Nokia USA: Again, your service (not product) is the problem

Nokia Director of Corporate Communications Mark Squires (seen here in a recent MobileJones interview) has joined our conversation about Nokia’s US service problems.

This morning I was encouraged to see that yet another Nokia staffer, Mark Squires (Nokia’s Director of Corporate Communications) left a comment on my blog. He wrote:

“Hi Amy, I work with Charlie at Nokia and have just tracked to your posts. First up sorry that one of our phones has rolled over on you and thank you for your input/thoughts/patience. Charlie and I are based outside of the US but I’ve written to my colleagues who are local to you and brought this matter to their attention. Lets see what can be done, in the mean time feel free to get in tough directly. Mark”

Thanks for joining this conversation Mark. Rather than taking this to private correspondence, I think it’s more beneficial to keep our exchanges on this public, since it affects Nokia’s entire potential US market for your N Series phones. This isn’t just about my personal experience.

You wrote: “Sorry that one of our phones has rolled over on you.”

…Actually, as I explained in my most recent post on this theme, my N95 phone (the device) was NOT the problem in my case. As I’ve expressed several times: the phone itself was great, I loved it. And I do understand that a firmware update to any high-tech device always represents a slight a risk of malfunction.

The main problem was Nokia’s inadequate service for high-end US customers like me.

I’m sorry to harp on the service quality vs. product quality issue, but it’s very important that you and your company understand this distinction. So far, I’m not sure Nokia really gets it. But this key concern could easily make or break Nokia’s attempt to make serious headway in the US high-end cell phone market. I’m continuing to speak up about this because I really do want Nokia to succeed in the US….

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Nokia USA: It’s Not Your Intermediaries, It’s YOU

I was so happy and excited to get my N95 (see video). I could be this happy again, if only Nokia would get its US service and support act together.

As I noted earlier, this morning Charlie Schick of Nokia USA left a comment on this blog to reach out to me about my recent heartbreaking experience with the Nokia N95. Here’s what he said:

“These are the nightmares that we never want to happen.

“I remember in the days before we allowed users to do their firmware updates, this was one of the worries that could have killed the whole process.

“I think what makes it hard for us is all the disintermediation – the, sometimes small but crucial, gap between us and you.

“And what concerns me is that we know when it happens to folks like you who write about it. Yet, that leads us to a one-time fix.

“How can we spread a policy or procedure down the line that helps anyone with this issue (and without costing the company or you an bundle)?

“I don’t know, and any more speculation on my part might be irresponsible.

“For sure, the more folks who bring this up, the more likely the company will come with a plan that can deal with this in a way we are both happy with.”

Here is my response — which I hope will lead to further constructive conversation and perhaps better options for current and would-be US users of high-end Nokia products…

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Talking with Nokia About US Service/Repair Problems (Finally!)

Gdugardier, via YouTube
Charlie Schick, the guy from Nokia USA who just reached out to me about my N95 nightmare.

This morning, I was pleased and relieved to see that a representative of Nokia USA, Charlie Schick, left a constructive comment on my most recent post about my recent N95 fiasco. I’m glad to see that at least someone in that company is savvy about talking over problems and finding solutions through public conversation.

Actually, I’d heard of Charlie just yesterday, before he left that comment. According to Mobile Jones, he’s Nokia’s “social media expert” who ran the company’s blogger outreach program. Also, blogger and N95 user Jenifer Hanen mentioned him in her comments yesterday.

Coincidentally, sometime today Nokia is going to launch a new blog, Nokia Conversations (that link isn’t live just yet, keep trying). Mobile Jones reported that this blog will “highlight the developments inside the world’s largest device manufacturer, and new entrant into mobile content and services that the 60,000 employee company represents. Some of those 60K employees are also introduced along with their accomplishments and new products. Comments are welcomed.”

In this interview, Nokia’s head of social media, Mark Squires (I gather he’s Charlie’s boss), told Mobile Jones that “The idea is to give people who use our products a route straight in to us to talk to us. …A lot of the time we’re selling products to people via up to six [intermediaries], and this way if they don’t like the product, they can tell us. …For me, commenting is the main thing.”

I’m crafting a separate post to respond to Charlie/Nokia USA. It’ll be posted shortly. But I did want to acknowledge that I appreciate being engaged publicly and constructively. I’m skeptical about whether it’ll make any real difference, but it’s a better approach to communication and service than what I’ve experienced thus far from Nokia. Thanks.

…By the way, here’s Charlie’s blog.

Beth Kanter digs further into the Nokia N95 firmware quandary

eschipul, via Flickr (CC license)
My friend Beth Kanter is keeping a close eye on Nokia, hoping to keep her new N95 from turning into a brick, like mine did.

Recently I bought, fell madly in love with, and then sadly had to return a near-perfect moblogging tool — the Nokia N95 — after the very first firmware upgrade turned it into a brick within days of my getting the phone.

My friend and fellow blogger Beth Kanter also bought an N95 around the same time, from the same vendor ( So far her N95 has been working pretty well for her (with some frustrations), and she’s detailing her learning experiences with this device in a special blog. She has not yet updated her firmware. Frankly, it seems like my experience scared her about taking that step — which is entirely appropriate, given what happened to me.

