I'll give the forum the story behind this. So make yourself comfortable.
About 6 months ago I decided to get a 3G 'phone 'cos my PC was knackered so often that at least I would have email and Internet (have fixed PC probs btw since by going over to RedHat Linux).
The service in the shop was ******* awful (really _bad_), but the Racer had just been released and I saw no reason to spend double that on the nearest alternative.
Got it back home - turns out it doesn't run flash and cannot be upgraded (from 2.1), and that ZTE doesn't look as though it will ever in the future release an Android upgrade for it. Both of these things the shop assistant had assured me the Racer could do! But what was the final nail in the coffin was hackers were by about Nov. starting to reflash them, and ZTE hadn't released a formal eprom so it couldn't be flashed back. What the **** are we supposed to do if a hacker reflashes your 'phone for christs sake! (The warranty is there for 1 year, but after that I don't think even Carphone Warehouse would touch one of them - unless maybe if ZTE were to release an eprom.) Finally I tried to connect to AceVPN, who I have an encrypted Internet connection with for my PC. There is a bug in Android from what I can gather (so Ace say) that means that you cannot set up any sort of encrypted Internet connection with Android. (Having said that maybe I should post the problem on this forum to check Ace have got this right.)
So, the shop weren't going to take it back for alleged bullshit at point of sale, so I thought OK, cheap and cheerful disposable 3G 'phone.
About a month ago I noticed the time was 3 mins fast, thought odd, surely it should sync. itself, rang the tech. support line who initially tried to tell me the fix to the bug was to set the time manually; three 'phone calls later (they are free but I could do without having to spend the time), factory resets etc., hunts for apps to set the time from the Internet, queries about Android OS updates, and so on and the tech. support said OK take it back to the shop, see if the sales staff can do anything with it, and if not they will send it off.
First visit back to the 3 shop, again the absolute lowlife of the planet is to be found inhabiting the premises (customer service gets the award for the absolute worst on the planet, complete shite), they tell me that the 'phone does in fact not sync. the time automatically, the Automatic setting only automatically changes from daylight to daylight saving time. Now the manual seems to say it should set the time automatically, there are no manual settings for when the daylight saving change is to be made that year which if I remember correctly my old 'phone required to do this, there are no apps available to sync the time which you think there would be if it didn't sync. automatically... Anyway went back to the shop again, and thank G0d I finally got some (almost, not 100%) plausible customer service out of them.
They've sent it back (I've heard they are replacing the 'phones on account of the non-availability of eproms), and given how bad the customer service has been (no integrity whatsoever), unless they can put it in black and white - a spec. sheet surely should have this data on it, etc., then it would be nice to be able to resell it if I choose to sell it as a 3G 'phone that syncs the time on connecting to the network.
A note on security - I found Android hacked almost straight away, the only time I managed to get a secure Internet connection through it was piggy backing the wifi off of a wifi transmitter on my laptop, which was connected to the Internet using my AceVPN account (i.e., encrypted). I could disable the Internet connection on the 'phone to stop hacking, but what I found was all you had to do was switch the 'phone off and back on again, and even if password protected, the Internet connection was re-enabled on power up (which left only airplane mode, which you can't get calls or txts in, not very satisfactory). (NB I decided at that point to use a dummy forwarding gmail account so that when hacked hackers would not at least be able to download my emails - which is possibly what was going on.) Android is based on Ubuntu (or Debian) I think, and that is not a secure Linux. Google would either need to do a lot of security work on Ubuntu, or use one of the commercial opensource OSs (e.g., RedHat) I think.
wardlock (not happy 3 customer, but getting there)
PS The above is for peer review If I have screwed up technically please point it out, or if you have found 3 customer service in its shops nothing less than exemplary, by all means please say so.
A quick update on this. Most important things first, I've been into the 3 store twice, and have had OK customer service both times.
My 'phone went back for repair (they forgot to 'phone me when it got back to the shop, so that added an extra week onto the 3 week wait). It date and time synced the first time when I put the SIM back in and switched it on. But experimenting with it it wouldn't sync the time in any way if I reset the time to something deliberately incorrect. I tried more or less everything starting from taking the SIM out etc.
The repair sheet said they had reflashed the 'phone (which I thought they weren't able to do on account of ZTE not releasing an eprom), and exchanged a component in the 'phone (requiring soldering) - the technician I spoke to on the 'phone though said not to take too much notice of what the repair sheet says, they have to put certain things down for certain reasons or something, so not sure what to make of the whole thing really at this point.
