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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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 Friday, 21 January 2005
Friday, 21 January 2005 22:23:32 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

I have a Motorola V600 cell phone. It is a Java-based phone. You’d think I’d have a Windows-powered phone, but there wasn’t one in the agreement with our cell provider at work, so there you go – no Windows.


That’s OK, I know people with Windows phones and they lock up from time to time. Of course I figured (from all the noise in Java-land) that my V600 would work great. Ha!


My phone locked up within a week. The only way to get it working again was to remove the battery. Seriously – nothing else worked. And I’m not alone, as other people I know with the V600 have had the same problem.


In fact, it locked up every couple weeks. Then once a week. Then twice a week. Then I called support. I mean really!


Now I played with it a bit. Since it was locking up so regularly I had ample time to experiment. I believe it is a software flaw. It didn’t “really” lock up. If you pressed a key and waited 30-50 minutes it would eventually respond. I think some bit of code went into a loop and stole all the phone’s CPU power. So Java isn’t perfect after all. Go figure.


Anyway, I called support. They sent out a replacement phone, warning me that it might be refurbished, but would be under the same warranty. The new phone arrived a few days later.


It was broke. I mean broke. The V600 is a flip phone, and this “new” one didn’t have its top fitting tightly to its bottom. They wiggled freely, and as they wiggled the display didn’t work right. Also several buttons were “crusty” and hard to press. Luckily I hadn’t returned my original locking-up phone, which worked better than this replacement…


I called support. They suggested I continue to return my original phone and keep the broken replacement until they could send me another replacement. I suggested that they needed to get me a plan that involved me actually having a working phone during the 10 days it would take to get me another. Finally they allowed me to return the broken replacement and limp along with my original – which worked great when it wasn’t locked up.


Time passes, and another replacement shows up. In the meantime the warehouse calls wondering where my original phone was. They expected me to return it and hadn’t got it. I explained the situation – hopefully they were able to get a clue, but given my experience thus far I am not holding my breath.


The second replacement had no wiggling parts and the buttons worked. It seemed pretty decent. So I returned my original. Bad move!


The second replacement has two problems. First, the Bluetooth isn’t enabled, so I can’t use my accessories. But more importantly, this one is also refurbished and has a physical problem. The contacts in the bottom of the phone where you connect things like a USB cable to the computer or the power to recharge the battery are so worn that the connections aren’t reliable.


After minutes of messing around I was able to find the one position where I could get the battery to recharge. But to get the cable to connect to the computer requires manually holding the wire in just the perfect position – one that is tiring after a very short amount of time.


Another call to support (well, actually 5 calls over 3 hours) and I finally convince them to send me yet another replacement.


Now obviously what’s happening here is that I’m just getting someone else’s problem each time. I have a few more days to wait before I find out what the next problem will be. And I pity the person who gets my original phone, as they’ll inherit my lock-up problem.


It is pretty clear that Motorola (or whoever handles these “refurbished” phones) is just accepting phones returned on warranty and is sending them out to other poor suckers like me.


Take that first replacement. It was physically damaged. Just touching the phone a bit was enough to realize that it was broken. Their QA process (assuming there is one) missed something that obvious. And their “refurbishing” process obviously doesn’t exist at all, because they did nothing to “refurbish” the phone or they’d have realized that the display was bad.


Then take this second replacement. I’d almost bet money that it was returned under warranty because the original user was unable to reliably charge the battery – or connect the phone to their computer or car. Yet the “refurbishing” process didn’t catch or fix the fact that the contacts are so worn that they don’t make connection.


And they’ll never catch the lock-up problem in my original phone. It only locked up every few days. Since they don’t even catch broken displays or worn contacts it is a virtual certainty that they won’t run the phone for long enough to detect the lock-up. They’ll just send my original phone (which looks brand new and is physically in perfect shape) out to some poor sucker. A few days later it will lock up on him or her and they’ll call support.

Comments [4] | | # 
Monday, 24 January 2005 08:40:37 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I’d say that there are two solutions to your problem. The first solution is to buy a really cheap phone that you can use in an emergency. The phone’s only purpose is to make calls. Of course, for that scheme to work you need to be able to switch to that phone on your own which is something that you cannot do with all types of services. Which brings me to my second point; I would ensure that I had a service that allowed me to purchase my own phone and to swap to a new phone without having to involve the service provider. This is where GSM is nice. GSM phones use a small SIM chip. Once you have GSM service, you can buy any GSM phone you want and switch the SIM chip to that phone in a pinch.

Relating to that story, about a year ago I decided to switch to T-Mobile from AT&T and specifically from TDMA to GSM. I did hours of research to find the phone I wanted. One of the things I discovered is that the US is way, way behind when it comes to top end phones. Anyway, I decided that I wanted a Smartphone in the event that I decided to start writing some Smartphone apps with VS 2003 or VS 2005. Plus, I had heard that they had progressed enough that they provided a competitive set of features. Conveniently, the VSLive conference last year gave away to early-bird registrants, a reference Smartphone which was not supposed to work with a real SIM chip. That turned out not to be true. It was a fully functionally, first generation Smartphone and became my emergency phone. When I finally purchased the phone I wanted, I simply switched the SIM chip and I was ready.

As with everything, there are opportunity costs. Buying your own phone outside of a service plan is of course more expensive. If you buy one from overseas, the support is tougher to get, although I have never needed it. If support was an issue you could go with top end names like HP or (heh) Motorola. Lastly, you of course do not have to go with Windows technology. Windows based phones are still a minority in the cell world.
Monday, 24 January 2005 08:56:45 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Yeah, the phone I really want is not available in the US, nor from T-Mobile... But if I keep messing around with these guys long enough perhaps that phone will become available and I can get it :-)
Monday, 24 January 2005 09:43:07 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Sounds like I should avoid Motorola if at all possible.

I will say this in defense of the QA people. Basde on my own QA expirence, I'd guess the guys doing the actual work knew the problems with each of those phones and would have rather not sent them out, but that the directives from above require the phones to be sent back out as long as they aren't actually broken into many pieces, killing the user, or otherwise 'seriously' malfunctioning.
The Evil Cub
Thursday, 27 January 2005 14:26:22 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Same kinda' thing happened to me with a widescreen Viewsonic LCD monitor with built in TV tuner (n1700W I believe). The first one died after about 6 months, the replacement dead on arrival, the 3rd one worked for about a week. I then begged for them to send a brand new one, not one refurbished. They did, but it's TV tuner was dead. Fortunately, that was an external component and I hadn't returned the 3rd unit yet, so I was able to swap out the good TV tuner on the return with the bad "new" one, and I had a combination that worked ... and still does, but I'm not holding my breath.

In the end, same issue. The folks who recondition, don't really do much ... or are told by management not to.

And a good friend of mine had a real bad experience with a high-end Canon video camera.

So I've learned to stay away from these products. That's too bad, because the products themselves are usually pretty darned good. But bad customer support only means lost revenue ... every single time!

You'd think that they'd (the big firms) would have learned by now.

Roy Ogborn
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