Categories
Mobile

3 Mobile and All You Can Eat Data tariffs

3UK's PAYG add-ons, with AYCE data for £15/month

3 recently announced the availability of “all-you-can-eat” data on their Pay As You Go (PAYG) plans. For £15 a month you get 300 minutes, 3000 texts and unlimited data. That’s great value. In fact, better value than the plan I’m currently on with 3; their £15 pay monthly SIM300 plan which gives me 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB data.

Pay monthly has in the past always given you more for your money, but it looks like the tables are turning. When I queried this via 3’s Twitter account, I was told that pay monthly does have an ‘all-you-can-eat’ option – at £25/month (2000 minutes, etc etc)… Now, 300 minutes is more than enough for me, I’m not much of a talker (I work from home, I have a Skype subscription), but I do have an HTC Desire, which eats data for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Data is much more important to me.

I replied on Twitter, asking “So I would have to pay £25 to get AYCE data on monthly, or £15 on PAYG? Strange! (when comparing like for like at £15)” – their response was “You can’t tether on PAYG though.”

So there you have it – if you don’t mind not using your phone as a modem/mobile hotspot, and you don’t talk a great deal on the phone, then it really is a better deal to move to PAYG. Which I can’t help but find a little odd. As someone who has had several contracts with them, and pays monthly by Direct Debit, you kind of hope that they would look after existing customers. It looks like I’ll have headed from a contract, to rolling monthly SIM only (they couldn’t give me a better upgrade deal than one they give to new customers), to PAYG, and I’ll actually be better off for my usage patterns. Which is, again, odd.

So I think that this rather rambling blog post is a bit of a complaint really, in that 3 need to look after existing customers a lot better. They weren’t able to give me a good upgrade, and now their PAYG offering is better than what I pay for month by month. The next question is, will I stay with 3 when I look around for my next phone? They’d better try a lot harder to keep me.

Categories
Android Mobile

Bye bye Symbian, hello Android

HTC Desire

Last week I waved goodbye to my trusty Nokia E71. After watching the iPhone and Android communities evolve over the last 18 months, Symbian (the operating system that runs on the E71) has increasingly felt rather outdated.

I am now the proud owner of an HTC Desire running on Google’s Android platform.

People who know me may be a little surprised, given my general enthusiasm for all things Apple, that I didn’t get an iPhone. One of the major deciding factors is the unavoidable practicality that I am stuck in the middle of a long contract with 3. I can’t justify the outlay on an iPhone as well as the £35/month contract that goes with it. I’ll get one someday, just not yet.

Putting all of that aside, I am an itinerant tinkerer. I like the freedom that goes with Android – you can tinker with the many options, set up homescreen widgets, and truly customise it. There are plenty of free apps out there to play with, and the Android App ecosystem seems pretty healthy, with the number of apps available in the Android Market steadily increasing (50,000 at the time of writing). Android is the underdog platform, and is something I’ve wanted to try out for a few years.

So what phone to choose? Initially, it was going to have to be the Google Nexus One. However, being based in the UK, it wasn’t available, and I didn’t want the hassle of trying to import one. Manufacturer HTC and Android review websites were making noises about a handset called the HTC Desire, which was mooted to be almost exactly the same as the Nexus One bar a secondary microphone and a different design (HTC make the Nexus One for Google anyway). This sounded ideal.

After a few weeks of reading reviews, and looking at sample video and photos taken by the device, my mind was made up. At the same time, my mobile operator, 3 UK, announced that they would be releasing the HTC Desire on their network. Due to huge interest in the handset they also announced that they would release the handset ahead of their own branding and customisation, so that the first batch of handsets sold by them would be unbranded, unlocked, and subsidised. Excellent! An unlocked unbranded handset means that I will get all of the necessary firmware / OS updates from HTC when they’re released. Branded handsets are sometimes never updated.

Thinking back to my post about Simply Drop, a way of recycling old mobile phones for cash, I totted up how much I could get for all my old mobiles, including the E71. Enough to pay for half the HTC Desire, and enough to convince me that this was a good idea.

After a little bit of fun trying to buy an HTC Desire from 3 (who didn’t seem to want to sell one on PAYG) I managed to get one at the end of last week.

So, two days in to using Android on the HTC Desire, what do I think? So far, it’s amazing. The HTC Sense interface which adds some extra functionality to the standard Android user interface (UI) is very slick and easy to navigate. The dark interface is cleanly designed and minimal, the capacitive touch screen is very sensitive, keyboard works well, and the 1Ghz SnapDragon processor means the whole experience is very quick with no detectable lag. I like it.

The social networking and Google integration is just wonderful. Gmail, contacts, calendar, Twitter, Flickr, all synchronise automatically. Without doing anything, I have the same information on my phone as I do on my Mac. It’s something I’ve quested to do on my old E71 since I got it, and never managed an eloquent solution. And now I have one.

Also – browsing the web is every bit as good as on an iPhone (I have an iPod Touch, so know it well). The inclusion of Flash in the browser is nice, but it’s not something I’m too bothered about really (favouring standards and HTML5).

The downsides so far are the battery life and screen visibility. This, like an iPhone, is a charge every day device. I understand that the battery gets a bit better after a few days, but I will be keeping a closer eye on battery levels after being used to the E71’s 3 day capacity. Screen visibility is poor in direct sunlight. It’s nowhere near as good as the E71. The AMOLED screen brightness needs to be set to full to see it in bright conditions. I recommend setting the brightness to auto rather than manual control, otherwise there are times when you can’t even see the brightness control to turn it up to full when you need it.

