Social Media – the importance of a good data connection…

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There are certain things in life that we take for granted – the sun rising in the morning and setting at night, England disappointing us at football – you get the idea. And as the world changes our expectations change also, who would have imagined 10 years ago that we would all expect to be able to access mobile data where ever we are to interact with social media (and collect email etc).

The smart phone has become an essential part of so many people’s lives now and we expect it to work all of the time 100% effectively. Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have done their best to facilitate this with their hardware and software – all of which still never ceases to amaze me with what it can do. However there is a weak link in all this…… and that is the networks.


You can have the best bit of hardware in the world, but if you can’t get mobile data it is about as much use as a brick! My experience at the Test Match at Trent Bridge this week was a classic example. I was intending to twitter via the @InnesEngland twitter account from the match, and I did, but not to the degree I wanted to due to a lack of 3G signal from our carrier Vodafone. I know it wasn’t just me because my colleagues were having similar issues with data as well.

This is not a new phenomenon brought about by the increased use of mobile data, I have found Vodafone wanting on their coverage for many years. They have made some minor improvements, I actually got 3G in my home town of Malmesbury recently for the first time ever. But generally they lag well behind the other networks EE and in particular.

There was a time when the enterprise user was the most important user to a networks data provision, that may still be the case but for different reasons as Social Media usage explodes into that market. Perhaps it is time for the various networks to share their masts and provide the sort of service the rest of Europe already experiences.

Not great being proved right…….

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alan_phone226x282As a family we have ‘suffered’ more than most in relation to mobile phone theft. My stepdaughter has had two iPhones stolen now over the last 6 months, both in Nottingham when on a night out. The first was taken from her in Rock City which apparently is well known as a hot spot for this crime (they are working with the police on the issue I gather).

The second was in a pub in town – in both cases the phone was taken from a closed bag – so we assumed it was professional criminals.

This has now been confirmed by information released recently by the police that shows that teams of criminals are descending on our cities to carry out this crime – to then export the phones abroad (where they are not locked and can be used or sold).

Yes this is a problem the police and venues need to address, but is it not more of an issue for the manufacturers and networks? The ability to reuse the phones abroad is a massive ‘loophole’ in the supposed security provided by blacklisting phones. The networks need a world wide system to block phones – and they need it now.

Fingers crossed – “problem sorted”

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Regular readers of my ongoing ‘experiences with mobile providers’ will be aware of my recent run in with T-Mobile. You will be pleased to hear that the matter has now been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. This is great news, but it is rather tiring having to resort to an email to the CEO to get that resolution!

20121230-111638.jpgThe gentleman I dealt with in the CEO’s office at T-Mobile was very helpful, polite and most importantly was in a position to deal with my problem quickly and efficiently. So, I am grateful for his actions, but really rather aggrieved that it always takes this level of input from me to get things sorted.

Now I accept that these are very large organisations, but that is no excuse for the quality of service failing. I cannot help but point the finger at call centres – they are a great way of saving money, and can work for basic issues. But, if the matter in hand is even slightly ‘off piste’ they just can’t deal with it.

At the end of the day it all comes down to the relationship between the provider and the customer – all business is based on relationships and trust – the banks have learnt this again the hard way over the last few years, and we shouldn’t forget this.

The man from EE did suggest to me that they might be having a ‘few issues’ with T-Mobile since they took them over – I would say that is an understatement – but at least there was an acceptance of an issue – perhaps there is hope for our telecoms providers after all?

Phone networks – friend or foe?

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EE-new-logo_orange-t-mobile-webThe mobile phone is a part of everyday life now – the smart phone is rapidly getting to the same position – how many people do you know who haven’t got one?

The mobile phone operators are all keen to land us as clients – they make great offers to lure you over to them, but how is the service then? At work we received some interesting ‘care’ from Orange before we had even signed up with them – because of this we didn’t move to them from Vodafone – perhaps this should have made me think before going with T-Mobile for my daughters iPhone!

The deal was (is) good, and the network is great. But, once things go wrong the care becomes rather less ‘impressive’.

Daughters iPhone was stolen this weekend (second time – not good, but not her fault). So a replacement SIM card was required – not a massive ask you would think as we have a contract – but there is a £10 charge! They give them away free to new customers! Also the opening times on the EE website (which has recently been updated) were wrong for the Nottingham stores – but that is another story!

