Data Hogs Beware!

Verizon is gunning for users of its legacy Unlimited Plan…

If there’s one thing that I know, and I know well, it’s that mobile carriers get their undies in a bunch when it comes to customers using what they consider to be “too much” bandwidth. In fact, Verizon has been, it seems, on a mission to get users of its legacy unlimited data plan to move to a current plan.

Back in 2011, Verizon killed their unlimited data plans, requiring everyone on those plans to move to a different, shared data plan. However, some users weren’t affected, and were able to remain on a legacy, unlimited data plan. Verizon has been on a mission ever since to remove remaining users from those legacy plans so they can finally be retired in favor of more lucrative data plans that limit customer bandwidth.

Recently, Verizon sent a notice to users on those plans who were using at least 200Gb a month that they would be required to choose a different data plan by 2016-02-16, or risk having their service terminated. Terminated clients will have 50 days to get with the program and get a new service plan. Clients failing to do this will be hit with contract termination fees and will have their lines of service/ accounts closed.

Back in August of 2016, Verizon targeted users consuming 500GB or more of data a month and gave them the same message – find a newer data plan or be terminated. Verizon no longer offers unlimited data on any device. They have a 100GB plan that costs $450 per month, before line and access fees. The legacy, unlimited data plan costs $100 per month.

Verizon has made a number of different changes to its service plans over recent months. At the beginning of 2017, Verizon raised its line upgrade fee from $20 to $30 per line. Every line that is upgraded to a new device will be charged this fee going forward. Verizon has also stopped offering two year subsidized phone contracts as of 2015.

Verizon has historically been an expensive mobile carrier. Individuals who use Verizon do so under one of just a few key conditions, in my experience:

  1. It’s the only carrier in town
    Verizon is often the only carrier in many rural areas. Their mobile network was built out first and in some cases, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint either haven’t gotten there or don’t intend to.
  2. It’s the only carrier in town with a decent signal
    In some (rural) areas, there’s carrier choice, but service from other mobile carriers is SO bad, that it’s not worth using them. Folks in this category may also travel for business and need to have a reliable signal that can be reached in the devil’s basement.

I used to be a Verizon customer. However, shortly after AT&T started offering the iPhone – and before I switched – I moved from Verizon to AT&T simply because I was able to cut my monthly spend nearly in half. Back in the day, the family and I were spending nearly $500 a month on cellular service for just three lines. Switching to AT&T drastically dropped our monthly spend.

However, their legacy unlimited data plan, popular with many iPhone and smartphone users offered access to Verizon’s fast 4G and LTE network at a reasonable cost. Now, according to Verizon, those folks are costing the company too much money and clogging up the pipe.

If you’re still a Verizon Unlimited Data user, if not now, you’re going to be targeted by the organization in the very near future. Verizon wants you off that data plan and on something else that provides them with better revenues. Let’s be clear about this – regardless of how Verizon tries to spin this to you, this is about their bottom line, not the service quality on their network.

According to VzW spokesperson Kelly Crummey, speaking with Ars Technica,

“Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a [different] Verizon [data] Plan by February 16, 2017.”

Are you a Verizon customer? Do you still have their legacy Unlimited Data Plan? Have you received any kind of notice from Verizon that you’ll have to pick a new data plan or risk losing your line/ lines of service? If so, which data plan(s) look attractive to you? Would you consider a change or move to a different carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile who are both offering unlimited data plans again (albeit, with a few prerequisites)..?

If you fall into one of these categories, I’d love to hear from you and get your opinion on what is happening with Verizon and more importantly, how you’re treated by the company when you call them and have a customer service issue to resolve. Do they hound you to switch data plans? Have they in the past tried to force you out of your existing plan and on to another? Are they offering any kind of incentive to make the move early (I haven’ t seen any evidence of any kind of incentive…). I’d also love to know which data plan you end up choosing, if you decide to stay, and how that new data plan effects your bill.

