Posts Tagged ‘phone’

Boring but Economical Prepaid Phone Topup

November 29, 2009
Electronic Phone Topup

Electronic Phone Top-up - 1-2-Call

I wrote before here about how prevalent prepaid calling plans are for mobile phones in Thailand. Here’s an example of a top-up for 100 Baht generated on-the-spot at a 7-11 store. It’s only for phones provided by 1-2-Call.

This replaces the attractive printed top-up cards that have a number on a scratch-off portion on the back.

It must save 1-2-Call and its vendors a lot in distribution and security costs. Top-up cards are like cash.

I guess the only drawbacks are

  • If any part of the federated computer system between the store and 1-2-Call fails they cannot sell top-ups. I have never seen any problems but I bet they happen, especially in country areas.
  • There are not any advertising or promotional opportunities with these tickets printed on a thermal printer in the store. With Happy I have seen all sorts of cross-promotions on their printed cards.
  • As with stamps, some people like to collect unused top-up cards and keep them in albums, trade them and so on. That’s great revenue for the telco. Nobody will collect cash register tapes will they?

 

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Gadget Makers Can Find Thief, but Don’t Ask – NYTimes.com

September 8, 2009

Anger at Makers When Gadgets Go Missing – NYTimes.com.

Kindle 2 Stolen

I was surprised to read this. I assumed that if somebody stole my phone, or the Kindle I don’t have, the phone company or Amazon would “brick it” (to use the latest vernacular: brick (v) – to turn a piece of expensive electronics into something as useful as a house brick).

But as Oscar Wilde is reported to have said said “assume is to make an ass out of you and me”.

I guess that Amazon and the phone companies in the US don’t want the hassle – and the recriminations if they brick a device because of an illegitimate request.

See the hassle Flickr got itself into when trying to comply with a DMCA takedown request. This issue is interesting because it seems to show how hasty Flickr can be in responding to complaints. Where have I seen this before? Here.

In other countries it is routine for carriers to brick a stolen phone if the original owner can provide the unique id of the phone (its IMEI).

Cynics will say that Amazon will resist bricking a stolen Kindle as it can continue to sell content for it. I don’t know if they are that cynical, it is more likely they don’t want to open a new can of worms. Business is so complex and legal issues so abundant I can understand their reluctance.

But in this case it seems like the right thing to do, given that they verify the applicant’s identity as the owner of the device and not a pissed off boyfriend.

I don’t know what Thai phone companies will do if you report your phone stolen. I should find out.

Nokia N95 Experience

August 28, 2009

Yesterday I got to play with a Nokia N95 8GB phone. I could have bought it second-hand for a reasonable price, but it completely flummoxed me.

Yes, as a basic phone it was easy to make and receive calls and the call quality was good. But I can get a phone for 800B that has those qualities. This was 8,000B less a 1,000B for my old phone (I’m surprised it had any value, but apparently Nokia has such a good reputation in Thailand that even old simple phones have value).

I used the SIM card from my very basic Happy prepaid service. It worked for basic service but I wasn’t surprised that it would not do anything advanced like connect to the Internet. I think I can upgrade my account with Happy and keepthe same number.

It didn’t have an English user guide but I was able to download manuals in English from Nokia UK. The main user guide was 160 pages, and it didn’t seem to quite match the Thai-market phone I had. I probably could have found the a better one if I had searched hard enough. Kudos to Nokia for making their documentation easily available.

At least I was able to make the user interface work in English. It seemed to support over 20 languages – that’s a feat of localization in and of itself.

The phone came out in 2007 so it isn’t the most up to date, but it is light years ahead of my old model. I see Nokia is selling the N96 now so it is only one model behind.

But I found simple things hard to do. I tried to enter a phone number and name into the phone book. But the text entry method has changed from the old T3 that I understand.T3 is primitive but I am so used to it. I know that if I type the keystokes for “soon” it will always guess “room” and I know how to get it to try another word.

The N95 had “smart text entry” – again for many languages – but I could not see how to change its first guess – “AMMO” into a Thai nickname “Boom”. That sort of things should be obvious without delving into the manual shouldn’t it? I left that knowing I would work it out sometime.

I worked out how to take a still photo with the builtin camera. It has a Carl Zeiss lens and it can take movies as well. But the result was terrible! I took a well lit picture out of my apartment window and it was tiny and muddy.

Picture from Nokia N95

Picture from Nokia N95

I’m sure the camera had lots of settings and maybe it was set up incorrectly, but my initial experience was “ugh!”.

My old phone had what I think was called a “POP Port” that enabled me to connect it to my PC. It used a special Nokia data cable with  a proprietary connector on end and a USB plug on the other. I purchased one for US$50 from a Nokia store in America. But the cable failed soon after I came to Thailand so I could never get a good connection. That made me very angry after I paid a ridiculous sum for the genuine article.

