Dan Bowsher is one of the super-smart social media chaps at Vodafone and, as managing editor of the Vodafone UK blog, it’s kind of his job to be on the button with stuff like this – so I appreciate the heads up, Dan, thank you.
The ironic thing is, the same episode of The Voicemail that Dan is talking about is also the exact same one where I name-check Vodafone as being one service that I could not live without.
But now, I am in a quandary –
I’ve been a Vodafone customer for nigh on 16yrs. I honestly can’t think what kind of data they have on record or how much customer equity I’ve built up over that time.
And they’re not going to range the one phone that I really, really want.
My options are as follows
Buy the Lumia 920 SIM-free (not ideal).
Leave Vodafone and join a network like EE (who are not only ranging the Lumia 920 but also launching with the first 4G network)?
1. Stunning Ocean Waves These are gorgeous and I could honestly sit and stare at them for hours. Dreams are made of this. Click through, gaze, hear the waves crash around you and…Â breathe.
2. The 3 White Lies Behind Instagramâ€™s Lightning Speed
Instagram is a great service (I’ve blogged about it before) but this post, from Fast Company Design is a bloody fantastic read, a must-read in fact for anyone looking at mobile code and/or best-in-class some good examples of smart UX programming.
There’s some great insights here (three, to be precise) and, for someone who has spent some time in mobile app start-ups, it’s excellent to see/read about some of the lateral thinking behind one of my favourite social networks.
3. Conversations with my 12yr old self
Best bit of UGC I’ve seen on the internet this week. Bar none.
Yes, it’s gone an annoying ad on the front. But hey, that’s what happens when stuff goes big. Just watch it, and be amazed.
Â 4. Vodafone + BT Openzone access
If you have an iPad with Vodafone, apparently you get free access to a wealth BT Openzone WiFi hotspots all over the country.
The funny things, not many seem to be able to get it to work. Including me. This is a guest post over for Mobile Industry Review, go check it out.
5. Batman on a Pizza Hut
Exactly what it says on the tin. And I love it.
A few months ago Vodafone announced the launch of its new â€˜Vodafone VIPâ€™ service. I’ll admit, I snorted rather cynically when I read about it on the website (and via the subsequent spammy press release), but earlier this month I was able to experience it first hand.
POST UPDATED 12/10/09 – Scroll to the bottom of the article for the latest…
Vodafone, oh Vodafone, why do you upset me so?
Regular readers of my work will know that I have an ongoing love affair with Vodafone UK, or ‘Big Red’ as I affectionately call her.
We’ve had our ups, our downs and our fallings-out, but over the years we’ve grown to appreciate our mutual quirks and subsequent relationship demands. Lo and verily,Â today we have another… hurdle to overcome.
Some of you may remember me wondering just where my handset of the moment, the N86, would land when it reached these shores. I speculated that it would be land on the lap of Big Red, but alas they passed and plumped instead for the N97.
So far, so what eh?
Being the Nokia aficionado that I am however, I wasn’t going to let a small thing like no carrier support prevent me from owning my handset of choice, so I promptly went out and bought one.
End of story, right? Wrong.
Thing is, among the myriad of reasons for me having been a Vodafone customer for the best part of 15yrs, one of them – today at least – is its home portal, currently going under the name of Vodafone Live!
It’s through this portal that I find music, games and mainly, my train times. I don’t drive and when I make plans, I keep them. I often plan my journeys with an almost military-like precision and Vodafone ‘My Trains’ is an invaluable service that I use pretty much every day, without fail.
From here I may choose to visit different parts of the Live! service… but this particular saved bookmark is nearly always my jumping off point.
Now, look at these two pictures….
Something’s wrong with the one on the right, right? Of course there is.
Even worse though is this, the Vodafone Live Homepage:
Both pages are from http://live.vodafone.com, both are connected using the Vodafone Live APN. The only difference is the handset I used; my old N95 8GB is on the left and on the right, my beloved N86.
Using the WAP access point will give you best chance of it rendering properly however it maybe a case of it not being Vodafone Live! compatible if it’s not rendering normally through the WAP access point. It may be worth posting your settings on the eForum to make sure everything is set up as much as it can be bearing in mind the N86 isn’t a phone we stock. Thanks.
The first part is fine. Naturally I’d check to make sure I was using VF Live as the default access point. I did. I am. The latter part, ‘bear in mind isn’t a phone we stock’… hmm. This was backed up and re-iterated by a couple ofVodafone staffers who also said ‘we don’t support phones we don’t range’.
This is also fine. A perfectly justifiable reason for not rendering your web pages. However, to me at least, this is EXACTLY the reason that you should be doing just that for these devices. Here I am, with a T-Mobile exclusive device (for argument’s sake) and I’m looking for a new network. I decide on Vodafone and sign on for a SIM-only deal. Then I discover that my phone isn’t supported on their webpages, so I decide to go somewhere else.
You see where I’m going with this, right?
The N86 is a similar screen size, build and design to the not-too-shabby (and Vodafone supported) Nokia N85. If it’s a simple case of switching the user agent* sniffer to present the N85 screens for the N86, then this is not a big job. Nor is it complex. Quick fix. Done.