And it gets better, we needed a ‘fill in’ phone while we sorted out the insurance, so a cheap pay as you go was required. But, and there is always ‘a but’ – we had to add £10 airtime to a sim we didn’t want. I asked the question – “can’t you wave that on the basis that we have just paid £10 for a sim anyway” – apparently not!

So we went to Carphone Warehouse who were very helpful and let us use a pay as you go number on another network to do an upgrade and therefore pay only for the phone.

So brilliant service (and advise) from Carphone Warehouse, but money grabbing and greed from T-Mobile, Orange, EE or what ever they call themselves today. If I need another mobile who will I be going to do you think?

When is a mobile network not a mobile network?

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Answer? When it constantly drops calls so that you have to use your landline!

Even Yoda can’t sort it out!

We are currently suffering constantly dropping calls on Vodafone at work – I have had calls lasting 10 minutes that have dropped at least 4 times during that time – and both parties had a good signals at the time! Frankly in this day and age this is just not acceptable, the mobile phone has been around for long enough to be reliable – it is about time the networks were as well.

This brings me back to one of my pet hates – the fact that our networks all run independent systems and don’t share ‘cells’. They are all intent on offering us a peek at 4G, but don’t appear capable of actually providing a consistent voice service.I am off to the wilds of Wiltshire this weekend – actually mid way between Bristol and London and near the M4 – but in network terms it could be the moon, the signal is rubbish on Vodafone!

As a firm we are currently looking at the renewal of our mobile contract and strangely the ability to actually make and receive calls comes quite high on our list of expectations! Vodafone are not exactly helping their cause here!

Five years on – still a market leader?

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Amazingly it is five years ago that Apple changed the way we all interact with our phones. Yes there were smartphones before the iPhone, and they were very capable things – I used various Windows-based units and they could run lots of program’s much like the iPhone does – but the similarity ends there.

20120701-101954.jpgThe iPhone brought with it an idiot proof interface – having and using a smartphone was no longer the preserve of the ‘geek’ or ‘techy’. The beauty of the iPhone OS is that it just works – sounds really obvious to us all now, but those familiar with the old Windows mobile OS’s will remember the constant need for reboots or the crashes! Also the user interface was just plain clunky compared to Apples iOS!

So in five years the iPhone has made huge progress in its market place and is now able to offer the majority of the functionality that the old smartphones offered (but in a far more user-friendly manner). It has also been ‘copied’ by Google’s Android OS, this is a very capable system and now has some very capable hardware to run it on – and this is where I am going with this blog. Apple need the next iPhone to be very, very good. They are now constantly in the courts with Samsung trying to stop their phones being sold – and that can only be because they fear them!

From my recent trial of the new Samsung S3 I can see why, it is very good. The screen is larger than the iPhone 4, it is thinner, lighter and a much nicer shape (I am not a fan off the square sided 4 if I am honest, (I loved the 3GS).

So, much as I love my iPhone I am worried that if Apple don’t produce an awesome iPhone next time around they will lose the lead in the smartphone market which would be a very sad turn of events. So here’s hoping for a good one!

Before we start worrying about faster 3G speeds can we sort out basic mobile signals?

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So small but so important!

As I mentioned in my last blog post I have had a very relaxing weekend under canvas in Derbyshire this last weekend. The Derbyshire Dales are truly breathtaking at any time – but particularly at the moment with all the new growth and wild flowers. So a quiet time was had – but quieter than I expected due to the almost total lack of a phone signal.

I am happy to accept that a National park does not want phone masts all over its hills, but we are not talking a partial lack of signal here, I was without a signal for the majority of the two days, despite moving around a lot (including in a car along main roads – so not all in river valleys!) I am also on a network that apparently claims to have the best UK coverage – Vodafone. Now if this is the case perhaps they could explain to me why my wife had a full signal – including 3G for almost the entire weekend? Her network? – Virgin Mobile who are not exactly a ‘big hitter’ like Vodafone!

I have commented before about exactly the same issue at my Mothers home town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire. It is only a few miles from the M4 and sits mid way between Bristol and Swindon, but the Vodafone signal is appalling! And guess what – my wife gets a full 3G signal there as well!

