Arriving this July, the N97 and…?

Browsing through my Google Reader this morning, I came across this article from the guys over at reporting that Vodafone has just confirmed a July release date for the Nokia N97 here in the UK.

You can read more about the handset over on Vodafone’s dedicated N97 page, but needless to say, this announcement is very good news indeed.

As some of you may or may not know, I am a card-carrying Vodafone member, I have been for some time and, upon hearing that the N97 was en route to my network of choice, I am very happy indeed.
Since it was first announced at Nokia World in December, the initial buzz has been largely positive.
In fact, I remember putting virtual pen to paper at the time and exclaiming how much the the prospect of this handset excited me; even going as so far to say:

“I firmly believe that the Nokia N97 is the replacement for my N95 8GB.”

However, as I mentioned, I wrote that at the tail end of last year and since then?
Well, some things have changed.

Since Nokia World, not only have has there been several opportunities for me to have hands on time with the N97, but also Mobile World Congress (MWC), has come and gone. This conference, previously known as ‘3GSM’ and held in Barcelona each February, is the largest telecommunications event in the world and this year saw the unveiling of the Nokia N86.

This 8 megapixel beauty took me completely by surprise at MWC, and although originally pitched as the successor to the much-overlooked Nokia N85 (the N86 test model above was in fact labelled ‘N85 8MP’ on its debut in Barcelona), to my mind the N86 is the true replacement for the N95 8GB.


I carry two phones. I have done for some time now and I have no doubt that this habit will carry on into the future. My current ‘handset strategy’ is made up of the aforementioned N95 8GB which acts as my personal device, and a Nokia E71 as my work/business phone. Whenever I’m testing new devices I always, always swap out my E71 and swap in whichever piece of gadgetry I happen to be reviewing (the latest of which being the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music).

However this was not the case with the Nokia N86. Two weeks after Mobile World Congress, just in time for MGoL VI in fact, I happened to find myself in possession of said 8MP wonder and I was that impressed I instantly made it my personal device of choice (if only for the few days that I was able to test it anyway).

This. Speaks. Volumes.

If you’ve read any of my mobile stuff in the past you’ll know how much I love my N95, it’s certainly been through the wars over the years and for any device to come anywhere near taking its mantle, it has to be something pretty special.

The N86 is that phone.

The N97, as wonderful as it is, to my mind could have well been labelled the ‘E97′. What with the full qwerty keyboard and ‘communicator series’-like design, the N97 bears more relation to the E90 than to any Nseries phone I’ve ever seen. When I read that Vodafone were going to be shipping the N97 this coming July, I immediately got on the phone and registered my interest. Fortunately it turns out that I am due an upgrade around the same time as the N97 is scheduled to release.


But that’s not all…

While I was the phone with Voda, I also enquired after the N86…

“It’s not one I’ve heard of Mr Whatley” …came the reply.

“Oh, would you mind checking for me anyway? I work in mobile you see and I really like the look of the N86, it has an 8MP camera and well, it’s very similar to my N95 8GB…”

“Oh here it is Mr Whatley, I’ve found it on our systems.”

“You have?!”

“Yes. Nokia N86. Got it. Now… Ah.. Ok.”

“Yes, yes, what is it?”

“Well it is here, but it has a question mark next to it.”

“Oh. Is that bad?”

“Oh no Mr Whatley, it just means we’re still testing it. I can’t confirm that we are going to get the N86 in stock but I can tell you that we have it here internally and we’re testing the software to make sure it works correctly “


“Yes Mr Whatley. While I can’t go on record and say that it’s definitely coming, we are still testing. I can tell you that nine times out of ten, when it’s testing, it normally means we’ll be getting it sooner or later.”

“That’s great news, thanks!”

“You’re very welcome Mr Whatley, thanks for calling Vodafone.”

So there you have it. The N97 is coming to Vodafone in July and, from the sounds of things, the N86 won’t be too far behind it.

MIR: N95 Dead; Insurance Nightmare; N95 4GB Exclusive

We interrupt the scheduled programming to bring you a Whatley on Friday exclusive!

– – –

Fwd: I am not happy


So – Those of you who follow me on Jaiku or on twitter may have seen this message appear late last night:

“N95 – kaput :(“

What follows is an account of two hours of my life from the early evening of last night (Thursday).

Vodafone have pissed me off. Their insurance company more so – they are CLEARLY a 3rd party with nothing to do with Vodafone and as such, let them down on an almost spectacular level.
That aside – VF’s CS has seen better days.

If this issue is not resolved by the weekend, I am off to 3.
You heard it here first.

So – What happened?

