Category: Cellular

Big Revelation About Cellular Service

Last week, I gave you a big revelation about Microsoft Word.

This week, I might tell you something pretty interesting (or even disappointing) about cellular service. 

Verizon has just decided to raise the price of legacy plans by at least $12 per month.  Some years back they raised the price by about $20 for those hanging on to the pre-2012 $29 unlimited data plans.   They are also making notable changes right now to their Visible plans.  Visible is one of their brands.   I’m not trying to pick on Verizon here.    ATT and T-Mobile have done similar things over the years.    New features are rolling out and only customers on board with the new plans can get them.   At times, you may not be able to get discounted or “free” phones without newer plans.

The bottom line is they want greater ARPU (average revenue per user).   This is how they are evaluated by the financial world.  So here is the big reveal — when the “no service contract revolution” was ushered in by former T-Mobile CEO John Legere around 7+ years ago, all the carriers followed suit.

While you may have a phone financing deal, you do not have a contract FOR SERVICE.   That goes both ways. Yup!  You are not bound to stay with them for service.   But also — THEY ARE NOT BOUND TO YOU!!

If you are on a plan they no longer offer, they can boot you off of that plan, raise the price or restrict features.   They don’t owe you anything.   Many times, customers are allowed to stay on grandfathered plans but that is not always the case.    There is no right to stay on an outdated plan where everything stays the same always.   It’s a myth.

I will repeat advice previously given.   Buy your phones directly and paid in full if you truly can.  If you need to finance them — finance through Apple, Samsung, or Google.  You will get an unlocked phone.  This way you are not bound by a phone financing deal with the carrier — having a locked phone.  (One exception may be Verizon as they only lock phones for 60 days.  ATT and T-Mobile will lock your phone for the duration of the agreement or until paid off).    By having an unlocked phone – you are free to change carriers when things go wrong.

If you don’t regularly travel outside the country — consider a pre-paid or MVNO plan.  There are terrific deals out there — like an ATT Prepaid plan for $30 a month or Xfinity Mobile and others.  I know all about those “alternative” cell phone plans.  In fact, I wrote a guide for customers in 2010 about them.  Perhaps it’s time for an update.

7 Technology Tips For August

1.  Only buy computers with SSDs (solid state drives).  It’s pretty rare to find a computer without a SSD these days.  All Mac Books have had them since 2012, but not all Mac desktops since 2020.  One of my clients is painfully aware of this.  Sometimes, at the cheaper end of computing, they are still sold with a traditional hard drive.  However, as you can see from the example above, cheap doesn’t have to mean slow.  In the larger sizes like 512 GB or 1 TB — the cost will go up but your stress will go down.  SSD or nothing.

2. The iPhone SE is a good choice for someone who needs Facetime and iMessage but does not want to spend $800 to $100 on an iPhone 13 series model.  Of course, the 13 is better.  Of course, the battery lasts longer.  However, if $429 seems like the most you would pay for a smartphone – the iPhone SE is a solid choice. 

3. The New M2 Mac Book Air – base model 256 GB  – now selling for $1199 has not been well received.  It’s not a keyboard issue or a design issue.  On that particular model, the hard drive is actually slower than the 2020 M1 Mac Book Air.  So — you have to go big or be unhappy here.  Bite the bullet and get the 512 GB M2 Mac Book Air.   It is $1499.   The 2020 M1 model is still sold and may be a good option.  Keep in mind that as it is approaching 2 years old — that may well mean 2 years less of updates than the M2. 

4.  Windows — Windows 10 / 11 does a pretty good job of updating automatically.  However, are you keeping your drivers up to day?   This is the software for your video card, sound card, WiFi.  I went through a trying exercise with a client who could not get WiFi on a 6 year old Dell Desktop.  Once, I downloaded the proper driver from Dell (onto an Android phone — then beamed to the computer, the WiFi worked.   The client had no idea that the manufacturer’s drivers had to be updated separately.  This is not an issue with Macs. 

