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It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. There I was online Monday morning, holding my breath as I waited for the clock to strike 11 am, staring at the computer screen, refreshing my Twitter page every 10 seconds or so. Finally, the big moment came…and I stared in disbelief at Maxis’ official announcement that all ten of us, reviewers, get to keep the HTC Desire test units.

Rezeki (English: blessing). Rejeki in Indonesian. From the Arabic rizq (which is also, curiously, where the word ‘risk’ comes from). That’s what this phone is. Pure, unexpected rezeki. I am grateful. And humbled. And thankful.

But between you and me, the real winners are the twins. Because they get to continue playing with Kids Connect The Dots, Paint Joy, and Zebra Paint on the HTC Desire 🙂

twins_playing_with_HTC_Desire

For those of you who are curious, here’s how the Maxis10 review system worked:-

Maxis tweeted an announcement that they were looking for ten people to review the HTC Desire. They provided a link to an online survey that you had to fill up. The questions were pretty simple: stuff like ‘What social networks are you on?‘, ‘How many followers do you have?‘, ‘Do you have a blog? What is its URL?‘.

Prior to the official announcement of the winners, I already received an email from a Maxis rep, telling me that I’m one of the lucky ten reviewers. We then exchanged several emails and text messages on the terms and conditions of the review because I was in Jakarta at that time and discussing it over the phone would have cost an arm and leg. I can only assume that it was a simple pre-screening process before they announced the winners officially on Twitter and Facebook.

The terms and conditions were simple: we only had to tweet and blog about our impressions of and our experiences in using the HTC Desire. The only specific thing that they required of us was an unboxing video. Everything else was very general — there were no guidelines whatsoever. We were given complete freedom with our review — nothing was said on when we were supposed to do it (other than the deadline: 20th of June), how to do it, or whether to highlight its good points or bad points.

Originally, testing the HTC Desire itself for two whole weeks for free was the reward in itself. That and being one of the ten chosen ones, naturally.

Then Maxis upped the ante and announced that the top five reviewers would get to keep the units for free, waking up the competitive streak in all ten of us, resulting in more reviews posted online. But again, take note that there was no mention of any specific criteria on what constitutes a ‘good’ review.

The announcement Monday morning that all ten reviewers get to keep the phone came as a total surprise to all of us. I had to re-read the tweet several times then double-check Maxis’ Facebook page to make sure I didn’t misunderstand the announcement.

Some bloggers claim that the whole setup was rigged, that Maxis bribed us with the units to get ‘good’ reviews. That is so untrue. As I mentioned several times in this post, Maxis gave us a free hand on what to write, when to write and how to write it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how they’d take my ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’ post; at some point, I was worried it would affect my chances of being one of the top five reviewers.

In retrospect now, for me, the point of the whole exercise was for Maxis to get publicity from bloggers who cover a huge spectrum of readers. Even if our reviews covered the HTC Desire’s shortcomings, in the marketing world, bad publicity is still publicity. And having been launched via Twitter, with updates via Maxis’ fan page on Facebook (which only has, oh…50,000-something followers!), it was a social media experiment unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

The result: reviews that ranged from ‘normal’ blog posts, tweets on its features, ‘proper’ technical reviews accompanied by tonnes of photos and videos. It got people talking and tweeting and commenting. And convinced many a consumer that the HTC Desire is a good alternative to the leading smartphone in the market today. Because studies have shown that the best advertising is word-of-mouth advertising. And this is word-of-mouth advertising, except that it’s now on a different platform — the world wide web.

Now that you know how simple the process is, now is your chance to be a Maxis10 reviewer for yet another Android offering: the Samsung Galaxy S (only if you live in Malaysia). Click here for the details. But hurry! Video submission deadline is 25th June.