Category: Cellular

Not As Good As They Used To Be

A lot of things right now might not be as good as they used to be — perhaps it’s taxes due, the cost of a trip to the Red Sox game, or the tolls going over the Bronx Whitestone Bridge.   This sad tale also extends to the technology services and products we use.

The starting price of an iPhone is now $749.  It used to be $649 not that long ago.   The starting price of the Mac Book Air is $1199, but used to be $999 for the 2017 model.   Verizon and ATT are charging more for cell phone service, but they are giving you “unlimited,” right? Are prices going up because there are fewer sales or is the technology incorporated simply better, justifying an increase in cost?  It may be a little of both.

Most of my clients are Comcast / Xfinity customers.  One thing is for sure — the deals they are offering are not as good as they used to be.  They are feeling the crunch by having more and more of us cancel services and go with Internet only.  However they want to keep ARPU (average revenue per user) the same.   Therefore, the price of Internet only has increased (as a standard price — new customer offers are still low) and the cable company is clinging for dear life for those who have 2 or 3 services.  Once the $10 broadcast TV fee (local channels) and $8 sports channel fee (for those of you who have them) are tacked on — it becomes a losing battle.   The phone company can be good in certain areas where they have fiber or VDSL internet, but you can be certain that they aren’t eager to maintain the old copper lines anymore.  Watch out!  Some experiences I have had with Frontier, on behalf of clients lately, have been “teeth pulling” ordeals.   Overseas “customer service”?  I don’t even want to get started with that today.

Another thing that won’t be as good as it used to be is Uconn Women’s Basketball.   A new deal between their conference, the AAC, and ESPN was signed recently.  As of the start of the 2020 season, you will not be able to watch the games on the SNY channel anymore.  And if you have Frontier TV, you wont even be able to watch the Mets or Uconn on SNY effective right now (4/16, per Hartford Courant).  Frontier said they don’t want to carry the channel anymore.  Content is too expensive. I hope it gets resolved.  Starting with the 2020 season, many of the Uconn women’s games will be on the ESPN + app.  It’s a reasonable $5 per month, but you will need some help to set it up.  I am ready when you are ready.  You will be able to watch the games on a computer or iPad, but the best way to watch them will be via a streaming box hooked up to your TV (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or Apple TV).   I tend to prefer the Roku because it’s cheap.  Once you get get the hang of it, it will be easy to switch between your streaming box and regular TV.  However, you will have to learn something new.

And I know something from working with a lot of individuals in the 65+ age bracket — seniors don’t always like change.  

It’s not as good as it used to be.

Updates and Services

I don’t have any major product or service announcements to tell you about other than…

-An update came out for both the iPad and iPhone last week.  Even if the FEATURES don’t interest you, the update contains many security and stability fixes that are essential.   With your device plugged into power, please go to to Settings >> General >> Software Update.  Follow the prompts to complete your update, if you haven’t already. 

-Windows 10 version 1809 is being fully deployed to just about all computers right now.  This is the major new version of Windows that was finalized in the Fall of 2018.   If you are prompted to install it, make sure you are closed out of all of your work.  Go for it.    Eek!  The next new version of Windows 10 is right around the corner. 

I would like to take this opportunity to let you know about some services that I offer that may be new to you. 

Shopping Assistant – I can research product options for you before our appointment, during, or we can even go shopping for gear together.  Can you say — technology field trip?   There are many instances where I can order products for you (ie. Amazon, Best Buy) and bring them to our next appointment.  I do not charge a markup on the items themselves, but I will bill you for my time to go to the store, etc.  Unless it’s multiple shopping destinations involved – usually this amounts to a half hour charge added on to the appointment billing. 

Collages – I started making photo collages when some family members wanted to create a framed poster (20 x 30) for my sister’s bridal shower last summer.  I found a program that allowed me to create the perfect memory.   You may want a collage for your own digital collection, perhaps to create a record of multiple people or items, moments in time, or to give as a gift.   I can create a collage for you with anywhere from 2 to 16 photos.   The collage will be saved as a normal picture file.   Then you can take it and order prints of an appropriate size (with my help or by yourself).  I have attached a sample of my work to this e-mail.   Your collage need not have words on it, if that is your preference.   Note:  this collage was a challenge because not all of the photos were from the digital era.  None the less, all were quite happy with the result. 

