LG TU720 Shine: Actually Shines …. Despite Rogers

LG TU720 Shine: Actually Shines …. Despite Rogers

I’ve been thinking about how to start this blog post, but to rant about the abysmal service, clueless staff, lacklustre product lineup, and expensive ‘bundles’ no-one wants has all been done before. I decided to take a fresh look at the company and see what those doorknobs on Bloor St. have conjured up as something at Joe Public might actually want in the world of Wireless Internet.

You guessed it, I’m not a big fan. In fact, despite being a customer of Rogers for almost 20 years, I can say that my relationship with the company is “net-neutral”. They do a few things well, they offer consistent service … but the times they let me down are big letdowns.

For a number of reasons the time was right to explore a major upgrade to the poor Samsung e316. I need web and gmail access.

I would like a robust media experience, camera that can do decent stills and video, in a non-proprietary format.

I would not accept a crappy interface, and wanted something that looked good enough to pull out at a meeting or during an edit.

I also needed it in two colours: professional and pink. Susan always wanted a pink phone, and for years I’ve been clever to always get our phones upgraded together because the charger will always get lost.

My neighbour is with Bell and has been showing off his tiny but cool little HTC and boasting about that $7/month unlimited data plan. I had a budget goal.

Also, despite drooling over the Nokia N82 reviews provided by the very talented and well-connected blogger Andrew Currie, I knew I wasn’t in the $400-$600 phone range. Although that phone is lovely!

Looks Like I Want An iPhone

So, except for the pink and possibly the video (I’ve seen hacks), it sounds like a trip to Buffalo is in order to pick up a firesale of the first generation iPhones. But not so fast!

I resigned to the fact that I might be changing carriers because Rogers sucks so badly. Specifically, they bundle crap together that no-one needs, they use way too many exclamation marks when describing the craptacular* (* credit: Andrew Currie) products they are pawning off (“Download cool ring tones!”). You’ve heard it all before. Maybe you’re a lucky Rogers customer trying out a crummy PPV on your “High Tech 100% Digital Scientific Atlanta Cable Box!”, when it’s not crashing or slowly refreshing it’s circa-Vic20 user interface.

I visited the Rogers web site only to find a few instances of superscript 1 and ++ and of course * but when I scrolled down to read the fine print, it was never there. Look for yourself. EDIT: they just added the Terms link today. Maybe somebody listened when I complained. I called Rogers to explain their data plans to me and I just got frustrated, “you pay $7 per month so you can access the Shop Rogers site and buy ringtones!” (exclamation mark mine). Finally, I visited the Rogers Plus store on Taunton and Ritson in Oshawa and dealt with the stupidest CSR I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with in my life. She thought 2M per MONTH was a pretty good deal for most users. I strongly disagreed. I asked her if she was embarrassed offering such an abysmal and tightly capped product to unsuspecting customers, and she said, ‘no’. At this point I announced to Susan that we were dumping Rogers tomorrow, but I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go.

Going Shopping

Fido was first, because they are flogging an older Nokia 6301, with wifi, for only $50 per phone. But I could never get through to a CSR and when I went by their office at First Canadian Place they were closed, despite Bell, Telus and Rogers all being open at 9. Finally, they’re basically Rogers anyway so I didn’t give it too much effort.

Telus was pushing Blackberrys and Treos (Sorry, Palm. You’ve died.), which left a very helpful CSR at Bell pushing the lovely but hello-kitty looking LG Rumour. The Bell rep was very helpful, asked what my rate was with Rogers Couples, and sent me to get a coffee while she worked out a killer customer stealing package. While walking to Tims I noticed a Rogers booth and thought I’d give it one more try.

The CSR rep greeted me right away, and took the time to show me all the phones. Despite looking and sounding like a Blackberry customer, he respected my declined offer and stuck with regular cel phone hybrids (balance of phone and PDA). After showing me a few he settled on the featured phone: the LG Shine. Lovely near iPhone appearance, and it came in pink!!! OK, let’s talk about the $7/month data plan once and for all.

