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Feb 18

Visiting India is always a bittersweet experience for me. I see so many things changing but so many things remain the same. Who can forget the dud Aakash tablet ? And now hot on its heels comes the latest ‘’pretend’ to make in India product, the Freedom 251 phone. The phone launched at a price point of Rs. 251 promises that its the world’s cheapest smartphone. Boasting of 8GB internal memory and 1GB of RAM along with a 1.3 Ghz Quad core processor, the specs are no joke for the price tag. However the phone and its gaffes are super jokes unless the company is able to do some serious explaining.

For one, all icons on the phone are blatant copies of the Apple iPhone, they even copied the Safari icon for their generic browser on their Android 5.1. Most of the other icons such as music are also copies of the iPhone. A news source was quoting company sources as saying that Apple has not copyrighted these icons. Calling bullshit on that ! Even the start interface looks like Apple’s and the home button and rounded edges are also copies of the legendary Apple phone.

The company also plans to setup plants in Noida worth over 250 crores, however there is no indication of how they would actually get this money. With the 4 month delivery promise, it looks like a pyramid scheme at the moment. The Indian govt. also seems to have some shady partnership with this company with the Freedom 251 makers proposing to launch with Govt. bloatware apps like Swach Bharat and Farmer and Women Safety. The company however claims no subsidy if being given to them.

The phone also has the Indian tricolor to further impress upon the fact that its an Indian phone, however the test phones given to some media outlets had Adcom branding whitened out , and the company Adcom is just an importer of IT products. So the more someone questions and digs into this so called cheap smartphone, the more it becomes apparent that its largely a scam and the make in India part is probably just an eyewash to sell more units to those who think having a phone with the tricolor makes them more patriotic. Also the legality of putting the Indian flag on the phone needs to be questioned.

Only time will tell how things unfold, but if you are lucky enough to get this phone for 251, don’t be disillusioned, its not an example of Indian engineering, but more-so of Indian jugaad and trickery. I hope that I am wrong and this is a company with indeed good intentions and a good product, but it seems very unlikely that its the case.

With no products out till now, the following mission statement might evoke a chuckle :

Established in 2015, Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. is one of the fastest growing smartphone companies in India. We design and produce smart phones to provide a satisfying mobile experience for users, so that their valuable time is spent doing things/tasks they love, instead of figuring out ways to use the phone.

We have a complete in-house product testing set-up in India. With best-in-class features, Freedom251 is the Indian smartphone brand at highly affordable prices. We are an amazing team of smartphone lovers who collaborate seamlessly to exchange technical and qualitative inputs and create quality products, along with testing at several stages to deliver the ultimate customer experience in its category.

We convert consumers’ needs and insights into amazing products using deep requirement analysis and bridging gap by offering products with superior value through high quality and best-in-class features at an affordable price.


Jun 15

I officially hate AIRTEL !

Not only do they cheat you off your money, they do it in style. Most of the times they return your money but sometimes the  ingenious people at the nodal officer’s office come up with such stupid explanations, you feel like banging your head on the wall. Same thing happened to me.

I am on the Rs.98 per month GPRS 2G plan. All of a sudden I get a SMS that Rs.60 are now deducted from my account for 2G charges. This is ofcourse some other plan that would overlap with my Rs.98 plan. I write off a letter to the nodal officer directly since this has been happening to me for very long. Instead of helping me with the problem, the people there came up with an ingenious explanation (reproduced later for your viewing pleasure).

Basically they say I accessed internet using Airtel Live. Which is a baseless lie, I never opened Airtel Live. My phone just has APN settings which I havent modified in ages. Anyway I have decided to appeal to the apellate authority since this doesn’t make any sense. Hopefully the people at the appellate authority will have better sense than those at the nodal officer.

 

Thank you for writing to airtel.
This has reference to your e-mail regarding balance depletion towards GPRS for your airtel Prepaid number xxxxxxxxxxx.

There is a charge of Rs. 60/- for browsing Internet service through Airtel Live. Hence, we regret to inform you that charges are valid and waiver for the same could not be processed.
In order to avoid balance depletion, we request you to save the Mobile Office settings as default settings and delete the Airtel Live settings.

Should you require any further online assistance, you may contact our 24×7 helpline at 12118 (Chargeable at 50 paisa for 3 minutes) from any alternate airtel number. While calling from other service providers, please dial 8790912118 (Chargeable as per the respective network charges).

We hope that we have been able to assist you suitably.
Please feel free to speak to our call center executive on 121 regarding any query/ request and 198 (Toll Free) for any complaints. You can also email us at 121@in.airtel.com.
You can get in touch with the Nodal Officer with your earlier request or complaint number if it’s still unresolved. You may send an email at nodalofficer.andhra@airtel.in or you may call at 9959334865 from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM Monday to Friday. The Nodal officer will provide a resolution to your complaint in 10 days.