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your details? If enough people respond, I’ll do a follow up article on your experiences and put you in the lime light!

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Galaxy Note 7 Grounds SWA 994

It would have been ok, had it been in the smoking section, right??

Yeah… maybe not so much.

Reports streamed in on Wednesday 2016-10-05 about a passenger’s Galaxy Note 7, that despite being powered down, began smoking and popping while passengers were boarding SWA (Southwest Airlines) flight 994 to Baltimore.

galaxy_note_7_grounds_swa_994

The incident occurred at approximately 9:15am, local time. Arson investigators confirmed that the device in question, was a Samsung phone that had overheated, leading to smoke in the cabin, according to local news reports.

Passengers were safely evacuated from the plan, which filled with enough smoke for the crew to initiate that action. The flight was also cancelled.

Passenger Brian Green of New Albany, OH indicated that he was waiting to take off when his recently replaced, Galaxy Note 7 overheated shortly after powering it down. He said it made a popping noise and started to smoke. He took it out of his pocket and threw it to the ground. The device was initially replaced two weeks prior to this incident by AT&T.

Samsung expressed skepticism regarding the replacement status of the device, saying in a statement released to the public, “We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause…”

Southwest is urging customers to insure that ALL Galaxy Note 7’s are turned off, before boarding their flight, saying, “Safety is always our top priority.”

Since its release on 2016-08-19, Samsung has officially recalled more than 1M Galaxy Note 7 devices sold worldwide before 2016-09-15 due to “serious fire and bur hazard [risks].” By that time, Samsung had received 92 reports of batteries overheating in the US, resulting in 26 reported burnings and 55 reports of property damage, including fires in cars and a garage according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If I were Samsung, I’d be worried at this point.

The Galaxy Note series is a very popular device, and its one that has continually gone head to head with the iPhone; and is (likely) the reason why Apple released the 5.5″ iPhone “Plus” version of their popular iPhone smartphone. I wouldn’t want to be the project manager responsible for the Galaxy Note 7, right about now…OR the Supplier Quality guy, either.

If I were either of these guys, I’d be looking for a new gig.

Now in the grand scheme of things, this may end up being nothing more than a strange blip; but at least in the immediate, I’d be a bit concerned if I were Samsung. Their competition with Apple is fierce. The last thing they want anyone to do is think twice when it comes to purchasing ANY of their products. I mean, would you want one of these if there was still a chance that the replacement units had bad batteries..??

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The Road to Seven

It’s always a journey. Sometimes it’s not as easy as it should be…

iPhone 7

Over the past six years, I’ve been an iPhone user. I’ve owned an iPhone 4s, an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 6. On Tuesday 2016-09-20, I will be an iPhone 7 Plus owner. They say that getting there is half the fun. Normally, it is. This time, however, there were some unexpected bumps in the road. Before I get to all the fun that comes with a new phone, you need to hear about the journey.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, is this a big deal..? No. Not even a little bit; and this is definitely a first world problem. However, it was a bit maddening and just a whole not confusing.

I woke at 2am on 2016-09-09 and after a problem accessing my AT&T wireless account, and got in to my account’s upgrade options for the three lines of four lines service that I have. It took a great deal of effort to actually order the upgrades for my three lines. I admit that it was mostly my fault.

The biggest problem that I had was that I couldn’t, for some reason, actually get all three phones into 1 upgrade order. I also was having a very hard time processing even one upgrade order. This was largely due to the amount of traffic on the AT&T site and on the Apple web site as well. Both sets of servers were throwing inventory and order information back and forth between each other.

Though I had gotten myself actually in and functioning at about 2:15am CDT, I quickly found out that delivery dates had quickly been pushed back. Matte black iPhone 7 Pluses were showing a delivery date between 2016-09-23 and 2016-09-30. Jet black was showing delivery dates between 2016-10-14 and 2016-10-21. I found that to be completely amazing. Delivery dates for these had been pushed back by a month in less than 15 minutes.