Cellular Services  – Here is another niche service that may be just what the doctor ordered in your time of need.   Do you need a temporary cell phone number?   Do you need a US # for an international visitor or just a local number for someone staying with you for a while?  Do you know someone going through a divorce or who is looking to branch off from the family plan in some way?  I have the answer.   I have SIM cards for cellular providers that operate on all of the major networks — Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile.  In short order, I can generate a new # for you or convert (port) your existing number to the new service.   I will pop the SIM card in your phone, you will pay for the first month of service (typically $30 to $50 depending on the plan) and you will be good to go.  For light use cases or an emergency phone, I also have per minute rate options I could set you up with. 

News Flash:  I read an article recently about a major big box store (that rhymes with “Sophus Repo”) having to pay the federal government $30 million in a settlement because they were running a tech support scam on their customers.  They were luring them in with a “free malware check,” and then telling almost everyone they needed an expensive malware cleaning whether they truly needed it or not.   You won’t get those scams with me.   Thank you for supporting small business — the HEARTBEAT OF AMERICA. 

Technology Appetizers

Welcome to this week’s installment of my Update.  Hope you’ve enjoyed the La Croix seltzer.  My servers will be around with the technology appetizers for you.   Oh, here comes the first one….
1. Samsung’s new S10 smartphones (S10e, S10, S10+) appear to be selling well.  As I mentioned before, if you are sick of the iPhone or want to try a phone of that caliber with a slightly different look and feel — this would be the one to grab.  In general, my clients are iPhone users.  However, there are some Android enthusiasts among us.  Others simply don’t want to get involved with Apple products or prefer an Android phone (like the Galaxy S) for very specific reasons.  The two that I can think of are — better voice dictation (no doubt) and better cameras in some instances.   I am glad Apple has followed their lead by offering promotions (either directly or through carriers) if you buy a new iPhone and trade an old one in. In a mature industry, Apple can’t sit on its hands.
Oh boy, this tray looks a little stale.
2. Password Problems:  I’m still coming across customers who are using weak passwords or who don’t take password security seriously.  It’s really frustrating after I keep bringing up this topic over and over again.  Passwords should be different for EVERY WEBSITE.  Sensitive passwords should be changed at least every 6 months.  If you have trouble coming up with one, start with a secure “base” for each website and add a unique ending to each one.   Think of something that is easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess.  A password manager (whether manual or electronic) is critical.  Some of you use browser based password managers — in Safari, Chrome, or Firefox.  The teacher in me will give you a passing grade for that.  Take advantage of the features offered, such as when they suggest a secure password.  Make sure you know how to look up the passwords in the browser.  Better yet, if passwords really matter to you, use a paid password manager such as 1Password or Last Pass.   If you are at the back of the class, you are using a paper based password manager.  At the very least — keep this organized.  
Look here comes another round of…..
3.  Apple News:  Apple had their event on Monday.  Some analysts have called it a big dud.  One thing is for sure, Apple is getting deeper into the media business.  They are now offering Apple News + on iPhone, iPad and Mac.   It will cost $9.99 / mo after the free 1st month.  You will get access to leading newspapers like the WSJ and LA Times along with a library of major magazines.  Major papers such as the NY Times and Washington Post have declined to participate.   However, the real entree was Apple TV+.   This umbrella service will include Apple’s existing catalog of TV shows and movies for rent, plus original programming (similar to Netflix), plus easy access to cable channels and premium channels.  It will not only be available on Apple TV boxes (overpriced with a terrible remote if you ask me) but also on other streaming boxes like Roku (great) and smart TV’s.   It all sounds very exciting.  It could very well be the ultimate portal for cord cutters.    But — there’s a big but — what is the price?
They didn’t say. What?  That will be mentioned later.   And this was an Apple event?    It seems so half baked.  I think they are still making their content deals with the various channels and content providers.  It wasn’t all ironed out yet.   It will be very interesting to see how competitive they are with You Tube TV and Hulu Live TV — the leaders in the clubhouse that charge $40 to $45 per month.    One thing is certain, Apple wants to make this available to as many people as possible and not only those who own Apple hardware.  Let’s wait and see.
Hope you have a safe drive home.  Thanks for stopping by this little gathering.

Things I Didn’t Tell You


Verizon CDMA Network Shutdown – Part 2

1.  A few weeks ago I mentioned how Verizon is shutting down their CDMA calling network by the end of the year.  At that point, they will only support LTE calling (aka. VoLTE or voice over LTE).  All newer smartphones such as the iPhone 6 and later support LTE calling. The iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c do not.  Most of their newer Android phones also support this feature.  Even the new flip phones that Verizon sells allow you to call on the new network.  The issue of whether their LTE calling network is as well built out as their “gold standard” CDMA network will be a topic for another time.  For now all you need to know is that you may need to replace older phones on the Verizon network.  

