is the hoopla over?
I’m still pondering getting a Motorola v710 phone from the greedy bastards over at Verizon, but have they resolved the Bluetooth problems that customers were complaining about?
The article below pretty much sums it up. I’d love a phone that I can wirelessly sync up contacts so I don’t have to keep multitapping names and numbers into it.
FROM THE DESK OF DAVID POGUE
A New Phone and Techie Controversy at Verizon
Last week on “The Amazing Race for the Perfect Phone,” Verizon Wireless announced that it was emerging from its cocoon of technological backwardness.
At long last, the carrier with the best signal coverage began offering a full-featured flip phone with camera, voice dialing, speakerphone, memory card and Bluetooth: the new Motorola v710. Best coverage, great phone–what more could a gadget freak want?
Unfortunately, Web sites and blogs are teeming with complaints about one particular aspect of the v710: it’s crippled Bluet
Bluetooth, of course, is a short-range wireless cable-elimination feature. On a cellphone, it offers four juicy features:
1. You can do your talking on a wireless Bluetooth headset, leaving the phone in your pocket and both hands on the wheel.
2. You can use the phone as a wireless Internet antenna for a laptop or palmtop, making Internet calls from anywhere–without even taking the phone from your pocket.
3. You can sync your computer’s address book into the phone, saving you the trouble of having to re-enter them. (You can also sync the address book to the dashboard computers of certain Toyota Prius, Lexus, BMW or Acura models.)
4. You can shoot files back and forth to other Bluetooth gadgets. Thanks to this feature, you can take pictures with your Bluetooth phone and then transfer them wirelessly to your Mac or PC.
The V710’s page at the Motorola Web site sums it up like this: “From wireless talking to wireless synching, this phone makes it happen.”
What it doesn’t say is: “But Verizon makes it NOT happen.”
Verizon, it turns out, has turned off features 3 and 4. If you want to sync your address book with a computer, you have to buy a $40 cable. And if you want to transfer pictures, you’ll either have to send them by e-mail or use Verizon’s Pix Messaging service–25 cents per photo. (You can’t transfer pictures via the phone’s removable memory card.)
“That’s Verizon for you,” wrote one disgruntled customer. “They want you to pay them so that you can send your own photos to yourself.”
“The v710 is targeting technophiles,” wrote another. “Crippling these features is an act of bad faith that undermines the desires and expectations of the core customers for this very product.”
So irritated are Verizon’s customers that the Web site NuclearElephant.com has instituted a hacking competition (www.nuclearelephant.com/papers/v710hackers.html). Crack the crippling code, and you win the pot contributed by interested parties (about $1,660 so far).
Rumors are rampant. Consider, for example, what PC Magazine wrote on this issue. “Verizon says that crippling Bluetooth implementation is a ‘fraud prevention’ tactic to prevent strangers from sending unsolicited text messages to your phone.” Well, if that’s really the rationale, we’d better start calling it Verizon Mindless; unsolicited text messages sent by Bluetooth is not, ahem, the greatest nuisance facing cellphone owners today.
Or consider this exciting bit of news (posted at www.russellbeattie.com/notebook/1007961.html, a blog full of V710 tips and discussion): “[Moto told me that] due to demand for the device, it was released prior to full Bluetooth support; however, a future software up
grade will enable full Bluetooth support.”
That frequently repeated rumor, as it turns out, is absolutely false.
So what’s the real story?
Sure enough, money is at the root of the problem, but the greed isn’t all Verizon’s. “We have a lot of Get It Now services,” explained a company representative, “and our partnerships with those vendors [the third parties that supply downloadable games, ringtones, screensavers and so on] preclude our permitting the open architecture of Bluetooth.”
The company’s concern, of course, is that you could download the ringtones and games-a multi-billion-dollar business, industry-wide-and then share them with your friends wirelessly.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen product features compromised in the name of copy protection, but it may be the first time it’s hit cellphones. (Unfortunately, it seems to be a trend; the Bluetooth of the new BlackBerry 7100 from T-Mobile is disabled in the same ways. “There are two main reasons that drove our decision. First, our engineers design our products with tight security in mind,” a spokesman told me, not entirely convincingly. “Second, we try to avoid the tradeoffs that result from cramming unnecessary features into our product.”)
In Verizon’s case, at least, there are three strands of hope.
First of all, “the address book piece will be changed,” the rep told me. A software update for the V710-timeline not yet announced-will permit wireless synching of your address book with your computer or your car. Hurrah!
Second, even if the V710 is Verizon’s first Bluetooth phone, it won’t be the last. “Bluetooth is new technology. It’s going to evolve. As we work the tech into more and more handsets, you’ll see different variations.”
Finally, while there are no immediate plans to permit Bluetooth transfers of ringtones, photos, games and so on, the company isn’t the “corporate ogre” it’s being made out to be, according to the PR rep. If enough customers push back, the company could change its mind.
“Verizon Wireless always errs on the side of conservativeness. We feel that our first and foremost obligation is to provide quality phone service.” Nonetheless, she concluded, “This conversation is not over.”