The rose gold iPhone 7 Plus that I ordered as the last upgrade had a delivery date of 2016-09-16. However as of this writing, it has not arrived. I won’t arrive until sometime on 2016-09-19, three calendar days after it was promised. Getting it, even to this point of “in transit” status was a bit of a nail biter, too. Unfortunately, I can’t get any information out of anyone at AT&T as to WHY the order took the route that it did.

Briefly, the series of events went like this:

  1. Order for the Rose Gold, 128GB, iPhone 7 Plus was placed on 2016-09-19 at 2:22:27am
  2. Order Shipping date was listed as 2016-09-15
  3. Order Delivery date was listed as 2016-09-16
  4. I called AT&T at around 2pm CDT on 2016-09-15, as I had not received a shipping notice yet, to check on the order. The customer service rep I spoke with insured me that the order would ship as noted (on 9/15) and would arrive on 2016-09-16, as AT&T had recently switched their standard shipping method from 2-day to 1-day overnight.
  5. On 2016-09-15, Apple announced that all currently available iPhone 7 Plus devices, in all colors and storage sizes, were sold out; and that all iPhone 7’s in Jet Black, in all storage sizes, were sold out. Availability dates for new stock, as of this writing, still have not been announced.
  6. I awoke on 2016-09-16 to check the status of the order. I still had not received a shipping notice or any kind of text update from AT&T. I found that the device’s order status had been changed to BACKORDERED. The device’s shipping date had been changed from 2016-09-15 to 2016-09-16. The DELIVERY date remained the same – 2016-09-16.
  7. I called AT&T on three (3) different occasions on 2016-09-16 inquiring about the status of the one device that was supposed to be delivered on that day, but had been marked backordered. No one… absolutely NO ONE had any information. When I described the situation to the, and they looked into the order, inventory, allocations, etc. the response from everyone was nearly identical – “huh… well, that’s strange. I can’t find any information on why this is backordered.”

    They also could not find any information on when it would ship, nor why the delivery and ship dates hadn’t updated to reflect the new status. Unfortunately for me, my experience with the customer service reps I was connected to got progressively worse as the day wore on. None of them seemed to understand what I wanted or why I was calling, and when I finally was able to help them to understand, they couldn’t answer any of my questions.

  8. In a fit of desperation, I tweeted my case to @AT&T and to @AT&TCares
  9. I got a response about 30 minutes after my initial tweet from @AT&TCares. Literally, as soon as I got that response and notification of it on my iPhone, I got a shipping notification in my inbox for the rose golf iPhone 7 Plus. The shipping status changed from Backordered to Shipped. I had a tracking number.

Unfortunately, I have NO explanation on what happened. The only thing I can come up with, based on my own logistics and manufacturing experience is that someone made a data entry mistake when updating the ERP. It was corrected later via the normal shipping process, which updates the order with the actual shipping date as well as with a tracking number.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this, is that despite calling three times, no one could get past the customer support script and give me any real information on what was going on with my orders. The biggest concern I had with this over this past weekend was, ‘will what I experienced with orders being placed on backorder without any available to me or to any of the customer service reps I spoke with, going to happen to the other two lines of service I have on my account?’

It’s a good question.

It was one I asked three different customer service reps…AND it was one that none of them could really answer. (though all of them acknowledged that they’d love to know the answer to it too…)

UPDATE
I am pleased to say that the rose gold, 128GB iPhone 7 Plus arrived as promised today 2016-09-19. My daughter is setting it up as I write this. I am also pleased to announce that my order for a matte black, 128GB iPhone 7 Plus has shipped and is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, 2016-09-20.

I will be doing a formal unboxing tomorrow night and will have that passed over to Soft32 ASAP. You can also expect a first impressions article, a few blog posts on the iPhone 7 Plus vs the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus, as well as a review of both the iPhone 7 Plus and iOS 10 this month.