5.  Don’t be married to your cell phone provider.  Just because Verizon was the best in 2005 (and it really was!!) doesn’t mean it is the best today.  The same could be said for ATT or even T-Mobile.  Be nimble.  Towers are changing.  Verizon has been shutting down towers and building new ones.  ATT has been shutting down towers and doing the same and so has T-Mobile.  You may have thought your coverage was perfect at your home or at your office or XYZ spot that you always go to.   It might change in 2022.  Be nimble means, don’t lock yourself into these long term financing deals on phones where you are stuck with a carrier.  Buy your phone outright or if you need payments — possibly think of the Apple Card — that allows you to finance your iPhone in 24 interest free installments.  Then you can move from carrier to carrier without being tied down by the old ball and chain (a phone contract).

6.   If I wasn’t an iPhone user — which phone would I use?  I would want a pure Android experience with nothing added on.  Today, I would choose a Google Pixel 6A which was just released.  https://store.google.com/us/product/pixel_6a?hl=en-US

If I wanted a more upscale experience (like iPhone 13 quality) I would wait for the Pixel 7 which should be released by the fall.

7.  Naming Files —  I have had some instances over the years when I copied my files between different disks on various computers and the dates of the file or folder would change.  This was very annoying.  So I am now in the habit of putting the dates in my file names.   I do a lot of Print to PDF in my internet browser when saving things from my internet browser.    So if I saved a file on July 27th, I will put  “20220727” in the file name.   In some folder, I put the date first in the file name.  This way I know I can sort the files alphabetically but they will also be sorted by date in effect, even if the official date on the file changes. 

Read Before Buying A Cell Phone

Read Before Buying A Cell Phone

I’ve been collecting quite a number of stories from clients on poor or questionable experiences at cell phone stores.  I do help clients get set up with new cell phones and yes I  charge normal service rates.  However, I provide a level of competence and honesty that is seldom seen out at those retail stores.  Setting up a smartphone can be like setting up a computer if there is a lot of data involved.    Recently, I’ve had clients tell me…

– plans have been changed

– they were stuck with a more expensive plan

– they were not told a more expensive plan was required to get a free / discounted phone

– discounted phone was not clearly explained in the form of monthly “bill credits” not a straight discount at the time of purchase

– not told that they would have to keep service for 2 (or now even 3) years to get  these monthly credits for your phone discount

I know just about all of the schemes these cellular stores and ultimately their managers can dish out to you through sales staff.   To some extent, I don’t like criticizing these stores.  For the sales people that work there and succeed, this is a place where they can actually make a respectable middle class living.  However, management is getting increasingly unreasonable with their demands.  Customers are being told they need “insurance” or other features added to their accounts.  They are being forced to buy worthless tablets (not even good ones like iPads) and car navigation devices.  When the customers actually figure out what hit them, it’s nasty, like sour milk in the mouth.

However — I  respect that you may want to try to go it alone in cell phone shopping.  A couple of places where I have had decent experiences shopping for phones are

-Apple Store:  for iPhones, obviously.  You can sign up for carrier financing at the Apple Store.

-Verizon Store (Bishops Corner – West Hartford and other locations, operated by Wireless Zone):  They are a step above other Verizon stores I’ve dealt with.  If you actually have them set up your phone — they charge a $40 setup fee — but I’ve seen them spend an hour with customers.

-Xfinity Store:  Obviously you would be signing up for Xfinity Mobile  and have at least their internet service at home.  However, they sell discounted plans and their service utilizes Verizon towers.  There is not a lot they can do to cheat you. 

At this time, I do not have any great AT+T or T-Mobile stores to recommend. If you know of some — let me know.

What I use — I have had the same 2 carriers on my iPhone for 2+ years.  My personal line is with T-Mobile ($70 a month for 2 lines. ).   My business line is with ATT Prepaid ($30 a month, unlimited talk and text, 5 GB of data).   I never try to oversell T-Mobile to my customers even though the price is great for an Unlimited data plan.  There are some areas where Verizon and ATT have better coverage, but the price is hard to beat.  Having ATT as that 2nd line on my iPhone gives me confidence to stick with T-Mobile on Line 1. 

TMobile Improves Customer Security

https://tmo.report/2022/03/exclusive-t-mobile-adding-number-transfer-pin-for-port-outs/

According to the article — they will be implementing the NUMBER TRANSFER PIN  (NTP) soon.   This will require one to go onto the T-Mobile website or app to obtain a PIN number to transfer their number to another carrier.  Bravo!!!

