Category: Cellular

Making Sense of New Devices

3 Premium iPhones for 2018 – Understanding the Distinctions
I wrote my 9/12 update to you within 30 minutes of watching Apple’s live event last week.  I realize it was a lot of information, but I wanted to cover it like a true techno journalist as if I were there.  I also tried to include only the deals that were relevant to my client base — typically the age 60+ crowd.
The first thing I want to make clear is that the less expensive XR (10 R) iPhone is by no means a “bastard child” of the 2018 iPhone offerings.   It is a premium phone being offered at $749 with 64 gigabytes of storage.   The XR is the phone that Apple expects to sell the most of this year.  To meet that demand, ordering has been delayed until October 19 so supply can be ramped up.  The two premium priced models — the Xs and Xs Max are being sold starting $999 and $1099 respectively.  They are available now.  The major differences between the XR line and the Xs line are that the Xs models have two cameras which aid in portrait photography and a higher quality screen.   For my typical client, I don’t think these features are tipping point to justify the higher price.  However, as you will read below, other factors come into play.    For most American iPhone users, my clients included, the iPhone is purchased on a 24 month, interest free installment plan with the cell phone carrier.  The cost of the phone is simply added to the bill.  In some cases, the cost of the actual service is slightly less than it was 5+ years ago.  Typical pricing on the 64 GB models would be about $31 / mo on the XR, $41 / mo on the Xs, and $45 / mo on the Xs Max.   These devices are truly computers in your pocket and priced like them, for sure.
Real Life Ordering Decision – Size Matters
I was with a client yesterday who upgraded his 2016 iPhone 7.  The cameras and screen quality were not deciding factors in his choice of the Xs over the XR.  The price difference, though $10 a month, was not seen as unbearable.   Size was the key issue.   The Xs with the screen stretched to the edges is closest in size to his iPhone 7 (6, 6s, and 8 as well).  The iPhone XR would be slightly larger.   The iPhone Xs Max is very close in size to the previous Plus iPhones (6 – 8 Plus).  My client told me — I don’t want to go bigger.  So, the Xs was ordered on a carrier financing plan and should be arriving by the weekend.
If you are of an Android persuasion, keep in mind that Google’s own phone, the Pixel will be getting a refresh in early October.  I certainly think it is the best Android in terms of promised regular updates to the software.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones are also terrific.  Motorola G6 Plus is superb for a budget phone that can be purchased for around $230.  The One Plus 6 is a solid choice, competing with the best of Samsung at a lower price (but does not work on Verizon).
iOS 12 was released on 9/17.  It is a brand new version of Apple’s mobile device software.  Should you have an iPhone 5s or later or an iPad Air or later, you should be installing it within the next few weeks.   Please make sure you have a full backup of your device before installing version 12.   I’m still exploring its features, but so far I think the Measure app is very useful for around the house projects.  If you would like professional help with installing iOS 12, please let me know.
Mac OS
The latest version of mac OS — version 10.14 is coming out next Monday – Sept 24th.  From that point forward, I will be taking upgrade appointments.  Some of my clients choose to upgrade themselves, while others have me do it for them.   I make sure you have a full backup of your system in place and a copy of the install media should the software ever need to be reinstalled.  I also take great care to update your apps if necessary.   These appointments usually last about 2 hours.

Technology Update 9/4/18

New iPhones For Real – VIP Service
Apple’s iPhone event will be held on Sept 12th.  I believe pre-orders will start that Friday and shipments will commence a week later.  I mentioned the three sizes of the new phones in my last update — think small, medium and LARGE — with the medium being the least expensive.  I expect pricing to be somewhere along the lines of $700, $900, and $1100.  If its been many years since you’ve purchased an iPhone, you could buy the phone outright but what I think 90% of customers do is take advantage of the interest free financing with your cell phone carrier or Apple.  Take the phone price, divide by 24, and that’s your monthly cost.   I will offer my iPhone Ordering Service to you once again.  If you are going to have me set up your iPhone, I will order it for you over the phone at no extra charge.   I look forward to helping you get your new device.
Upgrading Computers
One of the nice things about 2012 (and earlier) Mac Book Pros and MOST Windows computers is that the hardware can be upgraded.  The hard drive can be replaced to give you more and faster storage.  Memory (RAM) can often be increased to allow smoother moment to moment operations.  Sold state hard drives (SSDs) are cheaper than ever before.  Contact me to find out if its possible / worth it to perform an upgrade to your existing machine and what the costs would be.  I will take great care to back up your data and then give you a “clean install” of the Mac / Windows operating system.  If you’ve had your computer for at least three years and want to keep it going, it’s just what the Doctor ordered.
Remote Support
I want to make clients, especially those new to the VIP family, aware that I offer remote support for simple Windows and Mac issues that may not require in in-person visit.  With Windows 10, I make use of the built in Quick Assist application.  With Mac users, I utilize Skype.  Do not worry, I’m not interested in seeing your beautiful face after you had a night of poor sleep.  I strictly use the screen sharing Skype feature.  For remote appointments, I bill in half hour increments. I will ask you to pay at the end of the session by directing you to my payment page or taking a credit /debit card from you over the phone.    Other remote services I have offered for clients in the past include comprehensive research and answering of questions in report style format, constructing / editing simple websites and social media profiles, and document / image conversion.