*For the uninitiated, a user agent is basically the identifier string for the browser that you use when you browse the web (mobile or otherwise). For instance, the user agent string for the N85 looks something like this:
Back in my youth, while working through college, I had a friend who spent a his time working at a rather large chain of fast-food restaurants. The Manager of which had a policy that meant that for any food voucher or special offer coupon presented at the counter, no matter for which chain (be it for McDonald’s, Burger King, Wimpy etc), if they could fulfilit then they would honour the voucher.
As he told me at the time:
“It is better to please someone else’s customer who might come back another day than to tell them you’re not interested and never see them again.”
————- UPDATED – 12/10/09 ————-
A member of @VodafoneUK’s PR team has literally just been in touch to let us know that the Vodafone Live! pages have now indeed been provisioned for the Nokia N86.
Here’s a screen shot to prove it…
Congrats Vodafone, you’ve just earned 20 ReallyMobile points.
The Mi-Fi, for those of you who missed Mr Smith’s write up, is a nifty little gadget that creates an instant wi-fi hotspot wherever you are. Unlocked out of the box, all you need is a data SIM and you’re away… However, the device/service that Ben is currently reviewing is the 3 service and it would seem that this particular device is locked to their network.
As I’ve mentioned before though, I don’t think that these super-connected wonders are for everyone. I personally always carry around a data dongle for my MacBook Pro and when that doesn’t work, I have the rather fantastic, Joikuspot.
Coming back to the dongle part of my story, I spent most of last weekend playing around with all the various pieces of mobile tech (as well as their respective SIM cards) that I thought I might take away with me for my next trip.
Crashing through the cupboards full of old 3310s and old school Nokia chargers I happened upon an old o2 dongle that I used to have to use in a previous life. The end was missing and it still had it’s old (and now defunct) o2 SIM inside it and yet, I had a sneaky feeling that it might still work.
So at this point, you could be thinking:
“Awesome, all I have to now is go out and get a cheap o2 data bundle and hurrah! We’re away!”
Not so fast.
Turns out that that isn’t necessary. It turns out that an o2 SIM isn’t needed at ALL in fact. You see, when Lucozade asked me what essential piece(s) of kit that I needed for the Energy Challenges, along with my N86, I requested a super-reliable Vodafone data SIM. Something that could keep me online and in touch, wherever I was in the world.
I popped said SIM into said dongle, placed the dongle into the side of my mac and voila! It worked immediately! I thought I might have to install some kind of Vodafone specific software or at least have to add in the necessary information, but nope. The Sierra Wireless Watcher that was already onboard the mac found the SIM, downloaded the settings and within seconds I was up, running and online.
I’d wondered for sometime now if the networks went so far as to lock their own dongles, I can’t speak for any others but I can tell you now that the o2 one works fine.
Little did they know that 30 years on, their lyrics would be used in conjuntion with my love for this wonderful device. This, the second of the Android OS handsets to hit the industry as we know it – the Vodafone exclusive HTC Magic – has been a joy to use and has also, shockingly enough, kept me away from my much-loved N95 8GB.
Yes. It really is that good.
However,Â just like the aforementioned 1975 chart hit, when you move deeper, you see a different story. The next lyrics in the song being…
“Never believe, it’s not so.”
Sometimes, you spot the wires.
Sometimes, you see the cards slide under just there. Sometimes, it’s the little things that can shatter the illusion.
You see the Magic gets so many things fantastically bang on the money, so perfectly right, but under closer inspection – cracks begin to form.
Anyway, the point is, as simple and as (supposedly) easy it is to sign up/in into a G1 phone – if you donâ€™t have a Google-centric life, then this phone is not for you. Think about it. Think about it a lot. Then think about it again.
And on top of all that, the cameraâ€™s crap and the phone feels like a fisher-price toy.
One thing I said about the G1 that carries through to this day, in regards to the Android OS at least, is that you get the BEST experience if your communications are Google-centric.
I doubt this will ever change.
But what about the Magic? That’s why you’re here right?
Well, look and feel wise the hardware is a massive improvement over it’s predecessor and overall, not since Nokia released the E71 have I found a phone such a pleasure to hold. The plastic casing belies a smooth, almost seamless finish which slides into the hand effortlessly. This phone implores you to play with it.
Upon switching on the first time you’re greeted with the gushing bright redness of the Vodafone welcome screen, and of course, the now as-standard Android/Google sign-in process. Something that should be pointed out at this moment is that since my first play last year, I’ve moved all my comms over to Google Apps. It’s only something I’ve done recently, but after too many annoyances with Yahoo’s still-born attempts at anything mobile, something had to be done and, if I’m honest, I’m loving it so far.
Being able to sign into the Magic with my Google Apps account makes a world of difference. This is the shape of communications devices of the future, without a doubt.
Google Talk IM integration, Google Maps, push email, OTA sync with contacts and calendar, the list goes on. When it comes to consuming content of any kind; texts, emails, IMs, web pages, this phone truly shines.
