Customers Swindled By Carriers For Too Long – T-Mobile says No More Contracts

By no means is this recent news, but it IS something consumers need to know about. When you sign up for a 2-year contract with any carrier, you are NOT getting a huge discount on that new phone. No matter what, you are eventually paying the full cost of that phone. The most common way carriers make up the difference is by bundling your monthly bill with a hidden phone pay-back fee. The problem is, because the monthly bill is bundled, you keep paying for the phone even after you’ve paid off the difference. So that money comes right out of your pocket and into theirs for no real apparent reason. Disgusted yet? Customers were getting smart about this vile scheme and T-Mobile just became the “good guy” whilst the others now look like vampires caught with their fangs in your neck.

AT&T, Verizon joint conference

AT&T, Verizon joint conference

How are T-Mobile’s UnCarrier plans saving our souls?

Primarily, T-Mobile’s new UnCarrier plans are cheaper. Let’s compare these similar plans:

AT&T

  • Unlimited talk & text, 3GB of data for $100 a month with a 2-year contract when you buy a new, discounted phone (hidden fees in monthly bill make up difference for discount). $35 activation fee with every new contract.

Verizon

  • Unlimited talk & text, 2GB of data for $100/month with a 2-year contract when you buy a new, discounted phone (hidden fees in monthly bill make up difference for discount). $36 activation fee with every new contract.

T-Mobile

  • Unlimited talk & text, 2.5GB of data for $60/month, no contract. For new phone, either pay full cost upfront or pay monthly installments ($20 minimum) till phone’s full cost is paid off. No activation fee.

So, even when you’re knowingly paying the full cost of your phone on a monthly basis, T-Mobile is still cheaper at $80/month than AT&T and Verizon’s $100/month for similar service.

Second, we are freed from the 2-year contract. However, the 2-year contract served little more than a way for carriers to ensure you pay the full cost of the phone you purchased. The “penalty fee” for breaking an AT&T or Verizon contract is actually the remaining amount you owe for your phone. It’s a similar situation with T-Mobile. If you chose to leave T-Mobile before your phone is paid off, you’ll be charged for the remaining amount you owe. Plain and simple. The major difference here is transparency and a more honest approach towards customers.

If AT&T and Verizon had simply told us they can’t make money by discounting phones in the first place, and that we would have to pay the phone’s full price regardless, we might have understood. It’s like a kid whose lie gets discovered and realizes telling the truth would’ve spared him deeper trouble.

The Verge got hold of rumors that AT&T is following suit on June 15th. But things aren’t looking hopeful for Verizon enthusiasts:

“During an interview at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam…questioned whether U.S. customers are ready for that type of shift because they have been conditioned to getting lower-cost phones for so long.”*

The BS, it burns! What Count Mr. McAdam actually means is:

“U.S customers have been misled to believe they were purchasing lower-cost phones for so long when they’ve been paying full price without even knowing, and we’re not sure people are ready for the truth, so we’d prefer to keep them in the dark.”

Don’t bother with AT&T’s and Verizon’s current prepaid plans. They are atrociously bad deals because phone selections are miserable and/or 4G isn’t available on prepaid plans. Traditional prepaid plans simply don’t make economic sense next to a 2-year contract either.

* http://www.whyprepaid.org/2013/01/09/device-subsidies-verizon-and-att-have-their-eye-on-you/

Should You Get a Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5?

My quick answer?

Galaxy S4.

Why?

If you’re like me and you use your phone A LOT, a larger screen just makes sense (iPhone has a 4 inch screen whilst the S4’s is 5 inches). I also think some of Android’s standard features along with the S4’s new features could enhance everyday phone use. iOS 6 is stale and after using the S3 with Android 4.1, I was hooked by how much more use and customization I could get out it.

S4 vs iPhone 5

Both phones perform basic functions extremely well. This means calls, texts, emails, maps, calendar, taking photos and some apps. In some cases, the S4 makes those functions even more useful with features such as Air View. Samsung’s objective to make the S4 a “Life Companion” lays the foundation to turn phones into true “all-in-one” devices. Want to change the TV channel? Use the S4’s “WatchON” app! Want to track your fitness efforts? Use the S4’s native “S Health” app! Check out this list to see what else the S4 has to offer; there are some photo/video features that could be really cool.

