‘Popular’ ASB Area Committee Meeting

It’s a hard one to know where to start on relating tonight’s meeting. It was clear over the last couple of weeks that both Walsall Council and various partners were pulling into full force their social media power to turn out people to tonight’s event.

We can all question the ability of social media to engage with local people and personally I’ve always been an advocate but with the caveat that it isn’t the be all and end all that some might think or wish it to be so.

However, the end result and I’m happy for anyone to dispute my figures. Tonight I counted 7 members of the public – lost count of the people who were ‘Partners but there was the usual 8 councillors for Willenhall wards minus Val Woodruff who I’m screwed if I can remember the last time she bothered to turn up for a meeting plus an army or officiers from the council and partners like the police.

I noted that the official Walsall Council Media Unit bod only took photographs down the centre of meeting towards the Chair because if they’d gone to the left they would have been met with the rows of empty chairs or right then they’d be met with the backs of heads of numerous council officers and those from partner organisations.

As a local councillor I know how hard it is sometimes to engage with people, it’s certainly not a party political issue and I’m sure across all parties irrespective of their persuasion we would all agree that getting local residents involved and perhaps more importantly – informed is a shared desire.

However I do question the direction the current administration in Walsall is going in relation to Area Partnerships and (although in principle I am open to devolved budget decision making) how we really interact with residents and make those decisions especially when turnout even at these high profile public meetings is so low.

Mobile Woes

[Note] Following on from further contact with O2, there’s an update at the end of this post.

It’s not been a good week for my adventures in the mobile phone world. Those who know me know that over the years I’ve taken a keen interest in the industry – mainly the handset end rather than the operator but equally with the rise of every other new phone being announced being a variant on ‘ooh look, another touchscreen slab’ that my interest has waned somewhat of late.

However handsets aside which my current pair serve my needs satisfactorily I’ve been generally happy in the world of mobiles, if not particularly enthused.

That was however till last week when I got a text message from T-Mobile saying I’d reached 80% of my data allowance – which is one of those ‘Unlimited but we really mean 1GB’ types.

Then a couple of days later I received a message saying I’d exceeded it and my browsing would be restricted. How I’d managed to exceed 1GB of data in the space of a fortnight is a mystery as having been a long time user of mobile data – which basically means I discovered mobile internet before the first Iphone came out I’ve stuck with the practices of old in terms of knowing the tricks of how to keep my usage down and as my phone’s log says I’ve used just shy of 4GB for the entirety of it’s existence (18 months) how 1GB of that is from the last fortnight is bizarre.

A phone call to T-Mobile’s customer service basically resulted in a ‘We can’t do anything because we don’t keep any records of your data usage because it’s against the Data Protection Act’ answer which is complete cobblers as they then informed me it would take two weeks to investigate why their system thought I’d gone over – which by definition means they must keep a record of data usage and if it is against the DPA then why does O2 list all my data connections and amount used on my bill then?

So I chalked that down to poor quality customer care and perhaps when that contract expires next year that’ll be one to change to another supplier.

My first thought would be to change it to O2 because generally speaking I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for the last 15 years although I have to admit I had become more disappointed with their home broadband of late but they’re mobile section I was still pretty happy with (which incidentally is up for renewal next month and I may go shopping around for). The Phone Coop looking like a good contender in those stakes.

That general happiness came to an end this morning when I got my bill. Now just for the record, it’s normally £11.50 unless I do something that is chargeable like sending an international text or on roaming, which after our holiday’s in Germany this August I have to also admit I don’t particularly like the way O2 do their charging policy for roaming. T-Mobile’s in that sense are far better although neither are completely within the spirit of how the EU’s instructions to operators should work in my opinion.

However this morning my bill came in at £18.27. Checking I hadn’t done anything unusual it would appear that the addition plus a bit of VAT on top came from this section of the bill – my extras.

o2 bill

Yes, not only had O2 added a fiver’s worth of charges for “The All Rounder Data Plan” they also seemed fit to recognise my 15 years of custom with a ‘Loyalty Discount’ charge of £1.48.

A call to O2’s customer service obviously ensued. Apparently I’d come to the end of my contract and they’d decided that to get exactly the same service as last month that they’d up my charges by 63%. Not bad work if you can get it. I wish I could up my customers charges by that amount.

The end of the call effectively resulted in me agreeing to a new 12 month contract at £20 a month as it works out cheaper than the £15.50 contract over 12 months as the first 3 are free.

After this a cheeky tweet awarding ‘Crafty Capitalist of the month’ came to the attention of O2’s Twitter account.

I’d just like to explain why this is crafty. To keep a bill around what I currently pay I’d have to agree to a contract with 100MB a month allowance. Now I’m fairly thrifty as I mentioned above but 100MB a month for any smartphone user who gets out and about a bit is pushing it to the point of near impossibility. For the record my last months usage was 158MB – low by many people’s standards but outside this new tariff.

So I’m basically pushed out of my current tariff price range by a crafty change in the data allowance and here’s where O2 really are taking the proverbial. The next step in their data allowance is 500MB which puts you in the £15.50 a month category but hey presto we’ve got a deal that works out cheaper and before you know it you’re into a £20 a month contract which a few years ago would have got you a free phone upgrade to boot even on a 12 month contract.

What is interesting though is that, having a quick check. T-Mobile and Vodafone offer 250MB allowances. Something that would probably fit my usage pattern for £10 or £10.50 respectively. Each with more minutes although not unlimited texts but just while we’re at it, I used 44 minutes and sent the shockingly high number of 13 texts last month. Put simple, I think O2 do very well out of me already taking into account my usage. Data excluded as it wasn’t really about back then, I probably got a better deal out of Radiolinja in Finland back in 1999 where I presume the relative costs of running networks would have fallen with better technology over the years.

Anyway, O2 contacted me via Twitter and after a few tweets back and forth pointed me in the direction of their online web-based chat sessions help section. Which I spent about an hour of today effectively getting nowhere and in some respects coming away with a more negative impression. Take a read, here’s the transcript of that chat: (With a few obvious personal data bits and bobs redacted of course)


Welcome to O2. Someone will be with you soon.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

You’re through to ‘O2 – Asma’

Asma: Hi I’m O2 – Asma. How can I help?

Gareth Walker: Your people on your Twitter stream said I should come here.

Asma: Okay.

Asma: How can I help you?

Gareth Walker: It was in response to a tweet I did about you effectively increasing the cost of my monthly bill by nearly 50% for the same services without informing me and adding insult to injury by adding £1.68 to my bill under the header ‘Loyalty Bonus’. Being charged for being a loyal customer for 15 years is rather insulting.

Asma: I’m sorry to know this.

Asma: let me check this for you.

Gareth Walker: Thank you.

Asma: Please can you tell me the 1st and 4th characters of your security answer?

Gareth Walker: ? and ?.

Asma: That’s perfect.

Asma: Thanks for the information. Please give me a few minutes while I check this for you.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: Gareth, I see that your current bill is for £18.27

Asma: Your monthly tariff is for £20

Gareth Walker: Yes. It’s normally £11.50. This changed without me being informed.

