My Mobile usage experience in India

I am in India for a much awaited vacation and in the past few days have been travelling through India. From Bangalore to Kolkatta, Mumbai, and later in this week, Chennai and then Mangalore. Hopefully will spend some time then in Bangalore to catch up with some friends. Anyway getting back to the post and my experience with personal tech, now by personal tech I mean mobile connection. Lets start with the fact that, since I live in Dubai and have been there for quite a few years now, it would make it difficult to maintain an Indian number. Previously I had bought an Airtel number which at that time had the facility of life time validity, and due to the life time validity there would be no issues regarding non usage over a period of time and I would have the number when I wanted it.

I spoke to the customer service at that time and mentioned to them about me not being in town and so they suggested the life time validity package. As far as I remember it was about 2 years ago, I did give alternate numbers when applying (as everyone does) and that was the end of that. Most Indian cellphone users will know that the Government mandate for cellphones last year requested users to submit information about themselves once again in order to verify the validity of the people using the phone. And all the mobile phone operators complied, Airtel did sometime even more interesting, all numbers that they did not receive the information were recirculated to other people. For some reason my number was blocked and when I traveled to India last month they requested me to provide documents. Which we did, however they did not receive the documents within the 1 week that I was given and the number has been blocked. I was a bit surprised at the action by Airtel and here is why :

  1. After informing that the number is not for regular local use, a representative should have called the alternative number, but they did not.
  2. They waited for the past year with the number on block and cancelled and recirculated it for a delay of 1 day ? Really, that one day was the limit.
  3. They never made an attempt to inform the users whatsoever about the balance (over Rs 1000 ) being expired when they cancelled the number. (Yes Airtel, we know your profits are bad, but that does not mean you steal from the users).

If you are thinking this is what got me annoyed ? well not really. Being a “tolerant” Indian, and realizing that by shouting at people at customer service it would be impossible to resolve this issue, we went into an Airtel outlet (not a regular mobile shop but an Airtel office, on Nandidurg Road in Bangalore) and got a new number.

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I was to travel to Kolkatta, and did not have a number and this new number was my saving grace otherwise making me sort of handicapped without access to communication. We did mention this at the Airtel office, it was Friday and the number was promised to be activated on Saturday. Considering that I would be flying on Monday morning,  I was comfortable with this. But no, Airtel had to make it bad again, the office is supposed to make a call to every user once the phone is activated by the system. Once the verification call is done, they would intimate the main database that the number is verified and the number becomes usable. The call never came, even after specifically mentioning to the person at Airtel that it was imperative that the number has to be made active since I am travelling. Saturday passed without a call, and it was now Sunday.

Reading the website and as per conversation at the person in Nrupatunga Road Airtel office, we knew that they would be working on Sunday until 1:30 PM. So we drove to their office again on Sunday to request them to make an entry into the database. But the office was closed, well before 11:30 AM. Sign, another disappointment with Airtel.

So then I picked a number that was available with a friend, it was BSNL. Now everyone in India knows that BSNL has excellent reach in every town and village in India. Unfortunately they lack networks in cities which are predominantly covered by other players. With this knowledge I know that BSNL would have been my third choice maybe. Well I started using it, unfortunately for me, the roaming partners of BSNL were not good either. In Kolkatta it was CellOne, and in the few days I was there, I never met a single person except me that used CellOne. That perhaps would be an indication of the popularity of the service and the reliability of the service.

Every call to be made or received took at least 3 tries, and one of them definitely was that thee number I was trying to reach did not exist. How I cursed the guys at Airtel for not activating my sim !! Moved to Mumbai then for the next few days and the career of BSNL in Mumbai is Dolphin. Now initially I was skeptical with the coverage as the call drops continued, but eventually the Dolphin service in Mumbai seemed to work. I wanted to get online, and they did not provide me a way to do so. BSNL has an Indian Government service feel to it, tired, slow and unreliable. Cannot really do much.

