in Newcastle…thinking about it – there was no signal there, either. Still – I’ll never have to do it again!

Update 30th October 2011: I’ve returned from a short break – this time to find a letter from Moorcroft Debt Recovery Limited who sent a particularly obnoxious for £148.27 (remembering I owed Orange £36 and I had already send them a cheque on 14th October to sort this once and for all despite not having an invoice for it).  I rang Orange (amazingly this simple cancellation has now been going on for 5 months) – the operator put me on hold for his manager, his manager put me on hold for debt recovery – but their phone isn’t working today and so I have been told by the manager, a lady, that this is in NO WAY MY FAULT (you don’t say), that she’s emailed the dept recovery agency to SCRAP this and someone will ring be back tomorrow between 10.30am and 11.30am. I was just about to thank her and put the phone down when she started talking about UPGRADES… I very CAREFULLY explained this was nothing to do with upgrades but due to a cancellation because Orange never has and never will provide a signal where I live.  It is hard to believe that this company actually has computers and keeps records.

A quick look at the timeline…so far…

  • May – CANCELLED CONTRACT, RETURNED PHONE.  I owed £36
  • 5th September – no invoices (and no disconnection code either) – but the bill is now £114.68
  • 9th September I’m promised I’ll get a bill for £30
  • 13th October a bill for £69.33
  • 26th October a bill arrived for £148.27 and a load of threats from Moorcroft debt recovery Ltd – and a promise from Orange that none of this is my fault. Meanwhile they seem unaware I’ve already sent a cheque for the REAL outstanding amount together with a long cover note including this blog.

Update 17th November 2011: I checked with Moorcroft and sure enough they cancelled the order against me – and they don’t do anything with credit records – one down, one to go. The latest bill from Orange turned up, no cover letter, nothing – but THIS TIME they OWE ME several pence. Well, I suppose that’s a step forward, perhaps I should get an agency to harass them for non-payment…  but importantly no confirmation that they’ve set the credit record right – and no promised letter to say we’re all done – which means I could just as easily get another bill from them at any point setting us back to square one. I guess another letter is needed to try to wrap this up, again.

Meanwhile my new THREE service continues to work a treat, they’re not immune to incompetence – but at a much lower level. I’ve now had several attempts to stop them sending me text messages every 5 minutes when I’m overseas – their Indian call centre promised me this would never happen again but a text confirmed that the operator had no authority to say that and they can’t actually stop them – well, honesty is a virtue I suppose.

The Future’s Bright, the Future’s THREE

As regular readers will know I’ve been struggling with Orange incompetence for years now, if it’s not been poor customer service, it’s been lack of signal (there is no Orange signal in my village, hasn’t been for the last decade and now I understand they have no plans to do anything about this – despite claiming they put applications in on more than one occasion for masts – I just don’t buy this).

Anyway having discovered that someone has already successfully won a legal case to get out of their contract because of lack of signal, I convinced Orange to let me go without a penalty.

Armed with that freedom I headed off to the THREE store. Why THREE? Well, I already use (and recommend) their MIFI units and perhaps contrary to what you might think, they have quite an impressive coverage in the UK, at least everywhere I’ve tried up to now. They are also FAR more realistic with data, offering up to 15GIG a month data on their MIFI units. Better, on their iPhone deals, the offer a flat-rate package at £35 a month that gives “all-you-can-eat” data.

Now, we’ve all heard that from the other operators who until recently claimed “unlimited” broadband then when you read the fine print it’s a con – they have “fair use” policies which means the claim of unlimited is really a downright lie.

So I checked – according to THREE, “all you can eat” means unlimited data with no fair use policy.  Further, unlike Orange who charge an extra TEN POUNDS a month to share phone data with a laptop, sharing with the laptop is INCLUDED in the deal.

For reasons well beyond me the fellow at the THREE store thought this did not include iPads which would not work – but I remember standing outside the store thinking “But if you share over WIFI how on earth would it distinguish an iPad from a laptop?” and sure enough I was right, the iPhone will take in 3G, spit out WIFI and share it with any device that works on WIFI AND yes it will handle VPNs for those who need to log into work.

