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/

Advertisements

Windows Phone 8 – for iPhone users who want a larger screen

I love Windows Phone 8. It reminded me of when I picked up a 1st generation iPod Touch when it was first released (before iPhone!) and how intuitively easy it was to become familiar with iOS (1.0?). WP8 seems to lean towards users who don’t really care so much about customization and love intuitive functionality.

It would be PERFECT for an iPhone user who wants a bigger screen using phones such as the Lumia 920 or HTC 8X. I want it to be a huge competitor, but the WP8 app store needs to build up its catalog. And Microsoft, for the love of digital god, please fix Skype. You know you own it, right?

The Bad

With all that cash under its mattress, Microsoft MUST encourage popular app developers to make apps for WP8. I’m sure they’ve been doing just that, but not well enough. I was most disappointed to find (or not find) that Flipboard hasn’t made it to WP8 (yet).

I know this isn’t specifically WP8, but the Skype app is inexcusably bad. Despite Microsoft buying Skype a couple years ago, WP8’s version is by far the worst out of all OS’. Skype itself claims it’s still in beta (preview) for WP8, which is an excuse so people won’t grumble too much when they encounter bugs. But this charade has gone on long enough. There are barely any features, such as switching front and back cameras, to even have bugs. For this, I cast binary shame upon thee, Microsoft.

The Good

I am a great fan of the side-scrolling navigation. You’ll quickly become accustomed to side-scrolling by visual cues and clues.

In some apps, like Shazam, it feels like the phone contains a page or tapestry that is wider than the phone itself. You scroll from left to right so the display focuses on what you want.

Notice the "r" on the right as a visual clue to swipe right to left. Also notice how "Shazam" and the background shifts as you swipe right to left

Notice the seemingly random “r” on the left, it’s a visual clue to swipe right to left. Also notice how “Shazam” and the background shifts as you swipe right to left

The live tiles and the way they occupy the home screen is pretty cool; I didn’t miss wallpapers at all. The tiles display information from the app on the home screen without having to go into it, which is similar to Android’s Widgets. You can adjust tile sizes, rearrange them and change color themes. Even the brown theme looks good on this thing.

For everyday functionality, such as phone, texts, email, calendar, etc, WP8’s native apps are intuitive and work perfectly well. However, only Nokia phones will have their brand of map features (HERE) which are on par with Google Maps. Other WP8 phones are stuck with Bing Maps which is OK, but you’ll find it lags behind Google Maps.

8/10 on a Nokia because of map features

7/10 on other WP8 phones

Who Dunnit? Nokia and the Elusive Lumia 920 Contract

Disappointment. The 920 will be an AT&T exclusive. Everyone who has even vaguely been keeping up with the Lumia 920 madness has been looking forward to its release. No, I don’t care about the 820 or Nokia’s other variants in its 8 series; its screen isn’t large enough.

Various sources state that both AT&T and Verizon are in the 70 million user range, each. I have no idea what percentage of these users were even looking at the Lumia 920 as their next device, but whatever that number is, it is now half of what it could have been before this tragic news. I’m not saying there was a feverish madness over the 920 like there was over the iPhone 5, but that is kind of the point. Why is it being released in the same, antiquated marketing strategy that Apple employed for the first 3 iPhone generations? Whosever’s fault it is (yes, FAULT) that the 920 will be an AT&T exclusive, I cast digital shame upon thee with a hefty dose of binary fire and brimstone. But who’s fault is it? I am in a finger pointing mood.

Only speculation has been published so far as to why the Lumia 920 will only be released on one of the US’ four major wireless networks. Every other blog is as sure as the next that it’s the carriers’ fault. The other thinks it’s Nokia’s or Microsoft’s fault. I am going to take a food chain look at this question.