I was eager to get to Bangalore hoping that my Airtel number would be now activated, well it was on the 21st of May, a full week after I had requested the person at Nandidurg road to activate it asap. Now that the first hurdle was done, came the second one.  I wanted to activate the GPRS and BB services on the Airtel number, well should I tell you it was not an easy task ? You would have figured by now that the inefficiency of the Airtel technical support when calling was very visible. Even after picking support in English the calls were being diverted to Kannada support where the guys struggled to answer my queries although I was now talking in Kannada. When asked about the route to Kannada, the guy at the other side of the phone said I was wrong in my choices. We tried from more than one number to customer service, all the time being connected to Kannada support. At 121 they would refer me to 7070, and at 7070 they would refer back to 121. This went on for about 3 tries at which time I lost patience and shouted at the next guy who answered. Although I knew it was not his fault, he managed to provide me with a national number for the BB services, on requesting if I needed to prefix 0 before the number (all outstation calls from cities need this) he said no.

I tried it without the 0 and the call never left my phone, then I added the 0 to make the call and reach the Delhi (i think) based customer service person who said I just needed to send an SMS. If at all the first person had told me this !! Add to this the annoyance of the IVR (interactive Voice Response) I just grew tired of Airtel. Considering that their profits are dropping, one would imagine they would put focus on customer service to bring back customers, but no they just lost an entire family of Airtel users to Vodafone, all this just because of customer service. A quick search on Google for the keywords “Airtel sucks” yielded over a million results, telling that its not just me. Check it out for yourself here. In fact there is also a Facebook Page dedicated to them here.

All of us in the family have kept the numbers and have ported to Vodafone. Like a newly wed, their customer service seems good for now, donno if I will need to make another change soon though. I used to proudly say that India has so many providers that it is imperative for all providers to have good customer service, but I have been proven wrong. Airtel you need to pull up your socks, else more are going to leave you soon; If you need my real verbal feedback or call me on my now Vodafone number, leave me a message on the blog or at me[at]melvinpereira.com. Your customers of 8 years, now with Vodafone.

Blackberry’s main weapon, the BBM [Lots of Videos]

Blackberry is one of the world’s top Smartphone manufacturer, and that is an undeniable fact when it comes to Web enabled Mobile Phones. Traditionally what was considered that the Blackberry was a Business Person’s phone, and they did a great job selling the phone to organizations. For a company who was first time into the market, taking on giants like Apple and Nokia, they carved a Niche for themselves. A few months back my wife got on to the bandwagon and well eventually I did and one of the biggest fact seemed to be the BBM, for her and well cheap internet connectivity for me. However with passage of time and usage I have to admit, BBM is something that I have got accustomed to.

From my boss to my wife, and a whole lot of friends in between, the BBM has actually bought over a lot of fans to the BBM and in turn the Blackberry itself. For all of the guys who are wondering what the BBM is all about this video should give a better idea. In fact this post has so many videos all from Blackberry as a testimonial to Blackberry’s commitment to pushing the BBM.

Blackberry has realized this and the new campaigns of Blackberry are now centered around the BBM, like this one here. More so in India, from the Blackberry boys ad to now an entire range of ads around the BBM here are a few for you to look at.

Now there are more ads talking about flirting and such, so well here are some for you to feast your eyes on.

What really makes the BBM interesting

1. Sometimes, you’ll know that they’re ignoring you:

Once you send a message, a few things can happen.

a. A clock will appear, indicating that the message is in the process of being sent.

b. A check mark will appear, indicating that you’ve sent the message successfully.

c. A check mark with a ‘D’ appears. This means the message has arrived to the intended PIN.

d. A check mark with an ‘R’ appears. Your message has been read.

So why haven’t they answered…? What are they doing?! Did this ever happen to you when you stuck with traditional texting? Probably not, because that ‘R’ makes all the difference. You can rationalize the blue out of the sky when a traditional text message goes unanswered. Try rationalizing an ‘R’ message and see what you come up with besides: “I am meant to be alone forever.”