Technology Update 8/28/18

Start With a Tip
Some clients tell me, I love your updates but I only understand 1/3 of it.  One client told me recently, I just realized I have a Mac.  It’s the teacher training within me that seeks to set a high bar.  Transformations may not be instant, but it is my goal to raise your technological competence over time.  Have you ever heard your plumber, electrician, or carpenter say that to you?  That’s why I’m special and I value our special relationship. 
—-> Copy and paste text — the need comes up all the time — from one e-mail to another, from an e-mail to a Word document, from one Word document to another, or how about from a web page to an email or word document.  The sequence is very simple.   Windows:  Highlight text with mouse >> Ctrl C (on keyboard) >> Click on insertion point >> Ctrl V.   Mac: Highlight text with mouse >> Command C (on keyboard) >> Click on insertion point >> Command V.   ** Caveat:  Copying text from a web page to another application can present problems. Web based text is often heavily formatted. I have always told clients who are doing this to keep their computer’s “text editor” open to use it as a conduit.   In Windows, the built in text editor is called Notepad (part of Windows since 1985); on the Mac it’s called Text Edit.  In this workflow, you would copy the text from the website, paste it in the text editor (remove the formatting if necessary) and then copy and paste it into its destination.  Getting familiar with your system’s text editor has other benefits as well.  You may not always need to open up the large and often slow Microsoft Word.  Notepad and Text Edit handle light word processing tasks just fine.
Catalog Those Files
Occasionally, I come across a situation where a client has all of their files stored on multiple hard drives, with folders located here, there, and everywhere.  It may be a good thing to have these files spread out, but please remember to have backups of originals (ideally using multiple methods).  However, there may be times when you want to consolidate.  You may be wondering, what is where?  So that no data is lost, you really need to establish a catalog for your files.  These are not backup applications; they are solely Windows and Mac utilities for making a master catalog.  They are under $40 each.  For Windows — it’s simply Win Catalog     For Mac — Neo Finder   Avoid data loss!
The New iPhones Are Really Coming – September of My Years
The cat is slowly jumping out of the bag.  Apple is going to have an iPhone event in mid-September.  Like clockwork, pre-orders will start a few days later.  The new phones will begin shipping about a week after that.  So I want you to look at your current iPhone, diagonally please. You may want to get out a ruler or a tape measure.  The screen sizes of the iPhone 6, 6s, 7, and 8 are 4.7 inches.  The iPhone 6 Plus, 6s +, 7+, and 8+ are 5.5 inches.  If you have an iPhone X, you measure in at 5.8 inches.  (If you are on the iPhone SE, 4.0 inches, I doubt Apple is updating this form factor but keep enjoying the phone by all means.)  The 2018 models will all have the visual aesthetics of the iPhone X, meaning the screen will push to the edges of the phone. There will be no home button (you swipe up from the middle, bottom to get the home button functionality).  The model names are not set in stone.  There will be a “new iPhone X” measuring 5.8 inches.  This is not that much larger than the iPhone 6 – 8.  This will be the middle priced model.  There will also be a “6.1 inch iPhone.” This will be the least expensive model.  The size will be similar overall to the iPhone 6 Plus – 8 Plus.  For those who want a “large and in charge” phone, there will also be an “iPhone X Plus” coming in at 6.5 inches.  That’s almost like a small tablet if you ask me and it will be the most expensive.  Keeping these design changes in mind, you may want to pick up one of the current 8 or 8 Plus models if you want the traditional home button and do not want to take the minimal amount of time required to learn the new functions.  With that in mind, Apple is going all in with the iPhone X design motif for all.
(Sent while listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela – Look them up on the music app of your choice. Great stuff.)

