Beware of Unlimited Cell Phone Plans

If I were to think of my customers’ cellular plans as a whole, I would say most are with Verizon or AT&T.  Coming in 3rd place would be Consumer Cellular and 4th would probably be one of the Tracfone brands.   Verizon and AT&T are increasingly trying to push their customers into Unlimited plans.  I want you to be careful about what you are getting sold.  Verizon and ATT offer multiple levels of Unlimited plans.   Sorry to make this into a comedy sketch — but isn’t Unlimited – Unlimited? What’s going on here? Why do you need 4 plans called Unlimited, Verizon?  Here is the problem, Verizon’s LTE network is very congested in many parts of the country.  It’s getting better, but still jammed.  The same could be said for ATT, but I think it’s not as bad.  To compensate for this, Verizon and ATT have set “deprioritization limits” for their unlimited plans when network congestion occurs.  So you have Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and unlimited use of data.  However, during those times of congestion — you will not be able to access data with the same priority / speed as other prioritized customers.   This means when you really need to search something on Google or send an important e-mail out or other activity that uses data, you may struggle to surf the Internet.  (Keep in mind no part of this discussion applies to use on your home WiFi.) The first level Unlimited plans with Verizon and ATT actually have a 0 deprioritization limit.  This means you are subject to deprioritization at ANY TIME.   You may never be affected by this, but I just want you to know the facts.  If you are a heavy data user and like to watch video on cellular data – I would suggest at least the 2nd tier Unlimited plans.  On the ATT Unlimited Extra plan, the first 50 GB of data is prioritized.  On Verizon’s Play More Unlimited the first 25 GB of data is prioritized.  Better unlimited plans exist with each carrier.  If I needed Unlimited I would start with those plans.  By comparison, T-Mobile’s base level Magenta unlimited plan (including the age 55 and over 2 for $70 plan discount option) comes with a 50 GB deprioritization limit.

The good thing is, many of my clients don’t use that much data.  You are on “metered” data plans giving you 2 GB or 4 GB, etc. of data per month.  If this is you; you are in the fast lane.  These monthly billed, metered data plans from ATT and Verizon are prioritized.  You will have priority over the fake-o Unlimited, always deprioritized plans.

Advice On ATT Yahoo Email Accounts

I’m sending this message out to the group of you that still use e-mail accounts that date back to when ATT (formerly SBC and SNET) was our local phone company.  I have shared the story and these tips before but it doesn’t hurt repeating this advice along with some new information.

The old advice — which is still valid  —

1. When Frontier took over the internet service in Connecticut in 2014, they did not take over the ownership of these e-mail accounts.  I don’t blame Frontier for this.  These accounts which were a partnership between ATT and  Yahoo (and not a very happy relationship right now) are a messy situation, in my opinion.

2. You are still technically a “customer” of ATT and you have an account # though you are not a paying customer.

3.  All customer service pertaining to these accounts needs to be sought out directly from ATT.  There are Contact Us options on ATT.com.  That is the only website you should go to.  I have had several customers — unfortunately — get ripped off for hundreds of $$ each because they trying Googling for support on their SBCGLOBAL, ATT, or SNET e-mail accounts.  It didn’t end well for them and I got called in to clean up the scams.   Most of the ATT support is overseas, but it is real support that you do not have to pay for.

4.  The management of your account — including changing the password or looking up your account # can be found by logging into your account at ATT.com.  Again there you will also find chat support and phone support options.  You just have to be persistent in clicking through the menus. 

5.  As I have shared many times before — you should be in the process of moving beyond this old e-mail account.  It is true that you may have tons of e-mails sorted in a lot of folders in your old ATT Yahoo account.  It could be painful and expensive to move these e-mails to a new account.  It’s ok — no problem.  Leave them with ATT Yahoo.  But you should really start conducting all new e-mail business from a new account.   Google – Gmail,  Outlook.com (the old Microsoft Hotmail), iCloud (especially if you use an iPhone or Mac), Comcast e-mail (if you are now a Comcast customer), or a regular Yahoo.com e-mail account (not tied to ATT) are all better more reliable options.   For a paid consumer level e-mail service — I am a big fan of Fastmail.com.   They charge about $30 a year and do provide support if you need help.  That is another option.  You don’t necessarily have to delete the old ATT Yahoo account but I am telling you to start moving beyond it.

NEW INFO

It has come to my attention that some of my clients are having trouble logging into their ATT Yahoo email through the web browser.  I think this is some type of problem on the back end with ATT and Yahoo. I hope it is resolved soon.   It seems that if you have the Yahoo Mail app installed on iPhone / Android or have the account programmed into the Mail app on iPhone, iPad or Android — that there isn’t a problem.

If you do have an issue logging in with the web browser and you are sure the password is right.  Clear the history in your browser and try to log in again.  Do not choose the option to keep yourself logged in for 2 weeks.  Try not to sign out of your account or close your browser or you will have to sign in again.   If you need a little help clearing your browser history — read here  https://home.bt.com/tech-gadgets/internet/browsers/how-to-delete-web-history-windows-xp-vista-upgrade-browser-stay-safe-internet-explorer-firefox-google-chrome-11363853878507

If you do close your browser — you will have to sign in again and clearing the history first may be required.   Again, I hope this is just a temporary solution.

