Update October 2010: It looks like Leaf have stopped messing with the phones. I have a Vodacom Desire and it doesn’t have any Leaf stink on it. Maybe someone at Leaf read this post?
My mobile phone has a weird bug. The wifi works perfectly and then I leave the house and it never switches over to 3G unless I reboot the phone.
That’s a pretty annoying bug, but what makes it even more annoying is that the problem was actually fixed 8 months ago with the release of Android 1.6. There are also a whole bunch of cool updates as part of that 1.6 release, but still, I’m stuck with version 1.5.
So why not upgrade? Well, the problem lies with a company called Leaf. Leaf are the HTC importers for South Africa. Sadly, if all Leaf did was import the phones we’d be fine, but the over-reaching company gets involved in the process of managing the software on the phones and this is a job they fail at miserably.
When I phoned Leaf to ask when there will be an update made available they said that they were busy “testing” and that I should wait 3 to 4 weeks… This sounds reasonable but unfortunately I can’t believe them. You see, Leaf have a long history of completely stuffing up Android phones in South Africa. This dates back to many many months ago when Leaf first launched the HTC Magic (my phone).
Regular Android phones have an application called “Market” which contains thousands of applications (much like the Apple App Store). You can find all kinds of things like Google Sky Map (hold it up to the sky and it shows you which stars you’re looking at) to apps that make farting sounds. Great stuff, generally.
But when Leaf launched the Magic it came bundled with an app called “Open Market” and no regular “Market”. Open Market had a few (ie, like 30) really really bad applications on it… I think the top rated app was something with wallpapers of dogs. When pressed for an explanation Leaf said that Google didn’t give them permission to use the Market app. After chatting to some people from Google who work on Android it sounds like this “permission” excuse was made up. The more likely explanation is that Leaf were hoping to start selling applications via their Open Market app. Yes, Open Market is developed (used losely) by Leaf. Once they realised that nobody cares about them they buckled and said they were working on an update that included Market… they suggested we wait 3 to 4 weeks while they tested the new version. This was in May.
Eventually, late in August, 5 months after promising something in 3 to 4 weeks, Leaf quietly released an update on their website. The phone was finally what I’d paid for… a fully fledged Android phone… but only for a few weeks as Android released version 1.6 a few days later.
One of the big attractions of Android, and certainly why I bought my phone, is the Open Source and constantly evolving platform… The idea that your phone’s operating system isn’t frozen in time for 2 years and can get updates (automatically if you want)…Unfortunately Leaf are just plain incompetent and don’t seem to care that they’re selling a device that isn’t quite what the customer paid for… Our phones are stuck in time… and, when pushed for an answer we’re told again “3 to 4 weeks”.
When I eventually lost my cool and tracked down Peter, Leaf’s marketing person, he said I should send him an email and that he would get me some answers in a few days… He then got his PR agency to phone me and promise that they would get me some answers the next day… Perhaps ironically it has been 3 weeks and I’m yet to get anything out of them.
So here are the questions I asked Peter in that email 3 weeks ago.
- When will the HTC Magic get a 1.6 ROM
- Why has it taken so long? (8 months and counting)
- What is Leaf doing to correct the problems with the process and how are they going to convince consumers that buying via Leaf is a good idea?
Until Leaf can answer these questions I would advise against buying any HTC products in South Africa.You’re just not getting what you paid for.
ps. I heard that Leaf are bringing in two new HTC phones, the Legend and Desire… Both look like sweet phones, it’s a pity that if Leaf will probably ruin it for anyone who buys the phone by never releasing any updates. Cash in hand baby, cash in hand.