New Year – New You
What would you like to improve in your technology picture this year? How can I help you get more out of your devices and services? What would you like to learn? Some areas that clients have mentioned to me already include:
-Using a password manager (finally)
-Breaking free of cable TV
-Learning how to use streaming video services (ie. Netflix + Amazon Prime)
-Upgrading the 4 or 5 year old iPhone / iPad to a newer model
-Upgrading to a new Mac now that Apple has released new consumer level models for the first time in years
Please let me know how I can partner with you on this journey. I am ready and willing to be deployed.
Cord Cutting Intro – Wrap Up
We had some substantial discussions about cord cutting over the past two weeks as a result of my Parts 1 and 2 e-mails on this topic. Don’t hesitate to ask me about your situation. I think the cord cutting movement will experience major growth in 2019. One of our local talk radio shows, which usually has a political focus, devoted 3 hours to the idea of breaking free from these $200+ bills last week. The bottom line is, I think it is possible to get down to an Internet + cord cutting TV service combination for about $110 a month (approx $70 + $40). As for home phone — you may choose to go without, you can move it to a service like Magic Jack (as I have done $40 / year), or even move that number to the phone company. And just remember, if you are not ready to be a cord cutter yet — you can always be a streamer. Trying to drive a hard bargain and cutting features to save money on your existing cable package is another option. Contact me for a cord cutting assessment.
And on to this week’s feature —
The Ethics of Cell Phone Buying
You can buy your new smart phone from the Apple Store. You could go direct through Android device manufacturers like One Plus, Google, or Motorola. Buying an unlocked phone on Amazon may be an option too. Best Buy sells a handful of unlocked phones and also ones connected with carriers like Verizon and ATT. However, a significant percentage of customers (my clients included) go to one of their carrier’s stores. If you might want to change your plan or take advantage of carrier specific promotions, shopping at an ATT Store, Verizon store, or T Mobile store may be the way to go. I’m not telling you that you should or shouldn’t. One thing I can say in their favor is that the salesperson jobs there are career positions. These are not traditional retail (ie. Apple) or big box store jobs that pay at a level where the worker needs to work 2 or 3 jobs to possibly survive in the community where the store is located. The sales professionals in carrier stores are commissioned. You may have never known this, but if you purchase your phone there the salesperson will not make much of a commission unless you buy a few accessories with your phone. It seems weird to me, because the acquisition of a customer who will pay bills month after month has to have value to the company. However, this is the way compensation works. Very often, we do purchase accessories with our new phones. A case, car charger, and screen protector can be very helpful add-ons. On the other hand, you may be like me. You might be the type to buy your phone accessories from Amazon that they don’t have in carrier stores. That’s ok too. All I am saying is that this is food for thought. If you shop for phones in your carrier’s store, it is a good idea to consider buying your accessories there. You won’t have to wait for them either.
Still Falling for Tech Support Scams
I think I do an exceptional job at educating my clients about consumer issues as they relate to technology. It still blows my mind that some of my clients continue to fall for “tech support scams.” Some of these scams may be outright fraud — money for the taking with no intention of services ever being provided or the intentional infection of the computer and subsequent (hallelujah) we’ve fixed your computer ma’am. Others may employ unethical business practices, actually coming to you through a pop-up ad or a phone call with the intention of providing tech support services. They will typically imply that you have a corrupted computer and they can fix it. You may be asked to pay a one time charge of $300 for the incident or be offered a “deal” of $800 or more for “lifetime” support. I am calling scam on both types of schemes. They could ask to get paid by credit card, but their favorite method is the CHECKING ACCOUNT NUMBER. Do you know that anyone with even limited technology / payment processing skills can run an ACH on you as long as they have your routing number and checking account number found at the bottom of your check. This is really scary. A recent customer was told by a scammer to put their filled out check on the scanner and let them remotely scan it for payment purposes. Before I even helped her, I had her go to her bank and close the account. In the future, this is how I will handle it. We can always take care of the computer later, you must take care of your identity first. In this most recent example in my consultancy, the tech support scam incident was likely triggered by a malicious pop up ad telling them that their computer was out of date and in trouble.
If you really want to block ads from even getting a breath of internet on your computer – let me know. Most of you have browser based ad blockers. I am not talking about that. I have something better in mind, on a per computer basis, that prevents the ad servers from seeing the light of day.
Microsoft or Apple or Google are not going to mysteriously pop up on your computer with a phone number (or call you) telling you that you have a problem and that you need support.
^^^ Please copy this sentence to your memory. Read it several times. Then, copy it and paste it into Word or your word processing program. Make the print really big! Print it out. Tape it to your wall or your desk. This is a $1000 tip offered completely FREE! Merry Christmas!
A Note on Saving on Services
Numerous clients have contacted me since last week’s update about saving money on home telecommunications services. With some I have been able to help save on services – in a big league way – and in one case I was not. I don’t think I oversold this idea. If you shoot me a private e-mail, I would be glad to let you look over my Comcast bill and see that I pay $112.xx indeed for TV + a very fast internet package, with three TV’s and owning my own Internet equipment. I have been asked about saving money on the cable modem, which runs about $11 / mo. A good one — Arris or Netgear brand — will cost you $100 and easily last 3 years, short of “Acts of God”, etc. The math works in your favor. However, if you have phone service from Comcast, you will have to pay about the same $11 a month for a combined modem / router device. These cost more than a standalone modem in the store — and may not be worth it to buy outright. The reason why I have always advocated for a separate cable modem (rented or not) and router (owned by you) – is because it is SUPERIOR ON TECHNICAL MERITS. It’s not a matter of cost. And since I have been asked this recently — well Mr. Computer — do you use a separate cable modem and router? Yes I do. I have a Netgear modem and a Synology router.