If you do not receive a satisfactory response from Nodal officer you may send an email at appellate.andhra@airtel.in or you may call at 9959444865 from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM Monday to Friday.

Assuring you the best of our services.
Warm Regards,
Asha J
Nodal Office
Bharti Airtel Limited


Jan 24

This is part 1 of the review : Initial reactions  + Physical features

I have grown up using the Nokia E63 and E71 so when dad lost his E71 (got stolen, no FIR from Delhi Police, deja-vu ? ) , E72 was the natural upgrade for his needs. So he backed off to the Nokia N72 while we searched for a good deal on the Nokia E72. Finally we got the E72 for around $220 from the United States, the phone came with the car navigation attachments which consists of a stand.

Anyway, the background ends here. Moving onto the phone itself. As soon as you hold the phone in your hand, you see it’s a sleeker version of the Nokia E63 and possibly even of the Nokia E71, although it’s a gram heavier than the E71 with the new features built in , it would be injustice to call it a bulkier version of E71.

The phone unlike its earlier version E71 has 2 cameras (one of them 5 MP)  and a much larger internal memory at 250 MB. The dual cameras promise good video calling capabilities and the much needed internal memory upgrade means more good things inside the phone for you. The phone came with a 2GB microSD card.

Physical Upgrades :

Nokia E72

Compared to the Nokia E71, the Nokia E72 while having the same shape does have an individual character about it. The keys are changed, the camera is changed and even the unlock key combination is changed. All these changes add to a non-seamless transition from the Nokia E71. My first impression of the E72 was that it unlocks differently than the E71. That itself takes some getting used to. The email key is also precariously placed underneath the right soft-key. I accidentally keep pressing the email key every now and then. On usability these things push the E72 a notch lower than the E71.

But there is a silver lining. Nokia has addressed a long standing demand from the E71 which even the E63 had. The E63 had a flashlight button, the E71 lacked it but with the E72 Nokia has addressed the particular point.

The Nokia E72 has a trackpad instead of a 5 way navigational key. The trackpad is so small that its actually very annoying and prone to mis-clicks and mis-navigation.  The older nav key was definitely better than the new track pad which just gives the phone some novelty but nothing on the usability. Even browsing photos using the trackpad key is difficult as multiple images get swiped many times.

The Nokia E72 also has a standard micro USB port, to tell you the truth I don’t remember what was on the Nokia E71 as I always used it with bluetooth. 

The E72 also has a 3.5mm audio jack as compared to a non standard 2.5mm jack on the Nokia E71. What it essentially means is that you can use your normal headphones with the Nokia E72. The built in earphones aren’t really that great with respect to quality but do the job.

The E72 also has volume keys which allow you to zoom into and out of images. It took me a bing/google search to figure out on how to zoom in and out of images on the Nokia E72.

Apart from this the E72 comes with an accelerometer (I didn’t see where they use it till now). The phone interface doesn’t seem to have been customized for the accelerometer which is a dampener.

The E72 also has GPS which I am surprised to say is extremely accurate and beats the GPS on my windows phone in terms of accuracy (atleast here in Delhi).

The E72 is also supposed to have a proximity sensor and a magnetometer. Will update as soon as I see how to use those. Overall from a physical perspective, the device is a definite upgrade from its poorer cousin but there are still chinks which Nokia need to address.

Stay tuned for the second part of this review, internals.


Nov 19

This is the first time I am this angry with Airtel, I have used this mobile service all my life but the blatant disregard for the customer is appalling to say the least. I am forced to write this mail as they are refusing to respond to my emails and are not resolving my complaint. In fact today I received a SMS that my query has been replied to and in truth it hadn’t been replied to. Some call center supervisor on a power trip. No response to any follow-up emails either. Just to make it clear I used strong language in my mails but no insults or profanities.

I am dividing this post into 2 parts :

1. Advertisements via phone calls – Airtel has this number 9849805941 which was calling (is still calling) me once a day and plays ads. Since I had registered for DND I contacted Airtel to stop spamming me with ads. Soon Airtel came up with an explanation that this was not a telemarketer number and hence I should complain to the Police if I want these ads to stop, can you imagine that ? They had the audacity to say they want to protect the privacy of this number who makes 1 call to me (and other numbers ? ) every day with ads.

I have also escalated this matter to the nodal officer who is also yet to get back to me, even more suspicious is the fact that I cannot call this number and the line says the number doesn’t exist but still I get one ad from this number everyday.

2. Service messages and Automatic Service subscription – TRAI says that all VAS services need an explicit customer approval to get activated, of course the agents sitting there who want to make Airtel some fast and unethical buck don’t seem to think so. This had happened to me twice in Delhi and twice now in Hyderabad and the modus operandi is even more brazen. After my complaint I got a call from a call center agent who said “these services are activated from back end” , wow, ofcourse he didn’t give that in writing but call record will show he said that. He also claimed his supervisor was not there when I asked to speak to him. When I asked him to tell his supervisor to call me back the supervisor magically re-appeared. Wonder if these call center people are Airtel employees or vendors.