There has been so much number transfer fraud — especially with this company.  It’s about time.

Lets Get Down To Business

Starting Light — Beverage Pick Of The Week

I probably have 2 alcoholic drinks a year, so my beverage pick is going to be something else.  Diet soda can be taboo, but some people just prefer it or can’t handle a regular cola.  I don’t drink a lot of soda, but I am a big fan of Polar beverages based in Worcester.  I just happened to see a liter of their Diet Cherry Soda at the grocery store.  I’m so glad I took a chance.  Its the best tasting soda I’ve ever had.  Moxie would be #2 for me. 

Tech Tips You Can Use

I think it’s a great idea to Restart or Shut Down your computer every week or at least every two weeks.   Macs and Windows PCs can be restarted.  iPhones and iPads must be Shut Down, by either going to Settings >> General >> Shut Down or by pressing the the correct buttons (hope I’ve shown you this already).   Some Android phones have a Restart feature, some will also need to be shut down.  The shut down should just be temporary.   I do not believe in shutting down the computer every night.  Repeated on and offs will shorten its life.  Just let your computer go to sleep.  This way it will get its updates.


Deal of the Day (and in General)

Fifty dollars off on a Mac computer is a deal, even in these times, but the $699 Mac Mini is priced to sell from the get go.  This model has the 256 GB SSD hard drive  and is really targeted to those  users who are doing email, shopping, browsing, and banking with small collections of photos and music (not tons of files).  Amazon often has this model for $650 which is great but while supplies last they are selling it for an amazing $570.  A steal!   Keep in mind with the Mac Mini you provide your own keyboard mouse and monitor and speakers but you can buy these economically.  Apple brand is not required.  Under $1000 for a Mac desktop all in sounds like a winner to me.  Amazon link https://amzn.to/3sxYvxs

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You

Well — it should be a live streaming event and not a theater, but I expect Apple to release a new iPhone SE as soon as this month.  It is expected to feature 5G radios for the first time.   With ATT, Verizon, and T-Mobile operating only on 4G and 5G signals by the end of the year – I’ll be curious to see if Apple can include 5G for the past $399 price.  Anyway, the SE is the winner winner chicken dinner of the low cost iPhone options.  Get the 13 if you need the better cameras, but the the SE is still a fine phone. 

Song of the Week

On this back to business theme, how could I not close with a song with the chorus line of “let’s get down to business.”   Put on your dancing shoes, get up and move.  Here is a techno song from your tech guy.  “The Business” by Tiesto. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PO_d169ibZ8

T-Mobile Update 01-2022

I wanted to share this sad report that I found online from a former T-Mobile employee. I think it goes to show how the company went downhill over the past two years. I became a T-Mobile customer in 2019 with my wife because of one guy, he was the CEO named John Legere. he was a wild man at the helm with a singular vision. He did change the cellular industry. And on two promotions within my first year as a customer they did, they did literally give me $650 for joining as a customer and then subsequently $500 on my wife’s new Samsung galaxy S 20 phone. John Legere left the company after the sprint merger closed in the summer of 2020. The only thing stopping me from leaving the company now is the amazing deal that we’re getting because my wife is over 55. We get two lines with taxes included for $70 and that includes 50 GB of prioritized data (even though it’s advertised as unlimited data, I’m just telling you the facts. it’s plenty for us.) if I were to switch to Verizon or AT&T with a comparable plan we would be looking at about $140 a month. That $70 a month savings matters to me. However if it were based on principle I would’ve left already.—-


here is one employee‘s account. You can take it for what it’s worth but I think it’s a good testimony of a breakdown of a company that was widely admired 2 to 3 years ago. Feel free to share this email with other people you know that have T-Mobile.

