A fair numbers of people are under the impression I don’t own a cellular phone. I do.1 In fact, as of September, I’ve been the unhappy owner of an Android phone that’s more “special” phone than smartphone. The reasons for my discontent, as I’ve alluded to in a past blog post, lie in both hardware and software. Two weeks ago, I noticed that a minor software update was available for my phone (version 2.1 to a more recent version 2.1) and I thought that it might at least help reduce the number of random crashes/reboots I was experiencing. I expected to be no worse off, in any case. Instead, this software update managed to sour my opinion of both WIND Mobile and Android.
I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going.
Like a good geek, I dutifully downloaded the software update from the phone manufacturer’s website (as linked to by WIND Mobile) and copied the file onto my phone’s microSD card as instructed by the readme file included with the firmware. While using the software update wizard, I proceeded to snicker at the warning screen. It sternly warned: do not remove the battery, SIM card, AND microSD card during the update (rather than “or”). Not one to tempt fate where the possibility of “bricking” some hardware is involved, I left all of the aforementioned components in place during the upgrade process. However, my snickering was soon to stop as I got my technological comeuppance…
At the end of the software update process, the phone showed the welcome screen that I had only previously seen when the phone was new six months and seven broken SIM cards ago. I was greeted with the default application launcher. Okay, so my settings were lost. A nuisance. How about my applications? Gone. Fine. I only had four custom applications on there2. And my contact list? My notes? My call and SMS history? Nada, nada, y nada. They had all vanished without a word of warning on any of the WIND’s website, Huawei’s website, the readme file accompanying the firmware, and the phone’s software update screen. Trust me: there wasn’t a warning. I’m the kind of person who reads (or at least skims) EULAs, ToS, and instruction manuals. Fine. Not the end of the world. Since it was a weekend, I fired off an e-mail to WIND and see if they could push my SMS messages back to my phone. I’ll give up on the rest of my data that wasn’t stored on my microSD card.
A few days later, I noticed some extra billing activity on my phone account. I had a free year of unlimited Canada-wide SMS as part of a promotion and seemed to have been billed for the first three texts above the basic plan. No big rush – I’ve still got $54.47 of credit on my account, but I’ll just phone up WIND and see if I was mistaken about my unlimited plan’s free period.
Do you read me, HAL?
Hello, WIND. I’ve got mysterious charges on my phone. It’s okay, sir. You have lots of money in your account. I see you have $53.78. It’s not about how much I have, it’s about whether I’m being billed for something I don’t think I’m supposed to be billed for. And are you sure it says fifty-THREE dollars? Yes, sir. It says here $53.78. Hm. Well, then I must have accrued some additional charges while on the phone with you. Are you roaming, sir? Well, I’m in Toronto. Does your phone say “roaming?” My phone doesn’t have an “R” for roaming over my signal strength indicator so, no. I guess that doesn’t answer the question of why my balance is now lower than when I first called. Can you check what I’ve been charged for in the last half hour or so that I’ve been on hold? Oh. I see. The last charge for service was for data for my GPS a few days ago? Well, why has my balance dropped to $53.78 in the last several minutes? Is the balance I see on-line lagging somehow? Let me check your balance, sir. No sir, you are mistaken. It says here you have a balance $54.47. Um, right then… Well, at least we agree on my balance, now.
I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
But this data charge — so you’re saying I wasn’t charged for SMS — and I’m covered until the end of August, yes? Well, that data charge can’t be right. I explicitly asked for my data plan to be disabled when I bought my phone. Though the person that signed me onto WIND said I could disable data on my phone, I asked for my data to be disabled on your end, too! But you can reverse the charges, right? Yes, sir. We didn’t disable the Internet for your GPS, though. Do you want me to do that for you now? Okay, I’m not quite sure I’m understanding you, here. There is a SEPARATE billing system for GPS data usage? And, just thinking aloud here, but I’ve already downloaded maps of Toronto to my phone; why would my GPS still access the Internet?
Where the hell’d you get that idea, HAL? (or “I call shenanigans”)
Sir, GPS needs the Internet to work. It uses the Internet to get your position. No, it doesn’t. No, sir. You are wrong. Excuse me? I’m WRONG? GPS is a completely passive system. GPS uses the Internet. GPS uses differences in travel time of signals from satellites. The 8-year old GPS device in my car has no Internet connectivity and it works just fine. (Awkward silence.) Anyway, forget I ever asked. We’re getting sidetracked, here. Can you disable the “GPS Internet” for me, too, then? Thanks.
Can I assist you with anything else today, sir? I do have another problem, yes. I ran the software update for my Android phone posted on your website a few days ago and lost all my data. Is there any way for me to get any of it back? Like, is it stored in some migration directory on my phone? If not, can you at least push my SMS messages back? No, sir. Sorry, sir. We cannot do that. You should have known all your data would get erased and backed up before upgrading. What do you mean, “I should have known?” Did I miss something? It certainly wasn’t on the download page, the upgrade instructions, or the phone’s updater. You should have known because that’s what happens. When you upgrade, you lose all your data. I’m not sure I follow. Sir, it’s the way phones work. That’s… that’s the way technology works; I can’t explain it to you – you wouldn’t understand. It’s complicated.
