New cellphone or PDA not working?

December 8 2008 by Ellen Roseman

I’ve been telling people to hold onto their old appliances (see my latest CBC radio commentary). But does that apply to cellphones as well?

New York Times columnist David Pogue wrote a negative review of the BlackBerry Storm, which he says is by far the worst product that Research in Motion has ever produced. About 100 readers who bought the Storm told him they regretted it, he says here.

Today, I heard from Paul, who’s sorry he bought the Samsung Instinct cellphone. He tried to give it back to Bell Mobility, but was out of luck.

I called into Bell using my Instinct the day after I received it (don’t have a landline) and they told me that since I’d used the phone for more than 15 minutes they were not able to refund me. The only call I’d made was the call into support. As I waited to speak to them to complain, I used up my 15 minutes. Pretty sad, eh?

So, tell me about the new generation of cellphones and personal digital assistants. Have you upgraded yet? Would you recommend others do so? Or should we keep our old phones going for as long as we can?

You can find more from Paul in a comment below, which includes links to petitions from Samsung Instinct owners.

28 comments

  1. Riscario Insider

    Dec 9 2008

    Buying something that’s just been introduced carries risks — especially when you can’t get support directly from the manufacturer or easily return the item.

    You’re much better off waiting to read reviews. Whatever you buy will be outdated very quickly. Maybe you’re better off saving money and buying the “old” model, which is probably reduced to clear.

    Here are two examples. First, I bought a newly-introduced webcam, reasoning that it would be better than last year’s top-rated model from another company. Wrong. I returned it and got the older model.

    Tomorrow, I’m taking delivery of a high quality USB microphone from a BC music store (webcam mics aren’t good enough). I could not find it online locally. I took the time to read reviews first since returning a nondefective item would be difficult.

    Don’t forget the other reward of being first: you pay a premium price for the privilege of being a guinea pig.

  2. Alex Robar

    Dec 9 2008

    I’m entirely in line with Paul on the Instinct problems. If I lived in the US, I’d be very happy with the Instinct. Sprint has released fixes to allow installation of third party applications (like Google Maps), full corporate e-mail synchronization, a stable browser, etc. Bell just doesn’t seem to care.

    As it stands now, I’ve got a phone that Bell says does e-mail, instant messaging, live TV, video clips, and full Facebook functionality. What I _really_ have is a phone that requires $8/month for Hotmail only (no other type of e-mail), $5/month for MSN messenger only (again, no other type of IM), skipping, poor quality TV, non-functional video clips, and Facebook access through a browser that crashes 50% of the time I use it. And forget having the ability to actually upload those pictures or videos you’re taking to social media sites like Facebook, Flickr or FriendFeed – You can’t upload through the browser.

    The biggest issue is the LCDUI problem, the fix for which would solve just about every problem this phone has. Turns out that Samsung just didn’t have the time to complete their code base, so when I install an application that requires input (say, typing in my username and password for the Gmail application), the screen just comes up empty. A big, blank, glossy screen where a keyboard should be instead. I spoke to Samsung’s product director for the Instinct, and she acknowledged the issue, and Samsung went to work. Samsung released the update. Bell didn’t pick it up. The disconnect between supplier and provider is incredibly frustrating.

    So should we keep our old phones? I don’t know… My old phone was a black & white Nokia that did little more than make calls. But it certainly never caused the frustration I’ve had with the Instinct.

  3. benjamin

    Dec 9 2008

    Holy smokes! I thought I was the only one having problems with this garbage phone.

    Telus is totally screwing over its Canadian customers, along with Bell, it seems. Ellen, is there someone at Bell we can speak to about this? Basically anyone to take ownership of the Bell / Instinct customer relationship.

  4. Ian

    Dec 9 2008

    Just wanted to throw in with the other negative Bell/Samsung Instinct experiences. Not only has this phone been severely crippled by Bell, they still have not updated the firmware to fix the problems. Anytime I talk to someone in support all I get is a, “Oh well that’s the first I’ve ever heard of that problem”.

