Samsung S105 and T-Mobile USA

If you recall, I’ve been using an Ericsson t68 with coverage from VoiceStream since April. Times have changed. VoiceStream is now T-Mobile USA. Having been bought a number of months ago by Deutsche Telecom, they decided that their USA subsidiary should be named T-Moble, like the rest of their cellular franchises. Mostly just a name change, but I was sorta psyched – I mean given the great phone technology and service that I’ve seen with the international T-Mobiles, I was hopeful that they might bring the International methods with them. I can sum this up relatively simply: Hah!

See, there’s a new phone on the market. Actually there’s a number of them, but one actually turned my head. Said “buy me” at first sight. This seems to happen once every six months, so I’m not surprised by that, but I am surprised by the phone. I originally had my eyes set on the Motorola 720 J2ME phone. Yeah, I know, I’ve panned J2ME before, but if I can put my own code and MIDLets on the phone, I’m all for it. For that very reason, I’ve been waiting for the Microsoft SmartPhone to come out; it’s about two years overdue, but it should be here in 2003 as they’re already in Europe. Well, the 720 and the Microsoft phones aren’t out yet, and Samsung threw me a curve ball. Better yet, T-Mobile got it first and started to offer it before they even announced it. For T-Mobile this was new; they usually announce the hardware first and then take weeks to get it ready. They do get points for making it available first.

The new phone is the S105. J2ME enabled, kick ass color screen, nice keypad, clamshell design, and world phone enabled. Because it comes from T-Mobile, it comes locked. If you want to use other carrier SIMs in the phone (for overseas travel or prepaid SIMs) you can send you IMEI number to – they can help you get your IMEI number if you don’t know how. Anyway, the WAP browser is locked, as is T-Mobile’s wont, but it’s still great! The unlocked/generic version of this phone is the S100 – the only difference that we, as users see, is that the S105 adds voice dialing. There’s also a S108 that is for Asian languages. I’m also in the process of trying to find out if I can flash the S105 with the firmware of the S100 to unlock everything… more on that when I find out. The phone itself is really great. Good features, size, feel – comes with two batteries outta the box. The polyphonic tones are incredible – I never thought I would notice or care, but the damned thing sounds like you’re playing MP3s as a ring tone! It also comes with some games preloaded, but nothing to write home about. The down side? You knew there had to be at least one. The truth is, it probably won’t impact most users, but it does me because of my programming gig: you can’t download new MIDLets to it. You should be able to via download on WAP; it does, but reports an error. Rumor is that this happened with the original S100 that a later version of the firmware fixed the problem, which is why reflashing is important. Also no cables are available yet, so that’s still unexplored, but from what I’ve seen online it’s going to need a new version of the firmware… so ya might have to flash it anyway! Time will tell; it’s a brand new phone so not many people know how to answer such questions.

Nice thing too is the price: $249 after a new activation rebate. Did I say new activation? Ahhh. See T-Mobile is still playing the village idiot for this type of stuff. I went to a local store to buy the phone and they told me, “No – new customers only”. I told them I would buy it with a prepaid SIM and just eat the extra $100 it would cost me. I figured the sooner I got it, the faster we could support it – so for $349, the manager of the local store still told me no. They refused to take my money! When I talked to the Upgrade Center for T-Mobile, they told me it would take some time to get it to me… so here’s an example where I could change phones technologically and it would cost the telephone company nothing, yet because of inane and out of date business rules, the customer gets screwed. T-Mobile still only cares about new customers and not about keeping them. Thankfully, I made mention of this snafu to my corporate T-Mobile rep and he got me the phone; I would still be going around in circles were it not for the corporate dude. Now I just have to figure out how to get new MIDLets on it!

The Samsung S105 is a great piece of hardware and easily outperformed and upstaged my Ericsson t68 – T-Mobile, regardless of name, still has issues, but since Cingular and AT&T are coming here with GSM/GPRS over the next few months, options are coming!

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