Waiting For Donut

Google are naming versions of Android after cakes. My G1 is currently running version 1.5 – or Cupcake – and apparently version 1.6 – Donut[1] – is imminent. Every morning when I turn my phone on I’m hopeful it will tell me that an over the air update is available. Every day, so far, I’ve been disappointed.

Today I decided to ask T-Mobile customer support what they knew. I realise that this is clutching at straws as T-Mobile customer support never know anything but I thought I’d give it a try. I sent them an email and within minutes I got their standard auto-response saying that they would answer my query within seven days.

Then, this evening they called me. T-Mobile have this really annoying habit of phoning you in response to email queries. I thought I had made it clear to them that I didn’t like this, but tonight’s support agent was so keen that he decided to call me anyway. It seems that my account is marked ‘do not call’ as he noticed that halfway through our conversation and apologised. He told me that he had the answer to my query and I asked him to tell me.

Then he said that he couldn’t tell me until I had identified myself. I was astonished. I mean, it’s not as though I was asking for private details of my account. But he was adamant that I had to give him my password before he could give me the information he had for me. I gave him the password and it took him several seconds to confirm that it was correct. He then passed on the information.

Or rather, he didn’t. Or, at least, he didn’t pass on anything useful. The information that he couldn’t possibly give me until I had given him the password, was that he didn’t know when I could expect to get Donut. That information hadn’t been given to the customer service team. He recommended that I watched the web site for news.

This is the web site which advertises the G2 with a photo of the G1. I have no confidence at all in that site. I strongly suspect that it won’t be updated until a couple of weeks after I’m happily running Donut.

I have lower and lower expectations every time I have contact with T-Mobile customer support. But on this occasion they have managed to sail easily under the low expectations I had. Asking a customer for a password in order to tell him that you don’t have the information he has asked for is just ludicrous.

Is there anyone from T-Mobile reading? When can I expect my Donut update?

Update: On Twitter, @fcw suggested trying a manual check-in – by dialling *#*#checkin#*#*. I got a few errors when I tried that this morning (Javascript socket exceptions), but eventually it worked. Well, it worked to the extent that I saw a “check-in successful” message. I still don’t have Donut though.

[1] The American mis-spelling of “doughnut”.

Headphones on the G1

[This is here as a public service to other frustrated G1 owners]

In December, when I wrote about my first impressions of the G1, one of my biggest complaints was that it had a completely non-standard socket for headphones. It came with a set of headphones which fitted the socket, but they were some of the worst and most uncomfortable headphones that I had ever tried. I lasted less than an hour using them.

But soon after I got my G1, I started to hear from other people who had got a different headphone adapter in the box. Instead of a pair of headphones with the dodgy “not quite USB” plug on them, they got a pair of headphones with a standard 3.5mm plug togther with an adapter to convert from 3.5mm to the dodgy “not quite USB” socket. This is clearly a better package as it allows you to use any headphones with the G1.

I emailed T-Mobile customer support to see if they could sent me the nice adapter. They said that I could get one from a T-Mobile shop. I went into three or four shops. None of them knew what I was talking about. In one of them the manager unboxed three G1s to see what was in the box. In all three cases it was the crappy old connection that I already had.

I emailed T-Mobile customer support again explaining what had happened and asking why they had sent me on a wild goose chase. They apologised and promised to look into it.

At this point, I should point out that T-Mobile customer support really aren’t very good. You’ve got a good chance of getting someone in a call centre in India who really hasn’t got much of a clue about what you’re talking about. They have an intensely irritating habit of repeating a paraphrased version of your query back to you in the mistaken believe (I assume) that this will somehow be useful to you. They are also told to reply to all requests with a phone call. Even ones that they receive by email. Even ones, I’ve discovered, that start with “PLEASE REPLY BY EMAIL – DO NOT PHONE ME”. I like to deal with customer support by email so that I have a permanent record of what I have been told.

Sorry about that diversion. I found it theraputic. Where was I? Oh yes. They promised to look into it. Then they promptly forgot about it. Three months later I wrote to them again, explaining that when someone tells me that they are looking into something, then I expect to get a follow-up at some point.

They replied, apologised and said that they would look into it and get back to me. Which, to their credit, they did. A couple of days later I got a mail saying that they couldn’t change the offer they had made me. This was strange as they hadn’t actually made me an offer. They went on to say that if I bought myself the adaptor that I wanted, they would refund the cost.

Before they could change their mind, I went onto the HTC web site and bought one of these. I forwarded the order confirmation to T-Mobile and they phoned me (grr!) to tell me that they had credited the amount to my account.

So there’s the happy ending to the story. After about six months of trying, many visits to T-Mobile shops and many frustrating email conversations with T-Mobile customer support I got what I wanted. I can now listen to music on my G1 using my favourite headphones.

If you’re trying to get a decent headphone adapter out of them, feel free to point them at this blog entry. If they do it for one person, they should really do it for everyone who asks. If by writing this I can make someone’s interaction with T-Mobile less painful then that would make me very happy.

Let me know how you get on.

Update: I should mention that there’s another option. The G1 supports stereo bluetooth headphones – so just buy something like this and there’s no need to plug anything in.

Google Phone – First Impressions

I’ve now had my G1 for almost a week, so it’s time to share some first impressions.

