Category: Cellular

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!!

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

Computer Picks

I represent about an equal number of Windows vs. Mac clients.  A few are iPad or Chromebook only.  I just wanted to say that if you are not absolutely locked in to particular apps on the Mac or you might be turned off by some of Apple’s decisions with the Mac or leery of the upcoming processor transition — you could probably do really well with a solid business class Windows desktop or laptop.   Excluding any possible discounts or outlet purchases, I think you can get a nice system for $800 to $900.  These computers cannot be purchased in stores. I know how to order them and have been doing so for years.   The kind of computers I have in mind are often repairable and upgradable — serviceable is the word I am looking for.  There is a reason why the State, the big hospital systems, and big insurance companies buy these computers by the hundreds (if not thousands) — they stand the test of time.  They’re not buying Macs.  It’s just something to keep in mind.    With that said, I have helped Mac clients switch to Windows and Windows clients switch to Mac.  I am a versatile provider of technology consulting services, with no preconceived notion that one platform is best for all clients. 

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

I am talking about data prioritization with your cell phone plan.  I have touched on this in the past, but I wanted to revisit it.  Did you know that some of you might have prioritized data with your carrier and some of you may not?   There is an order of data — when on a congested tower — where some users will be given preferred access and others may be slowed down or get slowed down to a crawl.   (Prioritization is different than being capped or throttled.   A cap would be — you get 5 GB of total data per month and you are totally cut off after that. A throttle would be — we limit all traffic to 5 mb/s even if you can get a faster speed in theory.  Some plans are throttled to a very slow speed after reaching the cap.)   But what I really wanted to address here is the idea of prioritization.   You might be out and about trying to book a restaurant order or launch the Maps app or even buy some clothing for quick online pickup — then your phone just slows to a crawl.  It’s possible that  you are being deprioritized.   There may be a lot of other users on that tower with priority over you.  There is a good chance that it won’t happen to you.  It might be congestion, however you just might not have the “top banana” priority.   I haven’t heard of it happening a lot locally, but there are definitely parts of the country that are oversaturated on Verizon towers, ATT towers, etc.   They have no choice but to route traffic with a certain order. 

Let me just state a couple examples to help you clear up the confusion.  If you get a monthly bill and you are on an older Verizon / ATT plan and you get like 2 GB of data per month, 4 GB, 8 GB — you are prioritized.    If you have the first tier of Verizon’s new unlimited plans known as Start or Go unlimited – you are always deprioritized.   Again, it may never be a problem for you. I just want you to know.   The next level of Verizon’s unlimited plans tells customers they can be deprioritized after 25 GB of use (which is probably a lot more than most of you would use in a given month).   Prepaid plans are generally always deprioritized, although ATT Prepaid has some exceptions. 

Fax Is Back and T-Mobile Update

Here are a couple of Bonus Features for you today.

Fax Is Back

With one company in particular and actually a couple of parties, I have been doing a lot of faxing lately.  I haven’t had a true home phone with the phone company since 2012.  From 2012-2016, I had a service called VOIPo for my home phone.  Basically I plugged an adapter into my router and then positioned a couple of cordless phones throughout the home.  At some point in my time as a customer, they allowed me to upload scanned documents (or computer created documents) and they would fax them out for me.  In mid-2016, I decided that I didn’t really need the fax perk anymore and changed to a well known internet based home phone called Magic Jack.  As I have shared before, I pay a whopping $40 per year for my home phone and use it for all of 5 minutes a month.  Ultimately, I cannot fax with Magic Jack.  So what did I do?   I signed up with Humble Fax for $10 / month and no long term contract.   This service gave me a local fax number.  It allows me to scan documents to the computer and upload them to my Humble Fax portal.  I can then compose a little cover page and send the fax out.  It’s awesome.  I can also receive faxes and get them delivered to my e-mail. 

Still Rockin’ With T-Mobile

The subject of T-Mobile came up with a client recently and I just wanted to say that I am pleased to report that my wife and I still love them, 14 months later.  They are the best big tech / telecom company I have ever dealt with.  We are on the 2 for $70 / unlimited age 55+ plan.  Only one person on the plan needs to be 55 or older.  Our price includes all taxes and junk fees.  As for the promises delivered on, here are the major ones.  When we ported in from Verizon, they promised to pay off our phones.  We each had a year remaining and about $600 total left on our phone loans.  Within 14 days, I got a virtual Mastercard with the exact payoff amount loaded so that I could pay off Verizon.   My wife is a big fan of the Samsung Galaxy phones and not an iPhone user.  When the Galaxy S20 orders started in February, she was all in.  The prices went up this year and the S20 was $999.  However, it became more palatable when T-Mobile (through some kind of arrangement with Samsung) promised to give my wife $500 for her 2 year old Galaxy S9+.  That phone only has a street value of about $150, approximately.   About 3 weeks after receiving the phone in early March, T-Mobile delivered.  $95 was given to us as a Bill Credit.  $405 was put on a pre-paid Mastercard.  I was then able to take that Mastercard and pay it all on my wife’s phone loan, knocking it down by 40%.  Promises made, promises kept!   If you are interested in that 2 for $70 plan, I can talk with you about it.  It may not be for everyone and if you have the right iPhone (2018 models and later), I think I can set you up with a “bridge the gap” strategy to make this work optimally. 