    This phone isn’t working even remotely as advertised. I am extremely disappointed with Bell for their (lack of) service and support.

  5. Daniel Nadeau

    Dec 9 2008

    I too have been having problems with the Instinct. It’s not that the problems couldn’t be solved, it’s that Bell is either too lazy or too ignorant to listen to their customers and fix their products.

    The users in the US on Sprint have received updates from Sprint for their Instinct and couldn’t be happier, while we are stuck here with this glitchy, crashy piece of garbage.

    Why Bell couldn’t just take that same update and modify it to their needs is beyond me.

  6. Luigi

    Dec 9 2008

    I too have issues with my Samsung Instinct as do ALL, and I repeat, ALL Instinct users in Canada with Bell or Telus.

    The first and most important fix and/or update they need to address is the wrong time stamp issues with received/missed voice mail and text messages. It is completely unacceptable to have the times and dates all mixed up when receiving messages.

    All the other issues and problems listed above also need to be addressed also, but the time stamp issue is horrible.

    I love the style and feel of the Instinct, but it should have never been released to the public plagued with all these issues.

  7. Patrick

    Dec 10 2008

    WOW! I can’t believe all the negative comments about the Instinct from Bell/Telus. How about one more!

    I too have been burned by Bell. I actually renewed my 3 year contract with Bell and got this phone because the salesperson told me it was the iphone killer. A little research on my part would have gone a long way, but what can I do now? I already used up the pathetic 15 minutes Bell gave me before I could exchange the phone.

    Everything mentioned in the comments above is true. Constant crashing/restarting, wrong time with messages, features advertised as “included” (MSN messenger, GPS) that you have to pay for monthly on top of your bill.

    Something that wasn’t mentioned is the joke of a memory card that comes with the phone. The card comes with something like 200 preloaded songs on it, but what Bell fails to mention is that you have to pay $ to unlock the songs on your memory card. Unbelievable!

    Oh, and as mentioned already, the browser on this phone sucks! You can install the MUCH better, faster and more reliable Opera browser on the phone, but you can’t type anything while using it making it useless (LCDUI). I suppose if the LCDUI issue was fixed I might actually get value for the “unlimited browser”, but giving consumers value is obviously not in interest of Bell.

    This IS a crippled phone. Bell/Telus are not stupid, they know it, but they refuse to acknowledge the fact or do anything about it.

  8. Mo

    Dec 10 2008

    I went to a Bell store yesterday to talk to the manager about the updates that US users have received. He told me he didn’t know about the updates. Are you kidding me? What kind of a manager are you that doesn’t know what is going on with the other wireless service providers?

    Regular users know; you don’t?

    Then, I asked them if I can have a look at a working Instinct. A salesman brought one from the back, turned the on and started talking about it. I told him to show me the internet browser. He pushed the internet icon, the loading sign came on, and after 30 seconds, the phone restarted itself.

    Haha, and the funny part is, he’s telling me it’s because of the battery. There’s not enough power in the battery. And I was like you think I am stupid or something?

  9. Ryan

    Dec 10 2008

    I am currently a Samsung Instinct owner as well. The ads of the “Iphone killer” drew my attention as my contract was getting to its end.

    However, once I paid for the phone, I quickly found out that it was no Iphone killer. The phone lacks any ability to surf the web without soft restarting. Should you need to open multiple screens – this phone is not for you. Should you need to sync your email – this phone is not for you. Should you need to use GPS – this is not the phone for you as these functions are either not on the phone or you must pay $8 – $10 for the service! Yes, you have to pay $8 a month to access your free Hotmail account!! MSN or any internet based e-mail service!

    I showed a friend how these options are not available to me, and he explained that I should be able to download application programs that “work around” these annoying features of the Instinct. But without the LCDUI update, most if not all the applications are rendered pointless as you can not use the keyboard.