Let the Suckage Begin

From what I can see, as long as you use the Rogers browser you’re good to go. I could visit any web site I could think of, it seems to work fine. But that Rogers home page is just horrible. I can’t imagine what the fine folks on Bloor St are thinking when they put “Ringtones!” and “Friends!” and of course “Web Favourites!” that don’t include Google (Rogers is affiliated with Yahoo!) but I was assured I could create bookmarks to escape the Rogers grasp quickly (it’s true). So after a few hours of fighting the Rogers computer (it seems I could only buy one phone) I got my two phones. Yes, the CSR wasn’t allowed to sell me two phones.

…Not So Fast

After playing with the Rogers ‘applications’ for a few seconds, I thought I’d give Google Mobile a try. After all, I have the full suite of Google Aps running at home: gmail, calendar, docs. It took me about five seconds to realize Google is again out to rule the world, this time in my handheld. Everything worked exactly the way I expected it to, I even set up an iGoogle homepage because it JUST SO AMAZING to have new emails, a google search window, and the New York Times on one tiny little page. Needless to say I learned bookmarking really quickly and got that set up so with just three taps I’m out of the Rogers miserable world and into fast and easy world.

On the subject of bookmarking, it’s awesome that LG provided more than one button on the faceplate for things like “select” and “back”. This means now that I’ve set up my bookmarks, I don’t have to slide out the keyboard at all for a totally satisfying web browsing experience. The centre joystick takes a little getting used to, but I think it will work out fine.

I should point out, and the CSR at Rogers was very clear, it’s unlimited browsing using the Rogers browser. I can’t install Opera or install the uber-kewl gmail app, otherwise I’m back to the five cent per kilobyte (yes you read that per kilobyte) data rate.

Just to put that into perspective, when I first got my Facebook account maybe year ago I tried using it using my poor old Samsung for maybe a dozen times until the bill for $25 came in.

This might be a good time to point out I’m on the new Rogers Vision, which I think is G3, and it’s so incredibly fast. Web pages download in a second or two or less. I’m really impressed as a web device accessing Google Apps.

As a sidebar, and I don’t want to get into a rat hole, but the TV On Demand and Video services suffers from major bloatwear in the design department, plus I was not able to get videos to play very consistently at all. But the video calling on the phone between two phones was really awesome and seamless. When you dial a number you have a choice to make a default voice call, or with one extra tap a video call; it’s that seamless.

The phone quality is the best I’ve ever experienced on a cel phone, which is nice for a change. After having the misfortune of using a friends Blackberry Pearl I can say some manufacturers have forgotten what the phone is really supposed to be for.

Another feature of the phone is the camera, or cameras (plural). There are two video and stills cameras on the beauty, one on the front facing the user and one on the back. The backside camera is a 2M chip that looks really nice. I’ll post more pictures on a future blog. And both cameras function as a video recorder and video phone. Sure enough, the kids had a ball calling Daddy on the video phone. That’s free for a year. Plus, the camera has a flash.

Getting the pictures, videos and sound memos are a piece of cake using the included USB cable or Bluetooth (not tested). The videos are standard quicktime and pix are standard JPG. Awesome.

The keyboard, I’m not a huge fan. Way too much like the Razor, but it does have a nice solid metal density to it. Definitely not cheap feeling.

So enough rambling. I hate how Rogers rams crap down customers throats. But with a little work, I’ve been able to play by their crummy rules and use their browser to have a very rewarding online experience with one of their lovely new phones.

The bottom line: $50 per phone on a three year contract. My couples plan remains at $35 for BOTH phones plus 911/system access/taxes. The unlimited data is $7 per month. I have unlimited long distance, TXT and local calls between the two cels or my Rogers landline. The total monthly outlay will be about $64/m minus the 15% Rogers bundled discount for TWO cel phones.

I would say mission accomplished, for the most part.

More photos and video to follow. BTW all the photos of Toronto were taken with the phone, and transferred seamlessly via the provided USB.

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