Regardless, you should be moving beyond the ATT Yahoo account for everyday e-mail.  You are not an ATT customer anymore. They don’t owe you anything.  I would not expect improved reliability in the future.

Warnings and Wisdom for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I thought that there is nothing better I could do for you today than give you some advice for Cyber Monday, as you are snowed in and probably doing some online shopping. I also want to reflect on my Black Friday experience. I’m sure many stores will turn this week into a Cyber Week, so be on the lookout for deals.

Warnings and Wisdom: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I want to give you my thoughts on these shopping holidays as they pertain to the items we care about — computers and items related to personal technology. As one of your favorite tech commentators, I went out on Black Friday to scope out the scene and report back. I will include photographic evidence below to make this a newsletter format, but just in case the five photos do not show up embedded with the text, I will reference them as BlackFriday1 through BlackFriday5 and then you can just click on them as you see fit. Various e-mail apps and programs display photos differently.

Here’s what you need to know at the dawn of Cyber Monday…
-Amazon will have a lot of deals, as will BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Walmart.com, and many other places you regularly shop at (in store and online. ) These deals may last all day or for a few days, but they could expire hourly or within a few hours. Do your homework if needed, but don’t second guess yourself. You may lose out on a great deal.
-Some Black / Cyber sales are junk, old, or otherwise inferior, especially items that seem like serious bargains. That can be totally fine for you. For example, there is nothing wrong with last year’s version of a Dell Optiplex or Latitude computer. Be leery of a product that seems tailor made for the big sale. It may not be what it seems. You may see a lot of unsold “base models” put out there.
-Google for reviews or look on the store itself. Wirecutter is a great review site, as are CNET, iMore, and other well established tech sites. There may be fake reviews on Amazon, but if a product has hundreds or thousands of reviews — they can’t all be fake!
-Be a little skeptical of cell phone carrier’s seemingly massive offers like $300 off a new iPhone either for an existing customer, adding a line or switching companies. These deals almost always entail “bill credits”. So for example, if you get $300 off a new iPhone, this means $12.50 a month for 24 months. It still amounts to $300 but it doesn’t feel like $300 off the phone. Seems like more of a service discount right? If it makes a difference to you, Costco sells phones and service for the major carriers and I’ve heard that they take the discount off the phone up front or send you some type of a prepaid credit card in the mail. That is more of a true deal.

Nerd on the Street Report — here is what I found by going to one of the nation’s largest sellers of electronics — Walmart — on Thanksgiving evening as the Black Friday deals were in full effect. This was not a Super WalMart which may have influenced what I saw, but none the less I was very disappointed with these “doorbuster” items for the most part. I think most of these offers were designed to fleece the sheeple and just get them to buy something.

First, we have a 58 inch ONN brand TV (Picture: BlackFriday1). That seems like a odd size to me. Most TV’s in that range are 55 or 65 inches. What is ONN? I didn’t know. It is a Wal-Mart, in-house brand. It was priced at $198. Wow! Wow! Sadly, this TV looked like it was tailor made for Black Friday. It does not have HDR – high dynamic range. TV’s that you buy nowadays should be 4K and have HDR. I saw plenty of models in the high 200’s – 300 to 400 range that had this important feature. This 58- incher did not turn me ONN.

Next I came across a $28 ONN tablet (BlackFriday2). Seems like WalMart was really promoting their own brands for Black Friday. If your looking for a cheap tablet with basic browsing, e-mailing, and Amazon Kindle book reading capability — get a Kindle Fire. If you want something just a little better, the standard iPad is discounted to $229-249 for Cyber Monday. The $28 tablet was 7 inches, which is pretty small by today’s standards. It did run a nearly pure version of Android 9, but it had a VERY slow processor and on top of this — had a 4 hour advertised battery life. Kids (likely the target customer) will be very disappointed. Guess you will have to go back to sing alongs on those long car rides. Raffi, anyone?

There were some printers that were just screaming BUY ME. A $19 Canon multi-function model caught my eye (BlackFriday3). While it does copy and scan, this model would only be appropriate for very light print volumes. The ink is going to cost a fortune! Keep in mind the rule with ink jet printers — you have to use them or they can go stale. You should be printing SOMETHING at least every 2 weeks. You know I am a fan of Black and White laser printers. WalMart did not disappoint. They had what was advertised as the world’s smallest laser printer for $59, the HP M15a (BlackFriday4). Not bad! Would be good for travelers. This model seems like a WalMart exclusive. It is just a printer. And the ink costs more per page than better laser printers, but if black and white printing is your thing, this model might be OK if you are directly connected to the computer (no WIFI).

