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sarahd

State of the Beta, Vol 1

Posted by sarahd Nov 30, 2011

State of the Beta, Vol 1

 

Submitted by TheProductGuy on Wed, 11/30/2011 – 8:00pm

 

Hello, TheProductGuy here again.

 

Now that we have phones out in the wild, we’ve enjoyed reading your comments on twitter, Facebook, and our blog.
Thank you for all the feedback, positive and constructive alike.

 

I wanted to pull together all the issues I’ve found on the various outlets and post them here so you can see what I see and what we’re working on for you to improve your experience.  (I’ll put these in the forum as well before it launches so we can discuss them in a more organized way there).

 

So let’s take a look at what’s not working as expected with the phones as they stand and what we’re going to fix based on your feedback:

 

  1. Google Voice Support - We locked down the functionality of the dialer very tightly before we went live, resulting in not being able to enable this.  I'll make sure we can support GV calls and VM.
  2. SMS - We need to add support for testing to short codes.
  3. MMS - We need to add full support for MMS.
  4. Voice Search - We'll include an updated version (also available now from the Android Market) coming in our first over-the-air software update.
  5. Caller ID blocking - We need to make sure that the caller ID is blocked for in and out bound.
  6. Improved call handover - I agree it’s clunky now, but it will improve in leaps and bounds as we add the single call and then automate. Those features will release over several updates.
  7. Can’t system reset the phone – We’ll add back in the option to factory reset so you can remove an account that has been used to download content from the market.
  8. Speakerphone inconsistencies - There are a number of audio issues that we’re looking to fix as far as the speakerphone is concerned.
  9. Phone reboots when plugged in – We’re looking to display a charging image if the phone is off and then plugged in, rather than reboot.
  10. Dropped calls on Wi-Fi - This one is more situational than the others and dependent on a number of factors.  We’ll do our best to troubleshoot these on a case by case basis and will use this input for us to provide you with optimum settings for your home routers in the future.

 

These ten issues will be added to the beta area of the forum so that you can comment and add new issues as we move forward, and I’ll keep you updated.  If there are any others that I may have missed, please post them as comments to this post and I’ll make sure we look at them.

 

Let’s keep the discussion going. We continue to advance the product and look forward to getting the first over-the-air (OTA) software update in your hands in the next week or so.

 

Until next time...

sarahd

Special offer code extension

Posted by sarahd Nov 28, 2011

Special offer code extension

 

Submitted by Jessica on Mon, 11/28/2011 – 12:23am

 

I’m Jessica Orr, the Director of Marketing & Community for republic wireless.  Many people have inquired about the welcome19 special offer which just expired, 19 days after launch.  This post should clarify things for everyone –at least that’s my intent!  Please comment below and I’ll respond back to anything we’ve failed to address adequately.


We’re extending the welcome19 promotion for the following situations:

 

  • You signed up to receive a special offer on our “preview” web page, while the signup was still available prior to November 8.  If you did, you received the $99 offer via an email from us on November 7.
  • You attempted to place an order that is currently listed in My Account as “incomplete” and you entered the welcome19 discount code in the first step of the order process.
  • You attempted to place an order that was not accepted, and you can’t view any orders in My Account.  If this happened to you, you should’ve received an email with the subject “Incomplete Order” on November 15.


If you don’t fall into one of these categories, the welcome19 promotion won’t be available for you when we reopen to accept additional beta users.  We recognize that this will disappoint many of you who saw the offer online and wanted to use it before it expired.  That would’ve been possible if the first round of our beta program hadn’t been so quickly oversubscribed beyond all expectations.

 

Although it’s a very idealistic startup, republic wireless also must grow into a profitable long-term business.  We incur costs well in excess of $99 per unit for the LG Optimus, and our budget provided for a limited number of members to purchase the phone at a loss to us.  Different providers subsidize device costs in different ways (for example, by locking you into a contract with termination fees or by overcharging you on a monthly basis) to make the price cheaper up front. In our case, our special offer was for people who were willing to take a chance on an innovative newcomer.  The point of our promotion, and its return on investment, was to make taking that chance easier for the first intrepid buyers.

 

While we know that some customers look for the lowest cost on phones, regardless of contracts or the risk of early termination fees, it’s probably a good time to let you know that’s not how republic operates.  As some in our community have observed, traditional prepaid and postpaid providers may offer their version of the Optimus for a lower price.  If you’re here for the cheapest phone and the very best value in service, know that we certainly can provide you the latter, but probably never the former.  We keep things simple and as transparent as possible.  We ask a startup fee for your membership and then a basic $19 per month for your service.  No contracts, no termination fees, no hidden costs.

 

The good news is Android phones get cheaper all the time.  That’s one of many things we love about them.  If $199 to start is too much for you, know that a year from now that figure could be a lot less.  Regardless of whether now is a good time for you to join republic, we hope you’ll join us in becoming a Wi-Fi person eventually.