Well, over the past few weeks the N95 has taken a bit of a beating it’s, how we say in the UK, ‘been in the wars a bit’. I’ve dropped it left, right and centre and even tossed it here and there too.

Note – it was camera tossing – see here.

Anyway – The phone has been fine. I went to a meeting yesterday afternoon, switched the phone off. All fine. I leave the meeting. Switch the phone on. All fine. I get to the station and, whilst waiting for my train, I decide to check the timetable. This is not possible. Not properly anyway. Because, every time I clicked one of the right sided centre keys, the screen went blank. Bugger.

Train arrives. I get on. I test it again. Same thing; Right centre keys make the screen go blank. Left centre keys bring it back. Bugger it.

I’m just off into town for a couple of drinks with the lass and all of a sudden I have no phone. Damn.

What next? I do what any other Vodafone-loving man would do, I call Vodafone.

Here I have to pause. Here for a second, if merely for sheer dramatic effect I must take a moment, and breathe…

I have waxed lyrical about Red’s amazing customer service before, quite a lot actually; online and off.
Thing is with GOOD customer service, you become used to it.
It becomes ‘the norm’.
Anything less than above average is, well,  just average.

I make the call. Bear in mind that as a ‘card carrying member’ (remember?) of Vodafone’s Best Care program I have come to expect the following to happen:

“Hello Mr Whatley, how can I help you today?”

“Hello there, my phone is broken.”

“Ok Mr. Whatley, we can get a replacement out to you with 24hrs, where would you like it to be delivered?”

And. That. Is. It. Job done.

This is what I expected to happen. What I got was something COMPLETELY to the contrary.

CALL 1 (bodes well doesn’t it?)

“Hello Mr Whatley, how can I help you today?”

“Hello there, I wonder if you can help actually. It’s my phone. The screen really, it started to go off and on earlier and now… Well now it won’t even come on at all”

“And what phone do you have Mr Whatley? Says here you have the N95, is it the 8GB version?”

“No no, I’ve got an old school original N95.”

“Ok, and did you buy it from a store or over the phone?”

“Over the phone. I NEVER go in store.”

“Ok Mr Whatley, and what do you think may’ve the problem on the phone?”

“I’m not entirely sure to be honest, I do USE my phone. I mean REALLY use it. But I know I’ve definitely dropped it twice in the last two weeks.”

“Oh ok Mr Whatley, no problem. It sounds like you may have to make an insurance claim but that shouldn’t take a minute. Well I’ve just checked and it looks like we don’t actually have any N95s in stock anymore, but that’s ok. The insurance will just send you an 8GB instead, is that ok?”

Leaving aside my N95-1 preferences for a second…

“Oh.. er.. ok, can’t really complain! Yes, I guess that would be fine, thank you!”

“Ok Mr Whatley I’ll just put you through to the insurance department.”

“Thank you very much.”


“Hello you’re through to Vodafone In-sure-antz… *giggle* …”

Note – the giggling – the girl that I was put through to was clearly having some kind of joke on the other end of the line and was finding it hard to control her laughter. Hilarious.

“Before I go on… *giggle* …stop it… *giggle* …can I just tell.. *giggle* …can I just tell you that callsarerecordedfortraininperposeees…”  *muffled laughter*

I’ve worked in a call centre myself. This happens. You just get the giggles sometimes.
However, I wasn’t in the mood.

I hung up and re-dialled 191,
I get through to the woman sitting next to the first woman I spoke to the first time round.


“Oh, sorry to hear what’s happened Mr Whatley, I’ll try and put you through again.”


“Hi Mr Whatley, I’ve explained all your details and told them what the situation is, I’ll just put you through now.”

“Hello you’re through to Vodafone In-sure-antz, can I take your name please?”

“Haven’t you got it? Ok. James Whatley.”

“And how can I help?”

“You mean you weren’t told?”

“You want to make a claim sir?”

“Yes. The screen on my N95. It’s broken. I need to get it replaced.”

“And when did it break sir?”

“This afternoon.”

“As a result of what sir?”

“Well, I’ve dropped it recently.”

“When sir?”

“A couple of times. RECENTLY.”

“Oh. So the screen was working today then sir?”


“Did you drop it today sir?”

“No, but I think it’s an issue of overall wear and tear if you will.”

“But you didn.t drop it today sir?”

“Well, no but…”

“Well then the screen failure can’t be down to you dropping it Sir… *sigh* …it’s a warrantee issue. I’ll pass you back to customer care.”

Turns out ‘pass you back to customer care’ is a euphemism for ‘hang up on you’.