Amazon sold me an unlocked N95, which was presented as a US version. I soon found out it had arrived with vastly outdated firmware — version 10.2.006. (The current US version is apparently 11.2.009 — which is far behind the latest version, not available to US users yet.) When I couldn’t make Nokia’s own moblogging service, Share on Ovi (formerly Twango) work with my phone, I suspected it might be because of the outdated firmware. So I updated my firmware using Nokia’s own tools and process. That’s whate turned my expensive moblogging tool into an expensive, unresponsive brick.

Nokia wouldn’t guarantee that they’d fix or replace the phone for free, and they’d take weeks to get it back to me in any case. Since Amazon only allows 30 days to return a phone for a refund, and I was understandably wary of trusting Nokia not to leave me holding the bag on this, I decided to give up and just returned the phone. Which totally sucked. I was devastated. I really loved this device.

Hoping to avoid a similar fate, Beth registered her phone warranty and called Nokia customer support. The rep told her, “Yes, we’ve heard of the unresponsive brick problem. The problem occurs if you have a phone that isn’t a ‘US’ phone, but try to install the US version of the firmware update.”

Beth and the rep then verified that, indeed, the phone in her hand which she bought from Amazon was a US version. And the rep confirmed that “All unresponsive brick problems were due to a mix in the firmware versions.” Meaning that it should be safe for Beth to go ahead with her firmware update.

Here’s a subsequent call Beth made to Nokia customer service to reconfirm all this information. (Beth, I love you for this!)

Note that in this case, unlike the first Nokia rep Beth spoke to, this rep specifically told Beth that they advise N95 users NOT to update their firmware unless they’re experiencing “functionality problems” — which could include incompatibility with desired services.

Despite Nokia’s assurances, Beth’s still leery of the firmware update, and I don’t blame her…

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N95 Report: Why I had to give up

NOTE: I posted the article below about 10 minutes too soon. After completing the Nokia firmware upgrade as instructed, using their software on a Windows laptop, my lovely N95 morphed into an expensive brick. It won’t start.

It’s surprising how upset I am about this. I’ve held off for years on getting a serious cell phone because I don’t really want or need a phone, I need a moblogging tool. I hate talking on the phone, it’s a low priority for me.

Last Sunday, when I decided to take the plunge and get the N95, I was so excited. And believe me, right now I really needed something positive to be excited about. I’ve been vastly overworked and very stressed.

I really WANT to be moblogging. I’m so ready for it. I’ve been wanting to do it for ages. But the tools weren’t where I needed them to be. They still aren’t. I can’t be bothered with carrying 3 or 4 different pieces of gear and lugging a laptop about. I was willing to pay top dollar for a serious integrated moblogging tool.

Yeah, I know the iPhone 3G *might* be coming out soon. But no word whether it would have a Bluetooth keyboard option, and I really really really really hate iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard.

And, yeah, I know the Nokia N96 *might* be coming out soon too — but after this experience I’d only want to go with a Nokia again if I could get it from a local retail store where I could exchange it fast if it bricks out again. Right now, their only store are in NYC and Chicago.

I’m not ashamed to tell you this experienced has reduced me to tears on this lovely spring day…

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VOIP telephony: Getting frustrating

Hey, VOIPyourlife: I’m not smiling…

A couple of months ago I signed up for an internet-based (VOIP) phone service called VOIPyourlife. I’d growing increasingly dissatisfied with the high cost and lack of key features from my landline provider.

There are several things I like about VOIPyourlife — a good web-based interface for configuring the features on my account, and sending my voice mail messages as .wav files to my e-mail totally works for me.

However, I’ve been having connectivity problems. I’ve noticed lately that whenever I make a call, it takes up to 20 seconds fromt he time I dial to when it starts ringing. About 25% of the time it doesn’t connect at all and I have to redial. Even more frustratingly, sometimes I dial, it starts ringing, and then it disconnects or gives me a busy tone. What’s THAT all about?

Features aside, one thing I definitely need from phone service is that it just works. I’m now seriously considering going totally mobile, if I can find an affordable plan with an short-term contract (1 year or less) and understandable billing. Recommondations? Please comment below.

Landlines: Artifact of the 20th century?

GivePeasAChance, via Flickr (CC license)
Blast from the past.

On one discussion group I belong to, the question recently came up about whether members of the group had abandoned “landline” telephones entirely in their homes.

Actually, right now I’m in the process of trying out a VOIP service — and if it works to my satisfaction for a few months, I’ll move my phone number over to it and ditch my landline. (And if I eventually find a mobile phone and carrier plan that suits me, I may abandon VOIP too.)

My colleague Gary Rosenzweig of CleverMedia made an interesting comment: “I’ve got a couple of young people working for me that have never owned a land line in their lives. They say none of their friends do either.”

Make sense. Why should they? It seems to me that the one advantage of a landline is that it works when the power goes out and the cells are down — as long as the whole phone system hasn’t crashed. But is that emergency capability worth paying $25-$30/month for? I don’t know about you, but I live in a fairly compact neighborhood where some of my neighbors are keeping their landlines and would let me make outgoing calls or give their number in an emergency. So I feel no need to keep a landline of my own for emergency communication.

And anyway, I figure if you’re serious about wanting emergency communication, get an amateur radio license.

What about you? Have you given up landlines? What about people you know? And does age seem to be a factor? Please comment below.