Mobile app lets you pay with your name

I love the functionality, but the privacy issues that Card Case introduces are almost unfathomable. Imagine being in a mall with this app active in your pocket: dozens of shops would know you’re in the vicinity.

Then what’s being done with all of the data describing your travels? Who owns that, who is it share with, and how is it managed? Who is it being resold to?

Card Case sounds sort of like an ankle bracelet for shoppers.

Mobile app lets you pay with your name:

The app [Card Case] automatically opens a tab when it detects that a customer is within 100 meters (328 feet) of a business, as long as they’ve enabled the functionality in the app and approved the business.

The user’s arrival, along with their name and photo, is announced on the merchant’s app giving them the ability to charge products and services to the customer’s credit card.

“You can pay without ever reaching for your purse, taking out your wallet, or even your phone,” said Quinn. “It requires no new or unusual customer behaviour – you don’t have to wave your phone, or preload money.”

(Via The Globe and Mail – Technology RSS feed)

Solo Mobile Unlimited Bad Service?

The rumours are flying fast and furious that Bell’s about to re-launch its discount mobile service Solo Mobile as Solo Unlimited.

For anyone considering signing up, I’d direct your attention to a blog post I wrote last year, Hello, Solo Mobile? Is Anybody There? My documented experience and the ever-growing list of comments there makes one wonder if Bell just shouldn’t just kill the brand. Unless Bell is making significant improvements to Solo’s quality of service and support, it seems almost cruel that the company is working to inflict Solo on yet more unsuspecting consumers.

It’s a true case of buyer beware.

Bell-Northwestel Communication Breakdown?

Twice in the last 2 weeks, there’s been a significant, long-term Bell Mobility mobile network outage in at least Whitehorse. It’s coincided both times with reports on Twitter from Northwestel of internet disruptions due to to cut cables (here and here; the latter appears to apply only to Ross River).

In both cases you could “feel” a significant drop in internet quality by the virtue of a reduction in web page responsiveness and an almost total disability to stream media like video from YouTube or download files from iTunes. Late last night especially, it was painful to be online (like 20+ seconds to download basic web pages over my $90/month internet connection; ouch).

And almost exactly corresponding with the duration of that reduction in connectivity quality, the local mobile network was completely down (at least, the 3G one was; I can’t speak for the old CDMA one).

The first mobile-phone outage and internet service disruption, on the 13th, lasted about 10 hours. The second was last night and lasted for some people from about 10:30pm last night to 6:30am this morning.

The problem is, when you call Bell to ask about these significant outages, they don’t even know they occurred. Bell Mobility is completely unaware that their mobile networks are going down for significant periods of time in Whitehorse.

It could be that Bell is just not paying attention. Maybe their system isn’t as cutting edge as they make it out to be and they’re simply unable to monitor network stability and availability. One technical support rep (Glen) explained they aren’t aware of outages until a critical mass of customers call to complain; I find that very hard to believe.

And it’s suspect that these network outages coincide with internet access disruptions in Whitehorse. Could it be that Northwestel is somehow responsible for Bell’s mobile network in Whitehorse and, when they experience outages, they’re not reporting them to Bell for some reason?

Does anyone know anything about the internet or mobile network outages? Has anyone managed to extract an explanation for them from either Bell or Northwestel?

To be honest, I don’t even care about the circumstances. I just need an explanation, and I feel one is owed to me since I’m giving both of these companies a significant amount of money every month. And it irritates me that no explanation is forthcoming.

When information about service disruptions are difficult to attain from providers, however, one tends to become suspect about the circumstances and begin to think the providers are hiding something. Otherwise, why obfuscate?

It would be ideal if both service providers maintained some sort of status page that was maintained with up-to-date information about disruptions, upgrades, and anything else pertinent to the quality of service being provided. Web app developer 37 Signals, for example, provides just such a report, and it goes a long way to alleviating user anxiety. And I wouldn’t have to keep phoning them and hassling them, which would save them and me tons of time and money.

Instead, Bell and Northwestel, either intentionally or by accident, choose to withhold this information or make it very difficult to attain. Which leads to a lot of confused and pissed off customers, like me and several others I’m aware of.

Why hide your mistakes when it’s so much easier to admit them, learn from them, and move on?