Ref. https://reddit.com/r/tmobile/comments/s4mnic/another_farewell_post_bye_to_my_customers_and/
After a full year of seeing the company crash and burn, I brought my equipment in and dropped it off last night, I have officially quit.
The whys:
My mental health had gone down due to the toxic work culture. I had considered suicide numerous times this year and came extremely close to going through with it but a certain employee (I am sure you know who you are) pointed me to treatment and I am doing better. I know that my life is worth a lot more than this job and want to see my family grow old. If you are struggling with your mental health, please talk to a friend or counselor or call 800-273-8255, it’s not worth it.
Internal misconduct is at an all-time high. I am not going to go too in detail but I suspect some serious lawsuits are building up right now.
Management at T-Mobile has completely given up. (Especially upper management).
The fraud and high-pressure sales culture – Those extra lines, that insurance, those extra phone cases that keep getting added to your bills after you said you didn’t want it, that’s not an accident, those are all things that the activation specialist gets a bonus off. Management doesn’t care, know why? Because they get a kickback and get profit and loss team benefits regardless of how or why something was added to your bill.
Like many other people, I am sick of the outsourcing culture, it has become extremely toxic, I used to stick up for these outsourced reps, but they have dug such a hole lately with all the lies and screwing customers over that I am officially over it.

Update On T-Mobile Breach

Here is the most updated info from T-Mobile

https://www.t-mobile.com/brand/data-breach-2021

It turns out 47.8 million customers were affected (which is about 1/2 their US customer base).  It breaks down to 8 million cellular accounts and 40 million prospective customers that applied for credit.  Keep in mind credit was pulled in the past whenever new customers signed up or financed a phone.  (T-Mobile and Sprint now are one company.  I don’t know how many of these records pertain to old Sprint customers or if they are pre-merger T-Mobile accounts).    T-Mobile CLAIMS that no financial data, like Social Security #’s were accessed. 

Here is what they are doing however.  They are going to offer two years of ID theft protection through McAfee.   I’m going to skip that.  McAfee hasn’t done anything good for computer security since the 1990s.  The late, great company founder John McAfee despised what his old company had become before his death.  You can sign up for it if you wish, but I would prefer that  you obtain all of your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com, then sign up for a credit freezes or at the very least fraud alerts.

Secondly — here is something you can take action on today.  T-Mobile is asking you to change your account PIN.  This is also known as a billing passcode.  You can do it online or you can call 611 from your phone and talk to customer service.  If that billing passcode is in the wrong hands — someone can port your number out — steal it and take it to a different company. 

T-Mobile Data Breach

I don’t know all of my clients that have T-Mobile so I am going to make a general announcement in the weekly newsletter later.  However, I know you have T-Mobile.

Per reports I read in multiple sources like this Bloomberg article….

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/t-mobile-investigating-claims-of-data-breach-on-online-forum/ar-AANlDJU

TMobile’s entire customer database has been breached by hackers!! 100 million people.  The data discovered included full names, social security numbers and driver’s license numbers.    This is disgusting.  This information should have been stored in an encrypted fashion. 

My Thoughts

– I don’t think I’m going to leave T-Mobile tomorrow.   This could have happened to Verizon or AT&T as well, in theory.   They could have better security, but I don’t know.

– I don’t apply for credit all the time, so more often than not, I keep my credit reports frozen.  No one can open up accounts with the freeze in place.   If you do have your credit run often, you may want to consider a FRAUD ALERT instead, which will require your permission before lines of credit are opened.

– I assume T-Mobile will be providing its customers with a couple of years of some credit monitoring service.  That may be worth using, but keep in mind that during this pandemic annualcreditreport.com is offering all 3 credit reports free on a weekly basis.  https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action  — this website is the only one authorized by the federal government for obtaining free credit reports.   (The one on TV with that hideous jingle is NOT the same website.)

Websites for setting up credit freezes

https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze

https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

T-Mobile 23 Months and Counting

It was right around this time in 2019 when my wife and I moved our personal cell phone lines to T-Mobile.  I wanted to give you an update as to how it is going nearly 2 years later.  The summary version is — we have no regrets.  I will explain some potential pitfalls, however.  As you know I have never tried to oversell T-Mobile to clients.  I’ve always said — the choice is yours.  When we first signed up with them, we got in on their standard 2 line plan — $120 / mo — no taxes.  This was a small savings over Verizon (which would have been $150 per month plus tax). The other key factor was that their international plan was $5 / day vs. $10 / day for “Big Red.”    T-Mobile paid off our phones as well.  I have shared all of this before.   A few months into the whole deal, we realized that we could sign up for their Magenta 55 plan by putting my wife’s name on the account (she is over 55 y.o.). At that point it became a steal — 2 unlimited lines for $70 and no taxes.  I do think there have been situations where Verizon or ATT would have had better cellular internet, but I don’t think it’s 2x the price better. 

