Super Bowl Recap
What a game last night! Technology was a big part of the game — as there were 4K viewing options — and furthermore “tech” was featured prominently in the ads. Verizon and T-Mobile were jockeying for position regarding their 5G networks. Should you be concerned about 5G? It’s just getting off the ground and available for consistent use in a limited number of places. When Apple starts selling phones with 5G features — then you can take it seriously. If you need a phone right now, there is no need to feel bad about not having 5G. Get the best phone for yourself. Speaking of other ads, Google had a very touching ad where an older man used Google to take notes to help him remember his favorite memories with his wife. You too can use Google like this and use the Google Photos app. Google does invade our privacy a bit, but I don’t think they are doing it to be a malicious company. Plus — they do let you see all the data they have saved on you and you can download or erase it at any time. Google is an advertising company and I don’t like how they have “blacklisted” people in certain industries, like the health field Ultimately, one of their mottoes used to be “Don’t Be Evil” and I think for the most part — they are not. Were any of you up out of your seat during the halftime show? I was dancing a bit and my wife was laughing at me. Don’t worry, I will not ask you to dance at our next appointment. I know some of you are getting older and have a lot of aches and pains. After all, Shakira would say — the “Hips Don’t Lie”.
A Bit of Guidance on Xfinity Mobile
I just wanted to brief you on some developments with Xfinity Mobile. Some of my clients use this newcomer in the cellular field. They are a “virtual network operator” and run their calls through the Verizon network. There have been some changes to the offerings that started last year and fully took effect February 1st. XM offers a very simple pricing model — $12 for 1 GB — a low use plan or $45 for “Unlimited” — a great plan for very active users. There was a loophole that some customers who signed up prior to “fall 2019” were able to latch on to. If you used VERY LITTLE data, less than 100 MB (or 1/10 of 1 GB) your bill for services was $0 and you would only pay $3 or so for taxes. Obviously, how long could that go on for? Some customers abused the system. So now it is a minimum of $12 per month their low use “by the gig” plan. The next tier up from the $12 plan is $30 for 3 GB of use. The $45 “unlimited” plan is still in effect. I will also give a word of warning about buying phones from them. As is the case with many carrier sold phones, these devices are LOCKED to the network. You cannot get them unlocked unless the phone payment plan is paid off in full. Again, this is often standard practice out there for financed devices — with some exceptions. The other thing I want to make you aware of is that Xfinity Mobile has poor options for international travel. By poor options I mean — they are expensive. You can just resolve to use your phone on WiFi only overseas or use it lightly. Those are options. However, they don’t have a $10 / day Day Pass type option like Verizon or ATT where you can just take your plan with you when you go. With all this said, I just want to be totally up front with you about XM. I still have a line in my name that a family member uses.
The End of Deals?
I mentioned how I helped a client save over $500 annually on their Comcast bill last week. Unfortunately, that might be the last notch I can put in my “service savings belt” for a while. One thing I predict is that it is going to be harder to strike deals with them in the new year due to their “Vision 2020” campaign. This is an internal company framework which states that they are not going to give discounts to existing customers like they used to. The reason why I was able to save the aforementioned client so much was because she was paying for a pricing model that was out of date for the package she had. There were no contracts or promotions signed up for. Of course you can save money by cutting services, but when I bring that up not many have an appetite for doing so. Be flexible, consider competitors, especially those areas of West Hartford where Go Net Speed exists.
Cell Phone Market Is Changing – Part 2
I see real changes coming to the market toward the end of the year and going forward. Remember, back in the day, when Verizon was known for those “Can you hear me now?” commercials with Test Man Paul? (He works for Sprint now, go figure!) Their greatness was built on their CDMA digital calling network which launched in the mid 1990s. As analog was phased out in the early 2000s, that Verizon CDMA signal was known to penetrate everywhere — especially buildings. Starting in around 2014, Verizon, ATT and the other carriers began rolling out calling on their LTE data network. Some would argue that the calls are clearer, but I think the signal just doesn’t have the reach of the old CDMA and legacy calling networks. ATT shut down their GSM network a few years ago, but they still have 3G calling to fall back on along with LTE. Verizon’s CDMA calling network will be completely shut down by 01/01/21, after extending the deadline by a year in 2019.
Verizon says the CDMA shutdown is necessary to fully roll out LTE and 5G everywhere. This is a last call for all of the Verizon people out there. If you have an iPhone 5s or older, old Android phone (non LTE calling), or old flip phone — You will need a new device by the end of 2020. Verizon has no 3G calling network to fall back on. I really wonder if the improvements to the LTE calling network will make up for the elimination of CDMA. Furthermore, 5G will add new wavelengths and capacity that we can communicate on but 5G phones are cost prohibitive right now and owned by so few. Wait until Apple starts selling 5G phones, then you know it will be the right time to buy one. Then you will know that this new technology is ready for everyday use.
