Tuesday, September 1, 2009

FGTs: How I Tried To Buy A China Phone Finale And The Sunno HDi Buying Guide (Latest update: 25th November)


By Benedict Wee

Latest Update:

11th October: After weeks of waiting and no contact from FastCardTech I decided to write an email to them asking for a refund as what I had in my possession was essentially a phone I didn't order and I was getting sick and tired of their delaying tactics to get a WinMo 6.5 phone.

They replied on the same day, admitting what I knew all along: the phone had to be exchanged for a new one and I had to send it back. It seems that only by threatening them do you get any productive results.

12th October: Sent my phone back to FastCardTech to be exchanged. Estimated delivery time is 6 days.

27th October: They sent an email acknowledging that they've received my phone. This is 15 days after I've sent it back. Obviously another tactic to delay the exchange.

6th November: They've sent another email, explaining that they've got the new phone and will be shipping it "ASAP". They took 10 days just to get a replacement phone.

16th November: It has been another 10 days. Still no sign of the phone. I send them an email telling them I'm very frustrated.

17th November: They send an email back, telling me that they sent the phone back "last saturday". This means that they only shipped the phone on the 14th, 8 days since getting the new replacement phone. So much for "ASAP".

18th November: They send a tracking number to me. The number is suspect as the last two letters are 'SG' which means that the phone was being sent from Singapore. Over the next couple of days I've checked both Hong Kong/Singapore post office websites but there are no details about the package.

24th November: I wrote another email to them, tell them that the number does not appear on the post tracking sites. They write back explaining that they have to use some shady mailing method in order to circumvent authorities. They send the phone from Hong Kong to Singapore, and then Singapore to New Zealand so customs will not check the packages.

25th November: FastCardTech has left me without a phone for 44 days (and counting). I don't think I need to explain how highly questionable their business ethics are as you can see probably see it for yourself after reading this.

I've totally given up on FastCardTech which, despite offering cheaper China phones, have terrible after-sales service. I don't think I'll ever see the replacement phone at all as I suspect the number they gave me doesn't exist. As such, I'll be taking measures to obtain a refund via PayPal and will use the money to purchase a phone from a more reliable website.

I'll continue to update this post if any new drama arises from this situation. Till then let my horrendous experience be an example to those who are thinking of exploring the shady world of China phones and the companies that sell them.

Updated 22nd September: FastCardTech is now selling the phone with the Windows Mobile 6.5 Rom and Route 66 (a GPS program) installed. Unfortunately for those who bought the HDi early with promises that they will support 6.5 were not informed that the update was available and I had to personally visit the page to find out myself.

It started to go downhill when I was told that the installation program I was given can only be used with Windows XP which means Vista users and those who have upgraded to Windows 7 will have to search for a compatible computer to install the update. The fatal shot came when the 6.5 rom I installed didn't work and I ended up with a phone with an unresponsive blank display that ran a supposed Windows Mobile rom (I don't know which as I could only hear the startup sound).

I immediately contacted customer service (via Live Messenger) and was assured that the Rom was working perfectly before being told to try again. I did. It didn't work. I told them about it and it turns out that I was sent a phone from another factory which didn't support the rom. They then sent the 6.1 restore rom which returned my phone to its original state.

Although I am thankful that -once again- customer service came to the rescue I am starting to lose faith in the way FastCardTech does their business. Why didn't they inform us of the availability of the update? Why weren't we told earlier that we'd need Windows XP to run the installation program? Why are there 2 versions of the HDi phone? Does this mean those who purchased the phone earlier are now being punished for doing so as those who buy the phone now are able to get the ones running 6.5?

It's bad enough that the price has dropped and new buyers get Route 66 for free but we can't even get the Windows Mobile 6.5-run phone we originally paid for. Like I've said, I'm happy that customer service is always there to help with the problems but I am deeply disappointed that I had to contact them repeatedly with a litany of them that I've encountered.

Until the situation gets sorted I'm retracting my recommendation of purchasing any mobile phone from FastCardTech and I'm placing a 'Buyer Beware' warning, buy at your own risk.

Original Article:

It took almost 17 days for the Sunno HDi to arrive, the latest drama unfolding on the 19th of August when the phone reached customs and was sent back due to them giving the wrong description of the package. It finally reached me on tuesday last week and after testing it out for a couple of days I'm ready to put up a buying guide for the China-made phone.

Tuesday, 25th August 2009:
First impressions - Not happy. The phone is not the shining sophistication of technology they made it out to be on the website as most of the details on the site and in my previous post I made are absent. There is no headphone jack, no TouchFlo UI and the Sunno logo is present on the phone. They also provided me with two batteries but one isn't working. So either they gave false information about the HDi, or I've received the wrong phone. I decided to contact FastCardTech's customer service.

12 hours later:
They haven't replied to the message I sent them so I contacted the company's service rep on Windows Live Messenger instead. He apologized for the delay in shipping and explained that they have no control over the factory who manufactures the phones. Turns out it was they who decided to remove the headphone jack and imprint the Sunno logo on the screen. He offers to replace the battery, saying that they usually have testers to ensure everything is working well. When asked about the missing TouchFlo UI he told me he'd send an alternate one which worked better. And surprisingly enough, it did.

