X-Series is now reality

A few days have gone since X-Series was launched in the UK by 3.

A few reviews and news items were published, but I still could not find any real review. There was one on Mobile Gazette, for example, but I would not really call it a review.

Since I’m not in the UK I can’t really say much about it except what I read on the online site.
I am personally not very interested in Sling and think that Orb *might* sometime turn out to be useful, but that is actually not the main reason why I buy the X-Series package.
What are the other features included? Yahoo! search and eBay. I see it as a good branding opportunity for these two companies, but I don’t think it’s very compelling… While I see the value of getting their name next to a flat-fee data plan, I would not buy the plan just because I can search with Yahoo!. I can search using it anyway! 😀
To me, the most interesting features are messaging and unlimited internet. This means e-mail, browsing, but maybe also using other applications such as bluepulse (I also just wrote a review on bluepulse) or more that might come in a few months specifically for this kind of data plans.

Another big thing is Skype on 3 as they call it on the Skype site. The devices will have Skype pre-installed. The client is compatible with the standard service so you will be able to login with your existing account (or create a new one, of course). Users can call each other for free and this is great. SkypeOut is still not supported, but should be enabled in the next months. This will certainly take some revenues away from 3, but I’m sure it will make a lot of customers happy!

Reading the fine print you discover that data usage is unlimited, but actually 3 has defined some soft-limits that they have identified as “fair use limits”. On the website it is not written clearl, but my understanding is that surpassing these limits every months might result in an early interruption of the service from 3. The limits are high and I surprisingly agree on the limits they have identified. This is a good sign from 3. Example of Fair Use Limit for data: 1 GB each month (taken from the X-Series site).
One thing that I did not like is that the data usage is limited to the phone. In theory, if you want to connect with a PC you will have to get an extra data-plan or pay-per-use as you would normally do. Customers of this plan will initially be geeks and business people. All customers that will ALSO need internet access with their PC. The two devices provided are Symbian, but are not a BlackBerry or a P990i or an E61. They are both media-rich devices rather than business phones. I think this is not a pro.

The price is VERY interesting and while it’s a promotional price (starts from 20£ per month, which is about 30 Euro), the final price (starts from 35£, about 50 Euro) is still a very good price considering that it includes a BIG LOAD of messages and a lot of calling minutes. I would like to hear how much you pay per month, because if we consider the taxes (at least in Italy), data and calls… I’m already above that and I don’t use as much data as I would with the X-Series.

I was a bit worried of the price when they announced it, but I think it’s very compelling.
When are the other operators following? How long will it take? 6 months? Less? Never?

Also check out the X-Series blog.

Quality of service

It looks like I’m not the only one to complain about the quality of the services provided by mobile operators.
Look at my previous post “Buying a SIM card has never been so hard!” or Mike’s “Bye Bye T-Mobile“.

Last week I wanted to subscribe to a mailing list offered by TIM in Italy. I filled a form and received an e-mail within a minute asking for confirmation. The e-mail required that I click on a URL to confirm the desire to receive their messages. I did so and saw this error message “We are sorry, the requested page does not exist or is temporarily unavailable”. See it here.

I thought of a problem with my e-mail client (you never know what could happen, when using Outlook!), I copied the URL and pasted it into the browser URL bar.
Same error.

Within another minute I reiceived an e-mail that confirmed my subscription.
So this makes me think that TIM did not prepare a confirmation web page for the service! 😀

While browsing the site to check my online bill, I was redirected to the consumer side of site, because apparently my mobile-subscription is not business anymore (in Italy all types of contracts whether they are subscriptions or pre-paid are divided into business and consumer). I called the customer support and they confirmed it’s a known bug, but don’t know how to solve it. They suggested me to logoff and try again tomorrow.
Too bad the logoff page redirects to ANOTHER “page not found” and does NOT log me out!! HELP! I’m trapped!

Buying a SIM card has never been so hard!

In the last week or so I had to go around shops to buy a few subscriptions with all the Italian mobile operators. I had to buy 1 SIM from 3, 1 from Vodafone, 1 from TIM and 2 from Wind.

From every operator I wanted to have a subscription (no pre-payed) with the lowest monthly fee, no call minutes included and the cheapest WAP browsing rates.

The first day I walked from Porta Venezia to Piazza Lima on Corso Buenos Aires. I knew I could find at least 1 shop for every operator, here.

First stop was Wind. I asked for a “business” subscription, they said they would not sell this kind of contracts and that I should call the call center and have an appointment with their sales team.

Next I walked to a shop of 3. Very kind woman helped me find the appropriate subscription. The best seemed to be PowerFull, costs 56 Euro per month, but offers totally free browsing on “Business 3”, their portal. I needed to have this approved and did not have all the papers needed to sign the contract.

I kept walking and arrived in a TIM shop. It was easy, I alerady have a business contract with them, all I had to so was sign a paper to ask a new SIM card and new number. The SIM card was mailed at home in about 3-4 days.

Vodafone was the funniest (I actually got very upset, of course!). After about 20 minutes waiting for the queue, the woman told me that the clerk that knows about “data subscription” was not on duty and would be back the next week!

Next day, Saturday, I went in the 3 shop again willing to sign the PowerFull, but it turned out that “Business 3” is not the content portal, but only aimed at companies and offers services such as reading your company email from a mobile phone.
I eventually picked a subscription called “TuaNove”. I pay 9 Euro per month, each call costs 9 cents per minute and each page I browse on the portal costs 9 cents, indipendently from the KB size. The cost is the same on all subscriptions and pre-payed.
Too bad I HAD to buy a K800 (the only SonyEricsson they had available with this subscription), costed me 149 Euro and I can’t cancel my subscription for 2 years or pay an extra to cover the costs of the phone (another 300 Euro).
I also had to pay 50 Euro to have the bills on my bank account. Credit card would have been free. No other payment method.

Now I had 2 SIM’s (one in the mail, actually).

Monday and Tuesday I was busy.

Wednesday was holiday in Italy so nothing happened.

On Tuesday I went in another Vodafone shop and eventually got my Easy subscription. All WAP browsing on the portal costs 25 eurocent, fixed. I had to wait another 15-20 minutes in line and then some time to copy my ID card, sign the contract and so on.

On Friday I went to the Wind shop and asked for a non-business subscription but that I can actually use as a business. 😀 More later.
While trying to buy the two new SIM’s some technical problems happened and could not sign. I was told to call the call center to verify any irregularity in my existing data (I have another pre-payed card).
Yesterday I spent another 1 hour and half, partly in queue, partly on the phone with the call center, partly waiting. Eventually I signed 2 contracts and the girl sent them by fax. The call center was not able to tell us what the problem was.
Now I have 2 new SIM cards, but I don’t know when they will be activated, it’s a manual process.
I asked to have an optional plan for cheaper WAP and i-mode browsing. I HOPE they will be enabled.

Basically one week has gone, trying to get 5 SIM cards.