So, armed with my new phone and new company I headed off from Hexham for a trip to Blackpool, Internet radio (the American BIG CHEESE radio station) running on the phone…  and in a trip taking over 2 hours, I lost no more than a couple of minutes of radio time. Bye Bye BBC!

Jailbreak iPhone 3GS (later model) with IOS 4.3.2

For many years I used Microsoft’s Smartphones and 18 months ago I took the plunge and moved to iPhone, which apart from the odd yearning for Android I’ve never really regretted. The one thing that REALLY gets me annoyed when I think about it is the inability to share my connection from my Orange iPhone – with my laptop – or more importantly, the iPad. With the MS phone it was simply a matter of paying $20 for something called WMWIFIROUTER, a piece of software which shared the connection over WIFI with my laptop.  Turn it on and bingo – the laptop gets a WIFI connection from the phone’s 3G connection. 

I really can’t handle Orange’s restrictive practices on this, helped by Apple who provide the facility to share WIFI then block it so that Orange can charge a staggering EXTRA £10 for the facility to work – and remember I’m paying something like £30 a month to start with for the privilege of limited (something like 3 gig) data on the iPhone.  Come end of contract I’ll be looking to THREE, who offer their MIFI units with “all you can eat” data, WAY more minute and WAY more texts than Orange for only marginally more outlay. Hopefully by the time my contract is out that difference in cost will disappear (the above with THREE is £35 a month – I don’t know if they include tethering).

In the meantime – the iPhone 3GS is now 18 month old, I have a few months left before considering when to upgrade and what to upgrade to.. and so I thought I’d take a look at jailbreaking the phone – which simply means removing Apple’s ultimate control over it.

iPhone with CydiaRedsn0w ( http://blog.iphone-dev.org/ ) will jailbreak all but the iPad2 and so I downloaded the program to my Windows 7 PC after much reading on the subject. Well, of course it didn’t work – turns out you need to use the program in XP SP3 compatible mode – but hey, it’s free – who’s complaining! A simply right-click option on the shortcut did the job.

Minutes later, one jailbroken iPhone – it really is that simple – note the new brown icon in the photo on the right – except – that Cydia, the repository for jailbroken apps – is currently having issues with Amazon who provide their storage…  basically for now it’s bust – Amazon have been unable to provide them with working connectivity for around 3 days now – absolutely amazing.  So I figured I’d have to wait patiently, not something I do well, for them to get their act together so I could go and grab the relevant software to make my phone, once more into a handy source of signal for the iPad and laptop when on the road, however it turns out that you can grab free programs while the service is down – you just can’t get the paid versions.  I’ve grabbed PDANET and within seconds had it sending a password-protected WIFI signal to my iPad. No problem at all. Until the site is up I’m restricted to http: sites and not secure ones but no doubt that’ll be resolved within the next day or so.

Of course, I have a MIFI unit which provides WIFI access – but that’s on THREE – and there are believe it or not times when Orange’s signal is the stronger.. so now I have the best of both worlds. More on this when Cydia is NOT bust.

USB Power Supplies

When I got the iPAD a while ago, it came with a VERY impressive USB power supply. Why impressive? well because it was hardly bigger than a normal mains plug yet puts out a wopping 10watts of power while running freezing cold (which means it is HIGHLY efficient). Most USB supplies put out no-where NEAR that.

The iPAD can’t handle the normal supplies or indeed USB outputs from most hubs and laptops because they simply don’t put out enough power, hence the more powerful unit supplied.

I thought little more of that until today, sitting in the window looking out on suburban Chicago and forced to use a dongle for broadband…. or more specifically the SIM from the dongle inserted into a NOKIA phone running Joikuspot to provide WIFI to both of our laptops. After about half an hour the phone died as the WIFI router uses LOTS of power. So I plugged the phone into it’s charger… no joy, as soon as the Joikuspot program came on the PSU was unable to keep up and the phone went dead again.

Then I remembered the iPAD power supply… having a usb-to-Nokia lead I tried that and BINGO – no problem at all – full use AND charge at the same time  – slightly marred when I found out that theiving Vodafone wanted to charge £29 for 50 meg – making a download of iTunes to the laptop cost £60 what a joke – VODAPHONE IF YOU’RE READING THIS YOU’RE A BUNCH OF THIEVES. The charger ran freezing cold which is more than can be said for the phone.