The customer care responses to my mails on the matter are below  (extraneous stuff removed) :

Mail No. 1

With reference to your E-mail dated 08/10/2010, you have expressed concern regarding balance deduction for your Airtel mobile number <snip>.

We realize that this situation must have inconvenienced you.
We would like to inform you that Cricket Alert Service is active and there is a charge of Rs.5/-. Hence, the balance was deducted.
Deactivation of Cricket Alert Service service: 
The Cricket Alert Service has been deactivated with effect from 08/10/2010, as per your request. Confirmation message will be sent on successful deactivation.
Adjustment:
We would like to inform you that the amount of Rs. 5/- has been processed and will be credited on your account within 24 hours.

Mail No. 2 (the same service had again been activated by another agent) – During this period I was on vacation and my phone was switched off so I didn’t realize the balance deduction till I wrote them a mail :

> Thank you for writing to Airtel.
>
> With reference to your e-mail dated 17/11/2010, you have expressed concern
> regarding promotional call and message , deactivate the Value Added service
> for your Airtel mobile number <snip>.
>
> We realize that this situation must have inconvenienced you. However, we
> assure you a prompt action to solve the concern.
>
> We would like to inform you that as per our records there is a charge of Rs.
> 1.50/- deducted for the activation of Cricket Service.
>  
> We would like to inform you that the Cricket Service  has  already been
> deactivated on 03/11/2010.

I am still waiting for my Rs.1.50 refund and stoppage of these advertising calls. I am sick and tired of Airtel’s brazenness now and seriously want to switch over all my connections as soon as number portability comes over. This is also the most serious I have ever been about consumer court, totally aghast at the service dished out by Airtel to me (4-5 year old customer)


Jan 14

Nokia E63-2

First a little background on the whole cell phone business, I love mobile phones. My first tryst with a powerful phone was with a Nokia 3100, ok do i hear you laughing ? , well the Nokia 3100 was a Series 40 phone and the 1st one for  which huge amounts of customizations were available and possible via wap sites (most popular one being the ones hosted on tagtag.com , those were the days :P ).

Anyway , since then I have had an Imate (JAQ) (pathetic service in India),  an Asus (P320) phone (bad build quality), LG (M550) (bad battery and availability of spare parts), a Sony Ericsson (K700i) (awesome phone, no complaints, but I hear service is bad anyway).

I have also briefly used the Samsung C100 (good phone) and Nokia E71 (which is my dad’s phone). Now the Nokia E71 is a powerful phone (not to mention expensive for my pocket too). So its the price factor where the Nokia E63 enters, firstly the looks and physical features.

The Nokia E63 has a plastic look with a matte finish , the E71 has a metallic look which makes it look much more classy.  The metallic look is also a fingerprint magnet and this problem is automatically solved in our Nokia E63 phone. I bought the phone from US BTW under a crazy Amazon deal. The phone has a similar keyboard with a small exception, the spacebar key is smaller than your E71 and allows you to start the flashlight instantly. The smaller spacebar is infact a hindrance to typing if you have big hands like me.

Other than that the E63 lacks GPS, I had grown quite fond of GPS and its omission is an obvious down-point. You can however pair up the Nokia E63 with a bluetooth GPS device.

This was the 1st part of the review, you may read the 2nd part at Indiantechblog.com


Mar 13

Nokia E71 Stainless Steel

Its actually my dad’s phone, but the Nokia E71 is a perfect Indian phone. Rugged, smart and filled with features to the top there is never a dull moment with it. Major features include, good email support, QWERTY keyboard, Wifi and GPS. It kind of reminds me of my old Palm Treo 650 currently being enjoyed by my brother in the US. But be sure to buy a screen protector for the E71 since it has a large screen and silver area near the screen. Good screen protectors also protect the silver area near the screen.

My last 2 mobile phones have been Windows Mobile phones, so i have kind of gotten addicted to the layout and functionality of Windows mobile. But this phone has sort of rekindled my love for Symbian devices which are not touchscreen. Touchscreen is no longer a novelty these days with most cheap Chinese phones being touchscreen and trying to emulate Windows Mobile devices and/or popular N-series models from Nokia. Plus touchscreen phones without keyboards are pretty difficult to use. Qwerty keyboards on the other-hand are indeed a pleasure to operate on.

So this phone has a great battery life, awesome screen, the pictures on it are crisp and clear. The camera is great. Although sometimes the photos can look to be a little bit too overexposed.

The Wifi is superfast and the interface overall is very very responsive. It really kicks the butts of N-series phones in terms of speed. It kicks the butt of my Windows Mobile phones also.

But all in all, super cool phone to have :)