Smartphones, “dumb” phones, dumber phone companies

It was the call my ageing Windows “dumb” smartphone made to the police – by itself – that finally convinced me I had to get a new phone.

Despite me locking the keyboard, my phone had taken to making random calls from inside my pocket. In the main these were to the somewhat-bemused people who I had recently rung or who had just rung me. Then the calls became more random, depending no doubt on whatever combination of shortcut keys were pressed at random after the phone somehow managed to unlock itself. Finally it was the police who were summoned; when the call was made then promptly terminated by the phone they turned up at my house while I was away to check on my health, which not surprisingly caused general consternation.

So it was off to the  (Australian carrier) Telstra shop for a new phone. My Windows phone was with Telstra; we were already committed to a Telstra home bundle to which I wanted to add my new phone, thereby gaining a discount. Telstra at the time also had a good deal on data packs, which meant I could get 3GB of data for less than $20 a month. I had already decided on a 32GB iPhone 4 – at the time I felt that it was significantly better then the Android phones then on offer (just two months later they are more evenly matched). What could be simpler than setting this up?

Actually quite a lot, as I discovered on one of the more bizarre days I have experienced. To cut a very long story short, my old phone was linked to Telstra’s old billing system while our home bundle was in the new system – and there was no way to link them, or even to transfer my mobile number to the new account. Furthermore, the discounted data packs were available only through numbers linked to the new system.

The only option was to port my number out of Telstra to another carrier, wait an hour or so then port it back in, whereupon it would be welcomed with open arms in the new billing system – or so the theory went. In practice it took over four hours as I wore a path across the shopping mall, backwards and forwards between the Telstra and Vodaphone stores. At one stage my (old) phone was in some sort of telecom Limbo – announcing itself to be a Vodaphone while its billing system was still in Telstra land. Eventually, after I had walked between the two shops transferring various incantations involving account numbers and numerous bits of phone shop-speak, I was duly signed up back at Telstra with my shiny new iPhone.

I should say that despite my dismay regarding this whole process, the staff at both phone stores were very helpful – especially those at the Vodaphone shop, who netted only $2 from the whole transaction.

A few observations about the process and my new phone:

  1. Telstra really, really needs to get its act together regarding the whole account transfer business. I will never get those four hours back.
  2. Things have really progressed in two years; my new iPhone runs rings around the old Windows Palm Treo.
  3. One obvious improvement is the iPhone’s greatly superior interface – not quite as intuitive as some claim, but relatively easy to grasp once you have a few basic rules explained.
  4. Still, I miss being able to write emails with a stylus as I once did on the Palm – although I have to concede that the voice dialling and control on the iPhone are pretty good.

What’s this got to do with Web 2.0 and social media? I’ll talk about that in my next post.

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