If you’ve made it this far – thank you – I applaud your reading efforts. By this time I had travelled from Oxford to Paddington and I’m now at Paddington Station when I make call number 3.

“Hello there, I don’t have time to go through this again. I just want to complain about the poor standard of service that your insurance company provides. First they lack professionalism and second they show no real willingness to help and/or cooperate.”

“Of course Mr Whatley, what is the problem?”

I explain. THIS TIME ROUND I’m advised that I will have to take the phone IN STORE to have it examined.

“Look. I don’t have time to do this now. I called to complain. I need to get on the tube. I’ll call back later.”

By now I am seething. I get off the tube at London Waterloo and the lass is running a little late. I’ll try again. I think.


“Hello there, I’ve had a rough time with CS so far this evening. I understand this isn’t your fault so I won’t scream and shout. My N95. It’s broken.”

“Ok sir, which one do you have? The 4GB or the 8GB?”


“Which N95 do you have sir? The 4GB or the 8GB?”

“Er… There isn’t a 4GB N95.”

“Yes there is Sir, it’s ok, you’ve probably got the 8GB, the black one right sir?”
(this time in a slightly condescending kind of ‘it’s ok sir, you don’t know about your silly little broken phone’ voice)

“Look, I don’t have the 8GB version of the phone. I have the silver one.”

“..The 4GB.”

“NO! THERE IS NO 4GB N95! I work in the bloody industry and I know this phone inside and out and unless you’ve started shipping them with a 4GB MicroSD card as standard then it does not exist. The original N95, the silver one, the one IN MY HAND, comes with 160MB internal flash memory and 64MB RAM. Not 4GB.”

“I’m sorry sir but…”

“Look, let’s no split hairs. I know I’m right on this. It’s not why I called. I called because my phone is broken.”

“Yes Mr Whatley, says here you’ve been advised to take it in-store to have it examined?”

“Yes, that’s right. But that’s not good enough. I need a replacement as soon as.”

“That’s ok sir, if you hand it over in-store they will pop it in a jiffy bag, send it off to be repaired and it will be back within 7 days tops.”

NOTE – I’ve been here before – it NEVER takes seven days. THIS is why I stopped going in-store.

“I doubt that. Plus what am I to do without a phone?”

“They’ll have a phone you can borrow sir.”

“Have you ever had to borrow one from in-store before?”

“They have the Sharp device range sir.”

“Yes. I know. Horrid devices. They’re not nice. Listen. You don’t get it. I’m a mobile phone blogger. It’s what I do. Not having a decent handset in this business is quite frankly a ridiculous notion and I REALLY need to get this sorted ASAP!”

“Yes sir, if you take it in-store tomorrow I’m sure they’ll be able to…”

At this point I gave up. I am SO mad. The phone, FOR WHATEVER REASON, no longer works. Actually, that’s incorrect. The screen no longer works. The phone works fine. In fact, I know my N95 THAT WELL, I’m able to send texts and make calls in the dark.

Fortunately I am lucky enough to currently be in possession of a Nokia N82 (kindly supplied by those lovely folk at WOM World, this device however I have been using as my work phone. That reluctant was I to give up my N95 as my main device I opted to switch out the E61i for the duration of the loan period.

While I’ve been typing up this tirade I’ve been backing up/restoring/sync-ing each device to switch the N82 into my main device and the E61i back to my work device.

Incidentally – I’m not even touching upon the review of the N82 yet, or the amazing differences between the Nseries and the Eseries range of devices that I uncovered by making this switch – they can all wait for another post.

This post – THIS ONE THAT YOU’RE READING RIGHT NOW – is about how disappointed I am with Vodafone. You may call me fickle, but have a read of it again. See if you’d settle for this kind of ‘service’.

I am NOT a happy customer.

And do you know what makes it worse? It’s happened beforesame problem(s)

This time though there has been no resolve.

The issue is still open.

I genuinely do not know what to do next. My instinct tells me to call VF again – To keep on keeping on. This issue has happened before and I got a replacement within 24hrs.

Why is it any different now?

Why is Vodafone’s customer service so inconsistent?

Why do they allow such a shoddy experience when it comes to their mobile insurance – which, by the way, I PAY EXTRA FOR!

If I don’t have a new N95 by the end of the weekend, or at least, on its way to me by the end of the weekend – as I said at the beginning of this post – I’m going to 3.

And I’ll tell every soul that I ever sold onto Vodafone that they made a mistake and that Vodafone don’t care about their customers, nor do they care for their (outsourced) insurance – that’s not worth the paper it is written on.

With that, I am spent. If you made it to the end, thanks.
If you’ve got a spare N95-1 lying around, let me know – I’m open to offers.

