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Misadventures in the land of far-away voices.

So it turned out that my phone did come with a SIM card -- it was just that the UI was so terrible, I couldn't get it to work. It makes for an interesting examination, though. I'm probably one of the last people in the world who is interested in documentation and HCI (human-computer interfaces), but who isn't familiar with cell phones. (yes, I had a cell phone in Singapore, but it was a Windows ME machine on loan -- I had no particular desire to explore it)

The main difficulty was dialing. I read that I could "dial *#100# to see [my] phone number". So I pressed those buttons. As soon as I pressed anything, the screen changed to display the characters I pressed, along with a "save / delete" prompt at the bottom. But when I finished typing in the secret code, nothing happened.

Saving the number didn't help. Deleting characters obviously didn't help. So what the mao?! I also spent ages going through all the menus, paying particular attention to the Settings and Contacts menus, to see if the phone knew its number already. Nothing. So I assumed that it wasn't dialing anything because it didn't have a sim card.

Well, the (extra) sim card arrived, got inserted, and nothing changed. So I started pressing buttons at random, and when I pressed a green crescent pointing downwards, it suddenly dialed the number! Quite why a green downwards crescent is "dial", I don't know.

I'm particularly impressed because nowhere do they explain this. The three "start here", "beginner's guide" and "complete manual" have lots of details (and pictures) for adding a sim card, micro-sd card, etc. And lots of details about how to download new games and stuff like that. But actually explaining the secret button that dials? Nope.

Another "joy" is the top-right button. On most screens, this serves as the "back/cancel" button. When entering digits, it's the "delete" button. But on the main screen, it's the "launch web browser" button.

So if you're deep in some menu... say, apps->camera->take picture->save picture, or apps->organizer->alarm->turn on... you keep on pressing that button to go to a higher-level menu. But if you press it too many times, it launches the web browser! Of course, you can just press that button again to quit the browser. But launching the browser takes a second. It's highly annoying.

I'm amused that the camera requires a sound -- you can't configure the phone to take a photo silently. I remember hearing rumors about this being legislated for phones in Japan due to voyeur panty-shots on the subway; evidently such concerns affect the UK as well.

As an aside, I really can't fathom the appeal of such photos... I mean, I'm not personally attracted to nurses or stewardesses, but I can imagine how somebody might find them really hot. But blurry camera photos of non-sexy underwear? What's the point?! I mean, a department store catalog has better photos of underwear!

Overall, though, I'm fairly happy with it. As alluded to earlier, the phone has an alarm. I'm sure that you all just thought "... umm, yeah?", but I wasn't expecting that. I was willing to pay £15 or so for an alarm, so getting this phone saved me that amount.

I haven't yet used the phone as a phone. One of my labmates asked me to phone him so he could save my number, but I was concentrating on a computer problem at the time, so I handed the phone to him and told him to do it. I guess I should do the same with other people in the lab -- although next time I should actually operate the phone myself.

I kind-of feel like those people who got a computer for the first time, and are too scared of the machine to try anything themselves. But rather than getting over it, I'm trying to maintain this feeling -- when you write documentation or design interfaces, it's good to be as much of a newbie as possible. I'm decent at pretending to forget all my technical knowledge, but I've never pretended to be scared of the technology before.