But otherwise, all good so far.

Expect a full review of the HTC Desire in the coming weeks.

Categories
Mobile

3’s Internet Max add-on and the brick wall

I’m 12 months into an 18 month contract with mobile operator 3 here in the UK, and until now, I’ve been very happy with the service that they have provided.

But there’s been a bit of a hiccup. Yesterday evening, I received a text message stating that I had reached my “allowance under the 3 Fair Use Policy” which for the Internet Max addon, is 1GB/month. 

3 reach fair use allowance

Since this arrived on the 20th November (and my billing cycle is the 14th), this means I’ve used 1GB in just 6 days on my phone. I don’t use it that much! So I checked the log on my E71:

E71 data use

So I used 84MB, in the last 30 days, according to my phone. This is a long way from 1GB. It appears then, that 3 have made a mistake. Or my data logger doesn’t work properly.

So today, I called 3 Customer Services via my handset. I spoke to a representative called Sarah, who explained to me that I had reached my allowance, and that I could not use the internet on my handset until 14th December. That’s a long way off! I explained, carefully and calmly, that the data logger on my phone showed that I had use a lot less, and that in fact, I hadn’t used data on the phone much since the last billing cycle. This got me nowhere. She confirmed my details, and checked to see what phone I was using on their system. They seemed to think I was still using my Skypephone, despite me updating my account via My3 to reflect that I now use a Nokia E71 back in September. She then put me on hold to confirm that the E71 did in fact have the capability to log data usage.

I explained roughly how much I had used, according to the phone, and the fact that these figures were for the last 30 days. She asked my how many “MB” were in a “GB” and I explained – 1024MB = 1GB. Less than 90MB was a long way from 1GB.

This also, got me nowhere. I requested that she check my exact data usage, and was told that they have no way of checking exact usage when using the Internet Max add-on. It was all automated, and if I got a text saying that I had reached my allowance, then it must be so. 

She offered to remove the Internet Max addon, and I could continue to access the internet on my phone by paying £2/MB. I carefully explained that this was not acceptable as it was very expensive, hence me paying for the add-on. Quite resilient to any form of complaint, I was essentially told I would have to wait until my bill arrived, mid-December, to find out the exact use, and there was nothing more that they can do.

I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to as I did not find it acceptable to be cut off from the Internet, when as far as I am concerned, 3 have made a mistake. I, the customer, should not be penalised for a mistake made by the company providing a service that I pay for. Of course, it was like talking to a brick wall, and all very frustrating.

Let’s hope I can find another way to get in touch with someone at 3 and resolve it – the 14th of December is a long way away!

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Nokia E71 Review: Part One

Last week I treated myself to a new Nokia E71 on the 3 network here in the UK. After suffering the crapness that is the text entry system on the 3 Skypephone, I was after something that would run Skype, but have an excellent web browser and keyboard.

I looked at many phones, but settled on an E71 for these reasons:

  • Excellent battery life
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Decent Skype client (provided by 3)
  • 3MP autofocus camera
  • GPS
  • Symbian OS (smartphone goodness without Windows Mobile or Apple walled garden)

I won’t list all of the phones that I looked at, but suffice to say I looked at most of the advanced phones available today. I did settle on an N95, but the battery life would definitely have been an issue for me, being an itinerant fiddler when it comes to gadgets. If it has features, then I will use them. And I want to be able to use those features whenever I want, not think about what I can or can’t use because I want to make a call later. I talked to too many N95 users who too often looked depressed when I asked about battery life.

Anyway, I digress.

I will start my review with a summary, to save all but the ardent reader having to read any further. The phone is all that I hoped for given my budget. Visually, I think the E71 is a great looking device. I plumped for the white version, and with its steel chrome surround, and white LEDs, it’s very shiny. It feels solid in the hand, and there’s no creaking plastic to be found. It ticks all of the build-quality boxes that I had in the back of my mind.

Given that the phone has everything bar a coffee machine inside it, the battery life is phenomenal. As I write this, I have two bars of battery life left. Over the last three (yes, three) days since its last charge I have used just about every function for just about every purpose I could think of. And there’s still charge left. I have:

  • Taken 60 photos
  • Recorded 10 minutes of video
  • Browsed the web for about 4 hours using a mixture of 3G and Wifi
  • Twittered a lot
  • Sent some SMS messages
  • Made some calls (maybe 30 mins)
  • Used the GPS for about an hour
  • Used the streaming internet radio for about 30 minutes
  • Listened to mp3s while surfing the web (maybe about 2 hours)
  • Installed and played with 14 applications (I’ll list them in another post)
  • Played about with Qik (10 minutes)
  • Run Skype in the background for maybe 4 hours

Now, to me, that I have any charge left at all is somewhat amazing (actually, it’s just gone down to one bar as I write this). I’m fairly sure that it’ll last until I get home in a couple of hours to give it a charge. Now that’s what I call battery stamina.

I finally have a phone (well, it’s a mini computer really) that does the things what I want it to do, and has the battery life to let me do them.

I’ll be writing a series of posts about different aspects of the phone in the next few days, so stay tuned.

[Update – I took a couple of 3-4 minute calls on the way home, took a photo, and received a text on the 45 minute walk home. In the last call, the phone began to warn me about a low battery. When I got home I plugged it in to charge, and went to see if it was charged at about 8.30pm (Monday). I’d forgotten to switch on the charger! But the phone was still on, and had received a text! The thing seems to last forever. For reference, it had its last charge on Friday night.]