Saturday, March 05, 2005

Memo to Palm and Verizon: You can't call 911 from a frozen cell phone

As I write these words, my colleagues at my day job are enmeshed in a serious project to upgrade power. My Verizon cell phone needs to work. But it doesn't. It's frozen.

It's dead, Jim.

My Treo 600 is stuck on a screen that proclaims:

Service Connection Progress


So what are my options? ...

I can't access any functions on the phone.
  • I can't dial out.
  • I can't reach a menu
  • I tried a paper clip reset; the phone steadfastly wouldn't reset. The screen stays lit with the useless message.

Here's the deal: yes, this device is a "Smart Phone" but first and foremost it is a PHONE! The sucker needs to work as a phone when you most desperately need a telephone.

So here's my prediction: someone will die because Palm doesn't understand that point. Someone will need to call 911, and won't be able to, because their "Smart Phone" isn't so smart -- it's frozen in an un-rebootable state. The device needs a simple and obvious way to boot into a mode where the...

... duh ...

... ahem ...

... "smart phone" ...

... can make a phone call!!!! As in, to 911. Duh, you'd hope a device marketed by Verizon and others as a cell phone could actually be relied on to make a phone call in an emergency.

Here's my bet:

  • Palm doesn't "get this"
  • Someone will die as a result, a direct consequence of the phone they sell for hundreds of dollars not being able to complete a damn 911 call
  • Palm will be sued for millions of dollars

Palm, here is your advanced warning before the first lawsuit. When this happens -- not if, because this will happen -- when someone dies because the Treo "phone" can' t make a phone call -- guess what, guys, you're reading the words of your opposing expert witness.

Palm needs to fix this. They need to put out a firmware upgrade for the 600 and 650, and they need to document a simple, keyboard-based way to boot the phone into 911 mode. You need a fast path to 911 if you are under attack, whether heart, assailant, or food in the windpipe.

PS -- I tested from my home phone; the one function the Treo 600 seems to be able to do in its frozen state is receive a phone call.

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