Android 4.2 vs iOS 6

If you’re an iPhone user and you haven’t tried a recent Android phone, you’re not going to know how far you can customize phones to be more useful and visually appealing.

  • On iOS 6, you tap an icon to open an app. Android works the same way, but you can also create  “widgets” where information FROM an app, such as Calendar, Weather Channel and even Gmail, is displayed on the home screen. Most Samsung/Android apps, third party included, have widgets.
  • To customize iOS 6, you can change the lock and home screen wallpapers, switch around app icons and create folders that hold up to 20 apps. Same on Android…but more. For example, you can customize the appearance of icons themselves, as I have done below on a Galaxy S3. (I replaced the original app icons with simpler, white icons because, hey, I could! I left the Gallery icon to have SOME color. Also notice the weather widget on the top-right). You can also have live (moving/interactive) wallpapers.

Screenshot_2013-02-21-17-37-24

If hardware matters to you…

…the S4 blows the iPhone 5 out of the water. “Why does this matter?” you politely ask. Indeed, even if the iPhone 5’s hardware isn’t as good as the S4’s, it works extremely well. One reason is Samsung needs its hardware to run Android AND their own software on top, called TouchWiz, which offers all those fancy shmansy Samsung features. Apple doesn’t need to compensate for any additions on top of their OS.

So, where are you in all this? Are you satisfied by the iPhone’s 4 inch screen? Not satisfied? Wish you could customize it? Converted from iPhone to Android or vice versa? Why? What other ways do you customize your Android phone?

3 New iPhones This Year? Maybe…

Apple may release three phones this year, and it makes sense. This trifecta includes a new iPhone 5S, which is about 99% certain. I’ve also been drowning in rumors about an iPhone with a larger screen than the 5 called the “iPhone Plus” along with a plastic iPhone that will come in iPod colors.

Many will associate these plastic iPhone whispers with the “cheaper” iPhone rumors. But it has been said that changing the shell materials to plastic wouldn’t make much of an economic impact on production and, therefore, sales price. If Apple’s intention is to break into the lower-end market, it might actually be planning to re-release the iPhone 4S with colorful plastic shells rather than introducing a brand new “cheaper” iPhone.

It makes sense that Apple should expand their phone offerings to occupy more display space. Take an average phone store for example. Let’s just say there are 8 Android phones and 2 iPhones on display. Now, I’m no retail guru, but I’d say it’s common sense that a product taking up 80% of the display space is more likely to sell than a product only occupying 20%. Sure, the iPhones are highly coveted, but Android phones with different shapes, sizes, specs, models, brands and prices are becoming more and more desirable…even to me. In terms of quality, Apple used to dominate completely, but the competition is catching up REALLY fast.

Also, several new premium Android phones are released per year by different manufacturers. We’ve only been getting one iPhone release per year (yes, boohoo, only 1 a year, but we’re in an age of tech frenzy here). This drives more excitement and attention towards Android phones as our hunger for new, bigger and better phones is satisfied by ANDROID, not Apple.

It wouldn’t be foreign of Apple to release at least one new line of iPhone. Just take a gander at the different iPod models they offer; there are four different lines with different shapes, sizes, colors and prices. Whilst your on the Apple website, notice the different laptop models they offer. You’ll find Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros with different screen sizes, specs and prices. So why not the iPhone?

We’ve all heard the cliche that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If Apple continues to release only one line of iPhone, it would be insane.

Cheaper iPhone? Why?

Cheaper iPhone?…Isn’t that what an iPhone 4 is?

It’s for the “low end market” you say? $0 for a 4 and $99 for a 4S.