The executive summary is that I’m really rather happy with the phone. There’s one small niggle problem and one huge “what the bloody hell were they thinking” issue.

Good things first. The phone works well and does pretty much everything I wanted it to do. The standard applications that come with the phone all do what you want. The browser is of particularly high quality. Usually when I get a new phone, I replace the built-in browser with Opera Mini as soon as I can. But there’s no need at all for that here.

The screen is big (ok, not as big as an iPhone, but bigger than the screen on any other phone I’ve owned) and really sharp. I haven’t had any problems at all reading the display. And the touch screen is really responsive. The phone is a nice size and weight and fits nicely in my pocket. I don’t know how resistant it will be to scratches, but it comes with a protective sleeve which will counter that.

Once I was bored of the built-in applications I started looking for others to download from the Android Marketplace. There are many applications to choose from in many different areas. Two that I particularly like make good use of the location and direction sensing built in to the phone. One is a compass and the other is a star map which shows you a map of the sky in the direction that the phone is facing. I’ve also enjoyed using the GPS application which uploads your data to the InstaMapper web site allowing you to review (and mash-up) your data without the hassle of transfering it off the GPS device.

Two applications seem to be a rich seam for developers to mine and there are plenty of overlapping applications available. The first is weather forecasting. These applications use your location to give you local weather forecasts. The other is barcode scanning. These applications use the phone’s camera to scan a barcode and then search the internet to find alternative suppliers for the product in question. I can see this being ver useful of shopping trips. With both of these applications there are a number of different (but very similar) programs to choose from. And I can’t really see a good way to differentiate between them.

I mentioned a couple of problems with the phone. Let’s mention the smaller one first. The only input/output port on the phone is a USB port. Except it’s not a standard USB port – it is asymmetrical. Standard mini-USB plugs do fit in it, but I’m not sure that they’re supposed to. This port is used to charge the phone, but the problem is that it doubles as the output for the headphones. This means that you can’t use any headphones that you want. You have to use the ones that came with the phone. I haven’r tried them yet, but they aren’t the small ear-buds that I’ve become used to in the last couple of years. I hope that someone will soon produce some kind of adapter that allows me to use any headphones that I want.

Then there’s the big issue. This has been mentioned in every review of the phone that I’ve read. It’s a big enough problem that I seriously thought about sending the phone back. I’m still not sure that I’ve done the right thing by keeping it.

It’s the battery life. It’s appalling. I estimate that if I’m using the phone’s features to any great extent then I’ll get three or four hours of use out of it. Currently I’m carrying round the USB charging cable so I can plug it into my computer at work if it starts flagging in the middle of the afternoon. Of course, I can get more life out of it if I turn things off. Turning off the GPS, Bluetooth and wireless all help considerably – but what’s the point of a smartphone if you have to turn off all of the smart features? For an average day at work in London this won’t be a problem as I’m never going to be more than a couple of hours away from somewhere to charge it. But things like the GPS tracking will be most useful when I’m out of London walking on the South Downs or something like that. It’ll be a bit of problem if I have to turn the GPS off to conserve battery life in that situation.

I don’t understand how the product came to market with such a major flaw. I honestly think that at some point in the next six months, T-Mobile will contact all of the owners of G1s and offer them an improved battery. Without that I think that the G1 has no chance of becoming a mass market success.

It’s a shame because it’s a great product. It’s only (massively) let down by one fundamentally flawed design decision.

Right Hand Meet Left Hand

My quest for a Nokia E71 has come to an end. It hasn’t been a success.

I’ve been trying to buy one for some weeks. I wanted to get one from O2 (my current phone company) as being an existing customer has some small advantages (even if it’s only a few free texts each month). So about five weeks ago I called them to find out when it would be available through them. I was told that I would be able to order one in about a week’s time.

I called back on the suggested date only to be told that the release had been put back by a week. This pattern repeated twice more over the next couple of weeks.

I called them a couple of weeks ago and was told that there was no firm date. I asked for a PAC code so that I could take my business elsewhere. You have to get a PAC code from their retentions department so that they can try to offer you all sorts of things to tempt you into staying. They offered to halve my monthly fees whilst I was waiting for the phone to be released. I agreed.

Yesterday I heard rumours that some people has received E71s from O2, so I emailed O2 customer services to find out if it was true. Someone called Jagat Dave replied telling me that the phone was available and that I could either upgrade on their web site or call the upgrade department. I looked at the web site and couldn’t find the phone there at all.

Today, I called the upgrade department. They were very surprised to hear that the phone was available as it wasn’t on any of their systems and therefore they couldn’t order it for me. Their systems didn’t even have any firm date for the release (but were sure that it was imminent).

I gave up and asked, once more, for my PAC code. This time I made it clear to the retentions department that I wasn’t interested in anything other than a date for the E71. They couldn’t give me that and therefore have arranged for the PAC code to be sent to me. I should get it with 48 hours (actually, it has just arrived whilst I’ve been typing this).

I went off to the T-Mobile site and ordered a G1. It should arrive tomorrow.

I can’t believe that they’ve made this so difficult. I understand that sometimes releases get put back at the last minute. But for it to have happened so many times is ridiculous. And then for the customer services department to be telling me things that obviously aren’t true… well it’s just incredible.

Mind you, I fully expect to be writing some kind of customer services rant about T-Mobile in the next few months. It seems to have become a bit of a lost art.