With that out of the way, there are basically three ways that you are going to save in the BATTLE FOR COST CUTTING — 1) hoping you qualify for a package discount on like services because its been a while (and by that I mean like a year or two) since you qualified for such a promotion, 2) MAKING SACRIFICES, or 3) Cutting down to Internet only and then subscribing to a service like Hulu Live TV at $40 which will give you most of the channels you want. If you insist on the “24 hour cattle ranching channel” (or pick your niche channel) that is the highest cable tier, I don’t know how successful you will be at cost savings. I could easily be paying $200+ a month. I got it to where it is, consistently, by making sacrifices. If you want to save, please let me know your circumstances. We should look at the cell phone bill also!
Most “Mac-like” Windows Laptops
I had this conversation with a client lately. We were trying to come up with Windows based alternatives to the Mac Book Air. While there may be others worth of mention, here is my list, in no particular order.
Microsoft Surface 2 Laptop (currently available at a bargain holiday price)
And if you want an alternative to the $2700 15 inch Mac Book Pro, check out the Dell XPS 15 ($1500-ish models are worthy alternatives).
Saving on Services
For a couple of years, I’ve told you that it is possible to save big on your home communications package (ie. with the cable company) if you know how to do it. If you just have one service with them or signed a new agreement 2 months ago — there is not much hope I can offer you at the moment. However, I have been at peace with my cable company (Comcast) since 2014 by making some sacrifices and making 2 year agreements. The package I have with Comcast is called Internet Pro Plus. I get a very fast Internet package, digital economy TV (which includes all local channels, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, CNBC, Bloomberg, A+E, USA, History channel, Food Network, and others), plus HBO. My TV package does not include regional sports networks, ESPN or Fox Sports. Home phone does not matter in my household, although we do pay for that with a separate provider at $40 per year (WOW!!!). I do not pay a modem rental fee with Comcast. I have my own modem and router. With 3 TV’s, I pay a total, including taxes of $112.xx per month. If only 1 or 2 TV’s were involved, the price would be less. If your bill makes smoke come out of your ears, there may be something you can do about it.
I have a real client example of serious savings. I recently met with a client who was receiving TV, phone, and Internet from Cox (generally a fine company in my opinion). However, their bill almost made me fall over. It was about $323 a month. Unbelievable!! That’s a car payment. While my best success has always been negotiating with Comcast, I suggest we give it a try. I was able to get them savings of $36 per month. That comes out to about $432 per year. They were thrilled.
If you think I may be able to help you in this area, let me know about your current package.
Apple in the News
I just wanted to touch on this briefly because there has been a lot of negative financial news lately. Some of you have probably taken a hit ($$) with AAPL. Financial reports and consumer reality don’t always match. There is nothing substandard about Apple’s latest products. Their quality is among the best on the market. A certain segment of the population is upset because Apple is not going to report unit sales of iPhones anymore. It also seems like the starting prices of iPhones, iPad Pros, Mac Minis, Mac Book Airs, and even Mac Book Pros are going up. Sell less at higher prices and you still do as well on the bottom line may have been their thinking. Multiple reports have said that Apple has cut orders for the iPhone X product line. I saw one source that stated that iPhone 8 orders were being increased. Could there be a rebellion against removing the home button? A desire for a sub $600 premium phone (not $750 or $999)? Weakness in China and India? All of these could be true. However, my clients who have iPhone X models love them. They got used to the slightly different user experience in days or within one day. They certainly appreciate the camera. I’ll end on this note — If you stack the Mac Mini against a premium Windows desktop like the Dell XPS – it is priced appropriately for its features. The Mac Book Air 2018 is also a pound for pound match with its closest Windows contenders in the ring — the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
I saw some amazing deals on Black Friday at Best Buy on Thursday night. There were 50 inch Samsung and LG 4K HDR TVs for $327. 55 inch models were $397. These were not top of the line models, but when paired with a soundbar (a must for most new TVs), they represented an awesome value. Best Buy also had Microsoft’s premium Surface Pro 6 tablet computer with a keyboard for $799 or $999 depending on hard drive size. The popular Instant Pot 6 quart slow cooker extraordinaire was priced at $60-$70 by multiple outlets. Macy’s had Martha Stewart bedding priced at 65% off. Lord and Taylor offered some low cost but very stylish ladies handbags at 60% off. In some cases, but not always, orders could be placed online to avoid the retail experience. Now that Cyber Monday is upon us here are some deals of note:
Amazon Fire Stick (watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on your TV) – $25
Amazon Echo Dot (small “Hey Alexa” speaker) 3rd generation + Ring Video Doorbell – $139
50 inch Westinghouse TV 4K with HDR – $199
Amazon Fire HD8 tablet – $50
(Items found on Amazon.com or BestBuy.com)
I am sure you can find many more great deals on these and other websites throughout the day on Monday.
Always Black Friday at Stub Hub
I had the joy of going to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert this weekend. I have never been to a major rock or metal show in my life, although I have seen Jimmy Buffet on multiple occasions. All I can say is WOW! They left it all on the stage and performed for 2.5 hours. The best part of the experience was that I saved 2/3 off the regular price using StubHub.com. It is a very reputable site (and app) where ticket holders go to sell their unneeded tickets. I’ve used this service in the past with much success. The key to big savings is, have a desire to attend an event but also be OK with not going, be in close proximity, and make a decision at the last minute. We were less than 1 hour from the site of the show and we purchased our tickets with 2 hours to go. The regular price for two tickets would have been $180 and we paid $60.08, including fees.