Amazon. Kindle. Support.

Last May I bought a Kindle for my oldest daughter.  She rarely uses it so I wanted to get it to my wife to use but we found that the Kindle would not start up.  The screen was partially white with black lines running horizontally across it.

Trying various attempts to reset the device that we found on the Internet, I headed to the Amazon Kindle support page and looked for warranty information.  I wasn’t sure how old it was and didn’t know if it still fell within its warranty.  From the warranty page I click the contact us button which took me to a list of my devices.  I selected the correct device, answered a few questions via drop down selections, entered my phone number, and clicked the call me now button.  Within 2 seconds I received a call from an automated system from Amazon letting me know that my wait time would be less than 1 minute.  Within 20 seconds someone came on the phone, verified my information, and was able to help troubleshoot the Kindle.  Unfortunately nothing that we tried worked, but since it is less than one year old it is still under warranty and we should have a replacement at our house in 2 days.  All we have to do is send the old one back in the pre paid packaging.

All in all I was on the phone with Amazon support for less than 5 minutes and will have a replacement in 2 days.  Fantastic support all the way through the process.  I especially like the way the system called me first.  Doesn’t get too much easier than that.

Great job Amazon.  Another happy customer.

iOS5 wish list for the iPhone

Updated since Apple has shown iOS5 at WWDC.  I made out pretty well.

Here are a few things that I would really like to see Apple address with iOS5 and the iPhone.  Many of these will help in the enterprise and some are just general improvements (all my opinions).

  • As mentioned in a previous post – better notification system – Completely revamped.  Finally.
  • Better use of the lock screen.  This ties in to the request for better notifications a little, but those little red numbered balls are useless when you have a PIN set on your phone and you have to unlock it to even get to the home screen.  Give us info on the lock screen. – Yes!
  • Even better could be an external notification of some kind, like an LED, to let me know it is even worth looking at the screen in the first place. – Yes. LED flash for notifications.
  • Over The Air activation.  Please.  Connecting to iTunes is a pain when you are trying to roll out a large number of iPhones and iPads. – Yes!
  • Over The Air iOS upgrades.  Blackberry has been doing this forever and Android supported it from the start. – Yes!
  • Select all capability in email. – Unknown.
  • Please implement the ability to tap on a conference number in a Calendar item and have it dial the number, wait, then dial the extension – including the # character.  Seriously, this is a huge miss when trying to take conference calls on the road.  There is an app that does a decent job of handling this called ApptDialer, but this should be supported natively.  If you don’t understand how useful this is you have never used a Blackberry. – Unknown.  For now ApptDialer is working well.
  • In Contacts, why can’t I look someone up from the Exchange Global Address Book and easily add them to my Contacts.  A simple button that says – add to calendar like others do.  Now I have to sms it to myself. – Unknown.
  • And while we are on the Contacts/Exchange Global Address Book, how about pulling back more information than just name, title, phone number, and email address.  Add the street address as well please. – Unknown.
  • Rework some of the settings for better placement.  Make it easier to enable/disable WiFi and Bluetooth, or at least get them in the same area of the menus.    Move bluetooth up under WiFi in the main settings menu instead of placing it under the General section under settings.  There are times when you need to get to those things quickly so save us a couple of steps. – Unknown.
  • Customization of all sounds.  I can’t believe that I even have to ask for this one.  And let me use any song or sound that I have on the device for any alert or ringtone.  I’ve already paid for the music and I want to use it for any sound that I choose. – Yes!

Those are the ones that I can think of off the top of my head.  Which ones did I miss that you care about?

Score: 6 wishes granted, 5 unknown or no.  Not too bad as the 6 granted are things that I really thought iOS needed, especially after using Blackberry and Android devices.

Dear Apple, please revamp notifications

After spending a lot of time testing various android devices I can say that there are a few things that android does that I wish the iPhone did. The number one thing I would like to see Apple tackle is better use of the lock screen and notifications.

On all of the android phones that I have used, I have been able to simply glance at the lock screen to see if I had any messages or alerts. Very nice. On my iPhone I have to unlock the screen to check for anything new. This was the main reason that I checked out jailbreaking a while back; the things that you could do with the lock screen were nice, but I decided that I would rather not be jailbroken so I went back to stock. Better use of the lock screen would make the iPhone more convenient.

For overall notifications I like the way that android handles things via the notification bar at the top of the screen instead of how they just popup on the iPhone and overwrite each other for things like calls, texts, etc.