Asma: Your tariff was changed on ??/06/2011 for unlimited tariff for £20

Gareth Walker: It will be after who I spoke to this morning although looking around at other suppliers and given I have a 7 day cooling off period I may well go elsewhere.

Asma: Let me check this for you.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: I see that you spoked to Upgrades team in morning is that correct?

Gareth Walker: I spoke to two different people, presumably billing and someone else yes.

Asma: Okay.

Asma: Thanks for confirming.

Asma: I see that the request is still inprocess.

Asma: They’ve kept your account on hold for investigation.

Asma: Our Support team will contact you once the request is


Asma: You can also contact them and check this with them.

Gareth Walker: Erm, what are they investigating exactly?

Asma: The charges and the upgrade when your contract was upgrade for unlimited tariff for £20

Asma: You can speak them and they’ll help you with full details.

Asma: Shall I help you with the number?

Asma: I haven’t heard from you for a while. Are you still there?

Gareth Walker: I’m not quite sure where this conversation is going. I was referred here by the people who run the @O2 twitter account. It doesn’t really address the central problem that you are effectively forcing a near 50% increase on my tariff for the same services I had last month and actually by nature of the way your plans are set up effectively shoe-horning people into £20 a month 12 month tariffs. This is quite disgusting in my opinion and despite I’ve been a loyal customer for 15 years I look around the marketplace and I can get a better deal than this.

Asma: I’m sorry about this.

Asma: I can see that your prices have been increased due to upgrading the tariff.

Gareth Walker: They weren’t increased due to upgrading the tariff. That was the position I was forced into this morning on the back of receiving a bill where you had charged me around 75% more than I normally pay without my prior knowledge or agreement.

Asma: Let me chekc this.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: I’m sorry but as per our terms and conditions clearly state that we may increase or decrease our charges from time to time but our monthly contract prices haven’t increased mid-term.

Gareth Walker: So are you basically saying that I’m wasting my time and I may as well just switch to someone else to get a better deal?

Asma: Gareth, I understand your concern and I completely agree to this.

Asma: I’d request you to contact our Support team and they’ll check this for you.

Gareth Walker: Could you give me my PAC code please.

Asma: Let me check this for you.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: Gareth, your contract ends on ??/112013, if you cancel the contract in between you’ll be charged early termination charges for it.

Asma: Are you okay with the charges?

Gareth Walker: I don’t think I will be. You are referring to the fact that I agreed a new contract this morning that has a 7 day cooling off period on it or are you suggesting that the information one of your representatives gave me this morning is incorrect?

Asma: Gareth, last upgrade on your account was on ??/05/2011.

Asma: Have you placed any order today or yesterday?

Gareth Walker: Can you tell me what ‘upgrade’ that was? The last upgrade (handset terms) I had from you was a Nokia E90 that was sometime around mid-2008.

Asma: It was Simplicity upgrade.

Gareth Walker: I also already explained that I had changed the contract this morning but it has a 7 day cooling off period.

Asma: The tariff was upgrade on ??/05/2011 to £20

Gareth Walker: OK, if you’re talking the Simplicity yes perhaps but it was not for £20, was for £11.50 and was a 12 month contract with the option to upgrade at any time.

Asma: Yes that’s true you can upgrade early than your contract end date.

Asma: As per the offer you can upgrade on ??/02/2013

Asma: Gareth, I’d request you to contact our 7 days return team and they’ll cancel the contract for you.

Asma: I see that £20 unlimited tariff upgrade was done today on ??/11/2012 at 10:09:35.

Asma: If you don’t wish to have this tariff you can change it and get a new one without any charges.

Gareth Walker: Hang on. I think something is seriously wrong at your end. You are contradicting yourself. If as you say I went on a 12 month contract on ??/05/2011 and that presumably was automatically renewed as another 12 month contract in May this year then I would currently be 5 months into that contract so you are increasing my charges mid-term. Therefore where does this contract ends in exactly a year’s time date come from. If it comes from the 12 month contract I agreed to this morning with the 7 day cooling off period which would look likely then why do you give me an upgrade date in February as your representative this morning told me that it was only possible to upgrade after 6 months which would put that date in May next year.

Asma: Gareth, I guess there’s some confussion.

Asma: let start again.

Asma: I’ll explain it to you.

Asma: Have you upgrade your contract today for £20 unlimited tariff?

Gareth Walker: Yes.

Asma: Thanks for confirming.

Asma: You can cancel your contract within 7 days cooling off period without incurring any extra charges.

Asma: Is that fine with you?

Gareth Walker: It’s fine that I can cancel it within 7 days – I was told that this morning and fully understand that.

Asma: Thanks.

Asma: Do you want to me to check your bill that is for £18.27?

Gareth Walker: You can if you want.

Asma: Sure.

Asma: The bill that you received for £18.27 is for the new tariff that you upgrade.

Asma: If you cancel your contract within 7 days this charges will be credited back to your account.

Asma: I haven’t heard from you for a while. Are you still there?

Gareth Walker: How is that possible? I received the bill this morning – hence my calling your contact centre. As a result of that call I upgraded. Or are you saying that without my knowledge or consent you put me on a £20 a month tariff? If so why does my bills say: “Your tariffs – O2 Simplicity 300 12 month with O2 Travel £8.75”. ?

Asma: Gareth, I’m sorry for all the confussion.

Asma: Can you please contact our Support team and they’ll speak to you about this.

Asma: I guess they can explain you manually.

Gareth Walker: OK. Thank you for your time.


Where from here I don’t know. O2’s Twitter account contacted me again when I tweeted I’d got nowhere. In fairness to them they offered to DM but to be frank, it’s a little more complex than 140 characters can afford hence the post. Let’s see if they get back. If not, well 7 days to have a butchers at the market but it would be a shame after 15 years of custom for it all to end like this.


A victory for social media over corporate call centres. There’s probably a lesson in here somewhere about how use of social media by companies, or even the public sector can be more reactive and to customer/residents needs. Following on from publishing this post O2 got back to me on Twitter and sorted out someone to call me. The upshot, a reasonable discount on the contract that leave me happy and them still with me as a customer for another year. So thanks O2, I do appreciate it and credit where credit’s due.

Walsall LibDems spurn Allen’s Rough

Tonight was the meeting of the Allen’s Rough Residents Association.

As a local councillor when I’ve known about any meeting I’ve attended because I believe it is vital to engage with local residents and if I can, deal with the issues that they raise.

That is why I was extremely disappointed that without any consultation with other members of the Community and Environment Scrutiny Committee on Walsall Council that Councillor Val Woodruff (the new Chair) without consultation with committee members chose to change the date to tonight.

We’ll excuse the fact England were playing but given that the scrutiny committee concerns community engagement, of which the Allen’s Rough Residents Association are a shining light in the Willenhall area, snubbing them is a disgrace.

I know Councillor Woodruff doesn’t attend their meetings but councillors such as myself who do find them invaluable with addressing local issues.

The excuse tonight from Councillor Woodruff seems to be that she has something else to do next week and other ward councillors can attend. (Myself and her were in the room so that leaves only one)

Ten minutes after this ascertion Councillor Ian Shires turned up late for the meeting meaning that no councillor for Willenhall North was attending the Allen’s Rough Resident’s Association meeting.