When Technology Fails Us

Welcome this installment of my weekly update.   This update is not a tutorial or an introduction to some cool piece of technology that can benefit us.  I want to give you a reminder that the world of tech can be a scary place and that I’m honored to be your navigator in it.   It’s got to get better than this for us.

A.  Windows — The latest version of Windows, Windows 10 version 1803 began rolling out to computers on April 30th.  It’s been a disaster.  I did not know this in advance, but I had the wisdom of telling you to leave well enough alone.  On every computer I have touched over the past few months (when possible), I have set the “feature update” (aka new version of Windows) delay to 120 days.  I say, when possible, because if you have a Windows machine purchased from a big box store there is no option to delay new versions.  PSA: Please let me order your Windows computers for you; I’ll make sure you get the Pro version of Windows.  Just today, Microsoft began blocking the upgrade from installing on certain computers with Intel hard drives.   Can it get any worse?   If it does get worse, I will tell you to change that delay from 120 to 365 days.  There is nothing wrong with staying on the previous version of Windows, version 1709.  It works!

B. Mac — I have shared with you that an iPad Pro may be a viable computing solution for some users.  I have expressed my firm belief in the iMac as one of the best desktops on the market.   Unfortunately, I’ve  also had to discuss the misery of late model Mac Book and Mac Book Pro laptops and their awful keyboards.   Longtime Mac users and pundits alike have panned the keyboards on the Mac Books (since 2015) and Mac Book Pros (since 2016).  It’s an awful experience.  The Mac has plenty to be proud of on the software side, so this is the opposite of Microsoft.   There is a Mac hardware problem!   A few weeks ago an online petition launched demanding a solution to the laptop keyboard problem.  Thousands signed their names.  This week, the Mac faithful are really getting on their soapboxes.  A class action lawsuit has been filed.  The bottom line is — if you need a Mac laptop soon, buy the 2017 Mac Book Air.  It still has a real keyboard and it will be a solid performer for you.

C. Cellular — Finally, this is one problem that I don’t have a solution for (yet).   I read a lot of tech news, guides, and try things out to break them down to make sense for you.  This one just makes me want to take an oatmeal bath.   I will keep this brief and let you read the articles.  There is a private company out there — Securus – that has the ability to track our location down via our cell phones.  Securus is fed customer information by most cellular service providers.  I am not criticizing legitimate surveillance obtained via a warrant. However, this technology has been misused to spy on people who are enemies of authority figures.  In my analysis, only one of the four major cellular providers gave an acceptable answer as to their relationship with Securus (Sprint).  Please read for yourself. 


Senior Friendly Cellular

There are two cellular service providers that come to mind when I think of seniors and simplicity.  They are known for their outstanding customer service.  You may have seen these companies’ ads in print and on TV.  Ultimately, anyone can become a customer.  You do not need to be over 60.  Let me give you an overview.

Great Call

Great Call service runs on the Verizon network.  They originally became known for their Jitterbug flip phone.  The phone has been revised (known as the Jitterbug Flip) and it seems beautiful with large numbers.  Great Call also offers a simplified smartphone, known as the Jitterbug Smart, which runs on the Android platform.  They offer a menu of calling minutes, texts, and data depending on your needs.   An unlimited plan (for calling and texts) is also available.  You cannot bring your own phone and use it with Great Call.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular runs on the AT&T network.  They have won two JD Power awards for best customer service among non-contract cellular providers.  Consumer Cellular offers flip phones and smartphones.   They sell the iPhone and give the option of an affordable payment plan if desired.   You can also bring your own AT&T compatible phone and use it with Consumer Cellular.  They offer a menu of calling minutes, texts, and data depending on your needs.   An unlimited plan (for calling and texts) is also available.

Both Great Call and Consumer Cellular are considered to be contract free cellular providers.  You can cancel your service at any time without penalty.  You can port your existing number to either provider and port out should you wish to take your business elsewhere.

ATT + Verizon Customers Should Thank John Legere Today

Revised:  Feb. 14, 2014

If you use ATT or Verizon for cellular service, you should be thanking one man today. His name is John Legere. He does not work for either company. He did not invent the latest, greatest cell phone or other mobile technology. Legere is the CEO of T-Mobile USA [TMO]. Our T-Mobile is owned by Deutsche Telekom, a German firm which also markets the T-Mobile brand throughout Europe. In 2012, TMO was seemingly at its lowest point. ATT was trying to acquire them. However, the FCC and members of Congress, along with the public balked at this idea. It was anti-competitive. TMO was seen as small, cool, and innovative. ATT was a giant beast with a nasty reputation for its customer service.

