Orange UK – O2’s best salesman?

Orange SPV C500

Orange SPV C500

When it comes to mobile phones, I always thought my needs were fairly straightforward. Two phone numbers so I can separate work and personal calls, and Windows Mobile so I can easily sync with Outlook where I’ve always maintained my calendar and contact lists. I don’t do email, video-calling, photography or anything else exotic, so that’s simple right?

Well I’ve been an Orange UK customer since 1997 and not long after that took advantage of their ‘Line 2’ offering – that’s two phone numbers on one handset/SIM card. The phone receives calls on both lines automatically, and by simply pressing and holding the # key I can choose which line I want to make calls on. It’s a great idea… but unfortunately one that never took off for some reason, probably because my ‘Line 2’ number costs me just £5 a month, far less lucrative for Orange than selling me a second handset and contract (which is what they’re now trying to do). Still, it works for me, and while the Windows Mobile 2003 OS on my trusty old SPV C500 phone isn’t brilliant, it gets the job done. Incidentally, the C500 was a cool handset in it’s day, trust me. These days, compared with all these ‘razr’ thin, touch screen, mp3 playing, video calling 5mp camera phones, it’s about as cool as walking into a bar with your fly open!



Anyway, since switching to the Mac I’ve been wondering what I should do about my Windows-centric calendaring. My problem is, it’s one of those things I’ve got set up in Windows that just works, so I’ve settled for the Mac being the ‘slave’ so to speak. Courstesy of Calgoo Connect I now sync my Outlook calendar across to Google’s gCal and from there on to iCal. It works a treat, I can add entries in Windows, on the Mac or on my phone and they all painlessly arrive everywhere else. Great! So where is this all going? Well a few months ago the asterisk key on my 3 year old phone stopped working. Perhaps not a major issue, but when you’re trying to join a conference call and you have to enter ‘*’ before and after your PIN code – that’s a major headache. Still, I was well overdue for a handset upgrade so I called Orange thinking I’d have a shiny new Windows Mobile handset before long…

Almost an hour later I was feeling like I’d been totally screwed over by them. You see while they still provide the Line 2 facility to those customers who signed up for it, they no longer offer it to new customers. Based on that premise, they don’t supply any new Windows Mobile handsets that support the feature, and their suggestions weren’t well thought out at all. So, if like me you’re an Orange UK customer who has a Windows Mobile handset and the ‘Line 2’ facility, prepare yourself because this is what they said…

Option One – Upgrade to a Blackberry handset. It’s not Windows Mobile but it does support Line 2. However, you MUST subscribe to Blackberry’s data service at an ADDITIONAL MONTHLY COST, regardless of whether you want it or not. It’s a condition of the contract. Personally I don’t want the service, and didn’t see why I should pay for it – as I said, I don’t do email on my phone.

Option Two – Split the Line 2 number out to a new contract and buy a second handset. I my case that would mean switching from paying £30 a month plus calls on one contract, to paying £45 a month plus calls on TWO contracts. I’d also have to pay £69 for a new HTC Touch Diamond Windows Mobile handset on my original contract, and a whopping £250 for another of the same handsets on the new second contract. I said I’d consider it if they gave me two new handsets for free. They said no. Ok, how about £69 for the two handsets. They said no again. I even went as far as saying I’d pay £69 for each new handset. They still said no. They were adamant that I’d have to pay almost £320 in total for the two handsets, and they weren’t going to budge.

HTC Touch Diamond

HTC Touch Diamond

I thought it entirely reasonable that if they were forcing me to have two handsets, then I should be allowed to have two the same. That way I wouldn’t have to install new software alongside the ActiveSync that I already have installed and working, plus if I had occasion to only have one handset on me, then it would still have all the features I needed. No, Orange didn’t think that was a reasonable expectation. In the end I just thought if they could hear themselves, they would realise how inconsiderate they were being.

In the end, they refused to make any concession whatsoever and I had no choice but to request a disconnection code for both phone lines. I hadn’t planed on leaving Orange UK, but if they are going to be that difficult then all I can do is to vote with my feet.

So, all this has left me wondering – where now? Maybe I’ll have to abandon my two phone numbers on one phone and join the poor souls who have to carry two handsets around. That being the case, there’s no reason not to go down the high street shop around. The new iPhone 3G looks mighty tempting as a ‘main’ handset, and I could make the Mac the centre of my calendaring universe. Problem is, I’m not yet comfortable with being able to recover my calendar and

iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G

address book on the Mac in the event of disaster. In Outlook 2007 I know exactly how to backup and recover the data files, I’ve even done it several times when reinstalling Windows. The Mac? Hmmmm, I know the principles, but somehow I feel that if I had to recover my calendar files to a new Mac, I’d need more than Time Machine to accomplish this. But then if the data is sync’ed to Google via Calgoo Connect – then I’m sorted, I just re-install the Calgoo software and sync it back!

The irony is that if I wanted an iPhone 3G now, I’d have to jump ship to O2. But if I were to hang on until later this year, Orange UK may be selling the iPhone if the rumours are true… 😉

PS – Calgoo Connect is available for Mac OS X and Windows, and it’s now free!

PPS – Yes I know there’s MobileMe, but it costs upwards of £60 a year, and it still doesn’t work properly.


One Response

  1. Know this might be a bit late, since this article was written a year and a half ago, but thought the advice might help anyway: don’t phone orange and speak to their upgrade people: instead go through the motions of leaving (i.e. ask for your PAC code as if you are leaving for another provider): I just got upgraded to a Motorola Dext this way: the upgrade department wanted me to pay £250 for the handset on a £35 per month contract with no data allowance: the disconnection team gave me the handset for £15, and put me on the same contract for £25 per month with a free 500mb data allowance… They won’t be any help ’til they think they’re about to lose you as a customer.

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