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Apple to Acquire Tidal?

Apple may acquire the streaming service to obtain exclusive content…

tidalstreamingmusic

I’ve seen a number of reports on the internet about Apple being interested or in talks to acquire the music streaming service, Tidal. For those that remember, Tidal was setup by Jay-Z, as in Beyoncé and Jay-Z, so yeah… Them.

The talks are reported to be exploratory and may not result in a deal; but Apple appears to be serious. It also doesn’t hurt that Tidal is in a huge money crunch, and Jay-Z may get his butt out of the financial fire if this turns out to be true and the acquisition goes through.

However, according to sources reported by the Wall Street Journal, a Tidal spokesman said that Tidal executives had not held talks with Apple, and the terms of any deal are unknown.

This would not be the first music company that Apple has purchased. They purchased Beats from Dr. Dre in 2014. However, Tidal is the first artist owned streaming service, and as I said, it has exclusive content from Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Prince. Music from these artists was removed from Apple Music (and Spotify, for that matter) about a year ago in July of 2015. Tidal currently has 4.2 million paying subscribers.

Apple is looking to expand its presence in the music industry. Since it acquired Beats in 2014, its launched its own streaming service in Apple Music and will be making important modifications to it with the release of iOS 10 later in the Fall of 2016.

Tidal has streaming agreements with Bea, J, and The Artist, as well as artists like Kanye and Madonna. Apple seriously wants a chunk of the streaming pie, and has been pushing to acquire rights to exclusive and original content for Apple Music and its 15M+ paying subscribers.

I’m not certain why streaming is the big deal that it is. There’s only one carrier that I know of right now that is offering a current, non-grandfathered unlimited data plan, and that’s AT&T, provided you have them for mobile service AND are also a DirecTV customer. If you are, AT&T’s unlimited everything, everything plan is truly the way to go. It makes everything way cheap.

However, unless you have that plan – and most people don’t – mobile bandwidth can be expensive, especially if you eat through yours streaming music and video content all day long. While Wi-Fi will help you here, Wi-Fi is not ubiquitous, and as such, you’re likely to burn through your bandwidth very quickly and get hit with overage charges unless, of course, you buy a big streaming package for your phone, and then… things can get expensive.

I don’t know why streaming is the thing. It might be because paid streaming subscriptions make finding new music economically affordable. However, after you find it and you download it, you’re leasing it. Once the subscription is gone, you can’t listen to it any more. You can’t burn downloaded subscription content to a CD, kids…

Are you a music streaming service subscriber? Do you have issues with your monthly allotment of mobile data every month? Join me in the Discussion area and let me know what you think of this deal and what it might mean to music streaming subscribers.

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Oh How I Loathe thee, FreedomPop

The MVNO that couldn’t just pulled another boner…

photo (1)Four years ago (WOW! Has it really been THAT long??), I wrote an article on getting free mobile broadband if you lived in the United States. FreedomPop was all the rage back in the day, giving anyone who signed up for their $50 – $100 hotspot hardware access to 500MB per month of free, unrestricted, untrottled bandwidth. Even back in the day, 500MB really didn’t get you anything; but it could be rolled over (for a max of up to 2GB of free data) and was, most importantly, free.

As I said then,

“All you have to do is put a deposit down on either a 4G web stick ($50 bucks) or a 4G hot spot ($100 bucks). The device arrives via FedEx, and all you have to do is either plug it in or let it charge and turn it on. The device jumps on the network, and away you go.”

If you were stuck and you needed to get online to check email or reply to some kind of message, it was a quick way to get things done; and when the service was free… well, it just made sense.

