Need to leave. Where’s my phone?
Not on the counter. Not on my bedside table. Not on the desk. Not on the kitchen table. Not on the dresser. Not on the couch.
Look again in all those places. Not found.
Really need to go.
Reach for home phone. Dial mobile number. It rings.
It’s in my pocket. Oh man. Not good.
* * *
Oh. My mobile says a missed call. From a private number.
No voicemail was left. Why do these people not leave a voicemail so I can ring them back?
It was me.
Fifty years ago the people waiting on this bench might have been smoking — now they’re all fiddling with their phones.
It’s long been thought that mobile phones might be replacing cigarettes:
Teenagers may be getting healthier because mobile phones are replacing cigarettes as a symbol of rebellion and fashion.
Clive Bates, Ash director, suggested that the need to stay in fashion by owning a phone may mean less money is available to pay for cigarettes.
– BBC, November 2000
This Age article from 2005 suggested the same thing.
I’m pondering other links:
Phones, like cigarettes, give you something to do with your hands, something to fiddle with.
Phones, like cigarettes, are social. Instead of standing around in doorways chatting to fellow smokers, you’re talking to your friends via social media — wherever they are.
Phones, like cigarettes, can be invasive if used thoughtlessly in a group of people (though having to listen to someone’s boring conversation is less unhealthy and unpleasant than secondhand smoke).
I’d love to reach some profound conclusion here, but that’s all I’ve got. Thoughts?
Clearing out some old books, I found this from 1997. It’s a Telstra brochure explaining a new product they’re introducing: the “SMS Text Message Service.”
Everything was new once upon a time, right?
From the brochure (and this matches my recollection), initially messages could not be sent between operators. This didn’t come until April 2000, and predictably resulted in exponential growth in messages sent.
A while back I gave eldest son my old (but quite capable) mobile phone, and got him a SIM card that looked to be a reasonable cheap basic prepaid phone service: Woolworths Everyday Mobile.
This worked fine until early October when the phone stopped working.
Or to be precise, the SIM stopped working. We tried the usual stuff: turning the phone off then on again, trying the SIM in a different phone, trying a different SIM in the phone. It was clear the SIM didn’t work.
I should note that this company has all its Call Centre people in Australia. While in an ideal world this shouldn’t make a difference, of course in reality it can. But in this case there was no issue with communications problems due to bad phone lines and people struggling to understand each other.
So on Sunday 9/10, I rang them up. Of course the gatekeepers to the real technical support staff tried to deflect me, only letting me get through after I had explained that we had tried turning the phone off then on again, trying the SIM in a different phone, and trying a different SIM in the phone.
They said they’d check some things on their end, give me a call back within two days.
No call back, so on Thursday 13/10, I rang back. Once again I had to explain that we had tried turning the phone off then on again, trying the SIM in a different phone, and trying a different SIM in the phone. They said nobody from technical support was available, because it was after 8:30pm. I said I’d ring back the next day.
I rang back on Friday 14/10 at lunchtime. Explained that we had tried turning the phone off then on again, trying the SIM in a different phone, and trying a different SIM in the phone. They said the relevant person isn’t available, but they would ring or email back later in day.
Yeah. Sure they would.
Nothing, of course, so just after 6pm I rang back. Explained that we had tried turning the phone off then on again, trying the SIM in a different phone, and trying a different SIM in the phone. They said the relevant person isn’t available, and apologised that I hadn’t been contacted.
And a key bit of information finally came to light: I already knew the service is closing down and being replaced by a different Woolworths mobile phone service. What I didn’t know was that this will be run by a different company. (It’s clear now that these operations are effectively franchise users of the Woolworths name). For this reason the lady said they were having problems simply sending out a new SIM.
I asked for a refund. She said she couldn’t do that. She said it would be referred to their IT group, and someone would ring the next day to discuss other options.
Well if you can’t provide the service, and you won’t give me a refund, what other options are there that don’t involve me being ripped-off? I was suddenly grateful that there was only $20 credit on the account.
But it sounded like this miracle-working IT group might be able to wangle another SIM.
Needless to say, there was no phone call back the next day.