 

For the thousands of you who’ll be benefiting from the extension, thanks for your patience on launch day and continuing since.  We’ll be in touch with you via email to let you know how to claim the special offer extension.  We look forward to being your wireless provider, and we’re excited to equip you as agents of change in an industry long overdue for it.

Talking turkey: Prepping, shipping, and porting your phone

 

Submitted by Oaktree on Wed, 11/23/2011 – 7:38pm

 

Hello!  I’m Adam Oakley.  The teams I manage here at republic wireless are in charge of order fulfillment.  Who knew my area would be such a hot topic of late in our early beta community?!


The most common question we’ve been fielding in the office is, “When will I get my phone?” Nearly in tandem is, “How is my ship date determined?”  We thought perhaps we should pull ourselves out from behind the wall of inventory we’re shipping and the mounds of FedEx envelopes to provide some information about this part of republic.

 

First of all, I can confirm that yes we are indeed fulfilling orders ourselves, by hand, from a, very top secret, undisclosed location.  That’s so we can design process improvements and guarantee product quality firsthand.  Early on, we expect to unearth unexpected efficiencies, new process exceptions to handle and ways to train staff.  Meanwhile, of course, we’re working with our supply chain to prepare for much greater scale than we can handle ourselves.

 

Our fulfillment process yielded almost 100 units in its first week, and another 100 in the first day of its second week.  That ramp has continued since (although obviously not at quite that rate!), and now we’re preparing to start a second shift after Thanksgiving.  Your estimated ship date is in large part a function of what we projected our process could yield each week, and the number of temporary staff we’re scaling up and training to operate it.  Right now, we’re actually running ahead of schedule, with over 100 members shipping one week ahead of their 11/29 estimated ship date.

 

Second, we do process orders in first-come, first served order.  I’m going to qualify that in just a minute.  Our eCommerce system created a timestamp based on when you started the order process –regardless of whether you completed the purchase process, placed multiple orders, or have an incomplete order.  If you submitted more than one order, a different timestamp and a corresponding place in line were set for each additional order. If you came through, but your order was only partially recorded for any reason, we held your place in line.  When we opened the self-service order management tool in the My Account portal, we gave you the opportunity to cancel or confirm orders listed on your account.

 

Okay, now for that qualification.  Although we do create your place in line based on the timestamp, and we do process your order based on your place in line, we can’t ship that way in every case.  Some orders require more attention than others.  Porting causes the most common delay right now.

 

Porting is complicated, and we have to get it right.  It is, after all, your phone number and we know you can’t be without it for even a few minutes!  It seems so simple in the store, but the systems and processes behind it aren’t.  It’s not just republic that’s involved, but your soon-to-be-former carrier and some industry intermediaries as well.  While most numbers are not a problem, not every number can be ported into our core network.  Our Hybrid Calling technology also raises some new challenges to the traditional process (not much I can say about that without revealing confidential info, sorry).

 

We’re building automation to make porting faster, easier, and error-free.  When our systems are ready, we’ll be in touch with you individually, via email, to verify that you want to port.  In the process we’ll also confirm the porting information that you provided to ensure everything is all set to handle upon delivery of your phone.

 

Under the circumstances, with all the other new things we’re building up here at republic, we decided to be conservative about porting.  That’s why the earliest estimated ship date is December 8 amongst all the orders with porting requests. No, canceling your porting request now (available soon via My Account) won’t change your estimated ship date.  Why not? Because porting is just one of many steps we take to process your phone for shipping.  Changing around our shipping schedule on the fly would just complicate and slow down shipping for everyone.

 

On to the rest of the story, after assigning a new number (a temporary number if for a port), we root and flash each phone individually with the latest beta build.  As Tim shared, builds may be updated frequently during beta testing, and we want to ensure your phone has the latest without having to do an over-the-air update right out of the box.  Provisioning each phone properly with a number and ensuring that went as it should with our systems and Sprint’s is another complexity we’re ironing out, automating and streamlining in these early days.

 

After a series of quality checks, we then repackage the phone (using boxes we’ve turned inside out in batches previously), and apply some republic “flair.”  One of you has probably already documented all of that in an unboxing video that’s out there on the web by the time of this writing. (Our marketeers asked me to pass along that they hope you like the way they used our packaging to poke a bit more fun at our larger, more traditional competition).

 

To close, let me reiterate that our estimated shipping dates really are just that: estimates.  We have a lot to learn, and have tried to build that into our estimates.  As human beings, I can assure you we’ll make some mistakes and miss some beats in the early going.  That might result in your receiving your phone a week or more later than expected.  Please accept my apology in advance should that cause you any trouble.