Some reports I’ve seen claim it will be built from cheaper materials, such as polycarbonate plastic. Many also believe that it will use leftover components from previous iPhones in a similar way that the iPad Mini frankensteins the iPad 2. I’m not sure why anyone would buy what sounds like a plastic iPhone 4(S) when the real ones are so cheap already. Even if they used 3GS components for cheapness, who would want an iPhone that runs iOS 6 really, really slowly?

The more I think about it, the less I see Apple  making an intentionally “low-end” product like the competition does (eg: Lumia 920 vs 820). All their iPhones have been “premium” as standard; none were actively designed to be lesser/suck which some phone makers do for the low-end market.  It can be argued that there are “premium” iPhone models; Apple does so by adding and S at the end of it. But I still don’t think the intention was to market an “S” phone as the premium model; it is announced and released separately as newer and better. So, in essence, each release is entirely different even if it is an “S” and looks exactly the same as the previous release. I wouldn’t say the older iPhones are  “low-end” now; they were all built with the intention of being the best. And my iPhone 4 is still working like a champ. But they do have a low-end price tag, so why build and release a whole new “low-end iPhone?” Maybe so it can be sold independently from contract for pay-as-you-go users? Not entirely convinced.

I call BS. If these rumors are true, then I call a WTF??

iPad Mini And Other Stories

Aaaand I’m back to Apple products after a couple months of self-convincing that anything else, namely the Surface RT, could compete. I made the EXACT same mistake a couple years ago when I decided to put my iPhone 3G down to pick up the HTC Thunderbolt. I wanted to see what else was out there and the prospect of 4G was very exciting. My mother and I wanted to switch from AT&T to Verizon and I convinced her to try out the Thunderbolt as an introductory phone. The HTC Thunderbolt was such a dismal failure in my opinion (and in Mom’s opinion, too!). I had to recharge it twice a day and Android was just so awful compared to iOS. I felt so bad for putting mummy dearest through the constant cursing at the ThunderDOLT (as she called it) that I sold mine on eBay and bought a couple second-hand iPhone 4’s (not 4S) to make her (and me) happy again.

Obviously, the iPad Mini is just a smaller version of the regular iPad with exactly the same apps and functions. I don’t know what it was, but I never really liked the way the regular iPad felt; it’s kinda heavy and the rounder edges just don’t sit right with me. The Mini’s edges are more square which feel nicer to hold and looks better, too. It’s also super light and can easily be held and used with one hand. I am also a huge fan of more screen and less bezel. The bezels on the Mini’s side are much narrower which gives it a really smart and cool look.

I have no problem with transitioning to the Lightning connector. Actually, I have one problem. I heard rumors that Apple have made it impossible for third parties to produce their own Lightning connectors, thus restricting us to buying solely from Apple and its partners (such as Best Buy and Walmart). This is somewhat understandable, but quite “evil-monopoly-corporation” if you ask me. But otherwise, I have both the old and new now. Those who complain that they won’t be able to charge their iDevices at their friend’s place because they don’t have a Lightning connector *yet*, fear not. Pretty soon, all households will have a Lightning connector merely due to the fact that Apple has such a huge customer base and many, many Apple fans will own an iDevice that use a Lightning connector soon enough.

BUT, many have devices that work with Apple’s old 30-pin connector, such as speaker docks etc. This indeed puts those who own such devices between a rock and a hard place. Apple have priced the Lightning-to-30-pin adapter at a criminal $30. What is this, a dollar a pin?? Not cool, Apple, not cool. But then again, Apple is Apple and iFans are iFans, and despite that price tag for an adapter, we will (somewhat grudgingly) shell out to make our iCompatible Devices work with what we have until we upgrade.

Back to the Mini. Some are wary of its non-retina, lower resolution screen. But I don’t think that should be an issue; it still looks great. I’m not sure why people make a fuss about how letters aren’t as sharp on non-retina screens. Does it really make a difference in the reading quality? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, I am a quality freak and I want the highest possible resolution and quality when I watch videos etc. But by no means will my Mini be my primary video watching tool. That would be my TV or laptop. And if you’re a video quality freak, you wouldn’t likely use your iPad, retina or not, to watch Planet Earth in HD.