So my request to Vodafone is simple, stop claiming to have the best coverage – you don’t, by a long way. As far as I can see the other networks nearly all trounce you in most areas. So rather than spending a fortune pushing out 4G to everyone in the big cities how about a thought for your rural customers, what about giving them a decent service as well?

Losing the will to live….. And then…

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Sounds dramatic doesn’t it – but dealing with Virgin Media must have an effect upon the nations suicide rates! Luckily I appear to have survived, my problem has finally been resolved, the experience was not a pleasant one though.

I thought I would be in my grave before this was sorted!

We were almost at the 3 week mark for my issue with Virgin – I won’t summarise the story, you can look here for the trail in my blog (I have even given Virgin their own category as they are a major contributor now!).

Suffice to say the depth of incompetence here was staggering. Initial advice and action at the call centre was all wrong (and numerous ‘untruths’ appear to have been told).

I knew from my wifes experiences that I needed to escalate the matter from the call centre as quickly as I could, and I did. My email to the MD was answered personally by him within 30 minutes (and at 9.30 at night) – so fair enough I was impressed.

Added to that Sophie in the CEO’s office has been helpful and has finally managed to sort the issue for me – but she had to take over from the three ‘experts’ that were given the job in the first place. Apparently the IT issue was being dealt with by the head of IT eventually!

Virgin added lots of freebies to the phone over the last 3 weeks, which are appreciated but how about actually providing decent service in the first place Virgin? I find it appalling that a company that has Richard Branson’s name on it can be so bad! And the number of people that have told me their tales of woe with Virgin in the last few weeks beggars belief!

So the matter is resolved (as far as I know) – am I a happy customer? Well I am certainly happier than I was, but Virgin really need to address a few basic issues before they have me fully back on board!

The Virgin chronicles – a brief update!

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Nice adverts Richard - now how about sorting my problem out?

As anyone who reads this blog will by now be aware I have ‘a bit of an issue’ with Virgin Mobile/Media that has now been rolling along for 17 days. I am beginning to get slightly confused as I was originally dealing with Virgin Mobile and was under the impression that they were a separate entity to Virgin Media (certainly the deal I am attempting to use was sold to me on that basis). However things have moved on…..

I am now definitely dealing with the Virgin Media complaints department – I have a direct number if anyone needs it. I am also now onto my fourth ‘expert’ within the department – and more exciting I have an extension to ring now that will put me straight through to Matthew who is my new contact.Is this an indication that they are finally taking the matter seriously – or just that I have now educated them in the ways of good customer care?

Matthew has got off to a shaky start – I asked for any calls regarding the matter to come via my own mobile number and not my son Sam’s, (it is his number that we are trying to sort out), but he tried ringing Sam’s first. However a quick email to me subsequently saved the situation! Plus point also for contacting on a Bank Holiday!

But, we are now into week three with no answer in sight. I am told that the IT department are still ‘looking into it’, however I would hope they may move to ‘doing something about it’ anytime soon!

I think I may have finally worked out Virgins customer complaint game plan – make it take so long to resolve that when it finally happens I am really appreciative? Hate to tell you Virgin but when it is finally sorted that is only the beginning…

Virgin Mobile – more issues – and then a light at the end of the tunnel?

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sorry - I need something to smile at!

I have been having a jolly time this week – as expected my contact with Virgin Mobile has not been productive or stress free. We started our little charade back on Saturday morning – bright and early. The task was simple (or so I thought). Transfer my son from pay as you go to a contract, something that most mobile companies should be able to do easily – but not it seems Virgin.

Since Saturday;

I have made 6 calls to Virgin.

I have spent two and a half hours on the phone to them!

I have had various 24 or 72 hour guarantees pass with no progress.

I have been ‘mislead’ twice

I have never received the promised calls back or texts to confirm the (hoped for) progress.

Oh – and although they tell me the phone contract has been set up – it hasn’t!

Getting to the end of my tether I decided to email the CEO of Virgin Mobile UK, Graeme Oxby, I doubted he would even get the email – they seem very good at deflecting complaints and then don’t act when you do complain. However I have recieved a quick reply directly back from him (and this was at 9.30 last night). So thank you Mr Oxby, I am impressed by your personal interest in my issues

So may be there is a light at the end of the tunnel? Mr Oxby has told me he will get someone from his team “to get in touch to sort things out”.

I await with interest.