One score and one miss.
I will start with miss first. I know that some of you are likely looking for a quality laptop this year. You know how I rave about the Lenovo Thinkpad (IBM’s old line) and the Dell Latitude systems. In fact they are better than the current crop of Mac Books. For what seemed like this weekend only, Lenovo was offering an unbelievable $629 price on a fully decked out Thinkpad T480. It was brand new, even though the T480 was the 2018 model. I wish I could have gotten this information out to you sooner but I just wasn’t able to. By Monday morning, the price had jumped back to $2029. This 14 inch laptop is every bit as high quality as a 13 / 15 inch Mac Book Pro and in my opinion better.
I am pleased to report that I was successful in helping a client save big money on their Comcast bill. I was able to get them an annualized savings of $576, with monthly pricing going from $268 to $220. The name of the Comcast package was called Select Triple Play. The particulars that influenced this deal included a phone modem rented from Comcast ($14 – 15 approx.) 2 cable boxes, and HD service was included in the deal. The Select Triple Play includes the Digital Preferred cable TV package, one level higher than the “standard” TV package, and Blast internet (300 mbps). This deal is apparently an everyday price, no strings had to be pulled and no arms had to be twisted. Fees can go up in the future, as always. Please see my last update. In this scenario, the client could save the modem rental charge by buying their own telephone capable modem (approx $200) but it would take about 1.5 years for the cost savings to equal out. Given that this particular client’s house is known for lightning strikes and modems have been replaced in the past — renting is likely the best option.
If you are wondering about the Standard Triple Play, pricing will be a little less. If you can get a promotion guaranteed for 12 or 24 months, pricing will be even lower but you will have to sign a contract on those promos. What I can say is this, if you are getting all 3 services from Comcast not including any extra packages – $175 to $225 is very normal these days. As with the computers, promotional packages can be here one week and gone the next.
Preview: Cell Phone Market is Changing
I am going to get into this more in a future update. However, I see the cell phone market changing a lot as we move to the end of 2020 and beyond. Old networks are being shut down and the carriers are going to rely exclusively on advanced networks like LTE and 5G. There have been a ton of layoffs and I think this has put a lot of strain on delivering positive customer experiences.
Based on personal experiences and helping clients, I would say my ranking of best providers in terms of customer service are
1. Consumer Cellular (ATT Network)
3. Xfinity Mobile (there will be some changes coming Feb 1, however)
*Verizon has really fallen in my opinion. I also don’t have a lot of data to go off of with ATT directly, that is why I did not mention them. A provider can have great service on technical merits, but I think what my typical client (age 60+) cares so much about is the level of customer care provided. No one wants to wait on the phone for 2 or 3 hours to be heard.
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.
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.
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.
Streaming Video Specialist
I just wanted to remind you or make you aware that I am your streaming video specialist. You may be looking to looking to cut the cord — cancel traditional pay TV and use a live channel replacement service like You Tube TV or Hulu TV or piece together streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV + or others in lieu of channels. You may be looking just to supplement your traditional TV subscription with those streaming services. I can help. I can also set you up so you can watch all of your Comcast / Xfinity live channels on your computer, smartphone or tablet. I can set you up with streaming players like the Apple TV, Roku player, Amazon Fire Stick, or the software baked into your Smart TV (which usually isn’t as good). I always prefer one of the streaming players that gets added to the TV. They can be as low as $50 or less. Of course you will pay monthly for the streaming services you want to use (with the exception of plain You Tube or rentals). Amazon Prime Video is included with your Prime membership. I have helped clients open up new dimensions to their video viewing. You know who to call.
I do support some out of state clients through “screen sharing” software that allows me to view and in some cases control (with permission of course) their computer. I have also been receiving referrals to Connecticut clients outside the Hartford area. I am very appreciative. I do charge more for example on a job “east of the river” or “down by the shore” but I will still gladly help those clients. I will disclose rates to a client before beginning work so there are no surprises. A basic statement of rates is found on my website — westhartfordtechsupport.com . I also have a 1 page complete statement of billing policies, which can be provided to you at any time upon request.
iOS 13 Frustrations Continued
You should all have iOS 13 (known as iPad OS 13 on the iPad) on your Apple mobile devices by now. Last week an important update, 13.2, came out. A client brought a concern to me — that saving pictures from a text message / iMessage has changed in iOS 13. I looked into it and found that there may be just one method available for older iPhones. Previously, you could press and hold on the picture and press SAVE or you could tap to “open” the photo and then press the share button (the square with the upward arrow). While both methods still work for me (iPhone 11), on the client’s iPhone 8 only the press and hold method worked. Please be aware of this.