This can only be described as a shambles by the Walsall LibDems who by switching meeting dates have robbed the residents of Allen’s Rough of having their local councillors attending their meeting when there are very important and specific issues that need to be dealt with.

Willenhall North Labour & Co-operative Councillor Gareth Illmann-Walker raised this issue at the meeting and asked to be ensured that this shambles will not be repeated and that members of the committee will be consulted in future regarding any changes of dates so that they can be accommodated and such a cock-up not be repeated.

CCL Computers and the case of the well, crap case

Hi folks, yeah, the blog isn’t dead although for the amount of attention I give it sometimes it might as well be but it comes in handy at times like this when illuminating more than the 140 characters that Twitter allows.

So I thought I’d like to share a little something with you. I’ve been a longstanding customer of CCL Computers. Barring the motherboard and RAM, all the other components in my current desktop I purchased from them including the monitor. I’ve always been very happy with their service and quality of products which probably makes this all the worse.

You see, if it had been a first purchase and I’d received the pitiful excuse of a desktop computer that they sent me then I’d have just chalked it down to yet another poor quality merchant, sent it back, got my money and gone elsewhere, but when you’ve ordered stuff from a company over the years you build up a trust relationship. When that comes crashing to the ground it hurts, especially when you’ve recommended them to friends as a good and trusted supplier.

However, I have a sorry tale to tell about my recent experience with CCL Computers that I’d like to share.

A couple of weeks ago the computer used as the main office PC for an organisation run by a friend of mine broke. Technically it didn’t, the OS, Windows XP went completely tits up to the point of it being impossible to restore and the system restore discs seem to have disappeared too. So it was a case of grabbing a copy of Windows 7 to put on it or just take the opportunity to do an upgrade. The system in question was about 8 years old and would cost more to upgrade to make it capable of running Windows 7 than simply getting a new one. So with all his files safely recoved by the use of a Live Linux CD we decided to do a full blown new purchase.

Now my friend in question was due to go off abroad on holiday over Christmas so he woudn’t be around to receive collection of a new machine so we decided to order him a new computer, a proper Vanilla version of Windows 7 and Office Pro 2007 and I’d set it all up for him while he’s away. He’s back soon btw and expecting a fully functional computer that I promised him.

We found the PC we wanted from CCL Computers, made a few adjustments to specs and tried to place an order but we couldn’t specify a different delivery address as apparently, and this is quite reasonable from an anti-fraud perspective; you can’t do this on a first purchase after registering an account.

So, we went to the extra trouble of contacting our bank, thankfully we have the same one and getting the money transferred from his account to mine so that I could purchase the machine on his behalf and get it delivered to my address.

It came the other week.

I took it out the box and put it on the kitchen surface. It wobbled. I inspected it, one of the leg pins was bent in so it wouldn’t stand straight. Then I looked at it a bit closer, the back panel section was bent quite considerably outwards to the point where you would have problems plugging the cables into the interface sockets on the motherboard. Then I looked even closer, the top of the one side of the case at the rear was completely buckled in.

OK I thought after also spotting that the polystyrene surround in the packaging was also damaged, this thing has been dropped quite heavily, or something heavy dropped on it. Hey, it’s Christmas, the weather’s interferring with deliveries up and down the land, accidents do happen.

So, I called up CCL Computers on the phone, explained what I thought had happened and they said no problem, we’ll get someone to pick it up and they’ll sort it out. Great I thought. I explained the situation, that I was on a timescale in getting this thing up and running for my friend’s return and they said they’d be as quick as they can.

It got picked up. I got an e-mail confirming they’d received the unit for inspection. Then, rather surprisingly, the following day I received the computer back. Wow, great turnaround service I thought. That was until I took it out the box and put it on the kitchen surface. It wobbled and rocked. The backplate still stuck out from the connectors on the motherboard.

At first I thought they’d just sent exactly the same computer back. I got on the phone. This was Christmas Eve btw.

I was told the case had been changed. I looked carefully at it, yes the buckle in the case at the top was no longer present. So this was a new case with the same wonkey leg and buckled out backplate? Apparently yes I was told, they’re quite cheap cases so the guy on the other said and if I wanted better I’d have to pay more money.

Now I’ll admit I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve been building computers right since it was pretty much possible to do it with more standard components. Since 1992 in fact. In that time I’ve seen some ‘cheap cases’, one’s which to be frank, I would fancy dropping but in all that time, I’ve never seen even the cheapest or nastiest of cases that came brand new incapable of standing up straight on a flat surface or that has a backplate so bent outwards that it actual inhibits the ability to stick the cables in the motherboard. I’m not sure if it’s just me or my age but when exactly was a case that stands straight or has a non-buckled backplate considered to be a premium quality of PC’s that you should expect to pay extra for.

They asked if I could send them pictures, I did one better and did a video and posted it to Youtube. It’s at the end of this post. I’ve tweeted at them, sent them a message via their online submission form on their website to get in touch. As yet they haven’t. Well, it is Christmas time after all so I’m reasonable to give them a bit of a break but it’s Tuesday now and still nothing.

I’ll give them another couple of hours and then I’ll be on the phone. They said they couldn’t collect till Thursday anyway when I spoke to them but as things stand, I fear I can do nothing more than send this piece of crap back, get my money, go elsewhere and drop them on the blacklist of companies I’ll never bother doing business with again which is a real shame.

The problem is now, I’m going to have to source another machine, get it delivered and what’s the chance they’re not going to refund my money straight away so I’m going to be forced into raiding the savings (yes it is just after Christmas and like everyone else I’m skint) just to be able to get a new machine up and running before my friend returns from holiday.

Thank you so much for all this hassle and fuss CCL Computers. Just because you couldn’t supply me with a computer in a case that wasn’t a load of old crap. I also have a tip; this is exactly the kind of practice that turns good longstanding customers like myself who have recommended you to friends into people who never want to do business with you again, and will tell their friends why.


Website Notice

This is a rather brief notification regarding matters that have come to pass in the last 24 hours.

It has come to my attention that a blogpost I wrote in July 2007 has become the attention of a certain individual who has led a crusade against me in an attempt to deny both my freedom of speech and others who posted comments on the subject.

This has included writing e-mails to a variety of people within the Labour Party (which I must point out here does and has never had any affiliation to this website as it is purely my own so he shouldn’t have) and the domain name registrar for this site.

At no point in this process did he ever contact me directly about his complaint by doing the most obvious thing and clicking the prominent link at the top of this website which says ‘contact’ so that we could discuss the matter further off record if he so wished to do.

Instead he has used a number of proxy methods to bully me into removing a blogpost from my site.

I will further add that I have not removed the content because I accept his complaint, but because I have worked straight for the last 8 months and am currently having my first break away in Germany in which I wish the order of the day to be enjoying family time with my two small children and relaxing, not dealing with threats of legal action that I know would not stand up to any legal scrutiny in a court of law.