The free deal went the way of the dodo a long time ago. FreedomPop no longer has free coverage or any free deal that I’m able to qualify or sign up for, though they do offer free, additional data that may add to your monthly allotment each month if you complete “special” offers or invite/ refer friends who sign up for the service. Their technology has turned over too. Freedom pop used to run on WiMAX, which was a 4G service that pre-dated the implementation of LTE. That service is now totally gone and the bandwidth it ran on repurposed and reprovisioned. Everything now runs on an LTE network that is effectively resold service from Sprint, Virgin Mobile or someone else that runs on either Verizon Wireless’ or Sprint’s mobile network.

A few years ago, I began working in Omaha and Lincoln, NE. During that time, I wanted to cancel my FreedomPop account, but to be very honest, every time I tried to call FreedomPop to cancel – and I tried a number of different times – I got connected with a customer service representative whose first language was not English. Unfortunately for me, I have a noticeable hearing loss and their accent was so thick, I could not understand them and I ended up hanging up on them. I tried a number of times and honestly spent well over five (5) hours total time trying – over the course of a few weeks – to get my account cancelled. Escalating my needs to a manager or supervisor didn’t resolve the situation either, as they were poor English speakers as well.

In the end, I gave up. I downgraded my account to the lowest tier and just ate the monthly cost.

Now, jump ahead about three years…

I’m a DirecTV customer and have been for about eight (8) years. I am also an AT&T Wireless customer, and since the two merged, AT&T is offering unlimited wireless data plans to customers of both services. Since I qualified, I called AT&T to inquire about it and found that it could save me nearly $400 a MONTH in wireless service charges for four (4) wireless lines, per month.

Yes… you’re reading that right – $400 per MONTH in savings.

It basically gives me one line for free, plus about an additional $75 off my previous monthly bill, AND each LINE has about 22GB of unrestricted, high speed wireless service before that INDIVIDUAL line gets shuttered to a slower speed.

The only problem that I’ve got is that now, AT&T is telling me that the personal hotspot feature of my iPhones won’t work… EVER… or at least, not on this particular wireless plan. This is really only a problem for either my wife and oldest son, as my youngest son may sponge off their mobile broadband connection for his iPod Touch or iPad when they’re out and about; or is a problem for my daughter and granddaughter as my granddaughter may use my daughter’s mobile broadband connection for much the same purposes.

Hence the need for the FreedomPop account at this point.

I dusted off my old hotspot and quickly found that it was no longer usable. FreedomPop offered an upgrade to an LTE hotspot, and it arrived today. That’s where the migraine began…

First, I had to upgrade my account from its 1GB, $10 per month account to a 2GB, $20 per month account just to get the new LTE hotspot device. Then, the hotspot was $90 bucks… and that just got me back ON the internet via the FreedomPop service.

As I said, the hotspot arrived and I spent a bit of time today trying to get it up and running. Like the original hotspot I got, I expected just to be able to pull it out of the box, plug it in, and jump on the Internet…

Yeah… It didn’t go that well.

First the device was a refurb device. I totally wasn’t expecting that. I paid for new hotness. I expected new hotness. Instead, I got old and rebuilt.

Secondly, the device – a Netgear Mingle Mobile Hotspot – appears to be riding the Virgin Mobile network. While Virgin Mobile is a Sprint MVNO, I totally did NOT expect to be riding Virgin Mobile’s service. This will prove to be significant in a moment…

After getting the device out of the box, put together (battery… back cover, etc.) the FreedomPop “quick start guide” – a easily overlooked and flimsy insert in the back of the very small product box – says to do nothing more than to put the battery and back on the device (which I had already done) and turn it on. After that, the FreedomPop hotspot SSID and password would appear on the LCD screen. You use that information to get online, and that should be it.

It wasn’t. My device indicated that it needed to be activated. This was where the fun began.

Since the device wasn’t charged, and it was a microUSB powered device, I plugged it into my Mac to charge. This brought up an install window that ran an app that installed drivers that would allow you to run the device as a tethered mobile modem. I installed the software and restarted my Mac.

