Monday, 12 September 2011

Mobilicity - teething troubles

On Friday I went to the mall and paid off my WINDmobile bill. I asked the young man to unlock my phone. He declined and said the only way to do that is to call 611. While I was at the mall I checked out the competition. The young woman at Koodoo admitted they were really Telus (end of conversation) and the salesman at Wireless Wave gave me a lot of rather misleading information. I think he really wanted to sell me a phone. He said that there are some outlets in Richmond that will unlock phones for $20, but the practice was "illegal". While there may be such outlets, the illegality seems to me to be unlikely. You can, of course, find out how to unlock phones on the internet.

In any event I could find no better deal currently than Mobilicity's "back to school" offer of $25 for unlimited local calling, text and data. It's that last one that wins me over - since the availability of open wifi seems to have declined very steeply in recent weeks. With WIND I was able to tether my smart phone to my MacBook - but I ran up a data bill very quickly that way. Convenient but expensive.

I visited the nearest Mobilicity store at No 2 Road and Blundell - and while they were willing to unlock my phone it turned out they didn't know how to do it either. So I called 611 and got the unlock code from WIND. They wanted the phone's serial number and to get that you enter *#06# on the phone key pad. That enables them to calculate an unlock code which is of limited validity.

I then walked over to Starbucks for a nice cup of tea, a table with a 110v outlet nearby and (of course) free wifi. So to save you looking up how to unlock a WINDmobile Nokia 5230 smartphone here is the process in 4 easy steps

1. Turn off the phone

2. Remove the SIM card (to do that the battery has to come out too, but you put that back before the next step).

3. Turn on the phone. Since it does not have a SIM card it will not connect

4. Using the phone keypad enter the following #pw+[the unlock code from WIND]+1#

note: do not enter the square brackets. Since you do not have a p or a w on your keypad use the * key

tap *** for P, **** for W and ** for +

The letters and symbols will appear on the screen. If they appear as **** delete (using the C key at bottom right of the pad) and do it again. Once entered correctly the message "SIM Restriction off" will appear. I was a bit surprised that after I had done this, putting the SIM card back did not re-establish a WIND connection. I had not at that time cancelled my account, so it seems that unlocking the phone did that automatically.

So now I had to get a new account somewhere and Mobilicity was closest. They set me me up for the $25 a month deal plus $20 for a new SIM card. The phone worked for voice and text - and they left it at that. I should have stayed and checked some more but I was now running late, so I left. I later determined that the smartphone would not do email or the web. I got the message "Packet data connection not available".

Now, when the phone was connected to the Mobilicity network for the first time, it spent a while sending and receiving text messages which were supposed to reset many things: including the home page of the web browser and so on. I assume that the staff at the store thought that these set up signals would turn my unlocked phone into a replica of the Nokia 5230 model that they sell. That certainly seemed to be the intention - looking at the messages I got on it. But once again I had to spend time talking to someone at a call centre. For Mobilicity this is *611 - and I had to enter the correct WAP information into the phone set up menus manually. Then I had to remove the SIM card and battery and leave the phone like that for five minutes, so that when I reconnected it would reset and a new signal be sent to it.

So now I have internet connectivity and can do email and web on the small screen. Good. By the way, the browser web home page is still WINDmobile! However, talking to Mobilicity support provided all the necessary information about how to change that - and the web page and passwords needed.

What took longer was to tether the Nokia to my MacBook. A call to *611 gave me some information, but not enough to establish a connection initially. Mobilicity does not "support" tethering - because it requires expertise that they think only Nokia or maybe Apple can supply. Indeed, the only way I established tethering in the first place was by using information from the Nokia support web pages (three different ones). I had, foolishly (it seems) assumed that the same settings would work for Mobilicity since none of them were site specific - like a web addresses. But by thinking through what I had done to get web access, the changes I had to make to the Macs connection settings were straightforward. Leave the telephone number as *99# and enter the identity and password as advised by Mobilicity for web access. I took a little while to get this sorted, but it works now.

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