Rang back again on Sunday 16/10. Explained yet again that we had tried turning the phone off then on again, trying the SIM in a different phone, and trying a different SIM in the phone. Also explained that I had originally rung them a week before, and nothing had happened.
They said — unbelievably — that the original problem had never been referred to IT.
I was pretty narky at this point, emphasising that it wasn’t this particular guy’s fault, but asking how it was possible that after such a long period of them being unable to provide me a service, nothing had been done to resolve it.
The guy was very apologetic, and assured me things would happen.
At about 4:15pm on Tuesday 18/10, they actually rang me. Wow. An actual call back. For once I didn’t have to explain again that we had tried turning the phone off then on again, trying the SIM in a different phone, and trying a different SIM in the phone. They already knew I needed a replacement SIM. And they said they did have some spares, and they’d be sending one out Express Post to me straight away.
Friday 21/10, a new SIM arrived in plain brown envelope. The letter is dated 18/10, but it very clearly did not go via Express Post. Luckily however it works fine.
The conclusion from all this is: steer clear of Woolworths’ mobile phone operation. It works fine as long as everything goes smoothly, but if you have a problem, even accounting for the fact that they are closing down, it’s very difficult to get them to take action. OK, maybe their replacement service will be better, but I’d not be willing to take that risk again.
Thankfully the phone’s new owner has been very patient throughout this saga.
I knew before the first call that Everyday Mobile were closing down, and wondered if they would end up giving me a refund. Either way, knowing we’d have to port off them by early next year, I took the opportunity to order a new SIM from another provider. I looked around for a bit and for some unknown reason, decided I liked the look of Amaysim. So on 13/10 I ordered a SIM from them through their web site, with some credit on it.
To this day, that SIM has not arrived.
On Sunday I emailed them to ask them where it was. They got back to me on Tuesday to apologise and say their system messed up on my delivery address (odd, it’s a fairly conventional post office box, no weirdness like apostrophes) and it should now arrive in a few days.
Are all prepaid mobile companies like this?
I know they’d probably prefer to lock you into a contract on a postpaid plan, but surely they should be treating prepaid customers (many of whom spend considerable amounts of money) with better care.
Last Friday MX ran a story about Metro plans to shut down its SMS text alert service, in favour of pushing people towards the mobile web site and Twitter. This was sparked by an ad earlier in the week in MX, station posters, and an email sent to SMS subscribers, all encouraging people to “say goodbye to SMS messages that fill up your inbox and hello to the Metro mobile web site.”
On Monday, in a followup story, Metro denied they were shutting down SMS.
Interestingly, they said people “preferred real-time information, not possible via SMS but available on Metro’s mobile site“. A surprising argument, given it appears (from the outside) that both get updated generally simultaneously.
Now, I like Metro’s mobile web site… it’s great for seeing the state of the trains, and (unlike the Twitter feed) it includes individual service cancellations and delays. I certainly recommend people have it in their phone. It’s particularly useful when travelling on different lines and at different times than you have set up for SMS alerts.
But you have to go and look at it, and it’s only “real-time” if you happen to be looking at it when something happens.
In contrast, the SMS alerts tell you that something’s happening, and although some people have complained of the late delivery of alerts (which could be Metro sending them late, or issues with phone providers), I think most of them to get to my phone in a timely manner.
How timely are Metro SMS alerts?
As it happens, I have a lot of SMS alerts from the past few months in my phone. I’m not sure why, but I haven’t deleted them since July. So I thought I’d do a quick check of the time of the train being cancelled vs the time the message arrived. (The “arrival” time appears to be the time the message was received by my phone provider for me, or perhaps the time it was sent, as some times appear early in the morning when I know my phone wasn’t on.)
Leaving out alerts that are less time specific (eg general delays to services), my sample is 50 messages over 2 months (early-July to early-September) covering the alerts I’m subscribed to, which is morning trains from Bentleigh into the city, and evening trains going the other way.
Of the 50 messages, 35 were cancellations, 3 were “will now run” (eg negating an earlier cancellation) and 12 were about Loop trains altered to run direct to/from Flinders Street. There were none about delays to individual services (these are normally only sent if the delay is 15 minutes or more.)
