Wed, 19 Apr 2006

Siemens-BenQ mobile and Catalan support

While Catalan in the computer industry slowly advances, thanks to volunteer efforts and Free Software, it's difficult to see any sign of improvement in other areas of the technology world.

Mobile phones are not an exception. In Catalunya, many people own a Siemens, Alcatel or Sagem mobile phone because they are the only companies that include Catalan as an option for their terminals. When I first got my mobile phone one and a half years ago, I chose an Alcatel, and while the phone was more or less ok, and Catalan was present in the interface, it lacked some Catalan characters like “ò”, “ú”, “í” or “ç” in the input system. The battery wasn't that good, and it was a bit slow at times, but in general I was happy.

Three weeks ago, I decided to switch to Telefónica's mobile phone provider, Movistar, because Vodafone has no network coverage in my mother's town, Vall de Almonacid, where I spend many weekends and vacations, and I was getting tired of my mobile turning into a plastic brick when I went there. I hoped the switch would be painless.

As people talked positively about Siemens, I went for one of their free Siemens offerings: the Siemens AP75. Ugh, fellow Catalans: DON'T DO IT. So, it seems Siemens has sold or merged their mobile division with BenQ. The girl in the shop said one of the cool new features was better battery lifetime. This terminal was advertised as having Bluetooth, Infrared and other goodies.

As soon as I got it (and couldn't give it back), I found out the extensive language list in BenQ mobile phones doesn't include Catalan anymore. Actually, it just offers Spanish and English. Had I known this, I would have quickly got a Nokia, which I believe are the best phones out there. But I'm silly enough not to pick the best just to support some practices, in the same way I won't but nVidia unless they do something about their drivers.

Anyway, ignoring the lack of Catalan fact, the mobile was supossed to be quite good, or so I thought, until I tried to transfer my contacts list via Bluetooth. My mobile phone wasn't able to find other devices at all, and the interface doesn't list IrDA at all. What's the story? Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to the Movistar shop, and I was told a tale about the mobile phone having those features built in, but they are deactivated by the telco.

This is pretty difficult to believe, and googling around, I haven't seen any proof about the AP75 having any Bluetooth support for anything other than voice transmission (ie, for use with headphones, etc). It plain sucks.

So, dear Catalan readers, if you're getting new phones, avoid these BenQ-Siemens idiots, as they don't have a clue about Catalan. Either choose Alcatel, Sagem, or one of the older real Siemens mobiles.

Softcatalà has a Catalan mobile phones Wiki page with detailed information of the current situation. I'll have to update it to warn about current Siemens practices. In a happy future, Nokia will hopefully support Catalan and things will be a lot easier.