The moral of the tale?  Make sure as far as possible that all your gadgets charge using USB leads and get a couple of decent USB mains chargers (lead plugs into the charger) – forget the cheap Chinese crap and go for something like the Apple iPAD units which CLEARLY are built to a specification, not a price. A tiny additional benefit being that as they are very efficient, their standby current if left plugged in – is almost non-existent.

Regards

Peter Scargill

When UNLIMITED is not UNLIMITED

Check this out iPhone pricing on the ORANGE site. See at the top where it says “UNLIMITED MOBILE INTERNET and UNLIMITED WIFI”??

Then see at the bottom where it says “750MB/Month”

I could get a dictionary out for the meaning of “unlimited” – but I think you get the point. ORANGE WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO KID WITH THIS CRAP????

I contacted Orange on this subject and on 29/3/2010, Emma of online services confirmed my worse nightmare.

“May I confirm that there are Fair Usage policies of 750MB per month month applicable to both BT Openzone Wi-Fi and Mobile Internet Browsing included in the Orange iPhone tariffs.”

Orange Crap

Now, why would any of this matter… surely 750 meg is enough for ANYONE – as I was assured by Orange – “750MB typically allows you to access: 5 hours of video downloaded from YouTube , 75,000 mobile web pages or 30,000 normal web pages, 250 full music tracks downloaded over the air direct to the handset”

Yes, but that’s EXCLUSIVELY – if you have 5 hours of video downloaded from YouTube, THAT’S YOUR LOT.

Now think about this – just recently TED released a mobile version of their videos, there’s a FREEVIEW site which offers Freeview on mobile. More and more of us try to make use of our travel time by catching up with news. There are a THOUSAND REASONS why 750 meg a month is not good enough for enthusiasts today and why it won’t be good enough for the rest tomorrow.

And it is OUT AND OUT DECEITFUL to use the word “unlimited” then add a caveat that it’s not “unlimited”.  I don’t know what’s WORSE  – that or “up to 8 meg broadband” when 8 meg is the BEST you’ll ever get on a good day, with the wind – and while carefully avoiding mentioning that ADSL means that for applications such as video conferencing,  it’s the upload, not the download speed that is relevant.

It’s about time the government got to grips with the SLIGHT OF HAND that the large modern communications companies are using when dealing with the public.

The future’s grim – the future’s Orange.

Want to hear the audio version of this? Head on over to AudioBoo.

tmpCC43

There’s an APP for that!

Nokia 9000Way back in 1996 I purchased the first Nokia “Smartphone” – the Nokia 9000, a great big brick of a phone with a horrible black and white display –  at the time this was rocket science, exciting and ultimately a little useless. Once I got over the shock of realising that my home in Newcastle was in a dip and there was no chance of an Orange signal, I began an ongoing relationship with smart phones that continues to this day.

Orange SPVAround 2002, Orange released details of it’s first Microsoft-based Smartphone, the SPV and I started encouraging others to use this – disaster – the main button dropped off after a while and the operating system and applications needed regular rebooting. This then was the start of a long climb to find the perfect phone. I’ve been using Microsoft mobile phones from the earliest models onwards, every day, 365 days a year. I never keep a phone for more than a year and at times I’ve had two.

I’ve also used Nokias and for a brief moment Blackberry… and I’ve written simple programs for them. I use Microsoft Exchange (which for me is an essential part of my working life) and I make heavy use of shared calendars at work. I’ve had several of them in bits experimenting with aerials and I’m not afraid to try upgrading – XDA developers group being one of my favourite haunts.

So I think I know a little about mobile phones.

The original Pocket PC phone offerings from the likes of HTC and their predecessors didn’t work – it’s as simple as that. Between operating system crashes and poor quality mechanics, they were a disaster. I committed myself to supplying these to our organisation and regretted every minute of it initially…  but I stuck with it, after all, Microsoft were improving their operating systems after disasters like Windows ME… and XP was coming along just nicely – it was logical to expect the phone software would improve.