Before we continue:
I would like to point out that the phone I thought I was going to get is completely different from the one I have now. The specifications and software of the phone have enough significant changes that warrant it being classified as a completely separate model. As such I've decided to redo the feature article and reevaluate the Sunno HDi.

Gadget: Sunno MyTouch HDi
Place of Origin: China
"Inspired" by: HTC Touch HD

Main features: 533Mhz Processor/128MB RAM/WQVGA 2.5-inch touchscreen/5MP camera with flash/runs Windows Mobile 6.1 with an alternate user interface.

Why I hate it

Runs Windows Mobile 6.1: My original reason for purchasing the HDi was primarily because it was supposed to run Windows Mobile 6.5 which has a full finger-friendly interface. 6.1 was developed in 2007 and it shows its age as navigating the OS is done completely with a stylus.

The keyboard is unusable and if you try using your thumbs to touch the icons of programs be prepared to launch all the wrong ones. The only decent input method I found was the handwriting function and that barely made the cut as it relied on the use of a stylus and no one uses two hands to scribble on their handhelds anymore.

I personally believe that a device is only as good as its operating system and the HDi's is terribly flawed. That being said, the guys at FastCardTech promise to offer 6.5 as an update when it is available so there is hope that the frustratingly clunky interface will be replaced with a much better one in the near future.

Why I like it

Application "Store": It doesn't exactly have a program where you can browse and download applications to use on the HDi but being a Windows Mobile phone you can search the internet for programs to install into the mobile. The files end in .cab extensions and can be downloaded from the HDi's browser and installed into either the phone's internal memory or the microSD card. Alternatively you can download a .cab file onto your computer and transfer it onto the memory card and install it from there. This is a unique feature only available to Windows Mobile phones without needing to hack into the operating system (ala Android).

I've managed to download a better web browser (Opera), VoIP (Skype), maps (Google), Youtube (also Google), Media Player ( and it doesn't stop at just individual programs. There are applications which make using Windows Mobile 6.1 a better experience by changing the user interface and improving the input method. For example: FingerKeyboard 2.1 is an excellent program that replaces the tiny Windows Mobile keyboard with one that works like the iPhone's or Android's so typing can be done using fingers.

Alternate UI: To continue the application "store" love, the alternate UI emailed to me by the service rep is fantastic. How come? It is completely finger friendly, easy to use and is beautifully seamless.

Android-like Home Screen

Like the Android OS, the main screen is divided into 3 parts which can be scrolled horizontally and you can put shortcuts and widgets onto the pages for easy access. If you're at work you can switch to a "Professional" version of the screen by sliding your thumb down.

"Professional" Home Screen

Access to programs are located at the bottom of the screen and switching between the other available UI screens is done in a HTC Touch Flo style which works smoothly.

Switching alternate UI screens

The service rep has promised that until the Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade gets released, all HDis will come with this alternate UI.



Camera: One of its better features, the 5MP camera comes with flash and autofocus and the test pictures came out looking pretty good.

HDi Camera Test Shot
Conclusion
I was initially very unhappy when I received the HDi (days of waiting and being given the wrong information will do that to you) but after using the alternate UI provided and finding ways around the terrible input methods I've changed my mind about the mobile and have come to a conclusion that it is a pretty good phone to have.

It isn't the Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone extravaganza I was promised but if you look at the mobile by itself you would see that its features provide decent competition against the other well-known phones you can find from our telcos and it comes at a low price tag of NZ$400 (NZ$9 for posting the faulty battery back) which makes it a really good deal.

If you're looking for a budget smartphone, I highly recommend trying this one out.

About FastCardTech: Although I've been burnt by them on numerous occasions, I'm willing to just brush it off as a one-time hiccup and a personal spate of bad luck. Their customer service rep was truly apologetic when he went though the list of problems I encountered and was very willing to help me in whatever way possible which is a very good indication that the company is legitimate and that it's not some scam site they're running.

The phones that they're selling are also cheaper than most sites as well and the separate-purchase accessories they offer are worth considering, especially the memory cards. If you're thinking about getting the HDi or another China-made mobile then I would recommend buying from them. The link to their site can be found here.

27 comments:

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    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi,

    I just bought a Sunno HDi and I also had the same issues that you had with chinese sellers. Although I bought from a different vendor they also promised same thing promised to you. My Sunno HDi also lacks alternative UI. Is it possible to mail the cab file to me? I would really appreciate it. My email is to.swami@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gday mate,

    Im seriously considering getting one of these.. I would jsut like to confirm if it does come with a 2.5mm jack ? cheers

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey dude,

    It doesn't, despite the site saying that they do. The only holes on the phone are the microphone and a mini-usb port for charging the phone and plugging the (included) mini-usb headphones.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gday again,

    Thanks so much for the info mate. I really appreicate the info you have provided on this blog. With out the info i would have been "beached as" :D

    ReplyDelete
  6. No worries mate. Glad you find it useful. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. hi,

    I yust buy this phone too, the seller confirm thath it have FM radio, ¿is that true?,

    Regard´s

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello there jaguerra777,

    The phone I bought does not come with a FM radio feature.