– – –

MIR: The N95 Saga: What happened next?

First up, if you missed the rant on Friday, then you should go catch up or else none the following will make much sense.


Up to speed? Good.

Next up – I’m still with Vodafone.


Well. You’ll see.

Thing is, this whole episode has really got me thinking about a LOT of stuff. So there’s a lot to cover with this follow up post, it might turn into another long one. So once again, thanks for reading.

First up – let’s pick up from where we left off.

The early hours of Friday morning:

01:30 – I email my rant over to Ewan

01:45 – He hits publish

01:46 – I post on Jaiku

04:52 – Nokia Geek re-posts the story on
his blog

07:40 – The story re-appears over on the blog by iFelix

08:57 – An SMS arrives from a friend within the walls of VF:

“Would you like me to try and escalate your N95 problem internally? Or would you prefer the vanilla experience?”

I choose the latter, (thank you though for your kind offer – you know who you are).

09:30 – Steve Litchfield links back to the story over at All
About Symbian

Then, at 09:39, the phone rings:

“Hello, James Whatley?”

“Hello there Mr Whatley, my name’s Amy and I’m calling from Vodafone. I hope you don’t mind me getting in contact like this, I’ve just been reading your blog.”

[Note from Ewan: We’re speculating that ‘Amy’ is indeed Amy Rose as covered before on SMS Text News]

“I see.”

“Yes, I searched for your name on our system and then cross referenced the notes on the accounts that I found with your written version of events to see which James Whatley it could be and.. well I found you!”

“Right you are.”

“Mr Whatley, I’m dreadfully sorry for everything’s that happened regarding your N95. We’ve investigated it as much as we can this end and it seems the insurers have rather a lot hoops to jump through to process these claims, something we’re trying to rectify. And you see it’s basically a lot of red tape that we can’t really do much about.”


“However, I’ve been in touch with them and sorted everything out and we should be able to get a replacement phone out to you as soon as possible. Now this normally happens on the next working day, but I’m going to make a few calls and see if we can’t get it out to you today.”

“Oh well, thank you very much.”

“Only thing is Mr Whatley, we don’t actually stock the silver N95 anymore. We only have the 8GB version, is that going to be ok?”

“Well, er… I actually prefer the silver one if I’m perfectly honest, but I can’t knock it I guess. It’s very kind of you to reach out like this. Yes. Ok. I’ll take it. Cheers.”

“Right then, I’ll sort things out with the insurance company. You will still have to pay the £25 excess charge for claiming but I can just pop that onto your next bill. I’ll give you a call back in a bit to confirm delivery.”

Brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful.
Or is it?

We’ll come back to this one. Moving on.

09:50 – I get an email from Colin over at Nokia WOMWorld:

“Hi James

Your two week trial period for the N82 has finished, therefore we need to organise the return of the device.”

Just kidding! Read about your ‘kaput’ N95, so out of the goodness of our hearts we will extend the N82 trial period. How about I send out a bluetooth headset too, make it easier for you to call/pester/complain to Vodafone whilst on the move?”

I very nearly spat my latte out laughing! This did make me smile. A lot. Cheers guys.

10:00 – Steve over at S60Blogger made sure he
mentioned it too
– which, incidentally, then got picked up a few more times on some insurance aggregation sites

10:10 – Paul Sweeney of VoiceSage talks about the Expectations
of GREAT Customer Service

11:29 – I come back to my desk and I have a missed call plus one new SMS:

Hi James, it’s Amy calling from Vodafone. Just calling you back as promised earlier. Got good news the phone is gonna be delivered to you today. Should be with you around 2:30. I will give you a call back, I’ll try you again in a little while just so that I can have another chance to chat to you. Thank you. Bye. – Spoken through SpinVox

14:30 you say? Not bad at all.

Lunch time rolls around and the department head out for a colleague’s birthday lunch.

13:25 – The phone rings:

“Hi, is that James Whatley?”

“Yes mate.”

“Alright, I’m just on Marlow High Street, looking for Wethered House (SpinVox HQ), can you direct us?”

“Actually mate, I’m just on the High Street myself. In Chez Gerard.”

“Oh I can see that, I’ll come meet you.”

13:30 – Yours truly takes delivery of a brand new, never-been-opened Nokia N95 8GB.

Just shy of 12hrs since the original article went live.

So – What have we learnt?

First thing: Vodafone have some kind of ‘Forum Intervention Team’ who are happy to step up to the plate whenever things need fixing, (but we knew this already).

This I must say is a HUGE step forward for any operator/network and is something the rest of the industry can learn from.

