Monday, August 22, 2011

Unprepared For Pre-paid Phone Service

Shortly after I moved back from Brunei to KK about 9 years ago, I bought one of the most primitive Nokia mobile phones and subscribed to phone services from MAXIS. Later on, I took up a "family plan", i.e. I took up the main phone line, and Mia as the supplementary line. Over the years, I've changed my mobile phones several times. However, I wish to say that I'm not one of those creatures who have the habit of changing phones solely for the sake of changing phones, or "keeping up with technology". In most cases, I changed my phones because they had reached their lifespan.

I see people changing their mobile phones almost annually; or in some cases, even twice a year. And these people would actually spend an entire month's salary—and ever more than that—for newer phones!

Mia had been using her Nokia for at least 4 years now, and had recently been liable to sudden shutdown for no apparent reason. Messages would disappear; and some important data went missing. In fact, it was obvious that it was probably time to consider buying a new phone. But since procrastination is a universal disease, she never actually made the effort to go mobile phone shopping—she merely grumbled to me every time her phone started acting up.

I think God must have been observing her patiently and sympathetically from heaven over the last couple of months. But in the end He ran out of patience and finally acted on it.

As part of our training for the 100km trail race this coming November, we've been trekking the Kibambangan jungle. Both Mia and I bought specially-designed trekking backpacks. But she saw to it that hers had many more compartments. In fact, she's proud of all those little compartments. She is very proud of having all her little stuff nicely separated into their respective compartments in her bag, you see. But I'm not impressed, because she almost always finds herself unable to locate her stuff when she needs them, quite often ending up having to ransack the entire bag to look for a single item. Some people!

At this point, you may be thinking what has all this got to do with the title of this post. Please hang on, I'm getting there sooner or later!

The last time we went up the hills in Kibambangan, Mia brought her forsaken bag again. But on our way back, it started to pour. No problem—she was prepared with a special plastic cover to protect her backpack from the rain. Again, she was very proud of her preparation. Only that when we reached home that night, she realised that she kept her mobile phone in one of those many compartments which were not protected from the rain. Needless to say, her phone was soaking wet and it was already dead by then. I, of course, laughed my heads off, until I remembered that I have been the one who bought all her phones all these years. After I became sober from my uncontrollable laughters, it dawned upon me that Mia would have to buy a new phone.

Enter the iPhone 4...

I've been meaning to switch from MAXIS to Digi for a while now. But again, procrastination is a universal disease, you see. And again, I suppose God thought he would help push us a bit to decide sooner. So since it's time for Mia to buy a new phone, I thought I might as well take the opportunity to finally make that transfer to Digi.

A visit to Digi revealed that it wasn't as simple as I thought. While it's possible to retain our original phone numbers with MAXIS, we had to convert to the pre-paid plan in Digi first. After that, we can then convert again to the postpaid plan.

They have numerous "special packages" in Digi, some of which come with the phone sets. Now my Nokia N97 is still usable, except for some keys which are no longer functioning. But since it's a touchscreen type, I could still use it. But I reckoned that I might as well grab the chance to change my phone too. Besides, I was pleasantly surprised that Mia decided to pay for her own phone! [God, I don't know how you did it, but thanks for the help!]

I must admit that I have a kind of phobia of using these so-called "smart phones", because I feel that I'm not so smart to use them! Moreover, since day one of my mobile phone history, I've never ever used a pre-paid service. I know so many people who are using the pre-paid service, but I've never actually investigated what's the difference with the postpaid system.

Actually, both systems are the same, except that in the case of the pre-paid service, as the name suggests, users would have to pay first before using the service. This is done by buying phone credits by means of what's called "reload coupons". While this may sound like a simple and straightforward procedure to most people, it sent chills down my spine. But, well, it's now or never!

So a few days ago was the last of our phone signal from MAXIS, and it was time to activate the pre-paid service from Digi. Of all the time for this to happen, it had to be in a restaurant while we were having dinner. Mia, who's probably 10 times worse than me when it comes to this sort of thing, passed her phone to me to help her activate her pre-paid line. Earlier on, we had already bought the reload coupons. Looking at the instructions on the reload coupon, I was quite relieved to note a very easy step-by-step procedure. First, one has to key in "*123*", followed by the 16-digit number on the card, and close with "#" before hitting the call button.

That looked simple enough, but after I followed the instruction with the 16-digit number, it was rejected! I tried again a second time. Then a third time. Then fourth...

The minutes passed. In the end, I decided that the simpler method was just to ask one of the waitresses. She merely walked over to my table and demonstrated to me how to execute the activation procedure. First, type the "*123*" (uhuh, that's what I did). Then type in the 16-digit number hidden under the portion of the coupon which I had to scratch, NOT the 16-digit number under the barcode; followed by the "#" key and the call button. And then, almost magically, voila!... the phone suddenly came alive!

I thought the waitress must have rushed to the toilet to laugh her heads off.

I think Digi should produce another type of reload coupon meant for dummies—one which actually tells the user to scratch that portion on the lower right hand corner to get the 16-digit number.

Well, Mia has since had her iPhone 4 and been spending like 23 hours per day playing with it. I think this morning she's trying to find out how to connect to the internet. I think by the time my Galaxy S2 arrives, I'm gonna spend something like a few days just to learn how to make a call.

Keeping my fingers crossed...


Cornelius said...

A friend asked me why I moved from MAXIS to Digi. So I thought I might as well post my answer here.

Well, basically there are only TWO main reasons that would make me move: better service & cheaper cost elsewhere.

In this case, I must admit that in terms of service, MAXIS has been not perfect, but OK to me. I would not have moved because of "bad service".

In terms of cost, I'm not so sure. I had a so-called "family plan" and typically paid around RM160-RM180 per month for both Mia and I. That's quite decent I guess. We are not phone addicts, so we don't make very many calls.

For a while now, I've noticed that even when we hardly made any calls, we still paid more or less the same amount each month. I began to wonder why; and I began to ask around if that's the case with Celcom and Digi.

Then more recently still, I decided to commit to a fixed monthly phone internet service. Upon our enquiry at MAXIS, we were told that each of us will have to add RM50 a month, i.e. bringing the total phone bill to about RM260-RM280. And that's for a limited internet download size. So I finally made it a point to make a visit to Digi.

I may be wrong in my assumption, but I reckon that we would probably have to pay around RM100 each to cover our calls, text messages as well as UNLIMITED internet service from Digi. But there is a catch - we must stay with Digi for at least 2 years. So I decided to take a chance. If Digi is not good enough, I will move back to MAXIS after 2 years. Whatever happens, I will still retain my phone number.

Teo said...

Corny, with your countless sms, i bet in no time you will burst even the Digi plan. But as i have told you, with Whats App, a software where you can download to your smartphone, u get to chat just like sms for free...... For iphone, u pay USD0.99 once and for Android phones ie Samsung Galaxy 2, i heard the first year is free n the subsequent year is USD0.99 per year. Imagine how much u can save......i m using it n just love it.

Cornelius said...

Teo, I finally received a call from the Digi outlet yesterday afternoon, informing me that my Galaxy S2 had arrived; that I could come over immediately to collect it. I'll see if I can find the time to collect it this morning. I'm not sure how much longer I will have to wait for the transition from prepaid to post paid, but in Mia's case it took less than 24 hours. After that, it will be at least a few days of confusing life with my new phone! Wish me luck!