Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Siemens a56 & MovilListo

First off, the phone that came with MovilListo's service, the Siemens a56, is pretty basic. The orange backlight is a departure from the norm (yellow-green) but isn't as bright as a result of the nature of the very color orange...which means the screen can't get as much contrast as, say, a yellow-green backlight or a blue backlight. Of course, the screen is black-and-white.

The user interface is even more unintuitive, in my opinion, thanb Motorola's. In other words, you're going to have to think for a bit before knowing how to work the phone. Don't bother looking in the manual; it's all in Spanish.

Ringers are loud enough, though monophonic of course. The phone is unlocked so you can put in whatever SIM yoiu want and it will work (I successfully tried both T-Mobile To Go and Cingular postpaid cards). Of course, you'll probably want to keep your SIM in the phone it started out in.

The phone is small but its shape makes holding it somewhat annoying. Being the long-fingered brute that I am, my hand would get in the way of itself sometimes when using the phone.

Battery life is OK, though not phenominal in any respect, which is interesting considering the fact that the phone is baclk-and-white and GSM. But anyway...

The phone is unlocked, or did I say that already? Anyway, Cingular and T-Mobile To Go both work in it, besides MovilListo itself, but I can't think of a reason you'd want to put anyone else's SIM card into that phone, unless it won't work in any other...

Now to service, since it looks like I haven't missed anything as to phone hardware itself.
As advertised the rate is a flat 13.3 cents a minute. In other words, 3 minutes costs 40 cents. The phone came with 10 minutes preloaded plus a 40-minute card, which I added almost immediately. I would need to buy a $10 card, which I got at CheapPhoneCards for $9.50 with teh coupon code "cheap", later.

And yes, the phone number you get is most definately toll-fre. It's a 1-888 number, and I'd put mine here but for the fact that I don't remember all of it (the last four digits are 0148 I think). But that number is only for people to call you on...

You see, internally MovilListo seems to use a callback system for their service, which operates on T-Mobile, at least for the most part. More on the network and how the callback system affects call quality etc. later on. But the main thing here is that if you call someone from your phone they will see a 500-xxx-xxx number on their caller ID screen, and they can't call you back at that number. Wierd, huh?

And if you want to call your own voicemail from your own phone things get a little wierder. First you call 711, then you put in your 500-xxx-xxxx mailbox number, then you hit * (I think) to get the password prompt, then you put in your password, then you can access your messages. The point is that the service isn't quite easy to use.

Another peeve is that if someone calls you at your 1-888 number the airtime clock starts ticking before the call connects. So you pay for all incoming calls, even those that don't go to voicemail but are still unanswered. Plus, on the calling end the callback system "connects" the call before your phone starts ringing; their end gets charged too whether you answer or not. AHHHH!

One good thing: I though voicemail detracted airtime at a double-minute rate. Thankfully, it doesn't.

Now to the system specs. As said before, it runs off of T-Mobile in most places. The remaining coverage seems to be from T-Mobile roaming partners; I guess MovilListo got the new T-Mobile To Go coverage before T-Mobile To Go did...too bad the service won't go onto Cingular when it really needs to...where there are coverage holes in T-Mobile service!

Now to the crazy callback company...sorry, I had to use alliteration somewhere. Anyway, it seems the SIM, which is totally without branding (plain white plastic), sends a message to MovilListo when you dial a number and hit Call. Then, transparently, after about 5 seconds or maybe a little more, MovilListo quietly calls you back with a "Thank you" announcement. A few seconds later it says your balance and the call starts ringing. Overall it's a lengthy process;p I'm thinking the time is about 15-20 seconds, as opposed to maybe 5 seconds to connect, say, a T-Mobile call.

This is most likely where the whole 500 number thing comes in. And this is probably why the system is rigged the way it is with your 1-888 number for calls from the outside and your 500 number for everything else. It's also probably why the SIM card seems poorly made; it locks up even the solid Nokia 6010 when you try to make a call out, or view your own number, or anything to do with the SIM card. Of course, the Nokia will power off just fine and still emits button-press tones, but the call doesn't connect or anything of that sort; the screen just goes white.

And when you try to view contacts on the SIM, you get the error "SIM card not ready" on the 6010. Of course the a56 works fine but it's not a great phone at all.

Strangely, incoming calls work just fine. Even more interesting, before the phone starts ringing the phone displays the message "Call forwrded". Another evidence of some wierd calling system.

Oh, and the voice quality...it seems like there must be some sort of interference with the system or something to that effect. The last time I used MovilListo or its voicemail system, the clicks and clacks almost drowned out the voicemail instructions. Pretty bad. Fortunately, a lot of the time this doesn't happen, but some of the time it does. Wierd.

So in summation, you get an old phone and cheap service for cheap. Yes, it has a toll free number, but in the end you'll probably want to just foot the bill for a cell phone with a local number; there are some cases where MovilListo works fine but it's simply not as polished as it should be. If you like to tinker, this service may be cheap enough, but if you don't I'd pass MovilListo by, at least until they get their issues worked out (they seem to be a relatively new company).

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