A tale of two phones

Now that the colossal waste of money that was my Vodafone contract is up, I’ve been free to (a) get a new iPhone 5, (b) pass my old iPhone 4 onto my oldest daughter, and (c) get on a SIM-only deal with a network that provides actual, you know, coverage.

By coincidence, it was (d) time for my youngest daughter to get a new phone. She’s far more sociable than the oldest, and her pay-go deal with my old Nokia was getting expensive. So I went looking for a contract that would provide lots of texts and a decent phone for not much money. I considered getting a Nokia Lumia 610, but it turned out when it came to it that the 610 seems to be gone, and the new bottom-of-the-range Windows phone is the Nokia Lumia 710.

Talkmobile, which is the network run by Carphone Warehouse (using the Vodafone network, natch), was offering the 710 free on a £7.50 per month contract.

When you consider what the 710 actually is (a decent little smartphone made by a well-known brand with a 5 megapixel camera, HD video, free music and mapping, the ability to download a limited number of apps/games, and an attractive and beautifully designed mobile operating system), £7.50 a month for 24 months is a bargain. Turn it around, that’s a decent smartphone for £180, with two years of free calls and texts. Data is limited, but I already know that Vodafone’s data network is crap. It’s around the price of an iPod Touch, but with the ability to text and call.

My iPhone 5, on the other hand, cost me in excess of £500 for the unlocked version from Apple, and I’m paying £12.90 a month for an unlimited data plan on Three, on a 30-day contract.

For a 12 year old girl, the Nokia Lumia 710 is just about perfect. She would have liked a hardware keyboard, which we could have got on a Blackberry or some other Nokia, but actually I think she’ll get used to the on-screen one.

Delivery

I waited several weeks for the iPhone, which I was prepared for (and even bargained on, given that my Vodafone contract actually runs out in November). Apple’s delivery estimate never slipped, and they even sent the mail saying it was on its way about a week early. So they lowered my expectations and then delivered early. I got the email on Thursday and the phone was delivered on Friday. No dramas. We weren’t in, so the courier left it with a neighbour (two doors down), who handed it over as soon as we got home.

The Nokia was ordered last weekend, and I got a text and email on Monday saying it was on its way. On Tuesday, we got home to find a card had been left, with a promise to try again the next day. On Wednesday, another card. The delivery service was Yodel. They said you could book a date over the phone, which I tried to do. Their phone system didn’t recognise their own “eight figure code”. Still, I got a call from their customer services, who had detected my failed attempt to book delivery for Thursday. So by talking to an actual person I arranged for the Thursday delivery (my wife’s day off) and also gave authorisation for the package to be left with a neighbour.

Got home Thursday to a frustrated wife who had been waiting in all day to no avail. no delivery, no card. Online tracking seemed to indicate the package was “out for delivery”, but then the message appeared that the “customer could not be reached”. What does that mean? Couldn’t get the van up the hill?

Friday, same story. No delivery, no card, just my iPhone. The online tracking system told the same story as the day before, an the telephone service thing didn’t work, so I spoke to a representative, who told me I could pick it up from the depot, about 14 miles away.

So I drove over there this morning and picked it up. You can tell Yodel are a shit company, because they have a printed warning taped to the counter saying that they don’t tolerate assaults on their staff. Here’s the thing, Yodel. Good companies don’t have to sellotape things like that to their customer services counter.

Opening the Box

The iPhone emerges from the box with an 87% charge. Insert the SIM, power it up, and log in with your Apple ID. It offered to install my apps, music, and data, which it does, over WiFi. Less than an hour after getting home from work and getting the phone from my neighbour, it was switched on, loaded up, and ready to use.

Lumia box is twice the size of the iPhone box. It contains a plug-in charger with a moulded cable, plus a separate USB cable. It does not come fully charged, but with its battery not yet installed. So you have to pull off the back cover, insert SIM, then battery, then put it on charge before you can use it. You then need to set it up, and it helps if you already have a Windows Live ID.

Faff factor

Obviously, if you’re already an Apple customer and already have an Apple ID, life is pretty painless. The downside of this is that your new iPhone doesn’t feel like a new phone for very long. Almost immediately, it even has the same wallpaper and home screen. I had a similar experience with my last new laptop. It just feels like more of the same thing.

If the Nokia arrived with an 87% charge, it would be better. Apple realised this a long time ago: people hate having to charge a battery before they can use their new toys. The interchangeable backplate and complimentary theme is a nice idea, but I don’t like the flimsiness this entails. You can download the Windows Phone connection software from the Mac App Store, and use it to synch music and other stuff. It’s more basic than iTunes but seemed to work pretty well. Only DRM-protected music wouldn’t transfer, but that only applies to older stuff.

The main difference was with the el cheapo delivery service used by Carphone Warehouse. It may be cheaper guys, but it’s a horrible experience for your customers.

In use

The iPhone is an iPhone. I’ve been using Siri on my iPad, and we all know about Apple’s new Maps. Actually, being able to dictate texts and tweets is pretty cool when you can’t be bothered to type, and Siri has so far been almost faultless at transcribing my speech. I was arriving at the supermarket car park and remembered I needed a steak out of the freezer. Siri sent the message to my wife without me having to deal with the always frustrating autocorrect and my clumsy typing, and it did it before I lost network coverage in the underground car park.

The iPhone has the Home button, the volume buttons, the power switch, and the mute slider. The Nokia has Home, Back, Search, a volume rocker, an on-off switch and a separate button for the camera, which makes for two more buttons.

I like the Windows phone interface, and I’m sure my kid will have fun with it. The app marketplace has far fewer apps, but you can get Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds, and various camera apps and other games. We know Apple’s app store is chock full of apps, but we also know how hard it is to decide which is the best version of any particular thing. I’ve tried loads different camera apps, to-do apps, and so on, and it’s all a bit of a faff. I’d actually like a more curated experience.

The Lumia also comes with Nokia’s free music streaming service, which is great for teenagers, and Nokia’s maps and route planning, which is based on mapping data from UPS and other parcel delivery services, and is supposed to be pretty accurate as a result.

I did use the Apple Maps route planning to get to the Yodel depot, by the way. It worked pretty well, took me door to door, but the sound quality of the voice instructions was so pathetic I thought the phone’s speaker was actually broken. My verdict on the Maps thing is that it’s a lot of fuss about not very much.

The screen, on the other hand does look a lot greener than my old iPhone’s, certainly up in the blue end of the light spectrum, which will take some getting used to.

Would I recommend the Lumia 710? If you can get one on a similar deal, I think it’s all right. I’ve obviously only used it to set it up and get it working, but I think I could live with it, and I’m sure my daughter will grow to love it. For £7.50, you get the free phone, 100 minutes, 5000 texts and 250MB of data. I’m pretty happy with that.

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