To have a team in place monitoring the blogosphere for anything of this nature is a great string to Vodafone UK’s bow.
And it’s the exact same thing I used to do 18mths ago for Refresh Mobile, (way back in their Mobizines days).

So kudos to you Red; you came through and you delivered. Nice work.


And this is a big BUT that was repeated to me over email, IM, Jaiku, Twitter, SMS and even over the phone from my friends and colleagues alike:

“BUT JAMES?! Well done and everything – But what about the average user? If this happened to your Mum she wouldn’t sit down and write two thousand words on how annoyed she was nor would she know the right platform/channels to use to air said grievances! So, what about your Normobs?!”

Well. There’s a few ways you can look at this.

Ewan bet me £5 that I could’ve got a replacement handset from in-store over the weekend and he was probably right. So did I get preferential treatment? Yes. You could say I did. If I was your average every day customer without access to a reasonably well-read wireless news site, would I have got my replacement handset on the same day? Doubtful, (don’t forget though, I still had to pay the £25 excess, just like anyone else – all VF saved me was time).

This however does not necessarily make Vodafone bad. Later that day I was contacted by another friend of mine, again within the walls of Vodafone. He told me about the Forum Intervention Team and how (in his opinion) they do a good job. Not least because they fix what they can online but because every problem they solve gets put back into the system to try and ensure that the same doesn’t happen again. My contact also told me that Vodafone has a ‘Voice of the Customer’ forum. Everyone within Voda has the ability to raise issues to VOC so they can be investigated.

They don’t take this kind of thing lightly.

The good thing (I’m told) is that this whole episode has highlighted the ‘outsourced insurers’ problem to the VOC which will hopefully mean that the end user experience will improve in the long run.

This is great news.

Short term?

If you are a normob (or if you know one) then the best advice I could give you would be to never give up. Keep calling back, keep kicking up a fuss and keep on keeping on until you get the level of service you think you deserve.

Now in closing; let’s address some of the questions raised in the the comments of Friday’s piece::

Quite a few of you mentioned that I should’ve taken the insurance girl’s hints and just told them what they wanted to hear. You’re probably right. But you’re gonna have to excuse my naivety on this one chaps; the thought didn’t even cross my mind. I’ve never had to claim on insurance before and well – I didn’t know the game was played as such. I’ll know for future reference, that aside – it’s still a sorry state of affairs if this kind of behaviour is ‘the norm’.

Hands0n had a cheeky dig at the state of my N95. What can I say? I USE my handset! I don’t care for fancy covers or belt clips. My phone is purely functional. Admittedly I use every function available but that doesn’t mean I should keep it wrapped up in cotton wool. I love the battle scars on my N95. It shows how much I’ve really got out of it, y’know?

Maybe I should send it off to some kind of mobile phone war museum? Hehe.

Joking aside, this whole episode has taught us a LOT about Vodafone.

Yes, their CS sometimes falters but it’s clear they do care about their customers.

Yes, they gave me preferential treatment, but it’s only through people venting their anger (online or otherwise) at poor levels of service that any big company has any chance of learning/changing anything.

And the less said about the N95 4GB variant the better…

MIR: An Open Letter to Vodafone UK

James Whatley writes, this week, with an impassioned open letter to Vodafone. Write to your MP. Call your local radio station. Send letters to Arun!

– – –

(Not another mobile web rant, promise.)

Dear Vodafone,

Let’s get one thing out in the open before we start:

I love you.

There. I said it.

It’s out in the open for the entire world to see.

You and I have been together now for over ten years and although there have been a few ups and downs along the way, somehow we have always managed to pull through.

Red, what can I say? The years have been great.

I still regret the affair I had with Orange back in the 90s and I know that my foolish dalliance with 3 is best forgotten. I was weak. Led astray by promises of ‘revolutionary’ handsets and blinded by their multitude of minutes. Ultimately I was betrayed by my own greed. They just weren’t you Red.

After all these shortfalls, you were there for me, waiting to take me back with open arms whenever things went wrong.

I am a card carrying member…

Fwd: Whatley on Wednesday - An open letter to Vodafone

… of your love parade and I am proud to say that I recommend you and your network to anyone looking to change providers, (and often to those that aren’t). Everything from the fantastic customer service to the virtually non-existent drop-call rate, Vodafone you put a smile on my face by never letting me down.

But as the years have gone by (and my monthly spend has slowly gone up) I have felt, lately, a strange detachment forming betwixt you and I.

Thing is, there is some shall we say, room for improvement.

