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”.

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.