    Cheers
    Ben

    ReplyDelete
  9. I just recived my phone and damn man, mine only has a 401mhz procceosr and the velocity sensor doesnt work properlly. God damn ebay haha.
    Gotta send it back.
    But i am kinda happy with the phone exclusive of that. The alternative IU is very nice. Did you have to "activate it" ?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow that sucks.
    Sounds like you've gotten an older model, best send it back cause if the Windows 6.5 upgrade is real you'll be looking a slower performance.
    As for the UI, it was pre-activated, had to download the weather program though.

    ReplyDelete
  11. So that now the phone come with SUNNO logo on it or no? I really dont want that. Anyone please confirm, what is the reality now. In answers thay say no, but this one was with it....

    ReplyDelete
  12. It does come with the Sunno Logo and I will hold off buying the phone for now, events have changed and I will explain more in a later article.

    ReplyDelete
  13. ok thanks for info... actually I dont want it with that Sunno logo :( so I will wait

    ReplyDelete
  14. Can anyone upload WM6.5 for this phone?
    I don`t have bought it by fastcardtech. :(

    ReplyDelete
  15. There is a problem with the phones right now. Some can't use the Windows Mobile 6.5 rom so I'd advise everyone to hang tight and hold your orders first before it has been resolved.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting. Please let us know how you go with 6.5 mate. U have been the best source of info :D

    ReplyDelete
  17. Have updated the post with the problems I've encountered. Have lost faith in the way FastCardTech does its business. Am waiting for them to respond to my questions but until then, I'm retracting my recommendation of purchasing from them.

    ReplyDelete
  18. That alternate UI you talk about is SPB SHELL 3 but now SPB SHELL 3.5 is out, much better. Also take a look at Pointui UI, even better ...

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for the info. SPB Shell 3.5 looks nice but I've been hearing problems with the interface. Best wait till they get the bugs sorted out.

    I'm still waiting for them to get back to me with Windows Mobile 6.5 though. They've not said anything so far and I'm starting to think that buying from FastCardTech was a rip-off.

    ReplyDelete
  20. thanks for the update. i had a lengthy chat session with the guy from fastcardtech. he seems to remember you well! :-p

    anyways, i told him that i will also be doing a youtube video on the package that i get and the phone, so everything better be good. uhh yea.. said that for all *that's* worth!

    the big thing i'm looking at is the ui. you show spb mobile shell. i'm also interested in the touchflo 3d. the guy at the website said that its "possible" for me to request that when i get my phone. really the big thing that's got me into this phone is the gps chip. if *that* fails, then the phone is a total bust for me. we'll see how it goes...

    i might just point readers from my blog to yours for an additional point of view. you did a great job summarizing the phone and the purchasing mechanism. no need for me to rehash that. so keep a look out...

    ReplyDelete
  21. Glad you found the reviews useful, I heard the new phones will come with a pre-installed gps program so you should get what you need out of the phone.

    I've been using SPB Mobile Shell 3.5 on my old unit and it works pretty well. The problem is keyboard input so am hoping WinMo 6.5 will provide a better experience.

    Thanks for spreading the word btw. :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. hi benedict,
    did they replace your phone w/ new rom 6.5?
    ordered mine,they promised wm6.5 &gps software but haven't arrive since 15 days ago. how's camera quality? is that real 5mp?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hey Slider,

    I sent my phone back for a replacement one since they admitted that some models couldn't be upgraded from WinMo 6.1.

    Will have the full story once they give me the new one but it's gonna take awhile as the email I received from them just yesterday confirming that they've gotten the phone (even though I sent my phone back a fortnight ago) hinted that there are a number of people in line for a replacement.

    Let's hope the newer buyers like you are in the same line too.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Benedict,
    i just got my phone, its lag a lot on WM 6.5 . also, screen not that sensitive, got to press couple times before executed. specially tiny keyboard even got hard time w/ stylus. do you know website free apps such virtual keyboard, games, touch flo 3d like, etc? do you know where to find fit screen protector? get rid of 'sunno' letter by replace front panel w/ original Htc?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hey Slider,

    As pointed out in my reviews, there's nothing you can do about the software and aesthetic flaws you mentioned.

    As for a screen protector, a HTC HD (which this phone is copied from) one should be a good fit.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  26. i really don't recommend you buying from this websites
    since support after sell is crap
    gps doesn't work, no fm radio that been promised
    battery short life and take forever to recharge

    ReplyDelete
  27. Dear Kiwi

    i thank you so much for your blog ..

    i found a nice phone at fastcardtech.com

    and it`s the Ciphone C6

    do you suggest me to buy it from them ???

    thanxxxxxxxxx

    ReplyDelete