When you rolled out 3.5G? Brilliant! Amazing in fact! But at £2.35per meg you and I both knew that something had to give… and it did! You went and released your own little data bundle… And at the same price as T-Mobile’s too! What a fantastic move… But no, you had to spoil my fun by going and capping it at 120mb. C’mon… You know can do better than that!

Signal strength is second to none. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve been out and about with friends and being the only Vodafone subscriber of the group has meant I was the only one in the with a signal.

However when it comes to your Tariffs, you may have great coverage but it seems that this comes at a price too. You’re, dare I say it, high maintenance.

Admittedly you’ve tried to wean me off my old school 3000mins per month tariff for ages now but you have nothing that comes anywhere near it currently. 1800mins for £75?! Shocking. You’re good but you’re not that good Red.
I’m not budging. Yeah ‘Stop the Clock‘ – is pretty cool but can I have Vodafone Passport?

“Not on such an old tariff Mr Whatley.”


Voda, you know I feel about you. Take me on my word: You need to catch up! You could be left behind! 3, who were once the laughing stock of the UK operator market, now have one of the sexiest offerings around with their X-Series.

See, o2 got the iPhone, (you did well to avoid that), and you went and got the N95 8GB for an exclusive amount of time. Excellent choice. But why did you have to cripple it with your own firmware?
It’s like three steps forward and two steps back sometimes, really.

Hopefully, when the iPhone v2 comes along you’ll be right there waiting to grab it and pass it onto to your loyal followers. Hell, if YOU get the next version of the iPhone, I might even get one.
Now there’s a statement.

Can you imagine? With you Voda and your super HSDPA (3.5G) and solid CS, network etc…

It would be killer.

But hey – that’s the future – let’s talk about now.

Let’s move onto the one thing that gets me the most… and I’m sorry to bring this up… (I mention it every time we speak) the ONE bugbear I have with you? The teeny tiny thing that I just cannot stand?!


Tell me, Red, why do you not offer ANY MMS bundles?

None. Nada. Zip. Absolutely, positively ZERO. NOT. A. THING.

Videos, sound clips, pictures… all charged 35p-50p a go. It drives me nuts about you. WHY OH WHY OH WHY?!

You offer one of the latest and best phones (the aforementioned 5MP beauty from Nokia) and you don’t offer ANY MMS bundles to support it?!!!!!?!!!

You say that the requirement isn’t there, that the advent of picture messaging has not been the success that the networks thought it would be…
Well, if you charge for every single MMS sent and don’t allow anyone to add anything to their monthly tariffs then what on earth do you expect?!

You gladly give me video call minutes (which I actually use from time to time) every month as part of my tariff, but not video messaging?! Insane.

It’s been like this since September 1st 2006 Vodafone and I’ve let it go month on month on month… This has got to stop!

Voda, I love you, and I think that you love me.
Try this, do it for the sake of us…

Make MMS free for a month.

Yes. That’s right. FREE. Like you did with Mobile TV, (albeit that was for three months), try it. SEE the uptake.

Look after your customers.
Love them.
Save them money.

And above all, save ME money. Help me love you more.

Yours hopefully,

James Whatley

MIR: Whatley on Wednesday: Vodafone’s MusicStation


I woke up on Monday morning with the intention of writing this week’s Whatley on Wednesday piece about firmware and firmware upgrades.
Recently a fellow Mobile Geek of London was exclaiming to me that “Nokia Rule for doing this [latest release of their firmware – V20]”

I disagreed. The idea is great, but the application and execution leaves a lot to be desired.

We argued… and then decided it didn’t matter and discussed something else, (like whose round it was next). I left the pub with every intention to write this argument up (or at least my side of it) and post it right here for your reading (dis)pleasure. Delete where applicable.

That was until, just as I was leaving the house, I heard the latest single from UK indie group Scouting for Girls, ‘Elvis ain’t dead’. And, as with every song that you hear just before you leave the house in the morning, it became stuck in my head.

By the time I made it to the train station I had hummed the bloody thing to death and had decided that I needed this track NOW.

So I thought I’d make the most of NOW and jump onto Vodafone’s new Music Station service.

Awesome, not only will I get the track I want but I’ll also make notes throughout and then I can write it up as a review the service for SMS Text News. Score!

This – rather oddly – all happened before Monday’s Unlimited Drinks and also before yesterdays Omnifone stories that Ewan ran… Hmm… Telepathy’s working then.
But alas, Vodafone were not going to make it easy for me.

I arrived at the Vodafone Live! music page and I’m asked to download and install the Music Station Application (I had no idea it was an app?!).


Not a problem, I thought, I’ve done this before. I wonder how good their user education/hand holding is. To their merit, it’s not too bad at all. I think any average normob could find their way through this process. Well. Right up until they hit this point:


Rubbish. I tried again: Same problem.