I was asked by a client, what about Tracfone?   Tracfone is a service brand known as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that provides their own customer service, but utilizes the cell phone towers of the major providers (Verizon, ATT, Sprint, or TMobile).  Each Tracfone phone operates on one of those four networks.   If that network is Verizon, and the phone does not support LTE calling, you will need to replace your phone as well. 

If you need help figuring out what network you are on or know you need to replace your phone, please ask for assistance.

Two Phone Lines on 1 iPhone

2.  I mentioned this briefly a few months ago, but I want to let you know something very special about the 2018 iPhones:  Xr, Xs, and Xs Max.  You can you use two cellular lines on a single iPhone.   Those iPhone models come with a physical sim slot (that holds a card that your phone uses to communicate with the cellular network) and an eSim (essentially a serial # that can be given to the cellular provider for activation with a phone line).  The eSim is a virtual sim card permanently embedded into the phone.   More and more carriers are supporting the eSim technology.   I can think of scenarios where having two lines on one phone could be very useful

– Personal and business

– Primary number and backup number

– Cell and home (converted to a cell number)

– Local number and out of state number (perhaps in the area where you have a vacation home)

– Here is one that you may not have thought of:  Carrier A where you are saving a lot of money (maybe a T-Mobile Prepaid / Metro PCS) and then Carrier B, ie. a Verizon MVNO (like Xfintiy Mobile at $12 per month) because you want to have the Verizon network as a backup in case you don’t have coverage in remote areas with Carrier A. 

Having 2 lines on one iPhone can offer a lot of functionality.  If you want to do this, let’s work together and get it done.

Companies That Want Your Business

You might be surprised but I still have an handful of clients that rely on AOL as their primary email account.  “Hello 1999. I Miss you.”  Some of these clients actually PAY for their AOL accounts.  Yikes.   To the best of my recollection, back in 2006 or so AOL allowed you to “cancel billing” and just use it as a free webmail account, much like Yahoo Mail or Gmail.  That is truly the best way to go because they don’t care about you.  AOL doesn’t want a residential consumer’s paid account.   AOL is an advertising and information portal these days.  They own Huffington Post; they sell advertising services;  they would liked it if AOL.com is your homepage; and oh yeah by the way they provide e-mail as a free add-on.   Over the past 2 months, I encountered two clients that were still paying “full boat” to AOL @28.95, as if they still had a dial up connection.  I didn’t want to upset the apple cart too much, so I changed them to their $6.95 per month a month plan, which still allows phone support (and very poor phone support I might add).  Nevertheless, I helped save each of these clients $264 per year — liberating them from a company who could care less.

Do you want to know another company that really doesn’t want your business?  The electric company.  They don’t mind if you get a solar system.  They openly encourage and even facilitate green energy upgrades, which reduce your usage.  They really won’t even fuss that much if you choose “alternate electric suppliers” (which usually result in you getting ripped off).  Why?   The less energy you use, the less chance there is that their capacity has to be upgraded or new plants have to be built.  Even if rates might be on the incline, they certainly don’t mind if you use less and less kilowatt hours. 

I check out a lot of companies and products so that I can be on top of my game for you.  Want to know a company that really wants your business?  T-Mobile.  They have grown by leaps and bounds since they started their “Un-Carrier” philosophy several years ago.  They have also expanded their network significantly in the past 4 years.  No longer are they a “big city” cell phone company only.   Their price plan might not be the right move for everyone.  Also, if you live in a very rural area like northwestern Connecticut — they still may not be the best choice.  However, they are an option worth of consideration if you want to keep your # and are looking for a change.  T-Mobile will pay off your device payment plan with another carrier and if you switch from Verizon (with a late model iPhone for example) – they will pay off your phone and let you keep it as a T-Mobile customer.   T-Mobile also gives customers with 2 lines or more free Netflix, and to all customers — a better standard unlimited plan than Verizon, and free international service (no need to pay $10 / day with the big guys). 

Other companies that I know to really value your business are

Fastmail  or XYZ Mail— a paid e-mail providers that offer real customer support for consumers or businesses (and a great web mail interface by the way)

Backblaze — have files that you can’t afford to lose?  want a true backup (not cloud sync) service that isn’t subject to the quirks of iCloud or One Drive?  $5 a month, gets the job done.  They are always willing to answer questions. 

Smartphones Premium and Budget

I hope you are having a great week with your technology.


Update to the Ad Blocker Updates

Google made an important announcement this week.  They issued a partial reversal of the planned changes in their Google Chrome browser.  There for it seems that ad blockers uBlock Origin and Ad Block Plus will not be rendered useless as previously thought. While they are in the business of delivering ads, Google made it clear that they are not in the business of restricting content blockers.  Browse on!    I will keep you posted as to further developments.