These are a couple of the things that I would like to see improved in a future version of iOS but I won’t hold my breath.

Dear Microsoft, I’d like Outlook for my mobile please

I know, it’s crazy.  But as I test more and more phones with the need to sync with Microsoft Exchange I realize that the email, calendar, and contact apps that mobile carriers ship with their phones are just not always enough.  The iPhone, Droid 2, Droid X, Droid Pro, HTC Incredible, Blackberry, etc.  I’m not buying any of the old Windows Mobile devices and until Windows Phone 7 without Verizon is a non-starter for me.  Plus, after playing with the Phone 7 for a short time I am not sure everything is baked in there yet either.

So here is my plea – consider the rise of the iPhone and Android as an opportunity.  I’m not asking for anything for free.  I’ll pay.  Just give us Outlook for mobiles and put an end to the misery of trying to get ActiveSync to work correctly for direct push for all devices.  Help us open an email that has an embedded email inside of it and actually be able to read the embedded email.  Help us move messages between folders.  Help us not only accept a meeting request but also add a comment.  Help us see contacts along with their pictures. Help us forward meeting requests to others.  Help us always access the GAL.  Help us see shared contacts that are in public folders.  The list goes on.

I know that there are partial solutions out there and that this is now a consumer driven world, but those consumer diven devices have invaded our enterprises and users want many of the features that I listed.  I realize that its probably never going to happen, but there may be money here.  Oh, and please hurry as I am an Exchange upgrade away from just delivering all of this along with OCS integration using Project GoldenGate.  I have almost all of the pieces in place and will quickly virtualize an environment to support it.  And yes, I realize it is currently a proof of concept, but it is a concept that we will be able to pick up and run with on our own if necessary.

I have long pushed the notion that the client is irrelevant and this will now allow me to push that thinking out to mobile devices as well.

Blackberry out, Droid X in

Lets just get this out of the way early – I admittedly have an issue with electronics. I like to touch them, fix them, play with them, and tear them apart. I’m not saying that I need medical assistance for it, but I REALLY like tech toys. One of the more enjoyable things that I get to do at work is to test and evaluate mobile devices. Like many companies the Blackberry has been a solid, highly manageable solution that has served us well, but the tide is shifting towards more consumer driven devices like the iPhone and the Android family.

I was definitely interested in the newest version of the Blackberry OS as it was finally going to offer a browser based on webkit. Personally I think the webkit engine is one of the best browser engines out there. It has served me well in Safari and more recently Chrome. Chrome has been my main browser for a while now and I love it. Very fast and clean.

What surprised me was seeing the Blackberry Torch as the phone that RIM would rollout to showcase it’s new OS. I guess it’s just me, but I have no use for a physical keyboard anymore. The on screen keyboards for the iPhone, Droid 2 and Droid X are rock solid and to me a physical keyboard just makes for a thicker mobile device, even if it does slide out of the way when you aren’t using it.

I get that Blackberry’s Suretype keyboard is very popular with users and it makes one handed typing a little more convenient, but why lead with this phone? Why not go after an entirely touch based device that is slim and light? In my opinion RIM already had most of everything that they needed. I was an original Storm owner and that phone was horrible. I hung in there for over 6 months hoping for code improvements that would improve on all of it’s shortcomings but I couldn’t wait any longer and went back to my trusty Curve.

When the Storm 2 came out I agreed to testing it even though I was so unimpressed with the original Storm. I’m glad I did as the Storm 2 was an excellent phone. It fixed pretty much every issue that I had with the original Storm. So how does this fit with my thoughts on RIM and the Torch?

I believe that RIM should have taken the Storm 2, reduced the thickness and weight a little, switched from the screen that you push to a simple capacitive screen like the iPhone and Droids, and put OS 6 on it. That would have been a killer showcase phone for their new OS 6 as the OS itself was very nice. Very smooth. Very fast. And it was still a Blackberry. But they didn’t, they gave us the Torch and put us on AT&T. So the Torch went back in the box and I switched over to a phone that met more of my needs; the Droid X. Huge phone because of the screen but it became comfortable and easy to use in a day.

It’s a little strange using something other than a Blackberry for work, but Android has grown on me quickly and the learning curve is mostly gone. Most of that is probably because I have had an iPhone since they were released so using a purely touch interface just feels natural to me. When RIM delivers the phone I described above you can be sure that I will test it out. I’m looking forward to it as I can’t imagine it taking too long before they deliver something else as I hear that Torch sales aren’t all that great. It really is a nice phone but just not what I’m looking for anymore.