This is becoming annoying. I turn the phone off, turn it back on again, try again and…. STILL the same problem!

I hit 191 on my phone and call customer service. After a little explaining I eventually get passed through to the technical dept…

‘Hello Mr Whatley, what error do you have?’

‘It says here: “Certificate error, contact the application vendor”.’

‘Is there an error code?’

‘No, it’s a certificate error… No number. I have a screenshot that I can email over if that helps?’

‘Er…(small amount of confusion at this point on my keenness to help maybe?) No sorry. We’re not actually allowed to give out our email addresses.’


‘Can I call you back on a different line?’

So I say yes, and they do. And lo and behold I’m requested to repeat the process (obviously my word isn’t good enough) and guess what? Same error.

THEN I was asked to do something, and I must state that VF UK have NEVER EVER asked me to check this in the history of being a VF customer, they asked me to check my firmware!

To the layman – this is the software version that your phone is running. Same thing on every Nokia, got an N95? Try it now. *#0000# – anything below V20 means you really should think about upgrading.
(Benefits here.)

Anyway – ‘Sam’ (I think that was her name) informs me that my current firmware, (V20, obviously) is the problem as “the Music Station is only compatible with Vodafone branded firmware versions 10b and 10c”.

Let’s just pause and take that it in for a moment.

That’s right. Vodafone’s flagship ‘Hero’ service, The MUSIC STATION, the big one they’re pushing this Christmas does not work with the latest Nokia N95 firmware.

‘Sorry Mr Whatley, you’re going to have to go back to version 10.’

‘That is not going to happen.’

Thinking on this now, a few hours after the event, when I originally got the handset from Vodafone it was running V11. I didn’t even know VF had V10. On top of that – I didn’t know you could go backwards with firmware either! That’s a new one on me.

VFUK suck for not making sure their leading application is compatible with the latest Nokia firmware.

So I’m sorry folks – no MusicStation review from me today. I do have a MusicStation handset but alas the generic Nokia firmware that I’m running is not compatible with the service.


EDIT: I met Terence Eden of Vodafone at the Unlimited Drinks on Monday. He explained to me that the Vodafone MusicStation is only compatible with Vodafone’s own firmware. He also assured me that the MusicStation does work above V10 as he has seen it working on (Voda’s own variants of) V11 and V12.

Terence’s defence was that I should not have changed my firmware from VF’s to Nokia’s Generic.

Thinking on this now – that’s not a bad argument – anyone who knows me knows how much I like to hack… ahem… augment my phones so I can the optimum functionality out of them.
Well. It’s not a bad argument when you consider someone who might not buy their handset directly from Vodafone. Whose firmware is already generic upon purchase, what about them?

Next week: That rant on firmware and firmware upgrades, (the one I wanted to write this week).

My faith has been tested…

…in what?
In the level of customer service from Vodafone UK.

(bit of a rant this one – bear with me)

Now… You may have your own opinions on VF (and their services) but for me personally, over the past ten years; having used Orange, o2 and 3 (never went near T-Mobile), I can honestly say that the level of customer service I’ve received from their agents has been second to none.

Customer service is something I believe in. It is paramount to any company which has any kind of customer-facing aspect. This through personal opinion but also from spending a good few years in the CS industry myself…

So. As you know my N95 died recently. The screen was kaput. No matter how much I took it apart and put it back together again…

…it was, for want of a better term, knackered.

What now? Well… Now I call Vodafone Customer Services…

(before I carry on – you guys need to understand that in the past whenever I’ve had any problem my handset VF have ensured that I have a replacement by the next working day. Good? Damn goo)d.

Ok… Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I’ll begin…

06:04 – Our hero awakes to discover the screen on his N95 is flickering…

06:15 – N95 screen goes dead

06:201st Call to VF CS

“Hi there…”

The Dude explains the problem…

“Not a problem Mr Whatley, you are a highly valued customer, call back after 8am to speak to the right dept and we will get a replacement handset out to you first thing tomorrow…”
“Perfect, thank you very very much. VF CS are the best.”

All good….

…or so we thought!

08:342nd Call to VF CS

“Hello there!”

The Dude recounts the previous conversation…

“I’m dreadully sorry sir but we do not have any N95s in stock. We can either send you an envelope for you to send the phone back in for repair or you can take into a VF store who will send it off for you..

(after much to-ing and fro-ing)

“…Err, No. Thank you. I’d much rather wait until you have some in stock. The repair process takes weeks. I need a phone asap..”

Our hero ponders his predicament some more… what if he calls again?