I might also add that this matter has caused both myself and my wife considerable distress on a day (yesterday) which as anyone who has ever traveled by plane with two small children can attest to, yesterday was a truly miserable day.

I will be returning to this matter in due course to lay out exactly what went on and to present the facts publicly to an audience who can then, in the true spirit of discourse on the Internet, not resort to behind the scenes attempts to stifle criticism or control others but for now, I have a holiday and family to enjoy spending my downtime with.

In the mean time, this is a thoroughly good read.

Ian Payne post

  1. David Hartley responded on 04 Jul 2007 at 6:20 pm #

    The good voters of Lichfield clearly had a lucky escape!

  2. Some Fool responded on 21 Oct 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    QUOTE: He’s one of those perennial letter writer types who has a view on absolutely everything and believes that everyone is truly interested in what he has to say.”

    He should write a blog!

  3. Political Penguin responded on 21 Oct 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    @Some Fool, who appears not brave enough to supply a real e-mail address so you’re very lucky for me to even bother to OK your comment.

    I did actually meet him once, he was hideously boring and I think just a bit miffed off that he didn’t get selected as a Parliamentary candidate somewhere because his great great whatever was mayor of West Bromwich.

    I’m sure he would do well at a blog that no one would read although I fear he would lack th technical skill to build one.

  4. Brownhills Senior Citizens Centre : The Tesco Chainstore Massacre continues « BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog responded on 02 Jul 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    […] page has been improving a tad of late. More often than not the soapbox for tedious blowhards like Ian Payne, just lately there has been some excellent correspondence on the subject of Brownhills Tesco […]

  5. IAN PAYNE responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    Is this the ANTI-IAN PAYNE CLUB ?

    At least i state who I am in my letters and my contact details folks when I cristicise and moan about people and organisations !!!!

    You lot try it you may grow to like it perhaps you have too much time on your hands moaning about me at present folks !!!

    Never mentioned Tesco’s at Brownhills at all Mister, so get facts right.

  6. Political Penguin responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Ian, have you looked at the date on this post? 4th July 2007. I suggest you get over the fact that not everyone agrees with you and some might consider your comments annoying. It’s part of the growing up process to be able to take criticism in the public domain.
    As for putting your name and contact details, this site is registered in my own name at my home address, a 20 second job to lookup if you know how to and there is a contact form for anyone wanting to e-mail me so I don’t see what your point is.
    I suggest going back to moaning about how horrible the Labour Party is because they had the sense not to select you as a Parliamentary candidate.

  7. IAN PAYNE responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    You know what I mean, I’m not getting into a debate with you. You know there are statements about me from other people from 2009 and 2010. I can see 2007 one, as I am able to read !!!!

    I am unaware that I ever wanted to be a political candidate in a Parliamentary election  I left Labour Party in 2003 thankfully. My politicing is done always via letters page of some newspaper or such !!!!

    Why did you allow someone to call me a nob-head in public domain ? That question is from my wife and I. Have you ever met me ? I know it has upset my wife and it certainly doesn’t please me.

  8. Political Penguin responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Ian, let’s deal with your points one at a time shall we.

    You know what I mean, I’m not getting into a debate with you. Excuse me if you’re the one turning up to make comments on a blog post from 3 years ago, not me. If you do not wish to enter into a debate then there is a simple solution; refrain from leaving comments.

    You know there are statements about me from other people from 2009 and 2010 Yes, and if other people wish to make comments on my blog as long as they do not fall outside of the law I’m happy for them to do so. In 4 years of having a website I’ve only blocked one person from commenting which I think is a very good record.

    I am able to read !!!! I might disagree with you on this one as you have clearly not read two things, at least properly anyway. Firstly, you stated in your previous comment Never mentioned Tesco’s at Brownhills at all Mister, so get facts right.  I’ve read BrownhillsBob’s post and at no point does he say you mentioned Tesco’s in Brownhills so perhaps you should get your facts straight. Secondly, I’ll deal with that further down.

    My politicing is done always via letters page of some newspaper or such !!!! Is this because the likelihood of someone taking you up on your comments is next to zero? Get with the times and get online although bear in mind, out here people talk back at you as well.

    Why did you allow someone to call me a nob-head in public domain ?” I didn’t allow someone to call you a nob-head in a public domain. I called you a nob-head. You can tell as it is in the title of the post. Quite frankly I’ve been called a lot worse in my time and if that upsets you then I suggest you’re not cut out for life in the public arena.

    Have you ever met me ? We’re back to the bit about you being able to read now. In this very thread I posted a reply which says this:

    I did actually meet him once, he was hideously boring and I think just a bit miffed off that he didn’t get selected as a Parliamentary candidate somewhere because his great great whatever was mayor of West Bromwich.

    So yes, I have met you and you were very tedious and boring to have to listen to for about an hour.

  9. IAN PAYNE responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    Who are you then ? So you are allowed to know me but I can’t know who you are – and please don’t tell me to look your details up.

  10. Political Penguin responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    Sorry, I don’t do requests, have a look through my site, you don’t even need to look it up. My name’s actually on it. (Requires reading)

  11. BrownhillsBob responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    Ian, if your wife is distressed that the big boys are ribbing you, she’d better hide your typewriter ribbon. You continually set yourself up as some kind of arbiter, make prejudicial, snide judgement on others and can’t write a single letter without mentioning any or all of Richard Wattis, John Stonehouse, The fact that you once were a member of the Labour party or indeed, that you seem to think you’re paying for the entirety of the underclass to sit on it’s arse and take the piss out of you.

    I’ve got news for you, mate. There’s a lot more than the underclass taking the piss. If you don’t want to be treated like a judgemental, boastful, name-dropping blowhard, then don’t behave like one.

    I daresay you’ve passed me at my leisure on occasion and tutted, little knowing how I earn my living and just how myself, and many other people view your tedious mission to condemn.

    You’re on t’internet now, Ian, this is where people enter into real debate, not one hidden behind the kindly knife of a newspaper editor who wants to make his readership so angry that they’re prepared to write half his paper for him.

    You see, I’m fully aware that my output is my opinion, can be taken or left, and it stands or falls on it’s own merit or lack thereof. Self awareness is the key, and you need some.

    Shape up or ship out.

    My sympathies are extended to your wife. She must have the hide of an ox.

    Best wishes


  12. IAN PAYNE responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    If I irritated you so much, why didn’t you tell me to belt up when we met ? Why didn’t you tell me face to face that I was tedious/boring, etc when we, according to you, met ? Rather than state it on a blog !!!

    Get real PP “ People always take me up on what I say in the letters page of newspapers. Have you read the Walsall Chronicle of last week [two letters critical of me] “ or not ? Internet and blogging arena isn’t the be and end all of communicating !!!!

    Old fashioned letters pages still do it for many !!!!! Or are you on this site so much that you don’t know whether its day or night or what a newspaper looks like ?

    Anyway Labour are a defeated political force now, so who cares what they or people like them think anymore. New Labour failed, so what chance real Socialism !!!!

    Cameron rules OK as does New Tory !!!!

  13. IAN PAYNE responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    Brownhills Bob “ real debate is not on internet or in letters. That is an illusion we all like to believe.