New HTCAnd indeed it did. Today we have a combination of reliable hardware and powerful software in the likes of the HTC Touch II, a horrendously expensive but beautiful phone which is solid in construction and reliable. Of course NO-ONE has yet cracked the short battery life problem – essentially if you have a bright, pretty colour display you’re going to get a day or two max out of your battery no matter who’s phone it is. The new HTCs have it all, glamour, reliability and solid applications.  So why have I just bought an i-Phone?

Firstly I should clarify – I’m a Windows man – I think Windows 7 is wonderful, especially the new 64-bit version… but I’m beginning to wonder if Microsoft should have stuck to desktops as they clearly don’t have the time to devote to the phone market. They were out long before the iPhone and have massive marketing budgets combined with some of the best developers – and yet the i-Phone has a higher market share and most importantly, has APPS.

Microsoft have of course jumped on the bandwagon with their APP store – which is frankly pathetic – maybe a couple of hundred applications few of which are exciting and some of which are very expensive. Meanwhile back at iTunes, the app store has untold THOUSANDS of apps, many free, many a few pence, few more than a couple of quid. Visiting the app store brings on a Christmas-like feeling and an urge to download anything that moves… which I just did.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all going smoothly – NOTHING involving Orange ever goes smoothly. The phone is all working except for the SIM and NOW they’ve decided they should not have sold me this as there is no signal near my home – I’ve been telling Orange that for 10 years!!!  I’m off now to a hill to battle it out with them – hopefully my old SIM will keep working for a while.

But what about the phone? The iPhone itself is nothing remarkable – it’s how it is used that is remarkable. The phone has the now mandatory Bluetooth, wifi and GPS hardware and like the HTCs it also has position-sensing hardware – unlike most of the others in addition it also has a compass.  It is the COMBINATION of these used with very clever “apps” that sets the iPhone apart from the others – that and very smooth operation that just seems “natural”. Battery life is unremarkable but then the phone is THIN and that counts for a lot.

Ever noticed that graphics in Windows-based applications are rarely “smooth” – they tend to jump around – and that applies as much in the mobile world as elsewhere. Well, that simply does not happen on the iPhone – not only to the apps seem “smooth” but the multi-touch facility is not just a bolt-on – it is used very effectively in many apps – it just “feels right”.  From opening the box to installing apps I never once felt a need to read ANY instructions – and I think that about sums up my feelings about the phone up to now. A shame the same can’t be said about the PC-based iTunes program – at least the Windows 64-bit edition – which crashes on occasion and it IS essential.

At this point it’s probably easiest to tell you about specific applications. The very first thing I did on opening the box was to setup my Google and Exchange accounts – and I have to say that went very smoothly. If you want ALL the features of your Outlook setup – such as NOTES – you still need to sync via USB – as Exchange does not sync notes – but then that’s common to the other phones. So the mail, calendar and notes work as you’d expect – but I have to say they seem faster and more intuitive than I’m used to – I could see how someone might manage with nothing more than the iPhone, leaving the laptop back home.

You may wonder why my iPhone apps on the home page are not all standard. Well, for one thing, I could care two hoots about STOCKS but standard apps don’t at first glance seem amenable to deleting. Add to that the fact that  this meant that contacts was on the second page – stocks had to go! Once I got used to moving things around, the rest followed automatically.

Here are my current screens, mostly APPS which I’ve purchased (some free). What’s the best? Well, for me, FILEMAGNET is the best so far, an easy way to load WORD docs and PDFs from my PC to the iPhone – and read them. Only issue so far is that the 2-finger scaling doesn’t seem to work on WORD docs. The most expensive item is LOGMEIN – which is just superb- usable access to remote PCs on the one – the most fun item is probably the SKY controller which lets me set up recordings on our SKY HD box – from the phone – no matter where I am – marvelous.

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So… don’t all these APPS take up a lot of space? I made the decision to go for the smaller of the two iPhones, the 16gig model as I’m not fanatical about movies and music, happy to keep just a working selection available at any one time. Here’s the current status of memory:

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As you can see I’ve not made a dent and that’s including several hundred tunes and a few podcasts. My only concrete plans for now include installing Tom-tom but that doesn’t even take up a couple of Gigabytes so I’m well placed for future expansion – just as well with a 2-year contract in place.

Later today my MILO charging cradle should arrive – I’ll let you know how it goes…

Want to view my blog on your iPhone? – Go ahead – same address – it’s compatible!