O2 customer service

I phoned up O2 Customer Services and asked them to remove my old phone insurance and to add new insurance for my iPhone. I then asked for some tangible confirmation that this had been done, so my email address was taken and I was assured I would receive email confirmation. However, I somehow knew they wouldn’t send an email, and I was right.

So now I have to wait until my next bill before I can confirm whether this has actually been done. If it turns out it hasn’t been done properly, and if my iPhone gets stolen before my next bill comes in, then I will have no insurance and no proof that I asked for insurance to be put on.

This sort of thing annoys me intensely. I am growing to hate O2’s customer service approach of being polite and friendly to the point of unnatural untimacy, but failing to actually address the issue that is being discussed. It must be at least a dozen times now that I have phoned up O2, been promised something by one of their helpful, friendly, chatty customer service operatives, then found that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL has been done.

More iPhone observations

I’m pleasantly surprised by how un-crap the iPhone earphones are. They’re not great, by any means, but they seem a lot better than I remember the old iPod earphones being.

The mail client on the iPhone seems a bit volatile, though, in terms of its mail checking. Generally it’s very efficient and lets me know straight away each time a new email comes in, but sometimes it seems to give up and stop checking for new emails until I manually force a check. I was also a bit unimpressed when I composed an email whilst I was on the Tube. When I pressed ‘Send’ it produced a worrying-sounding alert about how I could not send the email because there was no signal. Despite that, thankfully, it did put the email in an Outbox, but it then failed to automatically send it as soon as I was within range of a signal. It didn’t do anything until I went into the Inbox to force a ‘send and receive’ process, at which point the mail was finally sent. This process needs to be smoother and more informative.

Mobile phones, and iPhone review

My first phone was a Motorola StarTAC. I liked this because I’d previously had a pager, and this was similar in that you could slide it into a nice plastic holster on your belt when you weren’t using it. Also, using it felt very much like it must have felt to use the communicators in the original Star Trek. Unfortunately its user interface was awful; for example, if you wanted to send a text, you had to go into your address book, find the phone number of the person you wanted to text, memorise the number, go into the text messaging menu, start a new text message, then manually type in the phone number that you had just memorised. Appalling.

Then I moved onto a Nokia 8210. This was a lovely little phone. It was small, light, robust, simple and functional. Also, its sexy good looks caught the attention of a cute German girl, and things looked quite good there for a while until I made such a pig’s dinner of our first proper date that she immediately lost interest. Anyway, I seem to have digressed a bit.

I then decided I wanted a phone with a more exciting range of features and the ability to synchronise its address book and other data with my Macs, and so it was that I progressed into owning a succession of trusty Sony Ericsson mobiles. I had the T68i, then the K700i, then the K750i, then the K850i. These all worked well with Macs – I could use iSync via Bluetooth to keep address books and calendars in sync, and I could connect them via USB to transfer photos into iPhoto. The cameras on these phones were generally way ahead of the competition, and I’ve taken many lovely landscape photos with the K750i and the K850i. I think the K750i was probably the best all-round phone, with a great 2 megapixel camera, nice size and weight, excellent look and feel, and plenty of other goodness such as customisable ring and alert tones.

It’s therefore been quite a radical departure for me to move away from Sony Ericsson into the world of the iPhone. It wasn’t that I was particularly dissatisfied with Sony Ericsson phones, but I fancied a change, I wanted easy portable access to my email and the Web, and I wanted to see the possibilities that third party applications held for such a device. So, I’ve had my iPhone since Friday. What do I think of it?

The iPhone doesn’t seem to me so much a phone, but more of a very comprehensive portable appliance which also happens to have some phone functionality on it. Ergonomically it’s solid and satisfying. The multi-touch interface is absolutely wonderful and is the main reason why this device utterly wipes the floor with everything else available at the moment. I’m starting to get used to the keyboard but I think I’ve got some way to go yet. It works brilliantly with MobileMe, automatically synchronising my emails, contacts, calendars and bookmarks with my Macs without me having to do anything at all. The multimedia features – camera, photo library synced with iPhoto on my Mac, iPod and iTunes – are excellent. I love the way text messages are shown in the form of a conversation so I don’t have to go through my history to remember what it was I said 12 hours ago which Roger has only just replied to. There’s loads of other cool and genuinely useful stuff I could mention like Google Maps and GPS, but I want to move on to third party applications.

