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RIP, Airtel SmartBytes – No More SmartBytes for PostPaid plans in Karnataka Circle

Few months back, Anupam Saxena had reported that Airtel is killing off SmartBytes for mobile customers in Delhi. My first reaction to the story was hoping that they wouldn’t do this for Karnataka circle. SmartBytes was great for the rare occasion that you’d require burst data(for example: when travelling or when your home Internet is down) – if you run out of data cap(I detest the pittance of data cap we get, that’s another different story) head over to their SmartBytes website or use the Airtel app & do a top up for SmartBytes – and you get instant data cap upgrade for the billing cycle.

During our recent Leh trip, my wife Jo’s connection was close to hitting the data cap. Trying to top up using SmartBytes resulted in failure. I attributed this to us being on roaming and figure we could top up after being back in our home circle. Fast forward 12 days later, back in Bangalore, tried to top up and got the same message about SmartBytes not being available.

smartbytes-not-available

Called up Airtel customer care, and he confirmed that SmartBytes are indeed, no longer available for PostPaid customers and they’re only for Data card customers. When asked for alternatives, the Customer Care rep told me the alternatives are either to upgrade the data plan, or for ad-hoc purpose, opt for something called MBC – Mobile Broadband Charge. Essentially when you select this, you don’t pay to top up – rather the data limit for the billing cycle gets increased. And like SmartBytes, the unused data isn’t carried forward to the upcoming cycle. While this may seem similar to SmartBytes, the difference is that the MBC options are not as granular as SmartBytes and lot more expensive.

Anyway for now, I’ve put in a request for myPlan for Family plan. Seems to be exactly what I wanted. Word of advice: don’t go by the numbers mentioned on the demo link, they’re only indicative and not reflective of the actual numbers

The case of the expanding, exploding iPhone 3GS battery

Way back in March, I got a bit tired of iOS and jumped the ship back to Android, purchased a Samsung LOLSUNG Galaxy S2 as my main phone. I won’t get into iOS v/s Android debate now, suffice to say I prefer Android to what it lets me do with the device. Anyhow, I didn’t want to give up on the 3GS – it’s a nice device and always a good idea to have a backup handset. As days passed by however, I more or less stopped using the 3GS.

Till couple of days ago – I wanted to try out of iOS 6 and some iOS apps to review. I had removed the abomination that is iTunes long ago and had no intention to install it again to do the iOS 5 -> 6 upgrade. Since Apple now offers an OTA upgrade, I went by that, taking well over 12 hours to complete the OTA download (the first OTA download failed after God knows when, second attempt was successful).

With iOS 6 on, I tried out some of the “improvements” that is iOS 6 maps.

I decided to carry out my iOS 6 experiments later on. That’s when the initial set of problems seemed to appear. In the evening, I noticed that the battery had completely drained out. That was quite surprising, since

  1. It was running only on WiFi, there was no SIM card in the phone
  2. From my previous experience, I’ve known the 3GS to last at least 2 days on standby on WiFi, if not more.

I connected the 3GS to the USB cable connected to my laptop, and then observed that the device was stuck on the Apple logo screen.

This morning, I got a whole bunch of responses on twitter, telling me what next to do, and following them I go the familiar “Connect to iTunes” logo. Since I didn’t have iTunes installed, I was pretty much SOL. As much as I didn’t want to install iTunes, I had no option and decided to download iTunes anyway. While iTunes download was under progress, I noticed that the battery had died out again. *Sigh*Proceeded to connect the iPhone to the USB cable and I waited for iTunes download to complete.

About 10 minutes later, the download was completed and I was about to start the install when I heard a loud bang very close to me. Moments later, I realize that the bang came from my iPhone – the battery had swelled to such an extent that the iPhone’s LCD had popped out of it’s casing.

