New cellphone for me

Virgin Mobile logoEven though I’ve only been carrying around my Blackberry for the last little while, I had kept my Fido account open to keep the phone number. Switching it from a “$20-per-month” plan to prepaid to keep the costs down had been on my to-do list for a while, but I never quite got around to it. I call it a “$20-per-month” plan with scare quotes because it didn’t include voicemail ($5), caller ID ($5), system access fees ($6.75), or 911 ($0.50), which meant that without using it at all it was $43/month after tax! On Wednesday I decided I might as well get it over with, so I was browsing around all the phone companies’ websites to see if maybe I’d be better off just abandoning the number and changing to another provider.


When I went to Virgin Mobile‘s website, they had a big promotion on because it was Freedom Day, the first day of wireless number portability in Canada: for one day only, if you moved your number to Virgin Mobile, they would credit your account for the price of the phone you buy. So essentially you get a free phone, and the account has no contract; the only gotcha is that you can’t get the price of the phone back in cash.

That was a hard deal to beat, and I was really quite pleased with the idea of leaving Fido, who I’ve never really been thrilled with. So since I knew I was going to be with them for a while and since I could afford their monthly plan ($20/200, but the $20 is all-inclusive) I went out to HMV (!) on my lunch and bought the best phone they offered, a dark-gray Motorola RAZR V3c.

RAZR V3cI called them when I got back to work, sat on hold for about half an hour, and a rep set me up, except for the actual activation. Since they had to wait for Fido to approve the move and release the number, someone was going to call me back later to walk me through activating the phone. (It’s CDMA, so it’s not just a case of activating a SIM.)

I waited and waited, and then around 5:00 pm my old phone deactivated. That seemed like a good sign, but still no phone call. I tried to call them, but got a busy signal! After poking around on howardforums a bit, I learned that their call volume was 15x higher than usual but they’d only planned for 5x, and their call centre had completely lost the ability to make outgoing calls.

This morning I called back and waited on hold for another half-hour and they apologized a lot and then walked me through activation, and I’m now 75% done. There’s a problem affecting a lot of migrated users that’s preventing incoming calls, and I’m one of them. But outgoing calls work and text messages work in both directions, so I’m sure it’s just a case of ironing out bugs in the brand-new number migration process.

(One sign that I’m not in Fido-land anymore: when you hit 0 on their IVR to go straight to a human, the IVR says “Hang on while I find you a real, warm, cuddly human.”)

The phone itself is pretty neat. It’s mostly an improvement over my previous phone, a Sony Ericsson T610, and all of the “mostly” is because Virgin Mobile cripples the phone a bit to try to get you to buy ringtones and stuff from them: OBEX FTP is disabled and there’s no WAP access. Otherwise it has all the features I wanted: flip-phone format, bluetooth for headsets, voice dialing, mp3 ringtones, a great screen, speakerphone, a decent camera, USB, and a good UI. Using it really drives home how annoyed I was with a lot of the features and UI on the T610. And I’ve mostly worked around the lack of OBEX FTP by using Motorola Phone Tools and a USB cable to upload my own ringtones and download photos without having to go over the air. Right now Obey Giant is staring at me from the screen and it plays Spadina Bus when it rings.

Or it would if anyone could call me. Soon. Soon!

One thing that amused me about the whole number portability thing: Telus and Virgin Mobile featured it on the front page of their websites; even more, Telus’s flash Web ads are all about portability lately, and Virgin Mobile, having started the portability ball rolling, has had tons of promotions about it. Rogers, Fido, and Bell, on the other hand, don’t mention it at all. I imagine they must be hemorrhaging subscribers.

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