Then there is of course Google’s own app store, theÂ Android Marketplace. The few games and apps I’ve downloaded have proven useful and fun in equal measure. Extra points go to both Robo Defense and Abduction for quenching my Flight Control thirst that I seem to have acquired of late. The paid apps were simple enough to purchase too. I was hoping for operator billing to handle it all on the back end, but instead found that it was all run through Google Checkout. However, I popped my debit card details in once and that’s it, job done. Perhaps Ovi could learn something here, what do you say Ben?
The Magic’s camera is 3.2mp, and even though it lacks flash, the picture quality is surprisingly good.
See below for comparison shots between the Magic and another 3.2mp camera phone, the Nokia 5800.
Can you tell which one’s which?
But when we return to the hardware, we arrive at the drawbacks that make me tug on that invisible string that I’ve secretly attached to my beloved Nokia. The one aspect that lets the Magic down is content creation. Yes, the image above looks great, but the angle required to take the photo annoyed me. The Magic, not having a dedicated camera key, means that the image capture button is actually on the screen. Not a deal breaker admittedly, but it niggled.
Next, the sharing of that image. The default options are Gmail, MMS or Picasa, none of which I’m interested in. This means I had to download and install an app specifically for this function, Pixelpipe to be precise and – ugh – what a terrible, terrible UI. I was unsure of what images were going where and/or how to upload them. This resulted in erroneous Twitpics, un-titled photos and ultimately, a very unhappy Whatley.
Finally, and this one is the deal breaker for me, we get to the one thing that – if done correctly – would put the HTC that little bit closer to being my N95 replacement.
The Magic comes with Google Android v1.5 – aka ‘Cupcake’ – out of the box. That means it has the on-screen touch keyboard (which is handy, given that unlike the G1 before it, the HTC doesn’t flip out to reveal qwerty-based goodness underneath) which can only be described as infuriating. The keyboard, either in portrait or landscape makes text input such a long drawn out process that it borders on painful. Writing something as simple as a text message, is such an arduous task that it requires a level of concentration that I’m simply not used to when it comes to such a simple undertaking.
Bear in mind that this is coming from someone who can write text messages in his pocket, without looking. You can’t even begin to imagine how frustrating this is for me. So close, so close to being perfect, but let down on something so basic.
I was discussing the Magic online recently when I said:
“Using the HTC Magic is like upgrading to the latest Swiss Army Knife, only to discover that your favourite parts are missing.”
And I stand by that. The Magic is an awesome, awesome phone. It (much to Ben Smith’s annoyance) even comes with Latitude – something that T-Mobile are yet to switch on here in the UK – which is again, more bags of awesome. Not only that but also, the Magic has arrived on my beloved Vodafone; super-fast, super-quick and super-connected.
However, when it comes to pickingÂ a new phone, text entry matters, for me at least and the on screen keyboard trails a paltry third place behind the 5800 and the iPhone.
You’d think that after all that, I’d be back on board with my N95 8GB. But no, the Magic is still going strong. I’m putting up with the niggles and the faults, for now.
I tried to switch back to my Nokia at the weekend, the result? With sadness in my eyes, I looked down upon my 5MP lovely and said outloud:
“This just isn’t fun anymore”
I am under the Android spell… now if only I could put it on my Nokia.
Regular readers of my personal blogÂ will know that -Â pre-Really Mobile launch – after discovering the N97 was due to be launched on Vodafone UK later this June, I happened upon a rather sumptuous nugget of information regarding another much anticipated device…
The conversation went something a little something like this:
â€œDo you have the N86?”
â€œWell it is here, but it has a question mark next to it.â€
â€œOh. Is that bad?â€
â€œOh no Mr Whatley, it just means weâ€™re still testing it. I canâ€™t confirm that we are going to get the N86 in stock but I can tell you that we have it here internally and weâ€™re testing the software to make sure it works correctly â€œ
BUT as yet still unconfirmed.
Soon after the above post went live, I heard from a number of sources that I may very well be incorrect, the N86 would not be coming to Vodafone and, that just because Vodafone are doing the testing, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be doing the selling.
For example, Voda may very well be putting the phone through it’s paces on behalf ofÂ Phones4U, who coincidentally were first to market here in the UK with the Nokia N85.
So, who to believe?
Well this morning I get another tick in the ‘Yes they will’ box via a source inside a Vodafone store who said that they’d had a Nokia rep in-store this week who had informed them that yes indeed they would be getting the N86 at some point this Summer.
Another phone call to Vodafone this afternoon and the customer service rep I spoke to could find no longer find any trace of the device on their systems.
The plot thickens…
Why am I so excited about this phone? Well, this 8 megapixel beauty took me completely by surprise at Mobile World Congress three months back and, although originally pitched as the successor to the much-overlookedÂ Nokia N85Â (the N86 test model above was in fact labelled â€˜N85 8MPâ€™ on its debut in Barcelona), to my mind the N86 is the true replacement for my much-lovedÂ N95 8GB.Â
What’s the deal Voda? Are you or aren’t you?
If you are, then sign me up! I’m in… and I bet I wouldn’t be the only one either.