After a couple of months with Three PAYG, I've moved to Orange PAYG.
Three was fine, with a good, cheap service. However, I wasn't totally satisfied with their data rate. Coverage was good, but data still seemed sluggish. While it was marginally better than O2, and substantially cheaper, I still feel it's not as good as it could be. There's also something substantial missing from Three's PAYG offering: free WiFi. The lack of The Cloud or BT Openwhatever on Three is particularly noticeable. While I barely used it while on O2, there are several occasions where Three's coverage let me down and one of BT's nodes mocked me mercilessly sitting there with a strong signal in my iPhone's WiFi list.
Meanwhile, Orange and T-Mobile are doing the dirty in a new enterprise called "Everything Everywhere". It looks like the two nets will merge, and so data coverage should be second-to-none. In my opinion, Orange have always been the most technically competent UK network, and it's just their marketing and customer services I had a problem with.
Back then, I was really just using my phone as a phone, so there wasn't much technical reason to stick about; their poor CS was far more of a problem. Nowadays, I use my phone much more for data than for phoning, so data coverage and performance is more important: what's the point in having a smartphone to check facts in the pub if the net is so slow that it's closing time before Wikipedia starts to appear.
So, I was eager to give Orange another go. This time, it would be PAYG. However, if you remember from my last post on this subject, Orange was stupidly not offering PAYG SIMs to existing iPhone 4 users, even though Apple sold record numbers of unlocked handsets.
They finally got their act together earlier this month, and started selling iPhone 4 PAYG SIMs. I ordered one over the phone: £25, which was explained as £15 for the SIM, plus £10 top-up credit. A little excessive I feel, and I realised after ordering that I could have just ordered their standard £25/month rolling one-month SIM-only plan and got a better deal, switching to PAYG after the first month.
Anyway, the SIM arrived, and I promptly ordered my PAC code from Three, which arrived soon afterwards by text. I added £5 of credit just in case, and then called Orange on Monday and gave them the PAC code. I expected some form of confirmation via text or something, but... nothing.
I called back the next day and it turns out they hadn't submitted it. Ugh. This is, apparently, how it's going to go from now one. So, I gave them the code again. This time, they confirmed the port for Thursday: two days later. Fine. Whatever.
Now, credit. I paid for £10 of credit when I ordered the SIM. I also was expecting £10 extra for porting my number, and they said something about giving me £10 of extra credit per month if I topped up with £10... I'm not sure about that last bit, though. I was also, of course, expecting the promised free 250MB mobile data package. This was all confirmed to me when I gave the PAC code on Tuesday, and I was assured that the data package was on the account and the credit was coming.
Anyway, on Thursday throughout the porting transition, I was checking "Your Account" on Orange. My number had transferred, and yet my £5 of credit had dwindled to nothing even though I hadn't used it. It turned out that 900kb of mobile data had used it up! Hang on a sec... I thought I was getting free data?! I distinctly remember being told on Tuesday that my account had the 250MB free data package...
A shouty call to Orange, and I was assured this was a mistake. The billing team was notified, but I was told that they could not guarantee I'd be reimbursed for the erroneously-used credit. Oh well, it's only £5.
However, after this point I couldn't even call Orange because my account didn't have the requisite 25p to call them to tell them about their cock-ups. As I was expecting at least £20 of credit to appear any moment, I was loathe to top-up... for a start, I think I have to top-up every month to get the promised benefits, so I don't really want to build up excess credit that'll never get used.
I did, however, get a text to say the 250MB package had finally been added.
Friday: still no credit. A stern email to Orange demanding the £20 I was due plus the £5 their cock-up had wasted. I was forced to add £10 of credit manually, just so I could make a call.
Saturday: I've just got a text saying I've been credited £20. Still not right -- where's that £5, plus the 25p's I've been forking out to call Customer Services! -- but I have a feeling that's all I'm going to get out of them.
The problem here is that while the sales blurb says the account "comes with" free credit, free mobile data, etc., it all seems to be applied piecemeal with five-working-day turnarounds. The number port really confused things too. It's pathetic. They clearly treat their PAYG customers far worse than their Contract customers, especially with this insult of a 25p Customer Services charge, when I'm calling about their mistakes.
Orange CS is very polite, and their agents seem genuinely eager to help. However, they're stuck in a byzantine system of teams and systems and account details and scripts, and it just means things don't get fixed. I hark back to the olden days when a single twenty-something in Patchway (or Glasgow?) would be able to sort everything out after spending 30 seconds listening and comprehending the customer's problem. Now it's effectively a bunch of electronic note- and buck-passing between departments.
...I mean, even the fact that they couldn't offer SIMs to Apple unlocked-iPhone 4 customers on launch day or even for months afterwards shows how clueless they are. I still maintain that was a massive missed opportunity for the network to steal a slew of affluent but irritated O2 customers.
If it wasn't for the much-vaunted Orange network, I'd hightail straight back to Three right now, and sign up for a proper contract with them. I'm now going to use Orange for a few weeks and see how I get on. If it isn't as good as it's supposed to be, I'll be off. I know this isn't the biggest catastrophe in the world, but this kind of poor customer service just bugs the crap out of me.
A few years ago, I wrote about Orange and how they just weren't as good as they used to be. I was hoping after a few years in the wilderness, I'd be pleasantly surprised. I'm not. Their service seems worse than ever.
Anyway. The next thing stuck in my craw is international data. I'm off on holiday to WDW in November, and try as I may, I just can't find any economic or legit way to get two weeks of data access on either my iPad or my iPhone. I just want a bit of email and limited web access just so we can organise things. However, AT&T seem hellbent in NOT offering service to non-residents.
I could just roam with my new Orange account, but apparently that will cost more than the holiday. If I were paranoid, I'd suspect that the networks are colluding internationally to encourage their customers to give up and just fork out ~£5/MB.
I mean, how hard could it be to sell me an iPad micro-SIM with a month's prepaid credit? I've got a US passport and a good UK VISA credit card... what's the problem?