I don’t even know why I ask really, about the philosophical aspects of admitting mistakes, or about Bell’s and Northwestel’s flubs. I should know by now that these are two companies that rejoice in stonewalling their customers, and that’s never going to change.

Study: Google Nexus One’s first week of sales were weak | Phones | iPhone Central | Macworld

Big hype didn’t equal big sales for Google’s Nexus One. Only 20,000 Google Nexus One phones were sold in its first week of sales, according to sales estimates from market research firm Flurry. By way of comparison, the NexusOne’s numbers are 12 times lower than for the Motorola Droid and 80 times lower than for the iPhone 3GS.

via Study: Google Nexus One’s first week of sales were weak | Phones | iPhone Central | Macworld.

Sometimes, Reality Just Isn’t Real Enough

One of the most fascinating aspects of evolving mobile platforms like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android is their  promise of ubiquitous computing.

Now there’s a scary phrase: ubiquitous computing. What does it mean?

First, ubiquitous = omnipresent. Like, everywhere. As in, tripping over it all over the friggin’ place.

But, really: who wants to find computers around every corner?

So it seems ubiquitous + computing does not necessarily equal the culinary nirvana that is chocolate + peanut butter. (“Hey, you got ubiquity in my computer!” just doesn’t have that same… je ne sais quoi.)

But, hold on. Computing does not necessarily mean computer. Continue reading

Hello, Solo Mobile? Is Anybody There? (UPDATE)

Sometimes I experience such a resoundingly bad customer experience I can’t help but relate it to the world at large.

I called up Solo Mobile this afternoon to ask about their rates and plans. I used the number on their web site, 1-877-999-7656.

It seems this is their customer service number, as I was asked for my Solo Mobile number. When I didn’t enter one, the system told me to hit the # key if I wanted to ask about becoming a new customer. So I did this.

Then I received a message that their call centre was closed. The system informed me that they are open from 8:30am to 9:00pm Monday to Friday. Odd. I was calling at 3:00pm on a Wednesday.

The system told me I could hit 1 to leave a voicemail message, which I did. Then the system told me that the voice mailbox belonging to Solo Mobile was full. That sort of made me chuckle. I hung up.

I went back to their web site, as I’d noticed a callback button. Here’s what I got when I clicked that:

Unfortunately, our callback system is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later. For Service during our regular business hours, please call 1-877-999-7656.

Been there, done that. Something is clearly wrong here.

There’s enough information on their web site, so I thought I may be able to complete the transaction myself. So I clicked on the phone I liked, but quickly discovered that their shopping cart system is broken. Despite having added a phone to it, the amount I was going to pay was a mere $0.

I followed the purchase process through anyway (more to see how bad it could get than anything) and ended up with this message:

Internal Error

An Error has Occured

Please return to home page.

Okay. Last ditch effort. Email.

I clicked on the “Send Us an Email” link on their Contact Us page, filled out the form there, and submitted it.

Moments later, I received this email message from Solo Mobile in response:

Good day, We regret to inform you that due to technical difficulties with our systems, all the information contained in your message was lost. We sincerely regret the inconvenience this situation may cause.

That’s about when I decided to write this blog post. Does anybody even work at Solo Mobile? Aren’t they aware that their entire system is FUBAR?

Oh, wait. They’re a subsidiary of Bell. Well. That explains everything, then.

The Next Day…

I received this message from a Solo Mobile representative today:

Good day Mr. Robulack,

Thank you for using Solo Mobile’s Internet Customer Care. My name is Darine. I have read your message and I am pleased to assist you.

However, I wish to clarify that your question refers to products and services provided by Bell Mobility, which has its own client care service. We suggest that you submit your question at the following URL address:

Thank you for using Solo Mobile’s Web site. Don’t hesitate to e-mail us again at:

Have a really nice day

Darine (6026572)
Solo Mobile Internet Client Care

Well, at least she was polite, even if she didn’t quite comprehend the gist of this blog post. Whatever.

My experience makes me wonder if we won’t be seeing this sort of memorial service soon:

Solo Mobile Memorial Service

Solo Mobile Memorial Service

Too bad the company’s customer intake service doesn’t match the quality of their advertising because the Solo Mobile commercial I pulled this image from is actually very funny. Check it out: