Yours truly unboxes a locked Sony Ericsson feature phone… WTF?!1!

It’s true! About a week before Christmas the holiday spirit got the better of me and I grabbed not one but two of the handsets featured in this Qik video:

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Four things immediately won me over:

  1. The big, clickety numberpad;
  2. The high-res (for a feature phone) 3.2-megapixel camera;
  3. A microSD slot in place of the usual Sony Memory Stick bullshit;
  4. An eyelet for phone charms!

If you’re a Fido customer in Canada and have a whack of FidoDollars burning a hole in your pocket like I did, the Sony Ericsson T715 is a fine choice — and folks on the Howard Forums will back me up on this.

I wouldn’t hand over any actual cash to Fido for it, though, and I certainly wouldn’t subject myself to a multi-year contract to snag one on the cheap. Why do that when you can buy it fully unlocked for about the same price as the unsubsidized, locked-to-Fido version?

A Christmas Surprise for Fido & Rogers Customers

Christmas is all about sharing, and so some kind Fido and/or Rogers employee has thoughtfully made public an internal presentation of the forthcoming Canadian GSM handsets in 2009.

The thread is here on the Howard Forums — since it could be taken down at any moment I grabbed the most pertinent pics to share with you!

Great news for Rogers customers, the N79 and N85 are coming sometime in the first half of 2009. Not for Fido, though. Boo…

Fido will at least get to share Nokia’s first touch-screen device, the 5800 XpressMusic. I might use my Fido Dollars to snag myself one of these…

And the ubiquitous BlackBerry will finally be available on Fido — and thus every wireless carrier in Canada. Dunno about that UNO service, though…

Feel free to spread these pics far and wide… Here’s wishing all Canadian GSM subscribers a fancy new handset in 2009!

Requiem for Fido (The Pre-Rogers Version)

Fido logo I still remember the first time I saw a Fido handset. It was some kind of Ericsson, pre-dating the T18z but with a similar design, with an integrated belt clip built into the hardware. Like most Ericsson handsets of the day it was very European and classy, but then Sony bought out their handset business. And while market share increased, that elusive cachet was largely gone.

It’s the same story with Fido; back in the days when Rogers was still a TDMA network, Fido was GSM all the way, and carried the first dual-band handsets that could be used in Europe and parts of Asia.

But then our government inexplicably allowed Rogers to buy a controlling stake in Fido, effectively creating a monopoly on GSM service in this country. For the past few years Fido has languished, with Rogers getting most of the premium handsets for their own portfolio and tossing a bone or two Fido’s way.

New Fido Logo As of today Fido has a new logo, and there can be no mistake about its place in the Rogers empire — as Koodo is to Telus and Solo is to Bell, Fido has officially been re-branded as the poor cousin to the “premium” Rogers Wireless.

But it’s not all bad news: To effectively compete in the bottom end of the market Fido has done away with the roundly-criticized System Access Fee, and while their handset lineup will continue to be, well… craptacular, the killer feature of the removable SIM chip — enabling the use of unlocked phones — remains intact.

Though I’m clearly a mobile elitist I’ll be staying loyal to Fido for the foreseeable future — I’m locked in to a pretty damn awesome calling plan and a best-that-can-be-expected-for-Canada deal on data. Still, it does suck that Fido isn’t cool anymore…

What I’ll miss:

  • The exclusive handsets, especially my hiptop;
  • The European-flavoured ads, courtesy of Fido’s Montreal-based agency;
  • Being the envy of fellow Canadian travellers to Europe and Asia.

And not so much:

  • The System Access Fee, obviously;
  • The small, largely urban calling area before Rogers took over.

What I’ll most remember:

  • Driving home from the family cottage and re-acquiring a digital signal just north of Orangeville, Ontario — letting me know I was back in civilization. 😉

The iPhone: Saviour of the Mobile Internet in Canada?

iPhone 3G on Fido

So I have this friend who’s in the market for a new mobile phone. Like me, she’s on the Fido GSM network here in Toronto and also like me she’s come to appreciate the value of a QWERTY keypad, like the one I currently enjoy on my Nokia E61i. Unlike me she’s on a limited budget and uses a Windows computer, but as luck would have it I’ve an old HTC TyTN sitting in my drawer — so all we’d have to do to get her up and running on the mobile internet is to fix her up with a data plan on Fido. And that’s where it all goes to hell.

It’s such a long, convoluted story that I hardly know where to begin, but the sad fact is that, on the GSM side of things anyway, the cost of mobile data here is nothing short of an international embarrassment.

A mere two years ago I was surfing and emailing to my heart’s content with a Fido hiptop — our version of the T-Mobile Sidekick. Everyone I showed my hiptop to was instantly jealous of it, and a funny thing about having unlimited access to the internet wherever I went… It became incredibly useful.

And then the unthinkable happened. Rogers, another big Canadian company here and the country’s only other GSM carrier was inexplicably given the green light by our government to gobble up Fido and create an instant GSM monopoly in this country. And the first casualty was the new and improved hiptop3, rumoured to be in final network compatibility testing by Fido staff before Rogers instantly put the kibosh on it.

In its place Fido customers now have the following options available for mobile data:

  • $60 per month for 25 MB, with $6 per additional MB.
  • $100 per month for 200 MB, with $5 per additional MB.

And in case you were wondering, both of these “plans” are quite a bit more expensive than my much faster cable internet connection at home, also from Rogers.

To be fair, there are some breaks — you can surf all you want on a locked handset’s crappy microbrowser for a mere $7 per month, just don’t try to install something actually useful like Opera Mini or you’ll be charged the full rate of 5¢ per kilobyte, Yup, you heard me… Kilobyte. Apparently the way they police this is by capturing the handset’s serial number or IMEI during transmission, so presumably it has more to do with Fido and Rogers pushing multi-year contracts on their customers through subsidized phones than anything going above beyond a barely adequate customer experience.

There are also slightly more reasonable email-only plans for locked Windows Mobile handsets, but nothing like the unlimited, uncapped data I enjoyed on my hiptop.

That is until now.

For me, the iPhone’s killer feature is making the mobile internet palatable for the public at large. I can’t for the life of me see it being released here without unlimited bandwidth on-board, as (1) it’s primarily an internet device, and (2) Apple wants every iPhone owner to sign up for its MobileMeh service.

In a previous post I wrote that I would purchase an iPhone with unlimited data on principle alone. The one caveat would be Rogers requiring a 3-year commitment (the current industry standard in Canada) to enjoy unfettered internet access. I’m going to have to ruminate on that one for a bit — you may have heard that I’m not exactly a fan of carrier contracts

Rogers and Fido aside, learning to live with iPhone’s shortcomings — the virtual keyboard, and lack of video and office support — will be a relatively small price to pay for having the whole internet in my pocket.

Perhaps too, in time, other wireless customers here will demand that their handsets have uncapped data access as well, but baby steps… Canada needs the iPhone to bring us out of the mobile data dark ages before any kind of renaissance can begin.

Nokia N95 Trial: 30 Seconds Over Tokyo with Nokia Maps 2.0

Today we take a look at Nokia Maps 2.0 for the N95 8GB. It’s availability hasn’t yet trickled down to my trusty E61i, but with only a month and a half before my trip to the Japan Wireless Expo I’m hoping for an update before I leave — here’s why…

Shibu-wha? on Flickr

In my review of Nokia Maps 1.0 I wrote that its killer feature over the ubiquitous Google Maps was the ability to store local map info on your handset. This is especially important for Canadian wireless customers who are being colossally ripped off for mobile data, and absolutely crucial for international travel with Fido, where such data costs 5 cents per kilobyte above and beyond the allowance of any data plan.

So far so good, but… Here’s all you see of my favourite Tokyo intersection with version 1 of Nokia Maps. I guess it’s partly because the naming conventions of the Japanese language don’t always translate what with the Prefectures and such, and also because there are actually many streets in the city without any names at all — whatever the case, there’s clearly no way I could use this software to find my way from Shibuya Station to my favourite hotel, even if it’s located directly across the street…

Shibuya by Satellite on Flickr

Fortunately Nokia Maps 2.0 comes with this handy satellite view! Click on the screen or here to see exactly where my hotel is.

These hi-res satellite images rival anything I’ve seen on Google Earth — on a small screen, anyway — and I can suck ’em all down to my compatible handset with Nokia’s Map Loader, or even more easily via my home WiFi connection.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the 5MB of satellite imagery I needed to figure out where Shibuya crossing was would have cost me a whopping $250 CAD at 5¢ per kb!!!

Oh, and that little icon bottom centre is to let you know that by pressing the centre key of your handset you’ll get a pop-up menu where you can, among other things, save what’s on your map as a favourite place.

Nokia Maps 2.0 is certainly one of my favourite S60 apps — or at least it would be if Nokia would only release it for the E61i…