I can’t say that there have been few instances where T-Mobile calling was lacking.  In October 2019, I made a trip out to the airport via the local roads.  There was a cellular dead zone at the state border for about a mile.  I remember on the way back I made a phone call while I was traveling for about 25 minutes on a state road through rural and sparsely populated areas.  There were no issues.  There have been numerous instances such as on side streets, in large big box stores, or other random areas when my cellular internet seemed slow.  I may not have been able to do a Google search, check or send email, or download a podcast — which is something I do regularly.  These are typically just momentary inconveniences. 

The 2018 and later iPhone models allow for a second phone line.  On my iPhone 11, I also have my business line.  I have made sure to have it set up with a provider that is not T-Mobile.  This way I have the best of both worlds.  Trouble calling with T-Mobile?  No problem, call with the other line.  Trouble accessing cellular internet on T-Mobile?  I just switch the cellular data to my other line in the Settings.  I rarely have to do this, but I am glad I have the second line a backup.

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

5G – Here And Getting Closer

I outlined some basics on the new 5G towers a few weeks ago, but I wanted to simplify and add to it as well.  Basically there are two 5G technologies being deployed in this country at the moment, sub-6 and mmWave.  T-Mobile and ATT are going mostly with the sub-6, which will reach more people.  Verizon is going with mmWave, which is even faster but restricted to specific spots like stadiums, stations, or a place like Times Square.  Consequently, Verizon is way behind.  Ultimately, all of these carriers will deploy a mix of both types of 5G towers.  If you are due for a new phone, I am going to give you my opinion as to when 5G should mean something to you.  This does not mean give up on your carrier or that your carrier is bad or that you need to throw out your 6 month old phone to get a 5G phone.  I’ve uttered no such words.   I got a real life test of 5G on the T-Mobile network in Boston last week.   My wife’s 5G Samsung clocked in at double the speed of my iPhone 11.   Therefore, if you are a T-Mobile customer — I would say the time to buy a 5G phone (again if you are phone shopping) would be as soon as these iPhone 12 models come out.  Then you will have a mix of low end phones like the Revvl 5G, or the Samsungs, and the iPhones to choose from — all with 5G.   ATT is at the middle of the pack.  Their 5G is not as widely deployed as T-Mobiles, but they are getting there.  If you still want to save some money by buying that iPhone SE, go for it.  But by 2021, early next year, I think you should definitely be considering a 5G phone if you are phone shopping.   With Verizon, on the other hand, I think there is no rush to get a 5G phone — probably until the 2nd half of next year.  Ultimately, two years from now, Verizon may end up having the best 5G network.  Slow and steady wins the race?  We hope or they hope!  Rumor has it that only the super expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max model will even be able to communicate with Verizon’s mmWave towers.  The other 3 models coming out this fall will not.  If I were a Verizon customer, 5G wouldn’t even be a part of my thought process yet.  (And yes, you can still buy any of the other iPhone 12 models to use with Verizon’s existing network.)

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

Fall is the busy season in my business and in the world of personal technology.  We will see new iPhones before the end of October, perhaps in two separate launches for the 4 models expected to be released.  New Apple Watches as well as iPads (possibly) will be coming out next week from Apple.   There will be brand new computers from Microsoft, including a reported “moderately priced” Surface laptop.  Wait there’s more!   Apple is coming out with a brand new macOS 11 which is supposed to be the biggest deal for the Mac in 20 years since OS X came out.  Finally, ioS 14 / iPad OS 14 will be here quite soon. Let’s make sure you have a backup first.  And for my students in the back of the class, if you have a 5+ year old Verizon flip phone (iPhone 5s or 5c too), it’s time to get a new one.  Verizon is retiring its old calling network on 12/31/2020.  Your old phone will be a paperweight.  What a season we can have together — I’m looking forward to being there for you, every step of the way!  Now you know why I get excited about the fall!!