After the restart, my Mac found the modem and I clicked the Wi-Fi icon on my Menu Bar and selected the mobile modem. At that point, Safari automatically started and I noticed the Virgin Mobile logo on the hotspot and on the activation web page it opened.
The device indicated that it needed to be activated. When I tried to activate it, it hit 20% in the progress bar window that appeared, and then failed. I tried a few different times both as a mobile modem and as a Wi-Fi hotspot before following the instructions on the activation web site and called Virgin Mobile.

That was a huge mistake. Initially I thought I wanted to call Virgin Mobile over FreedomPop. Again, big mistake. They didn’t know who I was and didn’t care. I got the run around from them for over 30 minutes before hanging up. When I called back, I somehow got the SAME customer service rep. I hung up on him again, completely dumbfounded that of all the customer service reps in the call center, I got him twice in a row… How does that happen??

With my hotspot still not activated, I grabbed the “quick start guide” again and found a FreedomPop phone number and called them. This time, I got someone who spoke better English, but couldn’t speak loudly enough for me to hear them. After turning up the volume on my handset all the way up, and insuring that they had access to my account, the rep indicated that I shouldn’t need to activate my device. It should already be activated. I agreed, but she asked for the IMEI of the device, anyway.

Then she said there was something wrong with the device and put me on hold. While I was on hold, the device miraculously activated and began downloading a firmware update. The update hung in the middle of the process.

Thankfully, I was able to log into the hot spot (FreedomPop instructs you to use the IP address 192.168.0.1 with the default password of “password” to log into the device on their “quick start guide.” The guide is wrong. The correct IP address is 192.168.1.1) and correct the problems. I was able to restart the download of the firmware update and complete it.

However, that took over 428MB (or 20%) of bandwidth off my 2GB allotment. It doesn’t seem right that downloading a firmware update should cost me 20% of my monthly bandwidth allowance… It also kinda sucks because I haven’t even really had a chance to use the hotspot for anything yet and I’m already 20% down.

FreedomPop’s data plans have changed. The table below outlines the original vs. current data plans:

freedompopchart

These aren’t as great a deal as they used to be. Combined with the stellar customer service I got today, this may end up being a very short lived venture…

Are you using FreedomPop? How is the coverage in your area? Are you on a grandfathered data plan, or are you on a current data plan? Do you think you have enough bandwidth every month? Do you have any rollover data? Have you completed any free offers or have you invited friends how have joined FreedomPop so that you can earn free data every month? Have you had any issues dealing with FreedomPop customer service? Has your experiences with the organization been as bad as mine, or are my experiences (hopefully) just isolated incidents? Why not tell me about your experience in the Discussion Area below? I’d love to hear about your interaction with the organization and your quality of service results in your area.

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Preorders of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Set New Record

Its been an interesting morning here at the Spera house…

6plus_buy_largeApple began preorders of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at 12:01am Pacific Time (1:01am Mountain, 2:01am Central, 3:01am Eastern) on 2014-09-12. The preorders have set a new overnight record for new, preordered iPhones.

Apple issues a statement to re/code in which it stated that preorders of the larger iPhone 6 Plus sold out and that response to the [overall iPhone 6 family] has been incredible.”

Carrier partner AT&T also had a banner morning, with CEO Ralph de la Vega releasing a statement to Fierce Wireless. According to de la Vega, AT&T took hundreds of thousands of preorders for the new iPhone. He also indicated that the number of orders topped the launches of the iPhone 5s and 5c.

Customers from the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan who placed successful preorders should have units in their hands next week on Friday 2014-09-19. While Apple failed to say exactly how many devices were actually sold/ ordered, they did say that this release set a new record. Last year, they sold over 9 million 5s and 5c devices in the first weekend of availability. So, they’ve at least sold more than that.

For me, it was a difficult night. I had trouble staying awake until 2am Central Time, here in suburban Chicago. After I was able to make it to the noted time, problems began.

I had both Safari and Chrome open on my Mac with Safari pointed to the Apple site, and Chrome pointed to AT&T, as they are my carrier. The Apple Store site, never became available. Placing an order there was never an option for me, or for others I know that tried to order online via the Apple Store.