Finally, I came across a Roku SE (BlackFriday5) streaming media player. We are all becoming streamers. Whether you use a live TV streaming service like Hulu Live TV or You Tube TV, or just supplement with services like Netflix, regular Hulu and Amazon Prime video — you are part of a growing trend that’s not going away. As I have said before, Roku is one of my favorite players. Not everyone needs to pay $150+ for an Apple TV. I like the Roku over the Amazon Fire devices because who knows when Amazon will get into another fight with Google and block You Tube for a year. The Roku SE is the most inferior of Roku players and does not support 4K TV’s. It is just a re-badged older Roku. I would much rather see you get a Roku Premiere or Roku Streaming Stick + (reg. $40-50), which will support your 4K TV now and in the future.

Apple Reverses Course On Laptops

Comcast E-Mail Scare That Wasn’t

I had a little difficulty communicating with some clients on their Comcast e-mail accounts last week.  Messages were vanishing into thin air and getting routed into Junk folders.  Anyway – I took a little survey on Thursday and send out a Test E-Mail.   Just about everyone wrote back and I know that the messages are flowing freely.  Some of you using a client like Apple Mail or Outlook to fetch mail may have some spam filters that need to be tuned up.  Also please make sure my e-mail address is in your address book.  If ever you are expecting a reply from me — perhaps an appointment confirmation —  and you don’t hear from me — please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by call or text. 

Cellular Plans

I am not a master at drilling and running wires through walls or putting a satellite dish on the roof, but one thing I do know really well is the marketplace of cellular plans available.  If you think it’s just a choice of Verizon, ATT, T-Mobile, and Sprint (the big four)– you are just scratching the surface.  There are dozens and dozens of directly owned prepaid brands and MVNOs.  What is an MVNO?  It stands for mobile virtual network operator.  These are companies that buy minutes, data, and texts in bulk from the aforementioned big four and then resell plans under their own brand.  Perhaps the best known one is Consumer Cellular.  You must have seen their very senior focused ads by now.  They use the ATT and T-Mobile networks.  Some of you are Tracfone customers.  They are another MVNO, which, depending on the phone you buy, could operate on any of the big four.  A few of you are Great Call / Jitterbug customers.  They operate on Verizon.   For the past 6 years, I have had my 91 year old grandma my on a different Verizon MVNO called Page Plus.  She has a simple 500 minute flip phone plan and pays $12 per month.   If you are financing a phone or use a lot of minutes or data, it may be best to stick with the big four.  However, if you own your phone outright and want to explore options — you know who to contact. Me!  The possibilities are almost endless in American cellular.

Apple Reverses Course on Laptops

And now for the big announcement:  Apple (partially) revised its Mac Book Pro lineup for the second time this year and has introduced a 16 inch laptop that completely replaces the 15 inch product line.   AND, the big and…… they have gone back to the 2015 style Mac Book Pro keyboard.   Hooray!  They finally did it.  Without a big apology, they have made their apology.   No longer must you worry about stuck keys and expensive failures.   Remember — on all 2016 to 19 Mac Book Pros and the 2018 – 19 Mac Book Airs, they have given a 4 year extended warranty to everyone on those keyboards.   The fix has arrived — well — we’re halfway home.  That 16 inch Mac Book Pro is $2399, for starters (same as the 15).  Most of my clients did not buy the 15 inch model in the past.  You have 13 inch Pros or Airs.  That new keyboard is coming to the 13 inch models.  Expect all Apple laptops to have the new keyboard anytime between now and mid-2020.  For some reason I think the beginning of Spring sounds about right, but I am open to surprises.   If you need a new MacBook now or by the end of the year, I’ll support you with whatever you need to get.  However, if you can wait — can you wait just a bit longer?  Apple has made things right.

Hulu TV Price Increase

This is a message for my Hulu Live TV clients.

You are a special sub group of my clients that has eschewed traditional pay TV services and are true CORD CUTTERS.

Unfortunately, as more people subscribe to Live TV replacement services (like You Tube TV and Hulu Live TV) and the field shrinks (Sony VUE is going out of business) — pricing is going to go up.  It would not surprise me if Comcast and other cable providers and ATT (which owns DirecTV)  are doing some kind of back room manipulation to make channels charge more to You Tube TV and Hulu Live TV.

You Tube TV now charges $50 a month and they admitted that even at that price they are making about $1 a month per subscriber.  Google can bear this break even model because they are Google and I think they want to be a disruptive force.   As of Dec. 18th, Hulu Live TV is going up to $55 a month.  It is what it is.  Remember there are no long term contracts.

Keep in mind that your Hulu Live TV subscription also includes original shows produced by Hulu — like Handmaid’s Tale and tons of movies / TV shows ” on Demand”, basically their equivalent of Netflix.  So you are truly getting traditional Hulu + Live TV.  Be sure to check out all of that content you are entitled to.

Since there are no contracts — you could always switch to or check out You Tube TV. Or you may want to forgo the Live TV part all together and just subscribe to streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV +, Hulu, or Disney +.   You may want one or a couple of those services.

However you want to stream — I will be there to help you.