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.

More iOS 7 Leaks and Rumors Wanted!

Most of the iRumor Mill concerns itself with what components and new looks the next iPhone will don. These days, however, I am more concerned with what the new iOS has in store. The reason for this is that Apple has already figured ou the iPhone’s form. Whether it be conscious or subconscious, it’s really iOS that most people love about the iPhone. Even though it still works beautifully, the current iOS 6 is becoming a little stale and old by tech standards. The app badges and alerts are dated and I could never get used to using the pull-down notification center.

I would actually prefer real life details rather than rumors. Yet, for iOS7, barely any rumors even exist; we are mostly restricted to wishlists and concepts that don’t mean squat. Indeed, rumors don’t really mean squat either, but they are more closely related to what the company will release rather than what people want. To be fair, there’s no telling what a new iOS could look like and do. It’s probably much harder to get leaks for a new iOS than an iPhone design.

It can be suggested that a new iOS could present us with new ways of interacting with apps. But that’s as far as I’ll go with rumors for now, otherwise this starts looking like a wishlist. Apple does respond to what the competition releases. For example, they responded to popular demand of bigger screen size with the iPhone 5. Apple must also realize that UIs are becoming far more interactive; such as Android’s customizable UI and Windows Phone 8’s live tiles.

Apple really doesn’t need to change the over-arching design of the iPhone. Quite rightly, they’ve been tinkering with materials, screen size and components which present incremental yet powerful upgrades on an already loved design (loved by millions and millions in fact). I wouldn’t be surprised if the next generation of iPhones simply take from the iPad Mini’s design; super slim, perhaps a wider border to border screen and lightweight. This is hardly innovative, but you KNOW it would look good…I’d have it.

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??

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