Overall 37 (74%) were received before the relevant event — with a median of 52 minutes. 13 (26%) were after the event, with a median of 8 minutes.
Counting only notices of cancellations, there were: 30 (86%) of which arrived early, 5 (14%) late.
Of the 13 received late, 9 were in the afternoon peak, reflecting that some cancellations and alterations are made at the last minute (eg due to a fault found in the loop-facing cab), and my alert is for Flinders Street departures, so there’s often less notice. Headed to the city, Bentleigh is about halfway along the Frankston line, so there’s probably often more time for passengers there to receive alerts.
Of the 13 received late, 8 were loop diversions (a Loop train altered to run direct), and most in the afternoon peak. Doesn’t make it any less annoying of course, if you were waiting in a Loop station to catch a train — some forward notice means you can try and get out of the Loop to Richmond/North Melbourne/Jolimont and pick up your diverted train there. In some cases they’ll make announcements in the stations as well, of course.
Morning vs evening
There were 13 morning cancellations. None arrived after the departure time at Bentleigh. The median was 104 minutes ahead of the event. The lowest was 31 minutes ahead. (This concerned a 7:31 departure from Bentleigh, which originated at Carrum at 7:02. Those waiting at the first few stops got almost no warning, but they had the option of catching an express scheduled 4 minutes later.)
So while being halfway along the line on the way to the City helps for me, it appears every morning cancellation alert was received before the service was expected to run, sometimes hours before, so people could plan around it.
So my conclusion would have to be that while some SMSs are received too late (and on-time delivery is not guaranteed), most are on received time and provide genuinely useful information about disrupted services.
It’s costing Metro a lot of money of course. SMS alerts have 25,000 subscribers according to Monday’s article. I had heard a figure last year that it was costing them about $50,000 per month to send the alerts, which is a lot.
But it’s a valuable service, and as noted in Friday’s article, the best way for them to cut costs is to reduce cancellations and delays.
iPhones are so easy to use.
A colleague’s iPhone rings on his desk when he’s elsewhere in a meeting, and the screen lights up to say you slide to answer. Great! But how does one reject the call?
Nobody knows. Hilarious.
I’m not just wording the question badly. Last week another colleague asked this specific question when he got a call he couldn’t take just at that moment.
On my new Android phone (which has its quirks, but overall I’m enjoying), you slide down to answer, or up to reject. And it makes this clear on the display.
What an office full of iPhone users don’t know, Google will answer:
Yes, there is a way. You press the sleep button. Which is the sleep button? It’s the one at the top of the phone. Press it once to silence the phone, or twice to reject the call.
Seriously Jobs, how hard could it be to actually tell people what they need to do?
(It turns out the owner of the phone in question knows how to do it.)
It reminds me of the beautiful, unscathed design of the PTUA Office iMac… the front is so stylish and unimpeded by buttons that a big PostIt note had to be stuck to it to tell people that the power button is at the back.
As I figure out how it works, I’m blogging about it over on Geekrant:
Suffice to say, still getting used to it after the ol’ Nokia N95, but enjoying it a lot so far.
I’m genuinely undecided as to which I should get. What do you think?
Google Forms doesn’t stop you voting more than once. Please don’t. I’ll publish the results in a few days. See below.
Disclaimer: Have your say via a vote or a comment, but I won’t necessarily go with the majority view.
Update 6pm: Here’s what I’m thinking so far…
On the pro-Android side (for instance, the Samsung Galaxy S):
Can write my own apps without having to buy a Mac. (But would I ever get time?)
Good integration into Google/Gmail, which I use a lot.
Hardware is a bit cheaper.
All other things being equal, I’d prefer an open platform to a closed one.
On the pro-iPhone side (thinking about the iPhone 4, prob 16Gb):
Tram Tracker and Metlink apps.
Fits into iTunes, which I already have, so I can listen to music on the train easily without carrying another device.
Will kill my desire to want to buy a new iPod.
A bit smaller.
Results (as of 4:40pm, Tuesday 26/4/2011):