    Internet is man made and NOT REAL.

  14. BrownhillsBob responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 11:14 pm #


    Politics Penguin didn’t say that, I did. I suggest you come back when you’ve learned how this web thing works, Ian.

    Your last two sentences say more about your juvenile approach and lack of maturity than anything I could ever write about you. You don’t write in green ink, do you, by any chance?

    By the way, your keyboard appears to be broken, it’s scattering exclamation marks in a very teenage fashion.

    Best wishes


  15. Political Penguin responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Hey, we’re having fun tonight aren’t we? In order again so as not to confuse.

    If I irritated you so much, why didn’t you tell me to belt up when we met ? I met you in 2001. I either hadn’t noticed you or you weren’t writing continual stuff to the letters pages back then. I didn’t tell you because it was work related and I’m sure you’re aware that sometimes people have to grim and bear complete rubbish in the workplace.

    Get real PP “ People always take me up on what I say in the letters page of newspapers. Have you read the Walsall Chronicle of last week [two letters critical of me] – or not ? Internet and blogging arena isn’t the be and end all of communicating !!!! No I haven’t read them as indeed I haven’t read the Chronicle for the last 8 years since moving to an area where it isn’t delivered. I also stopped reading the Express & Star paper edition sometime around 2003 as the standard plummeted and there were far more avenues open to get news online. I’m well aware that the Internet and blogging are not the only arena for communicating and at no point did I say they were.

    Old fashioned letters pages still do it for many !!!!! Or are you on this site so much that you don’t know whether its day or night or what a newspaper looks like ? They may do it for you because newspaper editors love to stir up a good rant, sells their papers for them and they don’t even need to employ anyone to write them. Personally I find them boring. I’m well aware of the difference between day and night thank you and I also know what a newspaper looks like, I’ve written enough articles that have appeared in them. Have you looked at the regularity with which I write on this site? On this site so much, you must be kidding.

    Anyway Labour are a defeated political force now, so who cares what they or people like them think anymore. Didn’t see the by-election results for Bloxwich West did we? Or Bilston North last week? I take it psephology isn’t your strong point.

  16. IAN PAYNE responded on 03 Aug 2010 at 1:45 am #

    I was at Goscote Hospital in 2001.

    Anyway whatever..

    By the way thanks for the memory and thanks for putting up such a dedicated IAN PAYNE fansite “ I didn’t realise how much I was loved around these parts [or did I ?]

    Its time I went back to the bat cave now I won’t be returning !!!!

    Have fun !!!

  17. Political Penguin responded on 04 Aug 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    The whole of 2001? That’s a long time to be in hospital. At a push, could have been 2002 but certainly not 2003. Anyway, hope you enjoyed dipping your toe in the interwebs.
    As you can see, I didn’t OK your comment for a day or so because I’m not constantly on my website as you might think although the irony of someone suggesting I don’t know what day or night is because I’m always on the internet is not lost on me from someone who posts a comment on my site at 1.45am in the morning. Ta ta for now.

Is Nick Clegg the one night stand of British politics people would rather just forget?

You know how it is. Whatever the reason, be it having a bit of a tiff with you current partner, perhaps they really miffed you off about something or were just getting on your nerves that night but it just happened. You decided to say sod them and hit the pub. Blasting away the frustration and annoyance with a few drinks and suddenly the world started to look a bit different. A few drinks more and you felt empowered as if you could take on the world. It’s then when it happened. In walked someone new you’d never seen before. Didn’t look much to start with but after a few drinks more and a bit of chit chat they appeared charming and everything different from what you’d become used to.

A few drinks more and you’d made up the decision, this person was wonderful, so refreshing to be with, they promised you everything you had been yearning for all these years. One thing led to another and that was it.

Then the next day you awake, a bit delirious to roll over and realise they weren’t quite what you recall from the night before. In fact, they’re pretty damn rough as hell and you wonder what possessed you but you make the best of a bad job, no one will ever know if you don’t mention it so you sneak out to pretend it never happened.

Then you realise this wasn’t just a simple one night stand, not something you could just get away with and go back to normal. No, this was the full on bunny boiler of a one night stand. They kept cropping up before you in different places. They’d taken your telephone number and kept trying to call you at the most difficult of times even though you’d realised your mistake and just wanted things to go back to the way they used to be. They’d do things to make your life more difficult and simply not get the hint that you’re not interested anymore.

The problem is they just wouldn’t go away. They’d continue to keep making your life more difficult for years to come, all the time you wishing you just hadn’t done it.

Yesterday there was a by-election in the ward just across the border from me in Wolverhampton; Bilston North. It’s not natural LibDem territory by any means but it’s very telling to watch what happened to the LibDem vote there. I think a fair comparison would be to the result in the 2008 local government elections to avoid the disparities of the relative turnout at this year’s combined elections which give even more damning figures. However between 2008, a particularly bad year for Labour when we lost the seat to the Tories which we gained back last night, the LibDem vote is down 75%, coming last of 5 behind both the BNP and UKIP.

I’ve been doing psephology for more years than I care to think but on the back of the recent Bloxwich West by-election in Walsall there is a distinct pattern emerging in the Midlands. The LibDems are losing votes heavily and with all things being equal, they’re not just staying at home but actively switching and it looks like they’re mostly going to Labour.

Personally I’m not surprised. As someone who does the rounds on campaigning there’s a message coming from LibDem voters that just keeps cropping up. “This isn’t what we voted for”. During the combined General and local elections, LibDem leaflets were ablaze with Nick Clegg. Local candidates described (rather dodgily in my mind) as Nick Cleggs man/woman in (insert area). Those familiar with LibDem campaigning practices know all too well if there’s a populist bandwagon to jump on, you’ll find a LibDem already sitting there. I can’t help thinking that there’ll be a lot of local LibDems that wish they hadn’t played that card now people have woken up to the realisation he’s little more than a quite right-wing neo-liberal wolf in sheep’s clothing who could quite possibly destroy their party along the way.

Nokia BH-905 Bluetooth Headset Review

Finally getting round to this post which to be fair I should have done nearly a month ago but I’ve been having the worst kind of writers block recently that’s rendered me almost incapable of writing anything beyond the few characters allowed for a tweet on Twitter. This thankfully seems to be lifting now and so I’m getting down to polishing off some things I really should have done, one of which obviously being this review.

So without further ado, I was sent a set of the Nokia BH-905 Bluetooth stereo headphones to have a play with for a fortnight. Here’s what they look like:

nokia 905 bluetooth headset

Not small and decidedly classical in form factor is probably the best description. Definitely not designed to be unobtrusive while wearing either and certainly not lightweight. Which incidentally in my case are nice and attractive attributes.

These things aren’t cheap either at a quid shy of £200 but they are quality which explains the price tag. I get quite finicky about build quality on almost everything I buy. Nothing irks me more than the feeling something I’ve purchased feels like it’s been knocked out on the cheap to improve a company’s profit margins and I haven’t got a problem with paying that bit extra to get something of quality. That’s why my garden fork is over 40 years old, has a fork made from a single piece of properly forged British steel and a hardened ash wooden handle. It’s as tough as the day it was made and not one of those rubbish welded fork section with handle that’ll break if you use it too much £10 jobbies from B&Q.

