Verizon Wireless Users Sue Over Disabled Bluetooth
By Shelley Solheim
A lawsuit filed in California claims that the wireless carrier disabled some of the advertised Bluetooth features in Motorola’s v710 phone in order to charge additional service fees. Verizon Wireless customers in California are suing the Bedminster, N.J.-based mobile phone operator for disabling some of the Bluetooth capabilities in a Motorola Inc. handset.
According to the class action lawsuit, Verizon disabled some of the advertised Bluetooth features in Motorolas v710 phone.
“Verizon Wireless has enjoyed enormous financial gains by marketing and selling the popular Bluetooth v710 phone then disabling almost all of its Bluetooth capabilities, resulting in a degraded phone, which requires the customer to use other Verizon paid services in place of the Bluetooth capabilities that were supposed to be part of the phones Bluetooth features,” the lawsuit said.
The v710 handset, which Verizon released in August, allows users to use their phones with a Bluetooth headset and with compatible Bluetooth car kits; however Verizon Wireless has disabled the file-sharing capability, which allows users to transfer photos or other files via Bluetooth to their PCs, printers or other devices.
Verizon says it disabled the Bluetooth file-transfer capability because it conflicted with contractual agreements it has with content providers participating in its “Get It Now” application download service offered with the v710.
“The v710 includes Get It Now, our virtual mall of games and productivity tools that customers can download. The agreements we have with our content providers preclude our allowing anyone to download these applications beyond the phone. The open architecture of Bluetooth could also allow customers to download Get It Now applications beyond the phone,” said Verizon Wireless spokesperson Brenda Raney.
However, to use Verizons Get It Now service, Verizon Wireless users must pay a fee to download applications, while users could, for example, transfer photos for free using Bluetooth.
The lawsuit refers to a v710 product advertisement from Verizon Wireless that said, “With Bluetooth wireless technology you can make hands-free eyes-free calls, and connect to your PC or PDA whenever and wherever you want.”
Motorola, for its part, said the decision over what Bluetooth capabilities to include in handsets is solely up to the wireless operators.
“Those decisions are left to the wireless network operators, and they vary from operator to operator,” said Motorola spokesperson Alan Buddendeck. “There are myriad reasons why a wireless operator would provide a certain level of service or of the Bluetooth profile, such as what their network will support, what they are willing to support as a business, as well as contractual agreements.”
“There are myriad factors that can affect the decisions by a carrier about what levels will be a free experience or paid for,” Buddendeck said. “Nobody ever said Bluetooth would always be cost-free.”
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which establishes the Bluetooth profiles, sympathized with frustrated v710 users.
“The Bluetooth SIG is very disappointed in this implementation decision and believes many consumers who purchased this phone for the Bluetooth capabilities are frustrated and confused as a result,” said Michael Foley, executive director of the SIG. “Users have realistic expectations that Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones will work with their other Bluetooth enabled devices including cars, headsets, PCs, printers, PDAs, etc.,” he said.
“While we on the technical side understand that certain profiles must be implemented to enable various usage scenarios, we shouldnt expect consumers, for example, to realize their phone does not have the OBEX or file-sharing profile. They just know they want to send a picture from their camera phone to their PC and cant. And they dont know why.”
The Bluetooth SIG this year plans to publish a “best of breed” list for Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones and other devices, Foley said.
“These documents will outline the profiles that the SIG (based on consumer expectations) would expect in a best-of-breed device and the profiles that would be expected in a basic device. The intent is to set the bar and match the expectations of consumers with the features implemented by manufacturers,” Foley said.
“To give a snap shot, the SIG suggests a basic mobile phone with Bluetooth technology include the following profiles: hands-free, headset, device ID, file transfer, object exchange, service discovery, dial-up networking and serial port. A best-of-breed mobile phone is recommended to also include profiles such as advanced and generic audio distribution, audio/video remote control, SIM access, human interface device, cordless telephony, PAN and printing,” he said.