Anyway the 'phone is back in for repair a second time, this time by post. They did though do their upmost to convince me that perhaps these 'phones did not sync the time for you automatically. However if you tick the box that says 'automatic' under Date & Time settings, and it deactivates all the manual options (including the timezone setting), then it really should set things automatically. I wouldn't like to sell it on without this working.
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:
- 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.
A new 'phone duly (boxed and sealed) arrived in the post this morning. It is identical in every way to the one I purchased. It also does not sync. the time automatically on connecting to the network, and will not connect to a VPN provider (mine at least, I am not willing to swap provider to see if it is a problem with the VPN servers of this provider which I think is reasonable). I can also at this point say that I am testing the 'phone, from unpacking more or less (as best I can manage anyway), in cleanroom conditions. I've also tested the automatic time sync. in different areas of the country, so it is not just a local issue.
I rang Three, the frontline customer services started to process the matter as if it was the very first call I made to them ("you have to set the 'phone time manually"). It took two attempts to get referred to the manager, and after a bit of effort I managed to get him to the point where things left off yesterday. He now wants me to take the 'phones (I have two at this point!) back to the shop, who have said to me already they are not able to refund after 28 days from purchase, but Three customer services have said that if I can get the shop to ring customer services, they should be able to OK the refund.
At risk of descending into a state of irretrievable curmudgeonliness (can you sue for this \: ), something else that cropped up:
- Switching the 'phone on after powering down, it flashes up a quick message saying powering down again and duly switches off a second time, switching back on though it does re-powerup - this has just started recently I think, and does not happen every time.
It would help you know if maybe another ZTE Racer owner could chirp in and tell me if the time on their 'phone will sync OK (set it wrong deliberately, power down, and power back up again), and if they can connect to a VPN.
Update: Went back to the Three shop, they said they were not willing to ring customer service, because essentially there was no way they could refund the 'phone after 28 days even with a call. Rang customer services again, was promised a call back from a manager, which did not materialise, rang again (it was nice that the frontline staff offered to try and find out why the call was not returned), got through to a team leader, who said he would talk to his manager and call me back (I said also at this point if they weren't willing to refund, I would consider perhaps another 'phone and possibly more expensive). Call has not materialised.
I have to look into my rights as a consumer at this point I think.
After two or three promises of calls back that did not materialise I called this number 08454 04 05 06 (consumer direct), went to this webpage, filled in a template, and sent a letter off initiating legal proceedings in an attempt to get a refund:
Almost immediately a call was returned by a member of 3 staff who seemed able to initiate some action. Initially she wanted to take me right back to the beginning again (test it over the 'phone, send it in for repair etc.). Eventually she referred it to a technical team, who asked for the exact VPN error message, which I duly gave passed on, a later call back she said the technical team had asked for the error number, which there wasn't one ("Unable to connect" was all the error message said). A later call back and she said the technical team had advised her that the error message indicated that it was an error with the VPN provider and settings and not the 'phone (I can see the reasoning here). However I pointed out to her that I had tried AveVPN and PureVPN (who actually support Android), and neither had managed to get it working. I said I would try a third VPN, but if that did not work I think it could be reasonably concluded the 'phone was faulty (she replied at this point that they would take the 'phone back for repair - can you believe it!). She did actually say that the technical team had tested a 'phone using an internal test environment, and I did say if she could give me the name of a VPN provider that the 'phone was known to work with I would be happy.
So, I'll try one last VPN provider, but then more letters and legal action. (I really don't need this crap, I'm sure the whole thing is costing 3 a small fortune as well.)
As to the time not synchronizing on connecting to the mobile network, LOL, does it really matter ('3' have actually sent me a second 'phone to try out which they have not asked me to return!!), and there is quite a bit of work being done on ROMs at the mo., so maybe I could root and reflash one of them... All Kown Roms To Date - Android @ MoDaCo
Not an ideal ending, I would really have just liked a 'phone that worked out of the box. I have to make a decision as to whether to take '3' to small claims court and get my £100 back or just settle as is.
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Coming in on the low end of the Android spectrum, the ZTE Link was unveiled back in February 2010 at the Mobile world Congress and launched on May 6th 2010 in France. A UK version is due out late 2010 renamed as the "ZTE Racer". Some of t... Read More