Older iPhone? The $399 iPhone SE Is For You

It feels like March 2016 again only better.   Apple — overpriced?  An Apple Tax to buy all of those Apple products?  Not right now.  First of all, they came out with a 2020 Mac Book Air a few weeks ago, with the good keyboard and LOWERED the price to $999.  Apple knows that buyers are scared and budgets are constrained.  So what did they do?  They released a $399 iPhone SE on Wednesday, with the SAME CPU inside as the iPhone 11 / Pro.

I am not making this up. It is 100% for real.  In March 2016, they first launched the SE line @ $399. However it was a really small 4.0 inch design based off of the 2013 iPhone 5s.  I bought one that summer and used it as my daily driver for more than 18 months.  The SE is back and better than ever.  The screen is now 4.7 inches.  If you have an iPhone 6, 6s, 7 or 8 — the new SE is the same size and timeless design put out by Apple back in 2014.  Especially if you are still using a 6 (which will not get any more updates), 6s or 7 — this phone purchase is a no brainer.  Do it!   You may just choose to buy it outright or you could do interest free payments with your carrier for $16.66 a month for 24 months.

$699 iPhone 11?   $999 iPhone 11 Pro?  Unless you need to have 2 phone lines on 1 phone or some of the advanced features, you probably don’t need that more expensive phone.   An iPhone SE would suit most of my clients just fine. 

Savings In A Crisis

While many of my clients have incomes that are not necessarily affected by the COVID-19 crisis, investments have been drastically affected.  I know that some of you are still working or are volunteering for organizations that are feeling some serious pressure right now.   There is a natural inclination to want to save on costs.   I have just a couple of ideas for you.   T-Mobile, ATT, and Cricket (a subsidiary of ATT) are all offering plans that are $15 / mo for unlimited talk and text and 2 GB of data.  I would say 70% of my clients use less than this much data in a month.  Sick of paying $200 – $300 a month for a cable bill?  If you are not a big TV watcher (so depressing these days, right?) why not consider going Internet only.  In West Hartford, Go Netspeed is an awesome fiber optic option for $50 / month.   If you can get solid speeds with the phone company (like 25 mbps or greater), you can usually get service for about $50 a month.  Finally, you could go Internet only with a service like Comcast, you can get a plan for about $75 a month (and possibly less with a promo).  If you are going to do Cable internet only, purchase your own modem and save the $15 / mo rental.

Who Builds Our Gadgets?

Technology Built with Slave Labor?

https://apnews.com/3f9a92b8dfd3cae379b57622dd801dd5

I only read this one story by the Associated Press so far and I am looking to confirm this against other sources.  However, if it is really true that gadgets made by Lenovo, Apple and other companies are being made with forced Muslim slave labor — I think we need to change how we shop for technology.  It’s a sickening feeling.  Do we really know what it takes to make our high tech gadgets?   I will report back when I know more.

Expected Delays

There are some products relevant to many of you — such as a low cost iPhone and new Mac Books with the GOOD 2015-style keyboards — that were expected to come out as early as the end of this month.  Given the disruption to the Chinese supply chain, it is now expected that you will have to wait a little bit longer.   If you wanted one of these items, try to hold out a little bit longer.  If your tech goes kaput before then, you will just have to choose from a product currently available. 

Carrier Cell Phone Stores – Shopping Advice

I think I may have shared on this before, but I promised to touch on it again.  There is nothing wrong with shopping at an ATT or Verizon store to buy your new smartphone.  However, if you choose to go this route as opposed to buying online or buying at the Apple store, make sure you buy a couple of accessories from your salesperson.   Some customers will go into the store and be insistent on just buying the phone only.  Also, they may “shop” in store, buy online and then come into the store and expect the salesperson to set up the phone.  I used to think it was no big deal, but then I heard from some real in-store sales staff.  If a customer comes in a store and buys a phone without accessories, the sales rep can get fired for that. It’s a reality. These sales jobs are good middle class jobs.  With this said, I offer you the option of buying your online with me and let me set up your phone for you.  However, I know that you may ultimately want that in-store, hands on experience.  If so, try to make it a sustainable transaction for all parties involved.

WSJ Article–Some Wipes OK for iPhone

I just wanted to send this note out to a few of you whom I thought would be very interested to know.

The source is today’s Wall Street Journal, on WSJ.com.   Apple has reversed course from previous guidance.   Disinfecting wipes, like Clorox are now OK for the iPhone.  Sprays are still bad.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/yes-you-can-clean-your-iphone-with-disinfecting-wipes-11583771102?shareToken=stcee12f3bcf5640f0a15c75750007a253