At this point, my feathers were very ruffled. Not only am I sure that that an upgrade does not entail data loss3, I felt like, even by technical support standards, I was being treated like an idiot (no, Bell, I’ll wager a Christmas turkey that rebooting my computer won’t help my DSL router, which is NOT connected to my computer, sync with the central office). Indeed, I probably wrote my first kernel that could patch itself while running before the person on the other end of the line had ever known someone with a cellular phone. Heck, I may have disassembled a DOS bootloader before he’d ever seen a computer.
Yes, I’m still here. I’m not going to argue with you about whether it’s possible to upgrade software without losing data, but, really, I’m just saying, WIND should put some kind of warning up on the download page. It’s not WIND’s fault that you lost your data. It kind of is…4 but, anyway, I’m just suggesting this to spare other people the grief. Also, it seems like it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Yes, sir. We’ll do that5. Can I help you with anything else today, sir? No, that’s all. Thanks for the help.
In case you couldn’t tell, I used the word “thanks” like a chicken wattle. That is to say, loosely. I felt dirty afterwards because I wasn’t really thankful at all which, for me, is unusual; I think I’m a pretty thankful person (yes, I was even thankful for you, guy at Thai Memory; even if you’d rather not have turned on the lights for dinner, you did. Also, it was the thought that counted when you served revolting Arcor Menta Cristal mints). I proceeded to check my phone balance again. With my balance down another $4, what’s the deal? Time to call the billing department again, listening to hold music, and nuking my brain for the privilege.
Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
Hello, WIND. Can you check my balance, please? Yes, I know I can check using my phone and on-line. I just did and that’s why I’m calling. Just a second. Okay. Thanks for checking. Good. We’re in agreement. Can you tell me what what I’ve been billed for recently? A phone call and data a few days ago? Are calls to WIND’s customer service free, because that’s the only call I’ve made this year? Even if they’re not, despite the amount of time I spent on the line, I think I’m well within my plan’s minutes. Yes, I’m sure I’m not roaming. I’m in downtown Toronto and my phone says WIND Home. Yes, you’re right. I don’t know why you were billed for the call. I’ll reverse the charge for the call. You should get a text message when that’s complete. Oh, can you also reverse the data charge — I get the feeling the last guy I talked to isn’t going to do it. Thanks! Thank you for calling WIND. Is there anything else I can help you with? Um, hold on a second… have I been billed for this call? Your balance is unchanged. Okay, what if I get billed when I hang up? Good point. I’ll check your balance after our call and will call you back if any charges appear. Okay!
Hello, again. Yes, I also noticed charges appeared for my last call. I’ll refer it to billing and they’ll reverse this call’s charge’s and the last call’s charges. I don’t know what’s happening. Fair enough. Thanks6.
The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made.
Phew. That seemed way harder than it needed to be. At the end of it all, I was over-refunded. While honesty is usually the best policy, I decided it wasn’t worth either of our efforts for me to return the money. WIND would have to pay someone to stay on the line with me and it would take up my time. Thus, blinded by dollar signs, I decided kept my ill-gotten gains. The extra 30 cents WIND credited me for was not a princely sum, even by grad student standards. My victory, however sweet, was short-lived. Because the firmware update caused me to lose some settings that reduced the likelihood of pocket-dialling, I inadvertently made another call to WIND’s customer service line before the day was over for a fresh deduction of 40 cents. Technology: thirty bajillion seven hundred and a panda, Jono: zilch. WIND, you can keep your filthy lucre. Some places will nickel and dime you; WIND just dimed me, so I should consider myself lucky.
The moral of the story is to avoid Android updates like surprise alligators7, unless you have everything backed up. Incidentally, unlike backing up an iPod or iPhone, backing up an Android device is not trivial without a Google account, since that prevents the use of the Android Market to download a phone-to-computer backup utility AND the ability to sync to the cloud.
Epilogue: Would you like to play a game of chess?
A week later, I discovered to my surprise that audio recordings I had stored on my phone’s internal memory had survived the upgrade carnage. I’m not sure why those were preserved when everything else was lost. My best guess is that audio files are somehow related to Chuck Norris and thus indestructible. But, hey, what do I know about technology?
- I’ve had one for a decade, now. I’m just very bad at answering calls and haven’t figured out this “voicemail” business, so I usually don’t give out my number. [↩]
- including a mail client that didn’t crash when checking CSLab mail, unlike the built-in client [↩]
- I upgrade my Mac’s operating system every few months. I also made the painless jump from Debian etch to lenny and currently run a mixed lenny-squeeze system, an operating system that — to avoid starting an argument over semantics — shares a Linux heritage with Android. Though one Mac OS update and numerous Windows updates have rendered my computer unbootable, the only time I’ve had data loss after an update was not a direct result of the update itself. Once, when a Windows update rendered my computer unbootable, I tried to repair it using my install discs. The problem was that the pre-service pack version I had was not compatible with my “large” data partitions and decided to overwrite the partition table to reflect its dislike without prompting me, first. [↩]
- I take the blame insofar as I installed the update after reading all the instructions. [↩]
- Fat chance. You’re just saying that to please me. It’s not working. Also, it’s been just under two weeks and still no warning. [↩]
- This time, I meant it. [↩]
- Although if you could avoid them, they wouldn’t be much of a surprise, would they? [↩]