Google Maps is BACK

Let me start off with these screenshots from my iPhone whilst keeping in mind the address in the search bar and that I live in NYC.

Google Maps - what is expected

Google Maps – what is expected

Apple Maps - wtf??

Apple Maps – wtf??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of those instances when a picture speaks a thousand words. I am so relieved to have Google Maps back; feels like the pre-iOS 6 days where you could rely on the map and search results.

HOWEVER, it is not quite as ying/yang as that. No matter how much I dislike Apple Maps, which is a lot, I want to be fair. The Apple Maps is the default map app on the iPhone and I’m not immediately seeing any way of changing that to Google Maps. This means that if you were to tap on a link of a physical address someone sent you by text or email, Apple Maps will be used. To take the Google Maps screenshot above, I couldn’t tap on the physical address link; I had to type the address into the search bar. This is a huge shame since that Google Maps feature was really great and efficient; it saved time and frustration from switching to the maps app and remembering the address etc. Yet, with Apple Maps, you tap on the physical address link expecting to save time and app switching whilst thinking “oooh, this is so handy!” Instead, I’m taken to one of the millions of 125 West 58th Streets in the USA. Why choose that one, Apple? What is so special in Lubbock, Texas? It doesn’t even LOOK like Lubbock has 58 streets in the whole town/hamlet/abandoned ghost village.

This new Google Maps app looks a little bit different to the one we’re used to, and it doesn’t seem to run quite as smoothly as before on my slightly ageing iPhone 4. But all the essentials are there and in their right place and it won’t take a minute to get used to it. I can get search results based on my location rather than results based on this:

28899+Sebastian+Munster-++Novae+Insulae+XXVI+Nova+Tabula+[1st+Map+of+the+continent+of+America]+1552

iPhone 5 Rumors vs Reality TODAY *post-reveal update*

Yep, the design rumors and leaks were spot on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s an awesome upgrade and it does look great. It’s just that it looks more like an “iPhone 4SS XL” (Super Sport Extra Large) rather than a whole new line or generation of iPhone.
In the video on Apple’s site, there was emphasis, with an apologetic feel, on the decision to keep the iPhone’s width the same and making the screen taller. Apple’s John Ive’s reason/excuse was one of ergonomics; “by making the screen taller, and not wider, you can see more of your content and still comfortably use it in one hand.” The script editors must have decided to leave the part where you need incredibly long thumbs for it to be “comfortable.” Even on a 3.5 inch screen, I don’t remember it being that effortless to reach the address bar on Safari with my thumbs; it’s still a reach.  I suppose it’s completely objective and opinions would vary depending on the size of your hands/thumbs. And I’m nit picking because I wanted the screen to be larger. Humph.
Despite my light rant on the iPhone 5’s taller screen and hard to reach address bars, I would have liked to see a wider AND taller screen. Again, purely objective, but playing around on those Samsung Galaxies (the III and Note) really appeals to a person who uses his/her phone quite often for many different uses. Things like calendars, surfing the webs, shopping, email, watching videos, using the map, games, using utility apps, reading the news…pretty much everything. Night Sky would look awesome on the Galaxy Note, wouldn’t it?

iPhone 5 Rumors vs Reality TODAY

The leaked photos of the iPhone 5’s “new design” have been extremely underwhelming.  Its supposed rectangular design, no matter how two-tone and unibody it might be, is antiquated by tech standards and looks like what the 4S was to the 4; a hardware upgrade. I think it might be an overkill to call it a “revolutionary new design.” But Apple knows they can say and do whatever they want and the ultra-loyalists will consume their tripe and form a somewhat orderly line outside the store a la depression era.

We already know what iOS6 holds for us, Apple has had details on its site for ages. Not bad, nothing spectacular, except for their own Maps app which looks pretty cool. And maybe the Passport app.

Looks like the revolutionary tree that Apple has been growing on might be reaching its peak height. I hope the rumors about the design are false. If not, I hope it’s just a phase and they come back (maybe after the 5S?) with the innovation we know they are capable of. Let’s see what happens at today’s event!