iOS 13 Lessons
Given that there are these changes that seem a bit jarring in iOS 13, I want to offer the opportunity of having a few lessons with me in the new operating environment so that you can function at your full potential. One thing I did with clients 2 years ago, when iOS 11 came out, was work through a “field guide” together. The current version of the e-book we used is called “Take Control of iOS 13 and iPad OS 13”. Even if you did not want to work through a few chapters with me to improve competency, I would highly recommend the $15 e-book. https://www.takecontrolbooks.com/ios-13-ipados-13/
I was thinking about how far we have come with technology. These days we are using pocket sized phones and tablets as the computers we spend the most time on. Everything is so digital. A few nights ago I felt like I was being forced to file an insurance claim online. I just wanted to talk to a live person. Finally, I was able to. I began reflecting on how far I have evolved in the area of phone technology. Going back to my earliest days with the computer, I would dial into the internet on the home phone line (tying it up so no other calls could get through). Talk about a way to cut down on scam sales calls! Later on as I was starting my first business, and about 2 years before my first cell phone, I had the need to make cheap long distance calls. I subscribed to a quarterly billed phone called “Phone Tel” — not to be confused with other companies with the same name. I think I was a customer until about the year 2000. Working in healthcare, my father was a regular pager or “beeper” user. I got one when I turned 18 but ultimately didn’t find it that useful. AOL Instant Messenger or AIM and AOL e-Mail were my messaging tools of choice for several years. My first cell phone was a Motorola Star TAC. This was the phone to have 20 years ago. If you don’t remember it — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_StarTAC
After bringing and picking my wife up from the airport due to a weekend trip, I thought I would share a couple of tips with you. If you are thinking of traveling from Bradley Airport (BDL) and don’t mind a quick, relaxing, and scenic trip to T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, you should really check out fares from PVD. My wife was able to save $300 on a round trip to the Ontario, California (ONT) airport. PVD is only 1.5 hours from Hartford and seemed quicker. As the old saying goes, your mileage may vary. Another suggestion is to try alternate airports. These landing spots may be less expensive, more convenient, or both. The friends she was looking to meet were about 20 minutes east of ONT. Getting there from LAX when arriving at about 1030 PM would have been a challenge for her.
As many of you know, I made a BIG SWITCH to T-Mobile for cellular service with my wife back in March. The initial reasons I joined was because of their cheaper / possibly free international service for a trip she was taking to southeast Asia and because of the reports I had read from a plethora of sources about how good the coverage had gotten in recent years. 5+ years ago T-Mobile was truly a 3rd rate carrier. I’ve shared that the experience has been mostly good and the financial perspective got even better about 4 months in when we were able to sign up for the age 55+ plus plan (2 lines for $70 including taxes and fees, with unlimited everything). This was half what we were paying with Verizon. Given that I have so many clients that could benefit from a plan like this, I could have pumped them hard and made good money marketing TMO to you. I did not jump on that opportunity because I wanted to give my experience more time. More recently, I have noticed some shortcomings. When helping a client far from downtown Glastonbury (near Portland actually), I had no service. When taking the smooth, rural, Route 165 into Rhode Island I had no service for about 3 miles. Additionally, last week I had about 3 dropped calls in the Hartford area. It was a new development. After extensive conversations with TForce (customer support), I found out that there are tower upgrades going on in the area and they should be completed by mid-November. I did not have any more dropped calls outside of those 3 days, so I’m inclined to believe what I was told. So here is where I stand with T-Mobile — as far as my client base is concerned: If you want to save money with T-Mobile, you can go to a T-Mobile store or I can certainly help you. However, there are potential limitations. One reason to keep your Verizon or ATT service is the reliability of the towers. Considering the country as a whole, Verizon and ATT have a much higher percentage of towers with fuel powered backup in the case of power outages and natural disasters than T-Mobile. At times, you just want the call go through. While we are spared from a lot of the worst weather, you never know when a “2011 Snowpocalypse” will hit us again.
Spooky Phone Calls
Are you getting more scam phone calls? I have two clients that may have been called by fake or moonlighting Comcast representatives the other day. “Hi, I’m calling from the Cable Department.” Good thing I was there. We hung up. I want to make sure you can recognize a scam call. On Monday morning, I received a call on my business line saying that my Social Security Number is being suspended. Hmmm, I feel so scared now. I might be in big trouble. NOT!