New Samsung Phones – The Battle is On

The iPhone’s closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S line of phones, was updated today.  If you like Android or are looking to try something high end but different — these Galaxy S10 phones may be for you.  Just like the 2018 iPhones, Samsung will have three new phones of note:  the Galaxy S10e (think iPhone XR price), the Galaxy S10 (iPhone XS), and the Galaxy S10+ (iPhone XS Max).   These phones will be priced starting at $750, $900, and $1000 – with the familiar interest free payment plans available from your carrier.   Like the iPhone XR, the S10e will be a premium phone.  Think of the larger sized and more expensive siblings as just a higher level trim of an already excellent phone.   That is how I see the iPhone XS and XS Max as well.  For those in the Apple world, the XR is technically a larger phone than the XS.  Pre-orders on the Samsungs start on Friday. 

Lower Cost Smart Phones

If you are interested in lower cost smartphones in the $200’s and $300’s – I have a few models in mind that could work on all of the major carriers.  You don’t have to feel forced to spend iPhone money to have a decent smartphone experience. 

You May Need to Replace Your Verizon Phone

On this train of thought, I also want to let you know that if you or anyone you know is still using an older Verizon flip phone (or even an older smart phone, ie. pre-iPhone 6) you will need a new phone by the end of 2019.  Verizon is retiring their older calling network.  Your old phone will no longer be able to make calls.

Browsers and Ad Blockers 2019–Part 1

Face Time

Apple really messed this one up.  I know you iPhone, iPad and Mac users out there really like Facetime.  It means a lot in your business and family communications.  It’s built into all of those 3 devices I just mentioned.  You don’t need a separate Skype account for it to work.  Apple got this one right.  However, there is a hiccup.  A Facetime flaw was found in group Facetime calls that allowed you to be secretly recorded even if you don’t answer the call.  Cupertino — we have a problem!!   Apple is taking this so seriously that they have disabled the group Facetime feature until they can roll out a fix later this week.   Please be checking your iPhone once a day over the next week. I am expecting an update by the end of the week.   If you really want to be safe, you could turn off Facetime entirely as a short term precaution.    Settings >> Facetime >>  Flip the switch.  I won’t be doing that, but I don’t blame you if you want to.  Just be sure to turn it on the next time you want to do a Facetime chat with your brother in St. Louis. 

Browsers and Ad Blockers – Part 1

I wrote several Updates on ad blockers back in 2015 and 2016.  Those posts can be found on my blog theacronym.com by searching for the term “ad blocker”.   I have used an ad blocker in my browsers for at least 10 years.  I have used an ad blocker on my iPhone since they were allowed back in 2015.  I install ad blockers on nearly every single client computer I work on.  I think I have only been told one time to remove the ad blocker entirely.  (Hint: it may end up being a mistake.)  Of course, I show my clients how to turn off the ad blocker for a particular website should it be requested.   I described the notion of ad blocking as a dilemma we face as Internet users.  Much of the web that we use is free.  Those websites pay their bills with ads.  If everyone blocks ads, these sites can’t pay their bills.  They will either need to come up with new revenue models or cease to exist.  The vast majority of Internet users are not blocking ads, so you are in a rare group. 

I don’t feel bad about blocking ads.  Why?  Many of my clients computers have been infected with annoying adware and malware due to bad ads.  Why are there bad ads?  Most website do not manage their ads.  They turn them over to a 3rd party service.  Every so often those ad networks do not properly screen the code behind particular ads or the websites they link to.  Your computer is adversely affected, likely resulting in an expensive service call to someone like me.   Either because I have to (ie. to watch a TV show on a network’s website) or because I want to support a particular site, I do unblock ads on a case by case basis.  I am less offended by websites that serve up their own ads and don’t rely on an outside company.  These sites are few and far between, unfortunately.  I am very willing to unblock these “1st party” ads. 

My go to ad blockers on the computer are Ad Block Plus or uBlock Origin, and I tend to favor the second one.  You likely have one of the 2 installed by me.  On iOS devices I like Ad Guard, though there are other choices.  For some clients, I have taken the notion of blocking one step further and gone with a “sledgehammer approach” blocking all advertising servers at the network level of the computer before they even get the the browser.   This may be the right call if you have had serious security problems due to ads in the past or are very averse to ads.  

Coming next week — Part 2  — How the most popular browser may try to limit your ability to block ads later this year.  Stay tuned.