Thursday, 13 August 2009

Instant Email service by T-Mobile UK - the good, the bad and the ugly

I've been recently looking for a decent email solution for my Nokia E71, that would deliver a push-mail experience from my default Gmail account. After trying quite OK, but not-so-ideal free solutions, the time has come to subscribe to paid service offered by my mobile provider, T-Mobile UK.

Instant Email service works as an additional application that needs to be downloaded and installed in the phone. Subscribing is pretty straightforward and requires sending a text message (EMAIL to 441), which triggers a text message back, containing a download link. Amusing fact is despite the offering being aimed specifically at Nokia phones, including E71 itself, the download page has warned me that my device isn't currently supported and T-Mobile withdraws from responsibility to any possible damage caused by installation of Instant Email software. Ha-ha-ha. Funny.

Anyway, installation and setting up Gmail account is also quite straightforward (and doesn't make phone explode, surprisingly), so let's break down what I'm getting for ?3.50 per month.

The Good
  • Application creates a new internal email account in the phone, which integrates very nicely within standard messaging section of the system. That implies rather nice and unobtrusive new email notifications on the homescreen. I like it.
  • More than one email account could be added to the service, with predefined providers like Hotmail, AOL and Gmail (although I haven't had the need to test it).

The Bad

  • There aren't many configuration options. For example, I can set a signature of my own, but I can't specify my 'real name', hence all emails are sent by <> rather than Dawid Lorenz <>.
  • Setting up email retrieval schedule is possible too, so I can disable overnight battery eating, which is great. But for some odd reason I can only input full hours, so for example 8:00-23:00 is ok, while 8:30-23:50 isn't.
  • Mailboox settings are confusingly scattered between main Instant Email application itself and general system messaging settings. Confusing.
The Ugly
  • This service/application is supposed to deliver emails in fancy push-mail style (see name: Instant Email and let me highlight Instant word here). Hmm, let me think... if lags in delivering messages to the Inbox of up to 10 minutes of actual email receive time are still regarded as push-mail experience, then that's fine. In fact, I never received an email really instantly using this service. Naming this service as Instant is plain exaggeration.
  • There's no support for IMAP folders (aka Gmail labels), hence emails from main Inbox are only retrieved. Real shame, as even Nokia's built-in email application does that by default.
  • There is an additional web-based administration panel provided on T-Mobile website to control the Instant Email service. It allows to accomplish such sophisticated tasks like changing the password for accessing that panel or setting default timezone, and... that's pretty much it. Useless.
  • Instant Email application, as an extra-added value, also offers facility to synchronize contacts and calendar events to web-based admin panel mentioned above. Seems nice, but... 1) I didn't sign up for this (I just want a decent email service here, heelooo!) and I didn't want to share that data with T-Mobile servers at all. 2) Application synchronises data without me asking first and there is no way of switching this feature off. 3) It syncs data rather poorly, for example - no contact numbers labelled simply as Telephone aren't copied across. Yet again, useless.

As I said, I was looking for a decent push-mail solution and after trying both built-in and additional email applications - all free and not exactly perfect - I thought that paid service will finally provide the experience I was particularly looking for. Unfortunately, I've been hugely disappointed. This "Instant" Email service is definitely not worth an extra ?3.50 a month T-Mobile is asking, and also I would not recommend anyone using it, as it's just waste of money - unless you don't mind pseudo-instant email delivery, don't use IMAP folders/labels much or are not bothered by not being able to put your real name in From field properly. So far, I'm switching back to Nokia Messaging (again).

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