– what they don't tell you about their mobile service

After 12 months on the ‘todo’ list, I’ve finally switched my mobile to Three Ireland. I’m broadly happy with the choice, but everybody loves a moan, so here are the three things that don’t tell you.

  • It’s impossible to topup online for prepay, neither via the Website nor via AIB / Bank of Ireland. It means you have to go to the shop and buy a topup voucher, then enter in a 16 number code. Not very user friendly.
  • You can’t sent text messages via the Website. No chance of using a proper keyboard to type your messages then.
  • While the portal is free, it’s a bit Ryanair-ish – all ads for Video Poker and ‘Download these ringtones’.

Not exactly killer ‘don’t use Three Ireland’ complaints , is it?’
Three Ireland Logo
So to give you (in the immortal words of Fox news) ‘fair and balanced reporting’ – here are things that I like.

  • Coverage (on both 3G and the 3.5G / HSDPA) is pretty good. At least in the Dublin – Belfast corridor where I spend most of my time. I’ll wait a while before transferring my Vodafone Data card though.
  • It’s cheaper for me than 02 and Vodafone – at least according to official telecom regulator site.
  • The phones are good. The Nokia 6120 that I got is average size, which is a compliment for the normally bulky 3G models. It’s got a small screen, but it plays well with my Nokia 770 Tablet , so it works out ok.
  • A large selection of their phones offer Skype – that’s free calls over the internet. While it’s crippled so no call in or out from normal telephones, it’s still useful enough for talking to overseas developers.

Mobile Blogging is Go!

Finally , after 6 attempts, we now have mobile data access up and running. Todays events unfolded as follows:

  • O2 refund cheque finally arrived at 9am this morning via Registered post.
  • Yours truly runs down to nearest Vodafone shop to get his sweaty paws on a Vodafone HSPDA / 3G card.

Surprisingly , given the travails of the last 6 attempts, it just works.

10 months on and still no refund from 02

Lessons learned from the ongoing Saga.

  • Dont buy anything from Totterdell’s (who 02 normally suggest) their customer service is attrocious. Go direct to the 02 shop and don’t hand over your money until you see the 3G working on your laptop.
  • Mobile Data is more complicated than mobile phones. If your technical support takes more than 30 days to diagnose the problem (which is probably my Dell Inspiron), why do you then refuse to give customers their money back (because it is outside of the 30 day refund period)?
  • Don’t believe anything 02 support tell you – I was promised a refund back in August (and have the statement to prove it) but have just spent a week having to explain the case all over again, including the bit where the excited customer rep tells me the refund has been approved (excuse me for not jumping up and down , but I’ve heard this one before).

So , this time, if I send a letter (again) to 02, I really will get the refund. I’ll then be able to put the 149 Euro towards something that actually works, like this (much better) offering from Vodafone.

Vodafone logo

Update (1): The vodafone product is HSPDA (=Broadband mobile). I have a ‘good friend’ who has one of the new Dell 4G Embedded Laptops, and the coverage from Dublin to Drogheda (along the Rail line) is excellent – HSPDA all the way ,except Malahide , where it dropped to ‘only’ 3G.

Update (2): I have been told by 02 Customer service (Today, 7th December) that the cheque is ‘in the post’

What is Java Me and do I need it?

James Corbett asked on this post

Any advice on mobile java (Java ME, formerly J2ME from what I understand)? I’m thinking of developing a mobile app, or rather getting someone to develop it, and it strikes me that Java ME is the most widely supported platform on consumer mobile

J2me picture

Java ME is the version of Java that run’s on small devices (like Mobile phones). Speaking as a Java consultant , here’s my thoughts on it:

  • Java Me is a cut down version of Java , so any Java Developer should be able to help you out. There are also a range of Emulators (things that run on your PC pretending to be a phone), so you don’t have to have 20 mobiles sitting on your desk for testing.
  • I think there will be a big demand for the sort of Games / Gadgets / Gizmos that people can show off on their mobile phones (look at the money paid out for simple things like Ringtones). The trouble is the route to market – how do you get your gizmo onto somebody’s phone and get them to pay you for it. It’s a lot easier if you have a friendly Telco like Vodafone or O2 on board.
  • Strictly speaking , Java ME is not the most widely supported mobile platform – that honour goes to XHMTL , a stricter version of normal web pages. This is the approach that Google takes with it’s mobile Gmail product. This also has the benefit of running on phones like O2’s imode.
  • There is the small problem of not every version of Java that runs’s on a mobile phone is the same – there is multiple versions, differences between the handset companies and even a couple of different subsets of Java.
  • Personally I’ve stayed away from it, given that mobiles will be powerful enough within 18-36 months to run the full version of Java. Any major investment of my time learning J2ME would be thrown away at that stage.

So , in one line: If you really need the extra power of Java on the mobile, it should be doable. But think long and hard about delivering it as a Web Application (using XHTML) instead. All depends on what you are trying to do.

    Buying an 02 3G data card? Don’t say you haven’t been warned

    Let’s get one thing straight: The people from O2 have been excellent, and they’ve gone well beyond the call of duty in trying to get my data card working with my laptop. Trouble is , after 5 months (delay partly my fault), I’ve still haven’t any mobile data access.Now onto the juicy bit, here is why you should *never*, under any circumstances, consider buying a 3G data card direct from them.

    • If you buy direct (telephone / internet) 02 technical support is completely phone based. Laptops are a lot more complicated PDA’s, blackberry’s or 3G phones. This severly limits the help they can give you. If I get asked one more time ‘are you sure the card fits in the slot’ I’m going to …
    • – 02 have a better alternative : The 02 Experience stores (not the smaller O2 shops , but the bigger ones that can sell you 3G solutions) can let you see the card working before they buy. Trouble is they are a different company (it would be like asking a Vodafone shop to fix your O2 card). Still the guys at the 02 Grafton street store spent 90 mins to diagnose (one of the ) problems.
    • 02 Don’t actually sell you the cards, but use Totterdells (of Bray). Unlike the O2 people , Totterdells have a different attitude, including a ‘get stuffed’ quote on the first phone call. Things didn’t get better after that.
    • Because you’ve bought the card from Totterdells and the service from O2, who gives you money back when things go wrong?
    • If I can’t get one of the cards working, nor my friends (one of whom sets these cards up on a daily basis for one of the major Irish banks), what chance does Joe Blogs?

    So the current situation is either (a) 02 come up with a way of seeing and fixing my laptop directly or (b) they give me my money back as their ‘mobile data solution’ has never worked. I’m not keen on either , as I just want to be able to blog from the Train.

    Watch this space.

    Update Monday 3rd July: No Callback from O2 about the promised refund. I’m disappointed as this is only the 2nd time the tech side of 02 have let me down.