Could My Mother Have Saved Public Mobile?

UMX Companion

What you see here is the UMX Companion, a phone for seniors offered by Public Mobile. I almost bought one last summer for my dear, elderly mother to try. I’d like to think that if I had, that if I’d given Public just one more monthly subscriber then they could have fended off Telus for just a little while longer.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.


If you didn’t know, the Companion has a killer spec sheet, for old people. There are three massive speed-dial buttons — one each for mom to reach my two brothers and I multiple times throughout the day. There’s a big-ass SOS button on the back, a flashlight and a sweet, sweet charging cradle included at no extra cost.

And monthly service, as all Public Mobile users know, is very affordable. The unlimited overseas long distance add-on would be perfect for my mother’s one remaining relative living somewhere in Europe. Right now she’s paying Bell fifty bucks a month for a dial tone, and up to that same amount for long distance from a third party.

So what kind of horrible son am I to not help her save money with her first-ever mobile phone?

The problem is batteries. My mother goes through them like Kleenex. Try to explain to her the concept of battery conditioning and you might as well be speaking Klingon — and she’s no Trekkie. Her landline is currently hooked up to a wireless base station with two remote handsets; the batteries on at least one of them need to be replaced every couple of months.

Public Mobile’s Companion phone does have a user-replaceable battery, but for some inexplicable reason you can’t buy replacements from Public Mobile. I reached out to Unimax Communications for assistance; here’s the reply that was emailed back:

yes, you can mail us a check for the battery and then we can ship one to you,  i would need an address to check the shipping costs for you.

This didn’t fill me with a tremendous amount of confidence, because (1) it was sent from a Gmail address, (2) you know, capital letters at the beginnings of sentences and stuff… (3) who uses personal cheques anymore?

So with that, any hopes of bringing late 20th century technology to dear old mum were dashed, along with that one new activation that could have saved Public Mobile.

Or not. Probably not.