05 November 2009


Don't try to get an iPhone the first day

Today was the first day that my mobile carrier, Telus Mobility (once BC Tel, the former British Columbia telephone monopoly), offered Apple's iPhone for sale. I've been a Telus mobile customer since 1998, and have generally had a good experience with customer service, wireless coverage, and phone performance—quite in contrast with how I felt when I quit using Telus broadband Internet four years ago.

I've decided to get an iPhone. I've had a first-generation iPod Touch (kindly given to me by my employer Navarik) for two years now, and my wife has been using an iPhone 3GS on the rival Rogers network since earlier this year. The combination of my iPod Touch and LG Shine 8700 flip phone has worked just fine for me, but I've also seen what those two lack and the current iPhones offer—the camera, GPS, always-accessible email and web surfing, better speed, and so on.

However, today, the first day, was not the one for me to try upgrading. With a little over a year left on my current phone contract, the basic policy is that I'd have to spend several hundred dollars more than the fully-subsidized $200 price for a new iPhone 3GS, and I'm not interested in that. But because I've been with them so long, Telus has offered me deals in the past—if I talk to their phone reps first.

Yet while there seemed to be plenty of iPhones on hand, the Telus retail computer system for its storefront franchisees was up and down all day, the phone customer service was overwhelmed, and I was unable, despite a couple of long waits on hold and a dropped call, to find out whether I would be able to get buy one cheaply. By the time I tried phoning a second time after that dropped connection, Telus wasn't even accepting new calls (!).

I had to step back and stop fuming that this was yet another occasion when a wireless carrier turned an exciting prospect into a frustrating runaround—you know, "I want to give the company more money, but it doesn't seem to want to take it." Yes, Telus should probably have been better prepared to handle the obviously substantial demand for this crazy phone. But the people I talked to were all unfailingly friendly and as helpful as they could be. They were simply let down by a technical sales infrastructure that didn't work for any of us.

Patience is still worthwhile. I'll wait a few days and try again. Telus hasn't quite blown it for me this time. Not yet.

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06 October 2009


Telus and Bell go iPhone in Canada

Things have been all a-twitter about Canadian mobile carriers Bell and Telus (my cell phone provider) starting to sell Apple's iPhone, supposedly next month. My wife Air told me the scoop yesterday, and I was surprised, and skeptical.

But it sounds like it's really happening. This is a bigger deal than it seems if you don't follow the mobile phone industry, for two reasons:

  1. In most markets, Apple has an exclusive arrangement with a single carrier to sell the iPhone. Until now in Canada, that has been with Rogers Wireless and its subsidiary Fido, and in the U.S. it remains AT&T Wireless. Having competing carriers all with the iPhone is unusual.
  2. The iPhone uses the most common mobile phone radio standard in the world, known as GSM. However, until now both Bell and Telus have used a competing and incompatible standard, CDMA, also used by Verizon and Sprint in the U.S.A.

In North America, many mobile phones (such as BlackBerry devices) come in both CDMA and GSM versions for different carriers, but the iPhone has been GSM-only since its introduction in 2007. It turns out that Bell and Telus have been installing some GSM technology on their cellular towers for at least a year, and planning to have it ready for many customers in 2010.

But now it looks like they'll be early, and the iPhone may be their first big rollout of 3G (third-generation) GSM wireless. And although it will be awhile, my old CDMA phone is likely on the way to becoming obsolete. Qualcomm, which owns the CDMA patents and licenses them to carriers and device makers, had better be looking for some new way to make money.

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17 December 2007


Shiny shiny

LG Shine closedShe could have waited until Christmas, but instead my wife made an early gift of it and had me pick myself a new mobile phone today. It's an LG VX8700, also known as the "Shine." Unlike my previous handset (the ancient LG 3200), it has a camera, memory expansion, outer lid screen, and Bluetooth, and it's metal.

I know Roland "CDMA s*cks" Tanglao wouldn't agree with my choice of a non-smart CDMA phone instead of a cool Nokia-Symbian GSM device. But, quite differently than in other areas of my life, I'm not a phone geek. I have no interest in getting an iPhone, for instance. I probably wouldn't even have noticed that my old phone contract had expired if my wife hadn't pointed it out to me. I just want a phone that works, is reasonably rugged, makes and receives calls, gets decent reception, and can take a photo from time to time:

First LG Shine photo

I've also stayed with Telus as my carrier for this phone, because unlike other parts of the company, their Mobility division actually seems to care about keeping loyal customers (I've been with them since 1998), and gave me a better deal on both the phone and my plan than new customers can get, plus threw in a free car charger.

Telus does cripple some of the Bluetooth functionality and other features of the phone, but I'll live with that for now. I don't want to use it as a modem, or for email or web browsing, especially at the usurious rates Canadian carriers charge for mobile data access. I've figured out how to get files to and from my MacBook via Bluetooth. I think the ringtone-purchase market is insane, but luckily there are several built-in ring options that sound like an actual telephone, so I'll use one of those.

The biggest annoyance? No way to transfer all my phone contacts over without re-entering them. Sigh. But the Shine still fits in the pocket of my carry bag (okay, okay, "man purse," as my wife calls it), which is a key consideration. Off we go.

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