The N95 didn’t have the POP port but it had a mini-USB socket. The charger uses it too. The phone did not have a USB cable but to my surprise the cable from my Seagate backup drive fitted. I worried that it wasn’t the official cable and maybe it didn’t have the same pin-outs but it was worth a try.

Before the cable failed I used Nokia PC Suite with my old phone. I was able to backup my phone book and messages. I was also able to download a few pictures so a friend’s picture showed when they called. I rememebr PC Suite being difficult to use – I always thought that, like Canon, hardware makers should stick to what they are good at and leave the software to professionals.

PC Suite version 7.1 is  still available from Nokia, free! Their marketing says:

Nokia PC Suite is a free PC software product that allows you to connect your Nokia device to a PC and access mobile content as if the device and the PC were one.

But … Nokia is also making what looks like a successor to PC Suite – OVI Suite. It’s compatible with the N95 8GB so I thought I’d try it.

To cut a long story short …

The download was only 12.7MB, but when I went to install it the first thing it said was it needed a .NET update from Microsoft. That was another install and a reboot of my PC. When I returned to the OVI installer it turned out that the 12.7MB download wasn’t the OVI Suite but only the Installer for the OVI Suite! It gave me a menu of a dozen or so components. I chose them all and went for dinner.

Good for Nokia – it downloaded and installed everything silently. But of course it needed another reboot.

Both my laptop and the N95 support Bluetooth so I thought I had a choice to connect the phone. I followed the instructions precisely (remembering the trouble I had with the old phone and PC Suite). But I could get neither the USB Connection nor the Bluetooth connection to work.

For USB my PC recognized the N95 as two disk drives. That’s how i was able to retrieve the photo above. But the OVI Suite software would not link to the phone. Maybe it was punishing me because I didn’t use the Nolia cable. But if Windows could see it as a disk something must have been right.

For Bluetooth the two devices were aware of each other. I could see Natong, my PC from the N95 and see the N95 from the laptop. When I tried to connect them the OVI Suite wanted me to type “123” on the phone as a security measure – so it could be sure i was connecting to a device I had control over.

The N95 prompted me for the password but after I typed it the OVI Suite said “could not authenticate device”. That’s when I decided this is all too much trouble.

I am sure that with perseverence and maybe an expert’s help I could get everything working. For example there is a Nokia Software Updater to update the phone. But without connectivity by cable or Bluetooth of course it would not work. I knew I had barely touched the phone’s features but with several hours work I could only take and transfer a very bad picture.

Years ago I would have stayed up all night making it work and then been an expert for friends and family. But I had a Mister Fredrickson moment and decided to return the phone.

If I’d had one “Wow!” experience I would have persisted. But everything I tried was disappointing or indicated I needed to do a lot more work. Clearly it’s me or my PC, or the phone, or the cable, or the wireless connection or …

Nokia’s a great company and people love their products but when you combine a complex phone with a Compaq PC (Bluetooth chip by Broadcomm), software by Microsoft, cell service by True Move  and so on the possibilties for problems are huge.

Would an iPhone or Blackberry be easier?

The Perils of Prepaid – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com

August 15, 2009

MetroPCS Discovers the Perils of Prepaid – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com.

Telephony’s a hard business in the USA. In the heady dot-com days I worked for one of the VoIP pioneers – Pagoo. Sadly they didn’t survive as a telephony player.

In Thailand the prepaid market is huge and very simple with only a few national competitors.

Happy Phone Card

Happy Phone Card

I use “Happy”‘s prepaid service with the Nokia phone I bought from the USA. It was originally tied to AT&T Cellular but I bought an unlock code. Now I can use it anywhere. I spend 300 Baht or less per month. That’s less than ten US Dollars. I can buy a topup card anywhere.

I am on a very simple plan: 10 baht for the first minute, 2 baht for subsequent minutes all over Thailand, 24 x 7. Incoming calls and SMS messages are free. I only use voice and SMS.

Credit lasts about six months.

Happy is always sending me SMS messages (in Thai) offering value-added services like sports scores, horoscopes and ring tones. They also make robo-calls to my phone once every couple of weeks but I ignore them. At least they don’t call in the evenings or at weekends.

If I ignore the call (the called is something like *333) they retry a couple of times then give up.

Happy still sell these attractive scratch-off phone cards. 1-2-Call, a competitor, has moved to a EPOS system. Convenience stores like 7-11 and Family Mart generate a cash-register receipt with the code when you want to top-up. It isn’t so attractive as a card but it must save a lot in distribution costs.