Of course, it’s the App Store that’s really taking the iPhone to a new level, and I’ve already been able to find good versions of the sorts of things I previously used Dashboard for – for example, the excellent TubeStatus application, which enables me to see the exact state of the Tube network at any time. I’ve got some of the currently-popular utilities for web sites such as eBay and Facebook which work well and make good use of the iPhone’s interface. The Last.fm app provides the fantastic ability to listen to Last.fm stations. I tried out MotoChaser to see how well games can make use of the touchscreen and accelerometer, and the results are certainly fun.

There’s already some great music-making software available. iDrum is a fully-featured and great-sounding drum machine with a brilliant interface. The suite of iTouchMidi applications enables you to control other musical devices via MIDI. I’ve also discovered Bloom, the new application co-written by Brian Eno, which enables anyone to make ambient music and visuals in a unique way, regardless of their level of musical knowledge.

The iPhone isn’t quite perfect. Here’s my little list of things I’d like to see sorted out:

  • I know I keep banging on about this, but why no MMS? Seriously, why? Come on Apple, sort this out for god’s sake. I really like MMS and am going to miss this.
  • The Calendar doesn’t seem to show my To Do Items. I could really do with having these available!
  • iPhoto groups photos by Events, but the iPhone doesn’t seem to do this, so when I go into my library I’m immediately plunged into a massive page containing my entire photo library. I want my photos grouped by Events on my phone too! It’s a bit hard to find stuff otherwise.
  • Video recording with the camera would be rather nice, if possible.
  • Safari seems a bit unstable and has crashed a few times, which surprises me as I’ve always found it to be solid and reliable on my Macs.
  • Battery life isn’t great, but that was to be expected. It’s going to take me a little while to get used to this after years of having phones which could go for days on end without needing to be charged up.

Anyway, despite these annoyances, the iPhone is a truly great piece of technology, and Apple deserve to take a lot of credit for producing something that really is quite a revolution.

Phone upgrade time

I’ve just received a letter from O2 telling me that upgrade time has come round again. I suppose it’s fairly inevitable that I’ll get an iPhone even though it would mean having a much crapper camera than the one on my current phone. I’m also still very put off by the lack of MMS functionality, but I guess I’ll have to hope that a solution to that problem becomes apparent after I get one.

I’m just too excited by the idea of having a great new bit of technology to play with, and I’m particularly keen to see what’s becoming available on it in the way of music applications. I think the musical possibilities for a device with a decent multi-touch screen and an accelerometer are many and intriguing.

At this stage, though, I haven’t ruled out other upgrade possibilities. Trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be anything else around currently that’s as cool and has so much fun potential.

New synth: Roland SH-09

Keeping an eye on good old Loot has turned out to be worthwhile. Last night, after trekking through some mildly terrifying parts of Walthamstow, I was able to buy a classic Roland SH-09 synthesizer which is actually more or less in the functional condition that its then-owner described in the advert. Even better, I got it for about a third of its current market value so I have the option of selling it on for a profit.

The Roland SH-09 is a deceptively basic monosynth from about 1980 which has the ability to produce some fantastic sounds. It was the precursor to the legendary SH-101, but many fans actually prefer the sound of the SH-09 to the SH-101, saying it is fatter and has the ability to produce deeper basses. I’ve certainly been having some fun with it. I used to own one of these many years ago, and I don’t think I originally appreciated just how good it sounds. I love its deliciously fat and evil PWM capability.

Microsoft advertising

It amuses me to see that Microsoft not only copy Apple for their most of their technology but that they’re now starting to do the same for their style of advertising. I suppose they were desperate for something vaguely coherent after the incomprehensible nonsense they produced featuring Jerry Seinfeld.

I don’t really understand the tagline ‘life without walls’, though. Don’t you need a wall in order to have a window? Or is that somehow the point?

Who knows (or cares).