Category: Cellular

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.

NY Times Confuses Readers on iPhone Pricing

Apple’s iPhone 5 Scores Well, With a Quibble – Review –

From the article:   If you have an iPhone 4S, getting an iPhone 5 would mean breaking your two-year carrier contract and paying a painful penalty; maybe not worth it for the 5’s collection of nips and tucks. But if you’ve had the discipline to sit out a couple of iPhone generations — wow, are you in for a treat.

Response:  That is not correct.   If you have the iPhone 4s, you can simply pay full price for the iPhone 5.   The retail cost of the iPhone 5 is $649.   The new customer or qualified upgrade price is $200.   You’re not really paying less and the one who pays $649 is not really paying more.    The $200 price is subsidized by the fact that you are committing to two years with that carrier.   When you pay full boat you are not committed to a contract.   Mr. Pogue is saying that you will be hit with a penalty, but this is only if you  are under contract and switch to another cell phone company to get the iPhone 5 at the $200 subsidized price.     An ATT or Verizon customer, switching to the other carrier would typically pay a cancellation fee of $350 (at worst) plus the cost of the subsidized iPhone $200 with their new provider.     Again, if you stayed with your current carrier and were not qualified for discounted pricing you would be looking at paying $650.  Some customers, especially Verizon customers, really like their carrier more than their phone.   It’s no distortion of reality to say that many ATT customers hate the ATT network but have only stuck with it because of the iPhone.
Once again — everyone needs to know — the retail cost of the iPhone 5 is $650.   If you really want the phone and don’t qualify for the subsidized pricing,  you can either switch carriers or pay retail (or close to it) with your current carrier.   It’s not a $200 phone.   Not everyone qualifies for that price, just like not everyone qualifies for subsidized housing.

When the iPhone first came out it was a $500 phone.  It was being sold at full retail, unsubsidized.   Most people buy their phones in Europe and Asia that way.  If Apple went back to charging a fixed price and no contractual requirements, I think it could be a very positive step toward breaking the cycle of 2 year contracts and $100 a month cell phone plans.