2. Other times, your message will get lost in BBM limbo:

Due to the flaws of modern technology, you’ll occasionally see a hieroglyphic BBM symbol that you can’t comprehend. No ‘R’, no ‘D’, just confusion and angst. This symbol will remain the same for a few days, at which point you’ll take to Google in order to decipher what it all means. “Was I deleted? Is their phone broken? What the hell is this symbol of what is seemingly a man talking on a phone?”

3. Your PIN is unstable:

With every new cell phone comes a new PIN. Anything sent to your old address is sucked into the ether. This could lead another party to believe that you’re actively ignoring them (see #2);

4. There’s no such thing as “taking a hint”:

When you ignore someone via BBM, it’s perfectly reasonable for them to assume that it would be “okay” to contact you using some other vehicle, like GChat, Facebook, or traditional texting methods due to BBM’s lack of dependability. “She must’ve not received my last 20 BBMs… time to virtually infringe on her alone time some other way.” Don’t ignore someone on BBM and expect that they’ll go quiet into the night. You may have to end this one like an adult.

5. Your risqué messages are at constant risk:

Unless you’re the motivated type who makes amendments to the nicknames in your BBM contact list, it’s likely that common names will show up in multiples. That means confusing your cousin Brian with your lover Brian; your roommate Steve with your one-night-stand Steve. Do you really want to ask your co-worker Dan if he enjoyed your “performance” the night before? Didn’t think so.

Still loved by most users

 

I know I now sound like a skeptic, even with all these flaws, what stands out is features like sending pictures, voice notes immediate reactions, group discussions etc. But these are possible with other ways too, what makes it really interesting is the knowledge if the person has sent the message or not.

I am sure most people with BBM have noticed a scene like the one above, trying to make conversation with the people who are not there, sacrificing the time with the people who are in front of you.

All in all, if it is up to Blackberry most of us will be like this, but I guess that’s where cell phone etiquette comes in. Like they say, life was a lot more simpler when Blackberry and Apple were only fruits.

Another one Bites the BB Dust – My first week with the Blackberry

Keeping with the theme of Mobile Phones, I have a small guilty announcement to make, I have just jumped over to the Blackberry Camp. For all those of you who are shocked, I am not giving up my Android, not for anything in the world. But like I mentioned in my previous post about Google Killing the Android in Dubai, and the fact that Blackberry has an Unlimited Data Plan unlike any of the other phones in the UAE, makes it a more compelling option. With a bit of a push from the company, the Blackberry was in my hands within no time.

After using the Android for as long as I have, the User Interface of the blackberry and the QWERTY keyboard with its small keys felt kinds difficult to get used to. But the BlackBerry messenger is something that will make up for most of that ! I love the fact that there is instant communication between people including pictures, voice notes and even plan group events. Its good, I understand people’s obsession with the Messenger, but dont yet understand why people use their BBM when they are in between other people. Now that is another post regarding cellphone etiquette. So will not get into that bit too much.

With regards to the Internet connectivity and the browser, well It could be much better, the Android browser feels like superman and the blackberry one like an ordinary human. I did get the better Blackberry, the Bold, and still it will be blown off the water by most Android phones, except for the fact that there is a data package built in the Black berry here in the UAE. The App world is well, “Not available in my country” so cant talk too much about the apps, need to wait until I get to India to access the Blackberry app store.

The track pad for me is the best innovation of BlackBerry, from the track ball earlier that was even adopted in my Nexus One to the now touch sensitive Track Pad the navigation within the phone is made simple, intuitive and really fun to use. Knowing the fact that the Blackberry and its encryption actually started a sort of a feud between UAE and Cannada is another interesting fact that I think adds to its appeal. Add in the BB Messenger, the 5 meg camera, 3G, WiFi, the in built Data Package here, and you get a compelling buy. I guess the fact that everyone is on Facebook and people sharing stuff can be seen by all, is pushing people to get to more closed groups of communication like the BBM and in effect ading to more people using the Blackberry.

I guess this is the closest in UAE you could get the feeling of what the Mobile Users in the west must be experiencing through their always connected phones. I guess the expression “Life was so much simpler when Blackberry and Apple were just fruits” is really true. I won’t say its the best decision I have made but well, its not bad for now.