The BH-905 headset is up there in the quality stakes so it gets a thumbs up on that count. Well constructed, feels solid, no squeaky bits of plastic that I noticed and unlike my old Panasonic headphones, I don’t see the padded ear cushions breaking up and peeling either.

Bits in the box:

Usually when you get a new device or whatever sort it is, there’s a few extras included, maybe connector cable and charger but two thing I did like about the headset wasn’t just that it came with adaptors and connectors for almost all occasions but the box itself or should I say case. Here it is:


Here’s the case open with all the bits and bobs in it too:


I’m not sure what the exterior of the case is made from but again the quality feel comes through. I’m going have a guess at it being leather as opposed to some sort of vinyl coating. I could be wrong but I don’t think Nokia would have appreciated me taking a knife to it to find out. Either way, it’s lovely and I liked it.

The important stuff, actually using it:

A product can look lovely, exude quality but if it performs badly at what it’s supposed to do then it’s pretty much worthless. Equally, in the case of something like headphones any appraisal is highly subjective as the facets being analysed aren’t readily reproducible through the medium of text and pictures so you’re at the mercy of the background knowledge of the person assessing it.

For the record, I used to do sound engineering, it was a long time ago but I think I know the odd thing about how things should sound.

Wearability: (not an actual word in the English language but it should be)

They’re not a light headset at 175grammes so you definitely feel that you’re wearing them. There’s also a slight weight imbalance in them with the left being heavier than the right. I presume this is as the battery is on the left hand side. (must be the battery but happy to be corrected) It’s not a problem, they don’t slip down on the one side because of it or anything like that but it is noticeable (just about). In practical terms it’s irrelevant though. There’s plenty of adjustment settings to fit different sized heads and they sit quite comfortably and firmly in place. Contrasting this to my old Panasonic headphones the BH-905 is great in term of staying where it should and not slipping off.

The padded ear pieces sit nice and comfortably on the ears. They don’t encompass the ear area completely, (and I have relatively small ears) they do let in some external sound around the tragus so we’re not talking passive noise cancellation here which is not so much of a problem as they have an active noise cancellation system. More on that in a bit.


I charged it twice in the fortnight I had it and it saw me through plenty of commuting and generally knocking around and using around the house. From a purely user perspective I call that fairly good. The only gripe I would have is that when the battery gets low and music is being played over bluetooth there is a noticeable deterioration in the quality. It simply going dead when it hasn’t got the juice would probably be better from an end user experience.

Sound Quality:

Obviously the most important aspect of an aural related device. I tested it across a wide range of music from classical through to heavy rock and it was very good. I don’t personally go in for music with really heavy bass so I didn’t test it to the extreme in that area but as far as I did test it on bass it performed well. Having a bit of an ear for it, I can tell the difference between music being played back over bluetooth as opposed to a straight wired connection. I’ll be honest on this one, I couldn’t tell the difference with the BH-905, apart from when the battery was running out of course. Overall, very good across all the frequencies that I have the ability to modify on my not so posh hifi.

Active Noise Cancellation:

This is the only headset I’ve ever used that has this so it was a bit of a first and obviously I can’t compare it to anything else in terms of its performance so purely from a subjective point of view I thought it was good. It didn’t cancel out absolutely everything (as in lorries going past me at the bus stop, although it got dangerously close). It did annoy Mrs Penguin as I couldn’t hear her talking to me; I will leave that up to the reader as whether it’s a plus or minus point. However I did enjoy having it on public transport. I will don my grumpy old git hat here but there is nothing more irritating than being forced to listen to the incomprehensible shite that passes for music of da yoof played through pisspoor tinny mobile phone speakers on the bus. Especially when you’re trying to listen to your own music with headphones on and you can still hear theirs. The least they could do is buy a Nokia 5800XM, the music may still be crap but at least it would sound reasonably good on its rather impressive external stereo speakers. Old git rant over. For this alone I really liked the BH-905 headset.


All bar the active noise cancellation switch are located on the right side of the headset. They’re easy to use, functional and do the job. Really there’s not much more to say. Good tactile feedback from the clicks but took me a bit of getting used to. I’ll put this down to although being ambidextrous, I tend to favour doing controls with my left hand, just personal preference but I’d hazard a guess the focus of the design would be on right-handed people as they make up the majority.

Criticisms or lack of functions:

I can only really come up with two areas that I would criticise the BH-905 for. When I did a review of the BH-214 bluetooth headset I liked the nifty way it had a 3.5mm audio-out jack meaning it could be plugged into external devices and used to stream content elsewhere. Given the BH-905 is the top of the range, an extra audio-jack socket would have been good. The second criticism I have is the audio-in jack. This is handy because if the battery dies, it can still be used with a direct cable connection although obviously the active noise control doesn’t work then. So I have to ask, why a 2.5mm socket? I can understand them having been used in handsets where space is an absolute premium although almost all now have 3.5mm sockets but it just seems wrong to have a 2.5mm socket on a headset. Apart from that minor point, I enjoyed the headset overall.


Top notch quality from a build perspective, very good on all the audio fronts and connectivity. I realise I didn’t do a specific section on the bluetooth connectivity but suffice to say, it just worked. Plenty of extras in the box for all occasions. Would definitely suit grumpy old buggers like me who use public transport.

Been an interesting old day in politics

Yes folks, I do sometimes actually do blog posts about politics in amongst the techie geekery.

Been a curious old day in UK politics today. Conditional resignation of the Prime Minister, serious possibility of a coalitions government between Labour and the LibDems, our unbiased and truth seeking press seeing two of its most self-opinionated protagonists going a bit mental, one of them twice if anyone was watching Sky ‘News’ at about 10pm and the real possibility of electoral reform. Not to mention a large number of commentators including William Hague suddenly not understanding how the British Parliamentary political system works.

For the record, I’m supportive of electoral reform. I’ll admit I used to support First Past the Post on the basis that it provides clearer governments but in equal measure it has led to the increasing detachment of politicians and the electorate. This isn’t the fault of politicians, nor is it the fault of the electorate, but combined they create a spiralling effect that further undermines participatory democracy.

From the politicians point of view, armed with little more than a marked register, which cost about £30 a ward, you can write off bothering to talk to nearly half the electorate because they don’t bother to vote. It’s a chicken and egg scenario of course, but by either not voting to start with or not voting because they don’t hear anything from their elected representatives those elected or aspiring to be elected representatives don’t need to bother engaging with them because what they think is irrelevant to their electoral success.

Things shouldn’t be like this which is why I do support the AV voting system but even accounting for this, AV will do some but not a great deal to change this situation.

Personally I support compulsory voting. Only when politicians know that every vote is up for grabs will they engage more widely with the electorate and not concentrate on those who they know will probably vote. Sadly this isn’t on the table of voting reform and I’m sure would be called ‘Stalinist’ (Not that Stalin went in for voting and Democracy of course) or some similar adjective synonymous of oppression or the ‘big evil state’.

