09 August 2014

T-Mobile declares jihād.

When AT&T lost their bid to capture T-Mobile and handed over a check for 4 billion dollars, little did they know the monster they had just created.

First, they spent those free dollars to successfully upgrade their continental U.S. coverage and LTE speeds. With open bandwidth they offered $30 per month unlimited data/text pre-paid plans. Then they allowed customers to upgrade devices whenever they want. Next they abandoned contracts to allow customers to come and go whenever they want. Still not content, they offer to pay Verizon and AT&T early termination fees and trade in phones. They shocked iPad junkies with free data every month to GSM equipped laptops and tablets. People traveling overseas hate paying high prices, so they include international coverage for no additional cost. They hear customers complain about data overage costs on smart phones, so they give free unlimited 3G-equivalent speed after the LTE data is used up and start handing out free audio streaming.

Yes, Verizon and AT&T are doing their best to keep up, but the Black Knights threat of biting knee caps with tiny discounts does not hide the wounds. Unless you live in Alaska (the playground of Native Corp sponsored carriers you have probably never heard of), you are literally throwing money away by being on any other carrier. Even brilliant tech writers, who personally live in carrier contracts, like Maggie, are typing the virtues of jumping ship.

Sure, millions of people are flocking to T-Mobile, but that is not good enough for this terrorist carrier. Now they offer a family plan where you can cover four cell phones with unlimited data, talk and text for $100 per month - and just $10 for each additional line. Kaboom. I keep expecting the voice from Mortal Kombat to shout on the T-Mobile web site: "Finish them."

Even when looking at a $100 per month family bill, you are only seeing a small part of the savings. Remember those millions of people who lost their homes not realizing that low monthly payment would balloon on them? When you run out of data on Verizon or AT&T they will start charging you even more. When you go overseas, Verizon and AT&T charge a fortune for even looking at your phone. No wonder T-Mobile is the only one brave enough to abandon contracts. If we look at just two examples:

  • Verizon: 4 Moto X 16 gig devices ($1920), 4 people staying within data limit ($3840) = $5,760
  • T-Mobile: 4 Moto G 16 gig ($796), 4 people during 24 months ($2400) = $3,196
    • Save $2,564 on T-Mobile

  • Verizon: LG G3 ($2879), 4 people going over data limit ($4800), 3 tablets ($720) = $8,399
  • T-Mobile: Nexus 5's ($1399.96), 4 people going over data limit ($2400), 3 tablets ($0) = $3,800
    • Save $4,599 on T-Mobile

Add in some international traveling and with savings like this you might be able to buy Sprint, the entire corporation, at the end of a couple years. So, what's the catch?

The one thing everyone falls back on is "well, T-Mobile's coverage is spotty". It used to be, but my experience has shown that the gaps are no more severe than Verizon or AT&T and their performance is vastly superior to Sprint in the lower 48. Yes, if any carrier has bad coverage where you need it then you should look elsewhere. If you live in Alaska you have little choice but to buy AT&T, GCI or ACS. But do not base your opinion on Ralphie visiting your house in 2012 with a T-Mobile phone. Go online or visit a store and they will loan you a smart phone to test.

Regardless of coverage issues, the handwriting is on the wall for Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Customers are moving in record numbers and unless they start offering similar no-contract plans with the ability to bring in low cost devices, T-Mobile's jihād might end with them conquering the cellular world.

07 August 2014

Yes, they can hear you now - they just don't give a shit.

Let me tell you a story of a day in happy land where internet providers were your friends. They were. Now wake up to the world where they don't care.

There is the obvious Comcast hatred, with their Hotel California attitude toward departing customers. We have the AT&T Death Star that is all too willing to show their loath of consumers is fully operational. Then we have the never-ending Sprint Suicide Watch where customer support and quality products committed Hara-Kiri years ago.

It is passe to despise whatever pipe you use to veg on Facebook. The individuals that actually defend the bill collector delivering the most important communication and media tool ever made are a rare breed. Yes, you might like the fact that you were one of the chosen few with a blazing fast connection, but actually liking the company behind it? Don't be ridiculous.

Why should anyone like them? They are like Scrooge McDuck - except greedy. Fighting the NSA costs money so there you go, Feds - you can now map every step of every person every moment of the day in the United States thanks to cell tower and GPS tracking. Buying new routers is expensive, so they purposefully slow down traffic to make Netflix, Google and the rest pay for the same thing consumers already bought. Good customer service requires people who actually care about giving people what they want, so they will ship it out to Pakistan where employees (rightfully) could care less about our first world Snapchats.

There was a day, long ago, in approximately the year 2005 AD, around lunch time, that most of the internet and mobile internet carriers were good guys. Sure, they wanted to make a buck to pay living wages to good employees providing excellent customer service, but their mission was to give consumers what they wanted - even when it meant occasionally taking a loss to their bottom line.

For example: Verizon.

Verizon is second only to Comcast on the middle-finger salute list in the tech world. But back in 2005, Verizon used to be building warp speed data pipes to consumers on their mobile side (rockin' 3G, baby, with LTE on the way!) and fiber optic cable (I got my gigabit, bitches!) to your home front door.  Yes, they made a profit, but they were also taking losses on building this infrastructure - all while protecting their customer privacy by telling the Feds where to stick their data warrants. Verizon was never the cheapest, but they were always the best.

No more. Verizon halted new FiOS installations long ago and sold them to the highest bidder. Locked down devices with pre-installed crapware all packaged in two year contracts. Throttled service to blackmail internet company bank accounts. Now happily hand over any and all customer data to any BlackBerry wielding D.C. resident without question. So, maybe Verizon is no longer the "best" at anything but at least they still have the most expensive service around.

Despite the gloom, there is a small ray of hope. As consumers cut their monopoly home providers in favor of an all-mobile universe, there is finally a degree of competition hitting the landscape. Companies like T-Mobile, who are only too willing to take a hit on profits to bring in the masses, may actually succeed in bringing quality service and products back to consumers while ending customer-cheating contracts. But how much that alters the landscape, or how long it lasts, remains to be seen.

So, we have hope. Right now, when it comes to having a happy relationship with an internet provider - at least we have that.