OK, this is still not resolved.
It went back a third time, the repair sheet indicated they had carried out an electrical repair that involved replacing parts, but it still would not sync with the network when connected (there is no question at this point that it should do, quoting the 'phone settings screen itself: Date & time settings - Automatic - Use network-provided values.
I rang them again and they said if they had not managed to repair after 3 attempts the procedure was to replace the handset, so it duly went back a 4th time (envelope posted out, as for the 3rd time). It duly came back again, not replaced, but the repair sheet saying they had replaced a circuit board. Same usual problems though, including not syncing the time.
I asked for a refund at this point, and was told by customer services (the repair centre is due an apology for my losing my temper at this point I'm afraid) that after 4 attempts to repair the 'phone I would be due a refund, and to take it back to the shop.
Have just been back to the shop, they tell me they can't refund the 'phone after 28 days from the sale.
Back on the 'phone to customer services, they want this time to actually give me a whole new 'phone that has been manufactured at a later date, which will have different firmware etc. So I now have to wait in for the post.
To summarise the problems with this 'phone:
- It will not connect to a VPN, this is the bit of the 'phone you use to connect over an encrypted Internet connection which is advised when connecting to a public wifi hotspot, this though is a well known problem with some Android devices, and it appears this is one of them:
VPN issue on R7 - Android @ MoDaCo
- The time won't sync when it connects to the network, as detailed above.
- There are two officially confirmed bugs also with Android version 2.1update1 (the version on these 'phones):
* The alarm doesn't trigger if the phone is in standby mode. This is true for most people who simply leave the phone as it is overnight and expect to be woken up by the buzz.
* Some SMS messages are delivered more than once, sometimes tens of times. This can be quite a nuisance.
Samsung Europa Android 2.2 (Froyo) update | IT and finance blog
If I remember correctly I may have experienced the second of these at one point a while ago, I have yet to test the first.
- A niggle with the keyboard, the touch sensitive area of the screen keyboard shifts itself downwards so that only the lower half of the key can be used to type the character (even after being realigned), though this did not happen the most recent time the 'phone was returned and switched on I note.
- Something that only started happening the third time the 'phone was returned - I walked into a bar, by the time I had walked out for some odd reason the power off screen flashed by too quickly to be able to select power down. Repeatedly attempting to get the screen to stay put long enough to power the device down for about 5 or 6 times and it was possible to power it down, but it has again just started doing the same on being returned the 4th time (worked OK for the first few days). The net result is the 'phone stays in standby when you would rather it was off.
- As far as I am aware there is still no way for the 'phone owner to reinstall the firmware (typically the same procedure as upgrading the OS). Now this is important, because I read on the Web that hackers are now, in addition to rooting them, reflashing the 'phones with hacked eproms, and a user needs to be able to set things back to a factory state if need arises (perfectly possible with just about every other iPhone, Android, Symbian, etc.) While it is under warranty I'm told the shop will take it back and do this if need arises (one or two weeks), but after the warranty is up (PAYG) then they will charge for this (I shudder to think how much - as of a few months ago Carphone Warehouse were unsure as to whether they would be able to carry out this kind of repair). I'll let readers deduce their own conclusions at this point.
I contacted ZTE directly when all this first started up to ask if they had eproms available for the device, and they essentially do not provide any kind of support (not even so much as a spec. sheet for the 'phone). There was from what I can gather no intention to provide any updates for the 'phone.
On the 4th return of the 'phone and saying I would like a refund at that point, alternatives were suggested (they now have 3 other smartphones at sub 100 pounds, I note also the ZTE Racer has dropped price by 30 pounds from the 99 pounds I paid for it) - I said I would take a look at them. A Sony Ericson, Nokia, and Samsung, the Nokia a Symbian 'phone, the others Android 2.1. The Nokia did not have wifi connectivity. While firmware updates were available for the remaining two 'phones (unlike for the ZTE), it could be more or less concluded they would not be updating to Android 2.2, they were going to remain at 2.1 for the rest of the support cycle (Android 2.1 does not support flash nor saving apps to SD card). The bugs mentioned above may have been fixed in these 'phones, I haven't though looked for any reports of bugs on these 'phones on the Internet. I think though at this point I'd be inclined to spend an extra 50 quid and get a straight Android 2.2 (upgradeable to 3).
In conclusion I think a moral perhaps for Three is not to sell 'phones that cannot be firmware upgradeable to fix bugs, otherwise people will simply return them, a costly exercise.