Ok iPhone battery swelled up to such an extent that LCD popped out of the case

My immediate reaction was to disconnect the iPhone from the USB cable, to prevent further charging / damage to the battery. Having done so, the expansion and the accompanying bangs continued to happen

Ok iPhone battery swelled up to such an extent that LCD popped out of the case

Ok iPhone battery swelled up to such an extent that LCD popped out of the case

By now, an hour had passed by since the initial big bang(!) and I decided to go have some breakfast. I moved the iPhone away from my computer, to my hall and kept it in the corner and went for breakfast. Fast forward about half hour later, I see that the battery’s swelled to such an extent that the LCD’s at nearly a 30-35 degree angle to the iPhone base. And the mini bangs were still continuing.

iPhone 3GS after it's battery expansion

Couple of hours later, the situation had stabilized and this is how the phone ended up looking like

iPhone 3GS after it's battery expansion

iPhone 3GS after it's battery expansion

Taking a cursory look at the iPhone, I see that the metallic backplate holding the PCB is bent pretty badly. Not quite sure what to do with this – the phone’s about 2 years old and I doubt Apple India will acknowledge this.

Mugen Extended Battery for the Nexus S Review

It’s been about 7 months now since I purchased the Nexus S, and overall I’ve been very pleased about the phone (yeah, yeah detailed review soon. Promise!). However a point of bother has been the battery life- or the lack of it. While it’s better than my better than previous iPhone 3G, the stock Nexus S battery lasts just about a business day. By business day I mean about ~ 12-14hours (though I I do use it heavily – on an average ~3hours of music, about hour and half or so of browsing on 3G, checking mail, facebook, twitter every half hour or so).  And my addiction to the phone means that the low battery life generally becomes a problem when I’m travelling.

Mugen Power Batteries, one of the most popular aftermarket battery manufacturers have brought out some high capacity batteries for quite a few mobile devices, including the Nexus S. Mugen were kind enough to send me a review sample of the Mugen Power Nexus S Extended Capacity 3300mAH Batteries, and I’ve been testing them for the past 3 weeks and have been quite pleased.

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Configure Airtel GPRS / Mobile Office for Android

Short, quick post: I’d purchased a Nexus S recently, and once I got back to India, I had to re-activate my connection again.

Unlike the iPhone, however, my Android was unable to pick up the settings automatically & I had to enter them manually. To do this, head over to Settings -> Wireless & Networks -> Mobile Networks -> Access Point names. Tap on the options button -> New APN & enter the  settings as per your plan, as  mentioned in my previous post comparing various Airtel GPRS plans.

To recap:

Name: Enter a name to identify

APN/Address/Access point: airtelgprs.com for Airtel Mobile Office.

That’s it. Restart your phone(if required) and you should be able to start browsing.

Upgrading to iPhone 3G to iPhone OS 3.1.2, with keeping the baseband at 04.26

I think this is my first post on iPhone ( barring the rant). o_O. Surprising, since I purchased the iPhone from eBay close to a year ago. Anyhow, being the computer freak enthusiast that I am,  I keep a track of most of the latest software that appears on the tech scene.  I generally have a zero-day update policy – any new version/update that arrives for a software I generally update it. I’m probably amongst the few folks who also read the release notes and change logs prior to upgrading, to find out if there’s some new functionality or enhancement that has been added to the software which isn’t so obvious. (Of course, some say if the new feature isn’t obvious in the UI, it is unlikely to get noticed, to which I agree. That said, do read the release notes. It will contain some good information). With the iPhone purchased, however I had to break this habit.

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The case of the Neverending SMS Series

Most of the Ruby gang are very well aware of the “Stupid SMS series”. For the uninitiated, it was Nitin’s way of…. umm… timepass ? by sending SMS to all of the Ruby gang which made absolutely no sense whatsoever ( I hate to admit it, but it’s true, Nitin is a version of “The Amit“).

Anyways back to the post,  couple of days ago, as I was spending time in morning, my iPhone started to buzz away. It wasn’t very surprising, since getting a message in morning isn’t something out of the ordinary. Opened the message only to see it was a blank SMS from an unknown number. Ignored it at first, but then the buzzing went on continuously. In a matter of few minutes my inbox looked like this:

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