08:573rd Call to VF CS

“Good morning!”

El Duderino once again explains the situation he has found himself in…

“I’m sorry Mr Whatley, we are unable to offer you a replacement handset as the N95 is not covered by our exchange policy..


“I’m sorry Mr Whatley, we are unable to offer you a replacement handset as the N95 is not covered by our exchange policy..

“That’s not good enough, that’s completely different to everything else I’ve been told so far and I do need a phone sooner rather than later.

“Sorry Sir, you were misinformed. Your nearest store is in Slough…”

“Well, I am deeply disappointed with the level of service I have received today. Good bye.”

Surely this cannot be the end for the Dude of Whatley?! Surely he must be united with his phone soon?!

09:244th Call to VF CS

“Hello there, would you be able to put me through to your store in Slough please?”

“Of course Mr Whatley, just looking that up for you now. While I’m looking Sir, is there anything else I can assist you with today?”

“Ah yes, now that you mention it… How would I go about escalating a customer complaint? I’m slightly perturbed about the level of customer service I’ve received from you.. well.. not from You personally, but from the previous agents I’ve spoken with..”

“Well.. er.. yes. Of course sir, I am very sorry to hear that.. would you mind telling me the problem? I’ll make a note and make sure it gets passed to the relevant managers…

…the Dude does so, with gusto… ending with..

“…and of course I understand that none of this is your fault. I’m not screaming and shouting and I’m not a nasty customer. I’m just a nice man, who is a true evangelist of Vodafone, and ultimately VF’s CS, who needs a phone for his personal and professional life.”

“Well I’ll make sure that gets passed on Sir.. and if you hold the line for a second.. I’ll just speak to my manager…”

Holdeth the Dude.

“…Hello there Mr Whatley, we can get a replacement N95 out to you tomorrow.. is that ok with you Sir?”


Now. I MUST point out that CS agents Numbers 1 & 4 were both friendly and really helpful. The 4th one actually could not do enough for me… The 3rd one was my least favourite; she had made her mind up and was not about to try and help any more. Whereas the 2nd one just didn’t really know her stuff… Not her fault, just poor training/consistency.

THIS is the thing that annoys me the most. Yes all the CS staff have the same (if not then extremely similar) training and Yes there are rules and regulations that they must follow…
BUT I cannot help thinking that no matter what – when you get through – you are at the mercy of that particular agent…
i.e.: If that agent has had a shitty day, there’s a reasonably high chance that they’re not going to help you as much as they could.

I mentioned earlier that I have a history in the CS industry… the one thing that I learned from that was that if you scream and if you shout you will very rarely get what you want.
Be polite. State the facts. Do not blame the person who happens to have answered the call. It’s (probably) not their fault…
Which is exactly what I did come call 4. And, because of this, Call 4 delivered what I actually wanted from Call 1.
Another question I have to ask: “How many VF customers would’ve given up after Call 2?”


Anywhoo – as much as this demonstrates the holes that are within the VF CS staff it also demonstrates that you should persevere in the face of adversity! You are the customer and your money is valuable to the network operator.
As soon as they start taking your money for granted then you lose…


PS – Incidentally – again, restoring my faith in VF – I posted the conversation part of this post on a mobile forum that I contribute to – within 24hrs a VF CS agent had logged into the forum and requested that I email the details into him so that it could be investigated further…. Even though the problem, as far as I was concerned, had been solved.

THAT demonstrates a keenness that I admire and as I said – has helped to restore my faith in the VF’s CS.
(which is the one thing that I shout about the most whenever I recommend a network to my friends)

Network Throttling

Ok – so a few of us N95 users at Refresh Mobile have noticed a thing called ‘Network Throttling’.

Basically, when browsing the mobile internet your operator chooses what kind of kb per image you can download.. This is usually a low number.. So that when you first get to a webpage, more often than not, the pictures on said site are usually grainy and horrible..

Now, this wouldn’t normally matter on a small-screened phone – but on the N95, it is VERY noticable indeed!

Ok.. The example I’m going to use is when I was chatting away on Jaiku earlier on today and my friend Chibbigirl uploaded a link to her account.. (i’d tell you what it was – but you’re about to see it anyway!).

So, said link appears in my (fantastic) Jaiku client, I click it to go through and see the pic..
And what do I see?

A grainy rubbishly loaded version. Grr!

However, a simple ‘reload page’ fixes this issue..
Which is fine..

Until you realise you have to double load EVERY PAGE YOU GO TO!

See below for before & after shots…

Do you see what I mean?!

And following up on Adonis’ comment:

Dude! I’ve got auto-reload on already and I still get this problem!