Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Phoney War

Powered by Telcel

Until we moved to Mexico in September, 2005, we were unfamiliar with the workings of cell phones. We had to buy one, as there were no land lines reaching the remote outposts that have bookended our home life here. Only the large house down by the railroad tracks, which we house sat for 4 1/2 months, had a landline phone.

There are many Telcel tiendas in P√°tzcuaro, about one on every block in Centro, and on every other corner. What criteria to use in selecting the best shop?
We guys might as well choose by which has the most attractive young women who almost inevitably run these stores.

Not your usual, everyday Telcel salesgirls
Our first phone was an inexpensive Nokia, no camera, no MP3 player, just a phone. It did have a flashlight which seemed to have volition to turn on at unexpected moments. (No photo available.)

The user interface was cryptic, but with exploration, we were able to gain a basic knowledge of the workings.

A second phone was needed when we moved out here to The Sticks. How else could we communicate over distance when one of us was in the house and the other was away?

I purchased a second Nokia. The relatively simple model had been superseded by a somewhat snazzier one. It looked cooler with its central cursor key, but the interface was actually more recondite. But that one suffered a fall, and though he crystal was replaced after an agonizing, 6 weeks wait, after which I eventually took it to a different store for repair, the phone was never the same as before. For one, the screen lost its backlighting. The interface remained inscrutable and prone to rebellion as settings changed on their own, calls were made without my involvement, and overall, it was a Piece of Crap.

A few weeks ago, I decided that I couldn't stand it any longer, so I shopped for a new phone.

I chose a Telcel tienda which I knew would be really good, because A—a, the young woman in charge, is very attractive. Sorry. No photo.

Eventually, with her help, I chose a coolly elegant LG model with a flip cover, a mini window in the cover to see time and date and other activity, a camera, a very nice compact design, and it only cost me $999 pesos. The Nokias had run about $480 back in the day.

I was delighted for the moment. A little later, I discovered a few shortcomings. The charging port is a mini-USB port with a skinny, hard to open cover. We have had to use a jeweler's screwdriver to open it.

The operating instructions are only in Spanish, on a single sheet of paper, unlike the extended, bilingual User Manual that came with the Nokias. (yet inscrutably recondite.)

The LG came with only one, obnoxious rock and roll song ringtone installed, but of course, the user can add more. We'll get to that.

The camera is easy to use, but I still haven't been able to access the files on my computer. We'll get to that.

O.k. Lets get to it. To transfer files between phone and computer requires that the back of the phone be slid off, and a tiny pinkie fingernail sized SD card be slid out. The phone kit comes with a regular sized SD into which you slide the mini SD card. The ensemble slides into your card reader. A volume (disk image) shows up on the Mac's desktop. Inside are some subfolders, some of which seem to relate to what you can view on the phone screen, after clever navigation through the shoals. Others seem to have no relation.

I won't describe the entire, tedious process of creating a ring tone, then dragging it to a folder, ejecting the disk image, reassembling the phone, finding out that it's turned off, restarting, navigating back to the Profiles screen, selecting the correct setting (a significant achievement in itself) and then only to find that the imported ringtone is an "invalid file". But eventually, I got one to work. However, I may have inadvertently deleted it yesterday.

Although I can see the lousy photos on the phone, I can't locate them when the disk image is mounted on the Mac.
However, this is probably an effort not worth pursuing.

I have one last question: if the LG phone has a mini USB port for charging, why the hell can't you do file transfers via the same cable?

Oh; one more question: where do the get the software designers for such user unfriendly interfaces? Dropouts from software designers' school?

I will admit, though, how cool I feel when I flip the cover open and then snap it shut.

What I really want is an iPhone, but the cost of hardware, and especially, the contract plan rates are way out of my budget. I guess that if we gave up eating out in restaurants so often, I could swing it. That prospect is highly unlikely.

Dream on.


Tancho said...

You being such an Appleaphobe, would have imagined that you would save up for one, especially since you already spent half the money on an Ipod.
Special ringtone?
You got to be kidding. What was it, La Cucaracha?
I still have to have my old Nokia that we have had for years and years. New technology doesn't reach our forested purlieu.

Felipe Zapata said...

Why on earth does an old fellow like you need more than a phone that makes calls and sends, far more cheaply, text messages?

You really need music 24/7, photos, email, etc.? Don't you already have a camera? Email via phone here, I have heard, is very costly. But maybe I don't know everything.

I have almost always toted the cheapest Nokia, which makes calls and sends text messages. You can get one for about 300 pesos, and it includes 200 pesos of air time, which means you pay about ten bucks for the thing. That includes a nice, reliable flashlight.

At least that was the price a few years ago when I bought it. I still have it. Works great. Never have a lick of trouble.

I bought a cheap LG once, and it was dreadful. Gave it to my nephew, age 8.

Don Cuevas said...

I'm embarrassed that neither of you seem to understand my theme. All I wanted was a cell phone that makes calls and receives them and texts.

But it has to have a user interface that's understandable. So far, I haven't found one. Also a readable screen.

I already have a very nice camera, and my iPod Touch plays music, shows pics and has wifi. All that junk iin a phone is just useless junk to me.

I think I need to go back and edit the blog so it reads more clearly.

And, Felipe, new technology keeps the old boy's mind young.

Don Cuevas

Written on an iPod Touch

Felipe Zapata said...

I think I did understand the theme. I was surprised that you spent so much when you just need something to text and talk.

Steve Cotton said...

I searched for almost a year to find a telephone that ran on Windows 6 -- because I have two applications that will not work on Windows 7. After going to all that trouble, I have a terrible time using the telephone as a telephone. When I get calls, I inevitably touch the screen while taking the telephone out of my pocket -- hanging up on whoever was calling. It is almost like having no telephone at all. For lots of pesos.

Don Cuevas said...

On Oct 9, 2011, at 10:40 AM, Felipe Zapata wrote:

"I think I did understand the theme. I was surprised that you spent so much when you just need something to text and talk. "

Thanks. I feel better about it now.

Actually, I chose a more expensive phone because
1. I'm impatient. I also didn't want another Nokia.
2. I liked the form factor (ie, appearance, thinness and flip cover.)
3. Hope springs eternal that this one will be better.
4. I was dazzled by A—a's beauty at the Telcel tienda.
5. If I could have 24/7 Mobile Internet Everywhere, at an affordable price, I'd jump on it. That doesn't mean I'd use it every 5 minutes, but I'd like having it at hand, ready to use.
6. The talk, and I suppose text work fine. The screen is well illuminated. The keys are larger. I can't bitch about the basic functions. The flip cover prevents accidental dialing and unwanted changes of settings, as happened several times on both Nokias. I know that the Nokias, and other phones, can be locked, but the one time I did that, I couldn't unlock it. It took a more savvy expat to open it. I never locked it again.

As I have said, I found the user interface, beyond the most basic functions, to be impenetrable. The LG is perhaps only a little better in that regard.

I will never use my LG A130 for anything but voice calls and the occasional text. I truly abhor texting.

The rest is just personal preference.

Anonymous said...

Flip phones are cool, (I always had them with Sprint). We're trying to find one for Movistar-but are not succeeding. This post is alerting us to other features to watch out for!


Don Cuevas said...

Good news! I have figured out how to open the charging port on my LG phone without tools. There's a little horizontal groove that takes a fingernail, and FLIP!

I'll be working on better ways to transfer files, such as ringtones and photos. I think I'll need a mini-USB to standard-USB cable.

Don Cuevas