 

As has been noted elsewhere, we’re in beta, and climbing a steep learning curve about our suppliers, processes, and how we can be faster and more precise for you.  We hope that all our inventory arrives as it should, that our fulfillment processes yield the volume that they should, and that we’re generating the quality product experience that you should expect.  If that’s not the case, please let us know so that feedback can inform our planning.  I look forward to hearing from you!

republic Optimus hits the streets.  Boxes are opened…

 

Submitted by TheProductGuy on Tue, 11/22/2011 – 3:55pm

 

So, today is a big day for TheProductGuy.

 

Today, the first phones land on people’s desks and kitchen tables (actually, it seems some landed yesterday, a bit earlier than expected!). I f you’re among these people, you’re one of the first outside our Bandwidth community of internal testers who’ll use the phone, connect to your networks, and try Hybrid Calling.

 

I wanted to do a quick post so that we could start a conversation about how calling works and also go over a few things. Additionally, I’ll point you to a few resources to get you up and running, although my hope is that it is fairly self- explanatory.

 

In the box, there is a resources card that has your phone number on the front of it.  There are a number of links on the back that will be helpful for you as you get started.

 

Start-Up Guide
The Start-Up Guide can be found here.
This has lots of useful information about the phone and how to use it.  It shows you what to look for on the phone, how you know you are connected to Wi-Fi, and also gives other instructions for things like voicemail, using your camera, and texting.

 

Beta Issues Email Address
Until we have our forums up and running, let’s keep the beta discussion in the comments below this post.  I’ll monitor and respond where needed.  If you’re having a problem, simply contact our support team here.  That gives us all a chance to see how we’re doing.  If there are issues, I’ll do my best to resolve them directly and post updates here, so everyone can benefit and help each other out.

 

We’re preparing additional resources that will be available to you soon:

 

Forums
Soon you’ll be able to go to the forums for info and to ask questions.  You can also interact with other people from the community.  We originally planned to launch the forums this week, but we’ve decided to move to a more user-friendly forum software.  We should be up and running with that soon.

 

My Account portal
We are building out a section on our website where members will be able to manage account info and view usage (the place where you can see how much Wi-Fi and cellular you’re using).  You’ll also be able to see how you stack up against the rest of the community based on how much cellular you consume.  Once we’ve built out all the features, you’ll also be able to submit a porting request, check the status of an order, and manage your membership.

 

The important thing for me, now that you have the phone, is to start gathering feedback and find out how it’s working for you.  I want you to connect to your Wi-Fi networks, make calls, and give us feedback.  Does the phone reconnect when you go back to a connected network?  Are you receiving calls properly?  How do Wi-Fi calls sound?  Anything work in a way that you didn’t expect? Does it work better than you expected?

 

I’ve been using mine for a while now, but I’m always interested to see how the phone performs when a new person gets it. We’ve tried to make the experience as integrated into the standard Android functionality as possible, and hope you find that to be true.

 

Thank you again for being a part of the beta program.  I’m looking forward to getting your feedback.

 

Let’s go.

Start your hybrid calling engines

 

Submitted by TheProductGuy on Fri, 11/18/2011 – 8:49pm

 

First of all, let me introduce myself.  My name is Tim Jones and I’m the product guy.  I’m very excited about this product and can’t wait for you to get your hands on it. There’s been a lot of coverage and a lot of excitement and speculation.  Now, it’s time for our beta users to start receiving their phones and begin the Hybrid Calling revolution!

 

With this first beta update, I’ll walk you through the program, have a bit to say about the phone, and give you an idea of what’s coming over the course of the program.

 

The Beta
There’s been a lot of discussion about the definition of a beta.  Brian addressed this in his post last week.  To me, beta means that it’s time to try the phone and service... and also expect that there are going to be some glitches and improvements along the way.  The phone has been tested in our lab and with a large group of Bandwidth employees. We’ve been tuning it for weeks now, but it’s time to let it loose on a larger scale and see how it behaves in the wild.

 

I’m looking for two pieces of feedback.  First, how’s the quality, in different situations and on different networks?  Second, how’s the rest of your experience?  Is it easy to connect to Wi-Fi networks and make calls?  Where does great Wi-Fi live, how can we support it, and how can we help other people find it?

 

Keep in mind that we won’t have our full technical support resources and services in place.  Patience is going to be key. Our forums (launching next week) will be used for support during this beta phase.  If you have issues please post them in the forums and my team will respond as quickly as possible.  We won’t be available 24/7, especially around the holidays (we need to see our families as well!), but we’ll do our very best to respond quickly to any issues that you may have.

 

Additionally, we’re going to ask you to update the phone software from time to time.  We can do this over-the-air (OTA) so keep an eye out for the notification that says a new version is available.  Click that notification to download and install a new build to your phone.