That said, AV (actually the Labour manifesto states a referendum on AV for the Commons) will do for me which along with all the other bits and bobs in the Labour Party manifesto, I’ve spent the last month of my life campaigning for.

It’s interesting to note from the LibDems manifesto that they are full on for the STV system of voting reform. Obviously there are always areas where there can be shifts in policy when forming coalition governments but it’s interesting to note where the Tories stand on electoral reform:

“We support the first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections because it gives voters the chance to kick out a government they are fed up with.” Page 67 of the Tories Manifesto in case you were wondering.

A quite clear position on the what electoral system should be used for elections to Westminster.

Which I found rather strange that just after Gordon had said his piece outside Number 10 this afternoon that little Billy Hague immediately cropped up saying the Tories would offer a referendum on AV to the LibDems. (No-one at the back point and say the Tories are nicking our policies please, that would just be naughty).

It does however bring to question the extent to which the Tories respect our democratic system. Much to the dismay of the media, this is not America, it’s not a Presidential system, it’s a Parliamentary Democracy. While various commentators and news channels bang on about “we could have another unelected Prime Minister because they haven’t got an agenda of their own now have they? I’ve never voted for a Prime Minister. Every Parliamentary vote I have ever cast has been in the Walsall North constituency and they’ve all been for David Winnick who, to be fair, is probably a bit past it to be considering throwing his hat into the ring for the forthcoming (if there’s a coalition government between Labour and the LibDems) leadership election.

So odds on, like everyone else in the country, bar those 60,000ish people who are lucky enough to live in the constituency where a party leader who’s party forms a government happens to be the local MP, I don’t get to vote for the Prime Minister of our country and no amount of poxy US style Presidential debates are going to change that no matter what the pundits want.

So for William Hague who despite his political persuasions and views, but who is undoubtedly a fairly clever chappy to come out and abandon a key party manifesto pledge in little over 15 minutes after Gordon had openly offered electoral reform (which is in our manifesto) smacks of desperation from the Tories who are intent on getting into Number 10 at any cost, even if it means reneging on the platform they stood for election on only 5 days ago.

It’s been almost hilarious at times to see the reactions of the talking heads in the media. They don’t seem particularly happy chappies about about the idea that someone other than the Tories might be forming the next government. The lines are clearly scripted so I expect to see, should it come to pass “the government of losers”, “another unelected Prime Minister” and various other spurious rubbish bandied about.

However, if a lot more people voted Labour, LibDem, and any other parties thrown into the mix than did Tory then so be it. It merely exposes the interests and agendas of a politicised media for what they are.

I’ll be sad to see Gordon go. We didn’t have an election for leader of the Labour Party when Blair stepped down. Personally I think we should have but I would have voted for Gordon then and would do now. I don’t go for the approach that some have in recent days in calling for him to go. I’ve met him a few times over the years and nothing struck me more than the difference between how he has been portrayed by the media and the bloke in person. He probably is a flawed grumpy old sod at times but so am I, and that doesn’t negate the drive and motivation to make Britain a better and fairer place for all, to combat social injustice and open opportunity to all, irrespective of their backgrounds.

These are truly interesting times in UK Politics and I’ll be fascinated to see how things pan out. I may even start blogging about politics a bit more as well.

On a side issue which I note isn’t getting anywhere near the attention but certainly attracts my interest is the election for the new General Secretary of the Unite Union of which Len McCluskey is one of the candidate. I’ll be following this one closely.

Nokia N97 Review

Along with the BH-214 that I reviewed last week, also came an N97 handset. This one to be precise:

Nokia N97 on table with slider out

I will admit I was a bit dismissive of it as a handset when I did my rather long review and thinking aloud post about what I was planning for my next mobile phone last year. Some of those criticisms are valid but others were less so after having the chance to use it for a fortnight as my main device.

It’s hard to know where to start so in time honoured tradition I’ll break it down into a series of header sections.

Build Quality:

I’m very particular when it comes to build quality, almost slightly obsessive about it but if you’re going to fork out serious money or tie yourself up to a contract till the end of time to get a handset then it would be nice to think it’s well made and isn’t going to fall apart on you.

Here the N97 scores very well. It’s solidly put together, no noticeable plastic creaking noises or loose bits with only one exception. The main menu button on the front I felt had a little too much sideways play to it but apart from that it was solid.

I’ll also note that I did notice a rather large scratch down the camera lens. This was a known (now fixed) issue with the originally produced versions of the N97. This means that the handset I tested out was one of the originals and presumably has been around for quite a while. Despite it’s age I didn’t notice anything like weakness in the screen hinge section which is another good plus for it as I do quite like that form factor design.

Form Factor:

That leads nicely on to the next section. I like elongated phones, I’m not that keen on the squat chubby style phones like Blackberry’s Iphones and even my own N900. I like length and a clearly defined top, bottom and sides layout.

Here it suits me very well and just feels right whether in the hand or pocket, it’s where it should be and no fussing about or confusion.

The snap out hinge system when using it in landscape mode felt very intuitive and a definite plus over a more tradition slide out QWERTY keyboard.

Hardware functionality:

Here I’ll be concentrating solely on the functionality of the hardware of the phone. Its buttons, keys, touch screen and the like. I’ll do software functionality separately.

The QWERTY keyboard:

I’d tried N97’s in shops from time to time since it was launched and I didn’t like it. Bear in mind for most of that period I had a Nokia E90 Communicator which arguably has the best QWERTY keyboard ever plonked on a mobile phone. The E90 is obviously a lot bigger and has acres more space to play with because of a different hinge system but in equal measure, now with an N900 which has less space available, it’s keyboard is still better to use than the N97’s.

There are three factors in my mind at work here. Key travel (the actual amount of depression available to the key, the shape of the key and tactile feedback. The E90 has quite a spongy feeling keyboard to use but the keys are shaped in such a way that reduced miss-keying with their raised bottom bevel edge and equally provide a good amount of travel that reassures the user the key has been pressed. On the N900 there’s not as much key travel which may account for the increase in typos on my Tweets but the raised centre leading down on all sides bevel coupled with a distinctly clicky tactile feedback make up for this.

The N97 in contrast loses out here. The keys are quite small to begin with but have both little travel and less in the way of tactile feedback.

I also had an issue with the layout, often getting a ‘b’ when I wanted a ‘v’.

That said, after a week or so I became accustom to it and these issues subdued but I do think the keyboard could have been better and a lot of potential space has been wasted by including a D-Pad. Which moves us on nicely.

The D-Pad:

I never actually used it in general usage and in my mind it’s fairly redundant outside of perhaps games on a touch screen phone. By all means have cursor keys to fill this function but the D-Pad really wasn’t needed on this handset. Which is probably a good thing because I didn’t particularly like it either. Again spongy, flat, with little travel or tactile feedback and easy to hit a direction when you’re going for select. Not a patch on the clearly defined D-Pads I’ve used on the E90 and E65.