    All in all, why can’t Bell stand up and take control? The false advertising and imaging they produced to market the phone should be stopped or they should try to UPDATE the phone and allow it to reach its marketed distinction.

  10. Dave

    Dec 10 2008

    I don’t have an Instinct phone, but all of you have made noteworthy observations that I would like to add to.

    Don’t use your new phone as a phone for the first few weeks, until you are sure. Go past 15 minutes, you own it.

    I know that sounds ridiculous, but I bought a Sony Erickson K850i Cybershot 5.0 megapixel Cybershot phone from Rogers. I used it at a wedding, took the worst pictures indoors, any setting, w/flash, without. I was under 15 minutes and got an iPhone instead.

    I had researched the K850i online, everyone raved about it, wasn’t true. My wife has the same phone. I tried the dealer’s phone in the mall, terrible pictures.

    I’m in sales. A lot of salesmen will hype anything. Get someone to demonstrate it to your satisfaction. The smartphones are computers. My iPhone has a leopard processor. It is, literally, a portable computer to a large degree.

    I wouldn’t buy a device of this type from a manufacturer that does not have a long track record in computers. Apple is being very slow, careful. They do regular upgrades. They do it conveniently through iTunes on a Mac or PC.

    Everyone laughed when Apple made their projections. In the last quarter, Apple outsold RIM by something like 6.3 million phones to RIM’s 6 million. Apple does make mistakes but they get rectified. The iPhone is the best thought-out phone. Real flash memory inside. Amazing applications for it coming out daily from developers worldwide. And this is just the beginning.

    I sympathize with all of you. You may end up buying out your contract and moving on, to end the frustration. My contract with Rogers is about $71 a month, tax in. Good luck to all of you!

  11. brad

    Dec 12 2008

    I’m thinking of getting a smartphone next year, and my plan is to either get a “tried and true” smartphone that has WiFi and to use that for downloading email and other data, or else just keep my regular simple cellphone and buy an iPod Touch for the WiFi access.

    The data packages offered by the mobile phone carriers are too expensive to be practical for me, especially when roaming, and while it’s not possible to get free WiFi everywhere there are plenty of places that offer it.

    And, in fact, if you’re a Bell internet customer you can now get free WiFi at every Starbucks, which makes it very handy for me, since I do have my internet through Bell.

  12. Glenn

    Dec 19 2008

    I am a BELL Instinct owner, and unlike most people here, I love the Instinct. But yes, the updates that have not come out are frustrating, as we all know that Sprint has had them since October.

    The recent update from Dec 12/08 has fixed many issues, including the browser crashing that everyone mentions. (I have only had it happen once and I use it constantly for gmail access.) But the main update needed is the LCDUI (LCD User Interface) update. As others have said, this would fix approx 90% of the remaining issues.

    The rest of the issues are what BELL has intentionally restricted from its customers, email and GPS. GPS worked free for me for a month and then I canceled it as I was not going to pay $8 a month for something that loses the signal if it doesn’t have a perfectly clear sight of the sky (i.e in the car, not on the dashboard).

    And as far as email goes, I use gmail and log into it via the browser, but the option should be available to have the program because the program allows you to view .doc and .pdf files. With gmail, I have to use the browser instead of gmail’s app because of the LCDUI update sitting out there somewhere.

    Ellen, I don’t know how or what you could do to help us, but getting some way to have Bell & TELUS, of course, to push out these ‘already available’ updates for the customers who have committed themselves for 3 years would be great.

    Then we might actually get our money’s worth, because right now…that is definitely not happening.

    Thanks

  13. CommieCowboy

    Jan 5 2009

    More proof that anybody who opposes regulation of cell phone providers and ISPs is a moron unworthy of a functioning tongue.

  14. CommieCowboy

    Jan 5 2009

    Mo, that’s unsurprising. Having worked for Bell, I can tell you that managers are sometimes given positions within a line of business without having any prior experience in said LoB.

