Three iPhone problems

This will probably only be of any real value if you have an iPhone on the Three Australia network. On Wednesday last week, my iPhone stopped connecting to the internet via 3G. I kept on getting redirected to the mobile broadband signup page. Calling 3 Support, I was told there was a known outage and it was being treated with the utmost urgency. There was no known ETR, but what can youu do?

I patiently waited through several days with only daily calls to three for a status update. Each time I got the same polite script. If you ever wanted to experience politeness-in-a-can, call up 3 with a problem. Friday night I went out for a couple of drinks and met somebody with a working 3 iPhone. That really got up my nose, since I was still off the air. Though I discovered that Facebook still works. Pretty good evidence that this was not a networking issue, like I had been told.

Finally, I found this thread on Whirlpool. I had to sift through a lot of the regular whining, misinformation, and junk, but managed to understand these two basic facts:

  • There is a network-related outage that 3 has acknowledged. If this affects you, all you can do is wait.
  • Some (not all) iPhone users have had a service removed from their account by mistake. Getting 3 to turn this back on should sort it all out.

So I called support at 2 am (something like 9pm for the callcentre). First agent I spoke to gave me the same nonsense about the network outage. I pushed a little and got nothing, so I escalated to his manager (politely). Instead of a manager, he suggested an “iPhone specialist” (whatever the heck that is). Getting a hold of this guy, I mentioned that I knew people who had account changes made and were able to get back online. He found the missing service on my account, activated it, and I was back online.

Given the hour, I was keen to get some sleep so I didn’t stay to chat with my specialist, but I do have some thoughts on the whole matter:

  • The communication regarding this issue, both internally and externally is horrible. The support staff should have known about the two separate issues. I’m sure that it wouldn’t require a specialist to look at a customer account and recognise something was missing.
  • 3 has nothing on their website regarding network outages, even for their regular voice network. That’s a lost opportunity to reduce inbound call volumes.
  • Are they seriously expecting every iPhone customer to call in, fight with the frontline support staff before getting put through to a specialist, who may or may not be able to help them?

Anyway, if you’re on 3 in Australia and having trouble. Give them a call, talk to a “specialist” and check to make sure everything’s ok with your account. You may still experience network trouble, but it’d be silly if that was what’s keeping you offline.

Social synchronising

The proliferation of social networking has made keeping everything synchronised very difficult. Whether you’re on Facebook, Livejournal, Twitter, Flickr, Digg, run a separate Blog, or any other of the million offerings out there, it’s hard to keep them all up to date.

And for the borderline obsessive-compulsives like me, the iPhone makes it a whole lot messier. Now that I can update things from anywhere at any time, I need to find the best way to make this whole business efficient and simple. I’m still researching which apps will be best, but I would like to make some observations.

Tweetdeck is a great Twitter client. It supports multiple accounts, and can sync your settings across multiple PCs, making it a must if you tweet from work and home. It uses the Adobe Air runtime, which makes it easily cross-platform. It also has built in access to picture tweeting and URL shortening services.

Furthermore, there is an iPhone client which adapts the same interface to the iPhone pretty well, but doesn’t have the Facebook updating feature (yet, I hope).

Another feature I would like to see in Tweetdeck is Flickr uploading. I’ve used these instructions from Obsessable on enabling Flickr2Twitter, but having it all built in to one place would be nice. I’d prefer it to Twitpic.

So, what networks do you use, and how do you manage them all?

iPhone 3GS

Last week, I finally joined the 21st century and got an iPhone. My mobile contract was up, and it seemed like a natural progression from the iPod Touch. I’d already considered some alternative smartphones like the XXX and the YYY, but niggling concerns about Mac compatibility and screen resolution singled out the one choice I could make.

Phone

I don’t actually talk on the phone much. It’s just a function of the way I operate socially that I’m a minimum-spend telephony user. As such, I haven’t really noticed anything outstanding about this function of the device. That being said, I do like the “conversation” view of text messages, and the easy integration of the Address Book.

Internet

I’ve read a number of complaints about connectivity and the iPhone. Overall, I can’t say I’ve run into them. Occasionally I’m forced to reboot the thing when it can’t get on to the net via 3G, but I’ve found that’s mostly a problem with the “dialling” in, and that giving it a moment can clear it up. I suspect it’s more a function of my carrier than the iPhone.

Mobile Safari makes web browsing almost as good as a real PC. It renders things well, and is pretty speedy.

Apps

I’ll go into what apps I’m using in a later post, but for now I want to mention an interesting phenomenon: my Twitter use has increased due to actually having a good interface while on the move. My venerable Nokia 6110 just couldn’t make Twitter a good experience, but the large screen and easy keyboard make Twitter much more accessible. Likewise for Facebook.

Finding an app in the App store, however, is a royal pain in the butt. It might be cheap, and it might be useful, but if I can’t find it, there’s no point. Apple really needs to address that.

Earphones

When I got my first iPod (a venerable 1st-gen Shuffle), I swore by the earphones. They didn’t distort, they produced a decent quality sound. Naturally, they eventually broke down, but by then I was using my Nano, and quietly moved on to in-ear buds. I hadn’t realised until trying the earphones that came with the iPhone how much a difference in-ear makes to sound quality. I find that with the classic whites, I am constantly pushing them further into my ear to capture more bass.

It’s a shame, because I want access to the remote control and microphone on the iPhone buds. Instead, I’m going back to my in-ears.

Camera

The built in camera is pretty good. The touch-to-meter function is a godsend in variably lit conditions, and helps deliver relatively clear photos. The only drawback is the lack of flash. Of course, one photo with a flash would probably deplete the battery, so I guess we can’t have everything.

Battery

This is probably the iPhone’s weakest suit. I seem to be unusual amongst mobile phone users in that charging my phone is a habit. I just plug in when I go to bed and don’t have to think about it. Nevertheless, all previous phones that I have owned have not actually needed that discipline. The iPhone on the other hand is at least 50% down at the end of every day. I don’t even consider myself a heavy user, given that I have internet access at work (and am actually working most of the time), so I can see this being a major problem for most people out there.

Conclusion

Overall, the iPhone is a solid consumer-grade smartphone. It integrates well with the Mac’s iCal and Address Book applications, though the lack of task management feature does get on my nerves. Nonetheless, most of my experience with the iPhone has been great. The only real downfall is the lacklustre battery life. I now carry a charge cable with me wherever I go.

iPhone finally comes to 3

If you had asked me which Australian carrier totally missed the iPhone bandwagon, it was Hutchinson’s 3 brand. They were one of the earlier players in high-speed mobile data, and I would have thought that the iPhone was right up their alley as the killer app to push mobile broadband into the consumer space.

So imagine my disappointment as a loyal 3 subscriber when the iPhone 3G originally hit Australian shores and only with the big players. I’ve been impressed with my Nokia 6110 Navigator, but my time with a 2nd-gen iPod touch has impressed me sufficiently to make me want to move into the big leagues.

And finally it’s time. Today, 3 has announced that they will be selling the iPhone 3G S. I’m due for contract renewal, so this will save me from churning away, and allow me to keep my on-net minutes. Hopefully the plans will be competitive.

iPhone Nano by Christmas?

No company in consumer technology engenders as many rumours or as much wishful thinking as Apple, but even this takes the cake. Apparently the UK’s Daily Mail is short on real news, so they are reporting that an “industry insider” believes that Apple will be making all our dreams come true with a smaller and cheaper iPhone. Continue reading