Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Bell Mobility/Samsung Vibrant debacle

It's been very interesting watching the Bell/Samsung debacle unfold thru the members at XDA and it's hard to escape the conclusion that there are a lot of young entitled males using the i9000m Vibrant. No doubt about it, Samsung made a HUGE mis-step with it's release of UGJK4 and Bell Mobility, with it's varying customer service isn't blameless either. But when one takes a cutting edge device, twists it until it breaks then goes looking for blood it's hard to have sympathy. As always, the innocent user with the spontaneous failure gets stuck in the pool with the tweakers.

Parts/devices seemed to be in short supply in September/October. Some users root, lagfix and install different ROM on their devices, always with the caveat by the chefs that they are not responsible for bricks. So when they brick they send it back to Bell with a "one day I woke up and this stopped working" story and Bell seems in no rush to fix them. It IS outrageous that Bell would hold devices for over a month without any suspension of service rebate, replacement item or even an explanation. Users seemed sure that the i9000m had special problems that caused it to break down more often.

Then came the update. OUCH. I understand that they probably wanted to meet the 2010 update deadline but the timing was truly horrible. The UGJK4 update changed something in the phone and, any time from immediately to never, the phone crashed needing repair. Bad Samsung/Bell. The only reason I can think that a company would release such a flawed update was that there was no other way to find the flaw. OK the other reason is short term memory - after all, most people have forgotten just how bad the XBox was when it came out.

Hand off to Bell and I have to say - really? What's the deal with your customer service. Some people are charged to send the phone in. Some people are charged for a loaner. Some people's phones apparently sit in a back room for a long time as a penalty for being a Bell customer. Get information to your Bell stores, be clear about what you are charging for and tell your customers the options. Have you taken NO MANAGEMENT COURSES? Happily the location I deal with DOES have good training. They fiddled with the phone then said to see if I could connect to my computer and if not then call call tech service. Great, maybe it doesn't have to go away. Oh yes it does. The one repairs clerk (yes ensure there is a clear chain of custody) said it could be 6 weeks but Samsung had been good so it would probably be more like 2 weeks. 2 days to get there, 2 days repair, 2 days back. Add a couple of days on each end for store stuff and that's about 2 weeks.

While my device was away users on XDA started a complaint or something. What was the complaint exactly? The phone was being repaired or replaced and the companies involved would always say it was as timely as possible. In the same time frame Bell and Samsung figured out their strategy - pull the update, exchange devices for a new one and get a $100 credit, release another update UGJL2 that is very solid. This doesn't do anything for the people in the system but with the end of the Christmas break, the trickle was about to turn into a flood. This gets rid of many who would sign the petition. Not to mention this is what big business does best, stifle complaint by throwing money at the end user.

I don't comment there much because I'm tempted to throw up my hands too often. Sometimes I think their phone is a slim black box - make that sometimes they make it very apparent that the phone is a slim black box to them. We have thin light micro-electrical components in a plastic case. Metal would not make it better. Not only do all the connections have to be precise but all components have to have programming to talk to each other then there is the ROM that coordinates it all to add functionality. One slip up in programming, one poor solder, any little glitch anywhere can have dire consequences for the device. Of course users are mad because the system's been closed a little with the new update even though it makes the i9000m very difficult to brick. Sigh - I can see why MS and Apple have been so closed with their hardware.