Exterior buttons and sliders:

Back to the good stuff now. Whether functionality wise, tactile feedback wise, the volume switch, power button, menu button, dial and hangup, camera button, lens cover slider and screen-lock slider all felt lovely to use. With only the bit of sideways play in the menu button they all felt solid, well engineered, gave the right amount of resistance and feedback and were in all the right places.

The only thing I’ll add as a note was the that the screen-lock slider took some getting used to as I’ve now become accustomed to the (what I originally though rather silly placing but now quite like) slider on the N900.

Touch Screen:

Here is an area where the cross-over between hardware and software make it harder to judge the quality on the basis of performance as they are significantly intertwined. On the whole, it’s a good responsive touch screen with functionality right up to the edges where some touch screens start to lose sensitivity or not register at all. It’s not as good as the touch screen on the N900 and it loses tracking. By which I mean, if I touch a specific point on my N900 and scroll the screen, the area displayed on the screen stays solidly underneath my finger. On the N97 it did move at a different rate. Not a massive amount, but enough to notice. Whether this loss of synchonisation is a software or a hardware issue is anyone’s guess but I’d probably put it down to software.

With that little quibble out the way, it is nice and responsive with the all important tactile feedback.

Off with the hardware and on to the software:

There will of course be some aspects of internal hardware I’ll have to touch on in this section because they have a bearing on the software and the experience it provides to a user but we’ll get round to that in a little while.

Software wise we’ve got Symbian S60 5th Edition running under the bonnet and it’s actually quite good and functional. I’ll note here, I did try out an N97 when they first came out with the original firmware and I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t as bad as I subsequently read lots of reviews of it were portraying, but it wasn’t impressive either. The latest firmware which this device had pre-installed (so I didn’t need to flash it upon receipt) is considerably better.

Switching between portrait and landscape on the original firmware was sluggish but here it was nice and snappy as was orientation change when popping out the keyboard.

As far as screen customisation goes, I do like the idea of active widgets although it’s not in the league of the N900 for total customisable layout styles but equally, switching these layouts between landscape and portrait modes actually works really well which I accept would be an entirely different and far more difficult thing to achieve on the N900.

picture of Nokia N97 showing widget desktop

Initial set up was fairly easy with getting hold of my usual (when I was using a Symbian based device) applications through either straight downloads or off the Ovi Store, as was importing contacts from Funambol which meant I had a working handset with everything I’m used to in under an hour.

I have read other reviews that stated music library population and indexing took a lot of time but I didn’t find any kind of problem here, dropping my entire collection (circa 8GB) onto the device in under half an hour and indexing didn’t take more than a minute or two.


Another area where the N97 has been criticised mainly along two lines of argument. Lack of RAM (128MB) and lack of any graphic acceleration chipage. I’m probably not the right person to evaluate graphic acceleration capabilities because I don’t tend to bother with games (which are where these are really put to the test) but with the increases in transitional effects and the draw on the core processor, it’s an area where the N97 lacks a bit of future proofing for what’s likely to come.

RAM-wise, for almost anything most people are likely to do with a phone it is adequate but given it’s high profile and the relative cheapness of chips, 256MB really should be on-board. Despite this it still manages to multi-task well with any slowing in performance or hangs only noticeable when it’s being severely tested with a good half a dozen applications open and running at the same time.

Device Application Memory is an issue, it’s really quite small with; from recollection, about 22MB free with a default installation. Enough to get a handful of applications on but not much more. Sure, you can always install applications on mass storage which isn’t short of space but some require installation on device memory and it is preferable to have them there.


We’ve got the usual Carl Zeiss optics in place with a 5MPixel camera and it’s good, very good in fact. Balance and richness of images are all there by the bucket-load. I couldn’t think of anything truly exciting to take a sample picture of as it’s not like all the flowers are out yet so here’s a picture of Wolverhampton Police Station and the wall of my house (yes I know it need pointing, I’ll get round to it one day). Even zooming right it, the quality is definitely there which makes it more than capable as an imaging device.

Wolverhampton Police Station

picture of brick wall side of house

Battery Life:

The N97 comes with 1,500mAh BP-4L battery, same as the one in my E90 so I was expecting good life out of this little beast and it performed well. In my “Let’s try and kill the battery’ test I got it to last a little over 5 hours. This is with half a dozen applications running simultaneously all actively using things like 3G/Wifi connectivity, running music constantly via Bluetooth and with full geo-location GPS tracking going on at the same time. That’s a pretty good result in my book and more than I’d get out of my E90, at least the last time I tried doing that to it.

As for normal usage, it’ll easily see out a day (got it to last 2 days with fairly moderate usage) so no fears of having to carry a charger around or running out in the morning when you wake up.


Not a lot to say here, it’s good, finds position in a second or two and stays locked to it which was very handy as I did have to use it for a fair bit of navigational work when I had the handset and with both Ovi Maps and Google Maps it worked great.


Again, nothing to grumble about, never dropped any music or calls, nice clear quality, file transfers were painless and range was fully up to scratch.

Data Connectivity:

No grumbles in this department. 3G/3.5G connections performed well where I know they should in the locality and wifi was solid as was switching between the two automatically.

The Pocket Test:

I’m a creature of habit. I like routines. One of which is how I arrange things in my pockets. Usually it’s simple. Things that might scratch my mobile phone like keys, lighters, boxes of matches I’ve long since learnt to segregate so under normal circumstances these go in my right pocket. Wallet and mobile in my left. However with all this stuff in my trouser pockets and dependent on how much small change has accumulated in my wallet, it can get quite cramped in there so the last thing I want is erroneous stuff going on like my phone being accidentally activated, turning off my music or calling someone.

My current N900 fails the pocket test miserably, to the point that I’ve had to resort to putting it in my inside coat pocket which isn’t optimal for me because the slightest rub of wallet against phone against thigh starts and usually completely opens the slider and therefore activates the phone.

The N97 in contrast passes with flying colours, as the slider requires both a small amount of vertical force as well as horizontal force to open. As it’s wedged between wallet and thigh it can’t achieve the vertical force and stays nicely shut. I like that.

Final Conclusions:

Despite reading a fair few articles knocking it, and my own initial impressions of the device it’s certainly gone up in my expectations. It’s not perfect by any means and there’s a few things that I don’t like such as the keyboard (although after a week or so it’s not as bad as I first thought).

It’s got solid build quality and I’m sure could take a fair few knocks over time. Battery life is good, form factor is very nice by my preferences.

It could do with a little more oomph in the power stakes with more RAM in particular to give it that edge and definitely a keyboard with more tactile feedback and travel in the keys. To be precise, the D-Pad should probably not be there and a few extra/bigger keys inserted in its place.

Size and weight wise I like it, enough of a presence to make itself felt in the pocket and known it’s not fallen out or got swiped by a toe-rag.

The OS is functional and performs well. I’m sure people complain about it not being pretty and slick but I still take functionality and capability over effects and prettiness any day.

Looking back, had I bought one as a replacement for my E90 when I was deciding on a new phone, I don’t think I would have been disappointed but equally I don’t think it would have ‘wowwed’ me in the same way the N900 has.

(Another post, including all graphic image cropping [with GIMP] and rendering done on an N900 with the exception of example images which was just easier to do on the desktop).