Tag Archives: ‘phones

Mobile ‘phones since 1993…


I cannot believe that I bought my first mobile ‘phone in 1993!  Vodafone and British Airways had a deal encouraging the intrepid traveler to buy one of these “Pocket Phones” – an Orbitel 902 – and there it is at the left of my mobile timeline below.  There is so much I could write about this – the change from Nokia to Apple with the iPhones; the fact that the average life-span has been just under 2 years; how appalling the Nokia N95 was, with the Nokia 6630 not being much better; how I liked the Nokia 6510; how I am still using my brilliant little Nokia 6080; how battery life of iPhones is too short; how I object to everything moving onto the Cloud….  Sadly the Android based Sony Xperia with NFC that I got last year as well is not shown here – on loan to my son in Spain! Oh yes, and what does this have to say about the number of active mobile ‘phones in the world – most of these still work, and you should see my SIM card collection!

Mobile 'phones smallEnjoy the picture!

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Appalling ‘service’ by Vodafone


I don’t usually use my blog to illustrate poor customer service, but an e-mail I received this morning has infuriated me so much that I am putting fingers to keyboard!  Vodafone has to be one of the very worst companies for customer service in the UK! Why does anyone still use them? For that matter, why do I?!

I renewed my contract with them a couple of weeks ago, and upgraded my phone.  Since I could not do the necessary change-over online, because their website was down, I took my new phone in to a Vodafone shop (in Hammersmith) to ask them to activate the SIM and transfer my data across.  “Of course”, the assistant said, “It will only be a couple of minutes”.  Half an hour later, when the assistant was unable to do it, his manager came over and managed to get most of the issues sorted.

However, not all of the data was transferred, and I could not access WiFi from the hotspots because of a problem with my account, which they said would soon be activated.  A week later, nothing had happened, and so began a series of quite bizarre phone calls with ‘customer service staff’.  None of theme were able to resolve the problem.  Unbelievably, three out of the four staff could barely speak English, and I kept having to ask them to repeat their questions – really simple things like “What is the first line of your address?” were completely unintelligible.  Eventually, I was told that I could not access my account because of a problem with their website that they were fixing, but that they would give me a £5 refund on my next bill because of the inconvenience.

Still nothing happened – I could not access my account online, and still could not use the WiFi hotspots because I could not sign into my account!  So, I sent an e-mail, and two days later received the message below:

“Thank you for contacting Vodafone Customer Services
I have checked the online account and can see that you are not able to access the online account however if you are unable to access the account; hence I have escalated this to the online escalation department they will look into this matter.
Your patience will be appreciated in this matter
I trust the above information is helpful.
Kind regards,”

This is unbelievable.  First, I am appalled that an e-mail can be sent by a company based in the UK that is so illiterate!  Second, I am not told that the problem is being fixed, but merely that the matter is being escalated to the escalation department!

I wonder how many more weeks it will take for them to get this fixed?!

 

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Findings from research on mobile use amongst marginalised groups in China


I spent five weeks this summer undertaking research in Beijing and Gansu thanks to a UK-China Fellowship for Excellence from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  The central purpose of my research was to explore the information and communication needs of poor and marginalised communities, especially people with disabilities (in Beijing) and farmers in rural areas (in Gansu Province).  I learnt so much – and probably more from the informal discussions than I did from the  focus groups and interviews that I conducted!  Many thanks are due to Professor Ding Wenguang and Chen Fei for all of their help and assistance in arranging meetings, and translating our dialogues.

The premises underlying my research were that:

  • all too often, new software and hardware are designed for the mass market, and then need to be ‘adapted’ to suit the ‘needs’ of poor and marginalised people
  • frequently, well-intentioned new technologies are developed in some of the richer parts of the world and then ‘applied’ in poorer countries; researchers are then surprised that there is little take up for their products
  • hence, we still need to get a much better understanding of the needs of these communities, and focus much more on designing technologies explicitly with their interests in mind
  • China has 18% of the world’s population, and so the market size of marginalised communities makes it worth developing products commercially for them

The resultant data are so rich that it is difficult to summarise them in detail.  However, the following seem particularly pertinent

Rural areas

  • The diversity of people and communities in rural areas of China is replicated in a diversity of needs.  ‘One size fits all’ solutions are not appropriate, yet the size of the market for particular groups is nevertheless very large given China’s overall population
  • Almost everyone already has at least one mobile ‘phone – mobiles are already widely used for information and communication, even for Internet access.  There are real implications for Africa – if electricity and connectivity can be provided
  • Economic information is particularly desired – especially on such things as agricultural input prices and market prices – particularly by men.  I was surprised at how dominant and significant this was.
  • There seem to be important gender differences in usage – women placed greater emphasis on social communication and health information; young male migrant workers in contrast seemed dominated by a desire to use mobile broadband to meet with girls.
  • Value for money is important – c. RMB 2-3 per month is all that most people are willing to pay for subscription services
  • Trust of source of information is also very important – there seems to be a lot of bogus messaging – and differing views as to what kind of organisation was most trustworthy.
  • There is real potential for village level training in effective use of mobiles – especially by women for women
  • For many users, the existing functionality of mobiles is more than they can cope with

Disabilities

  • There is huge potential for innovative hardware and software solutions – many interesting ideas were proposed
  • There is therefore a large opportunity for sharing good global practice with colleagues in China in the use of ICTs for people with disabilities in China
  • Information about location and direction is crucial for blind people – we need to think more innovatively about how to deliver on this
  • Screen size and configuration (not touch screen) are very important for blind people – Blackberry wins out over iPhones here!
  • There is an enormous opportunity for audio books (not only for blind people). Perhaps a civil society organisation could develop this, and even market audio books to generate income.
  • Security code challenges are important for blind people
  • Shopping information – much potential for RFID and 2D bar codes for blind people.
  • A powerful text scanner and reader in a mobile phone for blind people would be useful
  • Visualisation and touch/vibration of sound could also be developed further

There is a huge agenda ahead, and I am enthusiastic about ways in which we can encourage delivery on some of these exciting opportunities.  Thanks so much to BIS, Lanzhou University and Peking University for supporting this research, and to all those who contributed through their wisdom and hospitality

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Solar power for mobile ‘phones


A query about  solar power solutions for mobile ‘phones made me think about posting this…pmexblue2

Towards the end of last year, a friend kindly gave me a Powermonkey eXplorer.  This is a great device, and I took it with me during field work in Tanzania in January – it did exactly what it said it would, and I was also able to power up other people’s ‘phones – for which they were very grateful!

The manufacturers describe it as follows: “Compatible with the majority of mobile phones, iPods (including 2nd Gen iPhone), MP3 / MP4, PDAs and portable games consoles including the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS & DS-Lite, powermonkey-eXplorer will recharge your devices – giving you 96 hours of standby on your mobile, 40 hours on your iPod, 5 hours on your games console, 48 hours on your PDA and 6 hours on MP3/MP4 players … Make sure your powermonkey-eXplorer’s got full power at all times by charging it with the handy solarmonkey, which can be attached to a rucksack, hung from a window, left in a car or taken anywhere the sun shines! Make sure the powermonkey-eXplorer unit is turned OFF when re-charging from the solar slave in order to reduce charging time!  You can even use the solarmonkey to recharge your device directly – so you have back up power at all times”

It may not be cheap, but it does show what can be done.

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