I had placed an order for an iPhone 5s 32 GB online on the 6th of December 2013. The nano SIM for the iPhone was delivered and the verification was done within 10 days of placing the order. I finally got my iPhone 5s from Reliance on the 16th of January 2014 via BlueDart. I tried the SIM on the 17th of January 2014 and it worked.
Before ordering the iPhone with the Zero Plan, I had checked out the network with a borrowed, pre-paid, Reliance SIM. The network seemed to be okay for calls and 3G in the areas that I would be spending most of my time.
Sounds good? Well…go through the whole story and decide for yourself.
According to the Reliance online shop, it is not a Reliance shop! Read the fine print. Even though the shop is hosted on rcom.co.in, they make it clear in the fine print that it is not Reliance. I actually read this fine print a few days after placing the order.
After placing the order on the site, it took around 15-20 minutes before the invoice was sent by email. Meantime, I tried to create a login on the site to check on the status. Turns out that you cannot create a login as there were issues with the site.
So, I got the invoice and it was okay. The phone was supposed to start shipping from the 12th of December 2013.
I sent an email to the shop site asking them if I could go and collect from a local store to speed up the process after the 12th of December. There was not even an automated acknowledgement of the email, leave alone any actual reply. 10 days later, I sent an email again with the same result. Out of the 5 phone numbers listed on the shop site, 3 seemed to be permanently out of service and the other 2 never answered.
I finally called up the regular Reliance customer care and the the support person informed me about the “fine print” which I mentioned earlier and that they did not have any information on the iPhone shipment etc. At the same time, the person tried to find out and said that the phone would probably reach me by the 23rd of December 2013.
Following this conversation, I sent another email to the shop addresses and copied the regular Reliance support on it. Surprisingly, this time, I did get a response from the shop with yet another date of shipment. I re-checked the online invoice link and the FAQ and found that the shipment start dates on both had been changed and were different.
What all this meant for me was that I could not plan any outstation trip since the shipment dates kept shifting with no clear response. I finally got an email from the shop on the 15th of January stating that my shipment was ready and I could track it via the link in the email. Great…so, finally something concrete. In fact, I even got through one of the numbers of the shop site after this to confirm the same.
The iPhone arrived on the 16th and I tried the SIM on the 17th, checked out the 3G and made a few calls to check out the new number. I did not opt for MNP since the overall Reliance network quality is not really at par with the likes of Airtel or Vodafone. In hindsight, I shudder to think of what might have happened if I had opted for MNP…in all probability my number would have remained offline for over a month.
Okay, now that the basic phone functionality seemed okay, and it came with iOS 7.0.4, I setup all my email accounts, installed apps and stuff. Then I noticed that I was missing some options in the Settings. I tried a soft reset and then erase all, but, nothing changed. I left the phone fully charged at night only to find that the battery was completely dead the next morning. Not a very good sign on a brand new device. Anyway, I re-flashed the phone and set up all my stuff again and it worked fine after the re-flash (restore).
Once I had the iPhone working, it was time to create an account on the Reliance site to enable e-bills. After creating a new login on the 22nd of January 2014, I was greeted with a bill with an outstanding amount of Rs. 6/- along with some charges in excess of 8k, out of which 8k had been paid in cash. The billing cycle started on the 9th of January even though the SIM was first activated and used on the 17th of January. The billing date was the 20th of January 2014.
Once again, I called up customer care and was informed that it was a mistake on their part and it would be corrected “soon” with no definition of “soon”. I also sent an email with the same details just to keep this on record. Once again, no reply to the email. Not even an automated acknowledgement.
Next, I tried the “Live Chat” with the Reliance support. You get this option once you log in to your account. The person on the chat, like with the ones on the phone, was courteous, but could not explain the 8k in the bill. He did take down a request since I wanted to know the number for the ISD SMS which constituted the outstanding amount of Rs. 6/-.
On going through the bill, it seems that the 8k billing is some kind of internal adjustment and I was actually charged only for the ISD SMS. I got the details of the number 2 days later by email and it was what I had suspected. The number was a UK number which the iPhone uses for FaceTime activation. So, assuming the 8k part of the bill is some kind of internal adjustment, the SMS charges seem fine, although, I would have expected Reliance to waive those small charges for the Zero Plan to make it a better experience for their customers since it is not a customer issued SMS.
The one thing that is not mentioned anywhere in the Zero Plan ads is the fact that VoiceMail does not work on the Reliance GSM network. Even though the menu option is active on the iPhone, it does not work. This was also confirmed by their customer support. This part can be a major issue for some people.
The other interesting part is regarding the iPhone itself. None of the existing (third party) lightning cables I tried, work with this new iPhone 5s. All these cables work fine with an iPhone 5. Only the original Apple cables work with the new iPhone 5s. So, before ordering a spare cable online, make sure it works with the new iPhones.
To summarise the overall experience and suggestions so far…
- Check out the network in the areas you frequent before getting into this plan
- Ideally, get the phone from a store rather than online
- I did not get any option of choosing the new number. It might be different for a store purchase
- Use the Reliance customer support phone numbers instead of email
- If you already have an account on the Reliance site, try the “Live Chat” for support
- Check out the Reliance Facebook page for additional help
- It seems the higher capacity iPhones are in short supply, so, expect delays
- MNP options will take longer
- VoiceMail is not available and does not work
- The voice quality of normal calls is lower than Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and MTNL/BSNL
- Try using Viber, FaceTime or similar VoIP apps for better call quality since the data is also free
- 3G is fine in some areas and does not exist in others like UP etc
- Tethering (Personal HotSpot) works fine, although I have yet to try some major downloads to really stress the 3G
- The 3G download speeds are okay (2-4 mbps) where I tested, the upstream speeds are generally low, inconsistent, and just about usable
I hope this post would answer most of the queries people might have in mind when considering the Reliance Zero Plan. My only pending query is regarding the billing cycle and as to when my 24 months of the zero billing start and end. Hopefully, I will have that answer soon…