  15. Ben Elling

    Jan 12 2009

    Following the most recent firmware update, I had high hopes that the LCDUI issues would be resolved. No such luck. The inability to access 3rd party apps is obnoxious.

    I will be going to my local Bell Store tonight to begin what is sure to be a long process of swapping for a Blackberry Curve.

    As of this morning, Jan. 12, 2008, here is an ongoing list of issues I have had with my Instinct:

    – No LCDUI update to work with a wide range of 3rd party apps
    – Browser continues to reset phone at least once a week
    – Browser is cumbersome
    – No support for PDF, Word, .txt, etc.
    – No support for Google Mobile Apps, most importantly Gmail, Google Maps and Google Calendar
    – No syncing of calendar
    – Battery life is very short, especially with music playback
    – Music player is slow and cumbersome
    – Stereo Bluetooth often skips and hangs
    – Shuffle on music player is not random
    – Voice mail time stamp is 5 or 6 hours behind
    – When I was paying $8/month for GPS, could rarely get a signal if I was in a car, store awnings, trees, etc.

  16. rentz

    Jan 22 2009

    I have the same problems with this garbage phone. Very unimpressed 🙁

  17. ced

    Feb 27 2009

    Im frustrated by this i want the upgrade woth LCDUI

  18. Paul

    Mar 6 2009

    It is really disappointing that Bell has yet to implement LCDUI, even on the update we received this week. The only satisfaction I get is from taking away phone sales from Bell by relaying the technical limitations of the phone to potential buyers. I wouldn’t wish this technological pariah on my worst enemy!

  19. bob

    Mar 13 2009

    I’ve owned over 25 cellphones in the last 20 years. I’ve been with all the major carriers at least twice. So I guess you could say that I’m a bit of a phone freak.

    Well, my 3 year contract with Bell just ended, and I wanted to pick a Samsung Instinct and sign a new 3 year contract. Well, based on all of the negative feedback I’ve been hearing about Bell on this phone, I’m leaving Bell once again for greener pastures.

    The Samsung Instinct is doing killer sales for Sprint in the USA, and Bell has decided to cripple a great phone in a cash grab. So even though I hate Apple and Apple products, I’m going to look at a iPhone from Rogers. Bye Bye Bell

  20. Pierre Legault

    Mar 19 2009

    Ellen Roseman
    Dec 11 2008:

    “I asked Bell to comment on the Samsung Instinct complaints. Julie Smithers, a Bell spokeswoman, said a software upgrade would be made available to customers shortly.”

    We are now in mid-March and still no update on this phone.

    All Samsing Instinct users are FLAMING. You can read all about it here join if you are a instinct user:

    http://forums.bell.ca/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=785&p=9759&sid=dc1622007ed19facf4d681727fe1e6ba&sid=dc1622007ed19facf4d681727fe1e6ba#p9759

  21. Sean

    Dec 7 2009

    What a fricking joke this phone and Bell are. Once my contract is up, I’m leaving and going with any other provider but Bell. Cheaters…

  22. Jill Browne

    Jul 19 2011

    I’m nearing the end of a long 3 years with Bell and the Instinct.

    I chose the phone because I wanted to be able to post pictures on Twitter/TwitPic and to email them to friends. Nope.

    Even now, years later, any picture I send replaces my own caption with the stupid and virus-like “A Picture for You!”. I don’t open mail like that and I don’t expect my friends to.

    So now it’s contract renewal time and I am really torn. I’ve already been traumatized by Telus; that’s why I moved to Bell. Do I have to go to Rogers now?

    I give Bell credit for a network that has never let me down.

    But the phone! What if the next phone is just as bad? Another 3 years?

    What are you other Samsung Instinct users switching to?

    Or am I the only fool left standing?

    I have taken notice of the fact that this forum has been quiet for a year and a half.

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