 

I appreciate your participation, and hope these inconveniences aren’t too much to put up with.  The beta process is used a lot in software development.  Like the rest of our vision for republic wireless, it’s a quite different approach for cell phone service.

 

The Phone
What about the phone?  Our Optimus has everything a standard Android phone has and a little bit more.  You have Wi-Fi calls and texts, cellular calls and texts, and all the normal functions of an Android phone.  You’ve got voicemail, and access to all the Google Apps, including the Android market.

 

The other main feature of the phone and the network we’re including in the beta is our first iteration of our Wi-Fi-to-cellular handover.  We know you need an in-call means of switching to cellular whenever you leave Wi-Fi range or when the Wi-Fi connection is bad.

 

What’s coming?
We’re working on new devices alongside the Optimus.  Everyone wants choice.  We’ve got some new internal demo models working already.  At least one will be coming shortly.  We think you’ll like them when they arrive, and you’ll of course have an opportunity to upgrade.

 

There are a number of objectives that I want to accomplish before we end the beta program.  Refining call quality across a wide range of use cases, engineering a seamless handover experience, and making improvements to the Wi-Fi set up process are the main goals.  When these are done, and we’re ready with the new phone(s), we’ll stop with the beta and be ready to make republic wireless generally available.

 

I want and need your feedback, but most of all; I want to hear about your experiences.  Please use the forums to give me direct and constructive feedback.  It’s important to me that we earn what you pay us for the best unlimited wireless service available.

 

Thanks for joining us.  The cell phone world is overdue for serious evolution.

Report from the post-launch trenches

 

Submitted by brian on Fri, 11/11/2011 – 11:52am

 

When we started developing the concept for republic wireless, we as many startup teams were proud of our idea.  We hoped people would like it, that we could engineer it, and that we could build a new kind of company to go with it.

 

Rather than waiting until everything was built perfectly and completely, we decided instead to introduce our technology as a limited “beta.” We adhere to the classic software company idea of a beta being a test that ends as quickly as possible. There are many advantages to testing quickly rather than waiting.  For one, beta is a chance to ensure that real people using the technology in real situations have a chance to tell us what they think.  In the end, that helps create a better product for general release (“GA”).

 

Now, to be perfectly clear, having a beta product is no excuse for having a beta ecommerce process.  We never intended to be that –far from it.  So I’m not here today to ask for patience or offer excuses, but to respond to your concerns, as promised, and provide explanations. Some of the most common bugs reported have been:

 

  • Email confirmation not received
  • Discrepancy in amounts actually charged vs. the order summary
  • Received invoice from Phonebooth Mobile that should not have been received

 

As proud as we are of our idea, the intensity of demand for it has been simply overwhelming.  We were prepared to serve a fair number of people.  In a very short time, however, over one million people have visited our website.  All of our original inventory was sold out in four short hours, then the additional amount we were able to locate in another four! You wrote us thousands of email messages, and hundreds more tweets and posts.

 

The crush of your demand has kicked us into overdrive.  We’ve quickly hired additional staff and worked around the clock to handle your emails and phone calls, and to interact with you online.  All the while, the team members trained to fix problems have been listening to and getting to the bottom of every problem that arose during those frenetic post-launch hours.

 

Problems are really just opportunities to excel.  The sheer volume of response we face, however, limits how fast our experts can resolve them all.  We’re not in over our heads, as one Facebook commenter averred.  We’re just a limited number of human beings, with a limited number of waking hours, facing some rather unexpected problems directly related to the sensational volume of your demand.

 

It turns out our idea is bigger than we are.  It takes time for a business to catch up with a reality like that.  That doesn’t mean that we’re incompetent, or that you get what you pay for.  We have much higher standards for republic wireless than that.  Our team is amazing.  I’m proud to work alongside them.

 

Amidst all of this, we’re eager to provide you with the product you ordered.  Next week, we’ll communicate estimated ship dates.  We anticipate that the first ship date will be Friday, November 18 to a small initial group, which is normal for a beta technology release.  Every week after that, we’ll ship more.  As we promised, within 60 days of Nov 8 (which is the first week of January), everyone should receive their order.  We’ll contact you by email the week before we ship, just to confirm and make sure we have everything right.

 

If this experience isn’t for you, I respect that and want to reaffirm our refund policy.  We’re a new company, with new technology.  We’ll get it right, if not out of the gate, then soon after.  That’s because we listen, and we’re passionate about what we’re doing.  What we’re working so hard for right now isn’t about us or selling something to you.  Instead, it’s about the very different wireless future that republic wants to make possible for everyone.

 

Many of you are wondering when we’ll expand our beta program, when we’ll end the beta and become generally available, and when we’ll offer more phones.  The answers are: as soon as we can, when the product is ready and early 2012.

 

I look forward to continuing the dialog we’ve only just begun this week.  Please comment below, or reach me directly at brian@republicwireless.com.

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