The TMO / ATT deal fell through, but baked into the contract was a $6 billion breakup fee that was payable to TMO. TMO used this to expand their towers into new markets. Billions were spent on transforming an oddball frequency 1700 megahertz and converting those towers to 1900 mhz so that iPhone users could fully utilize high speed data if they were to switch to TMO. Prior to this tower conversion, there were at least 1 million iPhone users on T-Mobile. This is remarkable given that TMO did not sell the iPhone directly. They had no business relationship with Apple in this country. People were either canceling their ATT contract or buying an unlocked, full price iPhone from Apple. TMO began selling the iPhone in the Spring of 2013.

After the failed ATT – TMO deal, John Legere started with a vision. He wanted to disrupt the cellular industry in America. He began laying out this strategy one year ago. He called it the UNCARRIER plan. Over the past year it has been rolled out in four major phases. No ever thought that Legere would succeed. The four major cellular players in this country — Verizon, ATT, Sprint and TMO were deeply entrenched and they would continue to fight it out with higher prices, more restrictions, and grumpy customers, right? WRONG. Legere has tipped the sleeping cow and it is kicking with its feet in the air. Major TMO accomplishments have included…

– Separating the phone from the service. You can bring your own (compatible) phone and use it with T-Mobile or you can finance it from them, interest free. No more subsidized phones!

– Monthly prices no longer need to be inflated to cover subsidized phones. Customers should get a good value for the money they pay.

– No more contracts. No early termination fees. If you want to leave, leave. Thanks for trying us out. The phone and the service are separate deals.

– Do you like to travel overseas? GREAT. TMO has made partnerships with carriers in 120 countries. You can do do basic INTERNET surfing and check e-mail for free without changing your SIM card. There will be no $1000 bills when you travel to these countries.

– And most recently — do you want to leave your contract with ATT, Verizon or Sprint? Great. We will pay your cancellation fee and give you a $200 credit toward a new phone.

Legere has been bold and at times even crude. He is known for letting F-words fly at press conferences. Can you think of a “major league” CEO that does this? This isn’t my style and I am certainly not condoning his verbiage. What I admire is his enthusiasm. He loves his brand. He made promises. He laid out a strategy. He delivered!

So, what does this mean?

I am not telling you to sign up for TMO. I have no position on that. If you are mostly a city and suburb person, TMO service usually works fine. However, once you travel out to remote areas (ie. Litchfield, CT) their towers are few. You would still be able to place a 911 call, but that’s about it. ATT and Verizon have FAR MORE towers throughout the USA than TMO. Verizon and ATT said they would never budge. They said they don’t need to compete with TMO on price or service options.

They have lost that battle!

1. Starting last fall, ATT lowered prices by $15 per line for customers who were off contract and who chose not to buy a subsidized cell phone.

2. A few weeks ago, ATT came out with a new family plan that is absolutely remarkable. Unlimited calling and text and 10 GB of data (WOW) for $130. Have a 3rd or 4th line in the family? Each additional line is only $15.

3. Today, February 13th — TMO finished their coup of the cell phone industry. The iron fortress, the immutable Verizon announced TWO MAJOR CHANGES:

All  Several plans are being upgraded effective immediately (so long as you were not on one of the old grandfathered unlimited plans or some 2004-era plan with 300 minutes). Essentially this means that the data you are are allowed to use every month is being increased 50 to 100%. The old 500 MB plan and 1 GB plan double to 1 GB and 2 GB, respectively. The old 2 GB, increases to 3 GB. The shared plans were called “Share Everything”. Now they are called “More Everything.”  Since this change involves only benefits to your service and no restrictions or removal of features — they are simply doing it. No approval is needed. Sadly, Verizon’s Meriden, CT call center is also closing as a result of this shakeup.

Furthermore, Verizon is now giving all customers free international text messaging.

– If you agree to buy   buy future phones through their EDGE program (interest free payments), non-subsidized, you can save $10  to $20 per month PER LINE. You must buy a phone on the EDGE plan to get the discount.

In conclusion, Verizon has changed less than ATT or TMO, but this is still a huge step for them.

A mature industry has actually gotten better. There is more choice now. You can save money or get more for your money. You have one man to thank. His name is John Legere.