Not all sunshine and roses in Dell Venue Pro land

Dell_VenuePro3Nabil Abou-Harb has written about his experience with the Dell Venue Pro, and it is safe to say he is not a happy bunny.

He writes:

How Dell Ruined A Great Phone

I was one of the rabid Windows Phone 7 fans that drove all the way down to Mission Veijo from Los Angeles to be one of the lucky 13 customers to pick up a Dell Venue Pro on November 8th. Having called a day prior, I knew that the Microsoft Store only had 13 in stock and all Microsoft Stores received similar stock. Not thinking anything of the limited numbers (the phone wasn’t even supposed to launch until a week later on Dell.com and Microsoft Stores), I woke up super early and drove through the treacherous LA traffic to grab me one.

I ended up being the second person in the store to purchase a Windows Phone, and the second person to pick up the Dell Venue Pro. Everyone who was there super early wanted one. I mean, how could you not? It’s a portrait slider with a hardware keyboard. It’s got curved gorilla glass protecting a beautiful AMOLED screen. The phone feels absolutely solid in every way shape and form. It was almost like looking at the perfect business phone… from the future. And we all wanted one.

Read more after the break.

My first indication that things weren’t going to go well, came from the T-Mobile rep who was present, overseeing the Windows Phone 7 launch at the Microsoft Store in Mission Veijo. I remember distinctly what the rep told me, “Yeah, the Venue Pro is a sweet phone. After Dell’s last phone, you can understand though why we’re waiting before we decide to offer the phone in our stores.” What? T-Mobile isn’t confident in Dell’s ability to bring a phone to market? As you’re going to find out through my experience, T-Mobile was absolutely right.

Once I picked up the phone, it was absolutely inseparable from my hands. I couldn’t put the phone down (contrary to how Microsoft is promoting the phones with their “Really Ads”). It was so fast. So zippy. So beautiful. And the hardware was amazing. It felt incredible. It didn’t feel cheap like the Samsung Focus. It wasn’t squeaky and had a crap screen like the HD7. The the hardware keyboard didn’t look like a toy as it does on the LG Quantum. It was perfect. To celebrate the awesomeness of the phone, I decided to hook up my auxiliary connection into my new phone to listen to the 30 second previews on Zune…

dellheadphoneThe sound that starting coming out of my car speakers sounded like complete ass. It was like listening to music while being tortured by waterboarding of the ears. The vocals were barely audible, the bass was nonexistent, and it sounded plain bad. Obiously, I was concerned about this, and wanted to see whether it just sounded bad over my 3G connection – so I plugged in the provided headphone/ microphone headset that was included with the phone. Nothing. With the headphones plugged in as far as they would go, they could not make a connection with the phone. The audio was coming out of the badass on-phone speakers.

Twiddling with the connection did little to improve the audio. What’s happening is the headphone port, because it’s slightly curved for aesthetic appeal, doesn’t allow any pair of headphones to make a good connection with the phone.

While a little perplexed, I get home and wanted to start downloading some apps.

I fired up the settings on my new Venue Pro and tried to connect to my secured wifi. Can’t connect. What? I tried again. Nothing. I knew Windows Phone 7 couldn’t connect to non-broadcasting wifi hotspots, but I didn’t know that it couldn’t connect to broadcasting, secure wifi hotspots. I fired up my router to see if it was the type of securirty that was causing the misconnection. Nope. No matter what I tried, the phone couldn’t connect. Annoyed as hell, I figured to try to see if the phone will connect if the wifi wasn’t secured. So, I disabled my security on the router and voila! It worked. The badass new Windows Phone 7 handset from Dell that’s aimed at business users can’t connect to secured wifi hotspots. WTF?

I immediately went to the Twitterverse to see what was going on. Other unfortunate souls that drove long distances to pick up this phone were all having the same wifi issue. While there was solace and comfort knowing that other souls were experiencing the same issues, nothing could have prepared me for what was to happen next.

I called Dell to tell them about the problem and see what we were supposed to do. I spoke to 4 seperate people on the phone. No one even knew this phone existed. “Are you talking about the Streak? The Aero?” The Dell Venue Pro wasn’t in their documents, the part numbers and serial numbers weren’t coming up in their systems. As far as they were concerned, they thought I was a crazy person calling them up and complaining about a mythical future phone that their company was responsible for… So, I ran with unprotected wifi for the rest of the day.

The next morning, I woke up and got on the internet. Saw that people were saying that Dell accidently shipped out “Engineering Samples” to the Microsoft Stores and would be replacing all defective units with fully working production models. Whew! That was a close one! So I called the Microsoft Store in Mission Viejo and they told me that the new phones would be coming in at the end of next week, and I’d have to drive all the way back down and swap them out. I’d be recieving a complimentary one year Zune Pass subscription for my troubles.

“Cool!” I thought. What a great gift!

What happened next? I learned through Twitter that the phones weren’t Engineering Samples after all but just had a software glitch that prevented them from connecting to secured wifi broadcasts. Really? So the battery with only four hours of talk-time labled, Engineering Sample, is the real, production-level battery? Great!

nbiscuitThat night, I went out with my friends and took a picture using the 5 megapixel camera and LED flash. I’ve attached the twitpic to show you how it came out.

Like shit. At night, this camera is unusable! It pissed me off, so the next morning I woke up and starting testing it out in daylight. Much better. So the camera is great in daylight and is unusable at night. Great. And the 720p video is worthless. TERRIBLE frame-rate.

Never had tried Zune Pass before – and the Microsoft Store gave all of us early-adopters a three month free zune pass trial when we purchased the phones.

So, while I was waiting for my replacement unit, I decided to give it a whirl.

Zune wasn’t taking the gift card serial number. Weird. I called Zune. They told me that the serial I was giving them hasn’t been activated yet. I called the Microsoft Store – looks like the staff forgot to activate the gift cards that they gave everybody, so I’ll be able to pick up my replacement Zune Pass when I swap out the phone. Super!

Now it’s Friday, November 19th. The phone still isn’t available for purchase on Dell.com. The Microsoft Store, who was supposed to have the replacement units by now, still doesn’t have any stock of the Dell Venue Pros. Dell’s Mobile Chief either quit the company or was fired. Dell’s Twitter employees broadcast weird, and cryptic messages about how the company is “looking into” the handset’s problems but doesn’t have any news on the company’s progress. My phone still can’t connect to wifi. Still doesn’t have a Zune Pass on it. Still can’t play any type of audio through the headphone jack. The screen has a weird light-leak all the way around. The camera is a total piece. Dell Support is still terrible and clueless as ever. I’ve maxed out the mere 8GB of storage. And the battery barely lasts me till 5pm.

When I saw the early renders of the Dell Lightning, I knew it was something special. That form factor was the sexiest thing I had ever laid eyes on. Coming from a Blackberry Bold 9000, you could see how I would be enamoured by it’s beauty. A gloriously huge touch screen device with a slide-out hardware keyboard. It was every Crackberry addict’s wet dream. Mobile Office. Skydrive. Zune. XBOX360. Beautiful touch screen. Solid-as-hell build quality. And now that I have the Dell Venue Pro in my hands, I’m still in love. But I’ve decided that it’s not true love as I once thought… It’s more like the love a parent has for their remedial child. He might be cute as a button, but he’s still kinda a retard.

Time to get a Samsung Focus.

Nabil Abou-Harb  can be found on arabinamerica.com and twitter.com/nabiscuit.

Do other Dell Venue Pro owners agree with Nabil’s screed or do our readers think these are just the expected teething pains of an early adopter? Let us know below.

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