Top of the Food Chain: Microsoft

I simply don’t know how much MS is at fault here. As far as I can tell, they just make the software and hand it to phone makers. They don’t deal so much with the carriers. BUT, if MS was truly involved and really wanted to see their WP8 baby be born and live a long successful life, they would have more of a say in which carriers should/can have their phones. HOWEVER, MS has shown it genuinely and honestly wants to be a powerful competitor in the smartphone market; WP8 truly does look promising, beautiful and different. Therefore, MS might be as pissed as I am that WP8’s flagship Lumia 920 will be available to less than a quarter of the smartphone market.

Microsoft is the bigger company with a wider variety of products in various forms (hardware, software). They have the least to lose in terms of being able to keep its doors open if WP8 fails. There are various Windows Phone 8 phones out there, such as the ATIV S and HTC 8X (or S, or whatever), so MS isn’t relying so much on a specific phone to get WP8 out there. BUT, it is skating on thin ice, and bad press from associating with third party partners will lower image and trust and therefore, sales. MS literally needs everything to go well and they need to appear like a company that has it together against the iOS and Android behemoths. Yet there is only so much MS can do when it has a three way partnerships with phone makers and network carriers (or lack thereof). MS will be somewhat linked to their misbehaving partners, no matter how irrelevant (920’s PureView camera showcase fiasco) or relevant (920’s exclusivity to AT&T) the issue.

Solution: MS makes their own smart phone, which they are rumored to be making/releasing sooner than we think.

Second in the Food Chain: Verizon

If Verizon is to fault here, BIG BAD BOO ON YOU BIG RED. I know you (Verizon) don’t need it, just like you didn’t need the iPhones for a while. But then you did need the iPhones, didn’t you? Additionally, Apple really would not be where it is today if Verizon et al did not offer the iPhone 4 onwards.

Looking at the past, many people did not think the iPhone would actually take off at all; high profile tech leader Steve Ballmer said it would never catch on (despite his MSness.) In the end, it worked out with the iPhones; it revolutionized our lives and became a huge success and Verizon et al had to get on the band wagon. WP8 and its beautifully different flagship Lumia 920 could follow history and use iPhone marketing tactics, right? This “carrier exclusivity” approach makes me skeptical because Nokia/MS is NOT Apple and they have to work much harder to break into this market. The 920, as cool as it looks, will simply not have the impact the first iPhone had.

Solution: Network carriers stop playing with our emotions.

Third in the Food Chain: Nokia

Nokia is under huge pressure to the extent that if it does not perform this time around, good luck.

If Nokia decided that it would be a great move to restrict the 920 to only the 2nd best wireless network in this vast country, then they absolutely deserve miserable failure, digital shame and binary fire and brimstone. But I don’t think it was entirely you, Nokia. You are desperate, but you’re not a masochist, or are you?

There are times when many of us believe (know) we can do a better job than the person in charge of a particular service. For example, NYC’s subway system could benefit from, say, competence. I am experiencing one of those times when I think of this matter. I refuse to believe that Nokia’s head or marketing does not see that their premium device’s exclusivity to AT&T is a.bad.thing. I am sure there are reasons/groveling excuses, but those reasons don’t put Lumia 920s into as many hands as possible. It just seems illogical for a company that is grasping at twigs to offer its flagship company-saving product to only one network in the US. It’s like a drowning person making only a mild effort to save themselves. So, it looks like Nokia, despite it’s desperation, may have been masochistic in its actions.

On the flip-side, Apple was none the wiser their iPhone would take off as well as Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video. So perhaps Apple’s cautious strategy to test the waters before making the iPhone openly available on most carriers is an appropriate approach that Nokia should take with its Lumia 920. Pffff…

Simple answer to a very complex question: it’s Nokia’s and Verizon’s faults, but AT&T is taking advantage of a desperate Nokia crack head by offering the biggest, juiciest crack rock. After all this attention, love and patience, Nokia spits in our eyes and goes for the crack rock.

Solution: Nokia, stop selling out to AT&T and just offer it to everyone. You know this is your last ditch effort, so why hold back?

Whatever the deal, Nokia and Verizon need to tell us more instead of this “hiding information from the consumer to create hype” BS. Apple’s got that down. Nokia/Verizon does not as we can see from their confused and fumbling marketing and PR.