03 November 2007

O2 and iPhone Fair Usage Policy

A conversation with an O2 store manager, fresh back from iPhone training:

Me: "So, what IS the fair usage policy for the 'unlimited data plan' going to be on the iPhone accounts?"
O2: "40Gigabytes"

Me: "Really, that actually seems quite high to me and not what I had read. I had even heard that it might be as low as 200MB. Are you sure?"
O2: "Oh, no, sorry, the 40GB is for our new home broadband package. But it's very high for the iPhone, definitely."

Me: "Er, so, what actually is it?"
O2: "Um, er..." rummaging around various papers, and the website (which said nothing other than "fair usage policy applies"). "...I'll call a guy who's sure to know".

O2 guy on phone with other O2 guy: "A customer here wants to know the iPhone fair usage policy amounts". pause and more pause. Quite clearly the guy who's sure to know doesn't actually know.

Slightly embarassed O2 guy to me: "He thinks it's either 70MB or 200MB. Either way, that's a huge amount of data on a phone."

Me: "Really, as low as 70MB? That doesn't seem to be too much for what is described as unlimited data".

O2: "For email, it's all text and there's not much else you'd get that is large".
Me: ??? (too gobsmacked to contradict him).

So, I leave non-the-wiser, except that I have confirmed that o2 retail is just as poor as I expected. The only thing the store manager (post training, remember) knew that I didn't is that the sales opening time is not 6pm, but 6.02pm. (geddit?). He was very proud of that. Oh, he also knew (or thought) they would have 60,000 on sale in the 400 odd o2 stores, and that they might get delivery that day (Friday) for the week ahead - (hope their security is tight).

Nevertheless after 10 years with Orange and Nokia, I have my PAC number and will be in line on Friday (mercifully at an Apple store), with no qualms whatsoever about switching. While I was impressed with the last Orange rep I spoke to, I have had a very poor year with them at every level with a completely defective handset (Nokia N80) that was essentially unusable for the things it promised, and poorer than any recent phone I've had in terms of basic interface and even for the job of making calls and sending texts. Despite my 3G plan, I have almost never used the web browser, and I would not countenance emailing with it. The Wi-Fi feature was so badly implemented as to be worse than not having it as it could not be disabled. I have a list of fundamental problems with the phone, some of which should have been addressed by firmware which never came. While the N95 successor may have fixed some of these shortcomings, I have generally heard negative things from most recent real users of these devices after a short time of actually using them. (An interface requiring 16 different button presses before you start typing the body of an sms is completely ludicrous.)

I do wish Orange (a lesser company than they were imho), or Vodafone, had won the rights, but I have known from the minute I saw the announcement that I would get one (did you imagine anything else?). Having briefly played with an unlocked one, that decision was vindicated.

While clearly a cost of around £900 over 18 months is a lot, it is not much different than the plan I had with Orange including the upgrade cost for the N80, which did not include wi-fi hot spot access and had severe caps on data and SMS. I know that I will use the features of this device, which I would not (and could not) on the N80. The equally expensive N95 would not have rectified most of the N80's shortcomings in my mind.

However, somebody please at O2, sort out what "unlimited data plan" and "fair usage policy applies" really means. And, the latest wording on the website "All usage must be for your private, personal and non-commercial purposes" does not inspire confidence in that regards. Nor does "(not) use your SIM Card or iPhone to allow the continuous streaming of any audio / video content, enable P2P or file sharing or use them in such a way that adversely impacts the service to other O2 customers". C'mon, are you serious? In reality, any usage of a shared service like a cell causes degradation to the others on that cell.

While I do not expect to use the iPhone as a replacement broadband + computer device, I don't see that "unlimited" and "70MB" go together, nor restrictions about zero business/commercial use. These clauses are both stupid and unenforceable.

I am, perhaps, trusting too much in the regulator to intervene if such ridiculous limitations are in reality applied. Nevertheless, I will be in-line somewhere off Regent Street starting Friday afternoon. Hope to see you there!

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Blogging hiatus and ChargeBox

Just a quick note as to my recent blogging silence. Hopefully you've all (the two of you that is) not gone away.

I've been working increasingly long hours and that is only going to get worse for a while longer. For the last 36 months (the last 18 months of which in a part-time consultant FD role) I've been involved with an exciting company called ChargeBox®, and as of the 1st November, I will be taking over as MD - even if just for a year or so until the founder, Toby returns from an extended sabbatical helping Oxfam in Nepal.

ChargeBox® is a kiosk for the 21st century - in our case charging mobile phones, smartphones, mp3 players and portable game consoles in a secure locker. We've designed the ChargeBox®, got it manufactured in the UK (yes!) and are developing a global brand with kiosks now in France, Iceland, Spain, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and, soon, Papua New Guinea. You can also find them in 14 high street phone stores of a certain mobile phone company I couldn't possibly mention. Our ChargeBox is equipped with a GSM module allowing 2-way SMS and GPRS data connections for monitoring purposes and even a payment-by-SMS function. Our web-based IT system allows us to monitor the performance of every ChargeBox® around the world with a SIM card. We were featured on BBC Click earlier this year.

We're still very small, and we have a lot of challenges, but we're hoping for some major progress soon, both domestically and internationally. If you use a ChargeBox®, let me/us know what you think.

Visit our website at http://www.chargebox.com to find out more, to look at maps of where they are and instructions on how to find a chargebox when you're out and about.

I will look to bring back some blogging around this subject and my usual rants in the months ahead. Unfortunately, much of what I'd like to say about growing a small company has to remain confidential (because of our clients), so that makes some topics off-limits. Do keep subscribed, and do let me know your thoughts on ChargeBox® if/when you get a chance/need to use one.

Inevitable iPhone post coming up (in case you thought I'd gone soft)....