Placing the order via AT&T wasn’t easy, either. I’ve got an outstanding network pipe coming into the house. Its as least 100Mbps down, 50Mbps up, so its very fast. It took me over 90 minutes to place orders for three 64G, iPhone 6’s. They are supposed to arrive on 2014-09-19; but I was very lucky to be able to get the orders in at all. The site was pretty bogged down and I got many different error pages before I was successful with each order. It took persistence and a bit of tenacity to get past the overloaded site traffic; but then again, I started refreshing the site at about 1:55am Central in order to insure that I had a decent chance of getting my orders in.

Thankfully, I was successful. My iPhone 6’s (2 space gray and one silver) will arrive on 2014-09-19 according to the order confirmations I have from AT&T. Once I have them, I will of course, do an unboxing video for everyone as well as a full blown review with comparison photos of the three smartphones I have (the iPhone 5, HTC One (M8) and Nokia 520).

I will also try to find a vendor who accepts payments via NFC in my area and will film myself making a purchase via Apple Pay.

If there’s something that you’d like me to specifically cover in the review, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d be happy to address your questions and concerns in the coming days and weeks.

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‘K… Unlock ‘Em if You Got ‘Em!

Major US carriers agree to unlocking principles.  Story at 11pm…

shutterstock_129802106I’ve been following this particular story for the past few weeks or so.  Quite honestly, this particular issue is near and dear to my heart as I cut my journalistic teeth on mobility – all forms of mobile computing to be precise – and its probably the one computing issue I really know the most about.  Today’s development is significant, as it brings the US closer to parity with other countries in the world when it comes to interoperability (but the true form of that is a whole other ball of wax for a later date…)

Anywho… the four major wireless carriers in the US – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as fellow CTIA member US Cellular, have all agreed to the following:
1.    To post their device unlocking policies on their websites
2.    To notify customers once their devices are eligible for unlocking
3.    To unlock mobile devices for customers after their service contract has expired
4.    To unlock prepaid mobile devices no later than 1 year after their initial activation
5.    To respond to unlock requests within 2 business days
6.    Military customers who become deployed can have their devices immediately unlocked upon providing the appropriate deployment paperwork

According to former NFL wide receiver and current CTIA President and CEO, Steve Largent, “…this agreement will continue to foster the world-leading range of devices and offerings that Americans enjoy today.”

While I applaud not only the wireless carriers and the CTIA for coming together on this, let’s not forget that carriers in the European Union have had similar policies in place for a while now.  Technologically, the US is behind the curve. This is a catch up move.

However, it is a significant and important development; and its one that I’m very glad came about. While this doesn’t supersede the restrictions in the DMCA that prevents cell phone owners from unlocking phones on their own, it will give cell phone users a clear understanding of when and how they can get their phones unlocked and if they will have to purchase what is commonly called a “burner phone” if and when they travel internationally before they’re eligible to unlock their current phone with their home-based carrier.  (that still doesn’t sit well with me, but its much better than what we had before).

The six, adopted unlocking principles, in their entirety, are:

1. Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.

2. Postpaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.

3. Prepaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

4. Notice. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier’s website.

5. Response Time. Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request.

6. Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy. Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers

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iPhone 5 – My Princ(ess) is in another Castle

Weeks before the official launch of iPhone 5, I was telling to myself: “AT&T is going to make me wait the entire 3-4 week delivery time”.

And that’s because back in the day, I stood in line and bought an AT&T locked, iPhone 3G. I had a very serious love-hate relationship with the device. It dropped nearly every call I was on at least once. Finally in October of 2007,  I remember being on the phone with a writing partner trying to discuss a couple stories we were writing. In a 20 minute time span, my iPhone dropped the call 11 times. I was sitting at my desk and had a 3-bar signal.  My writing partner was on a land line.

I had to ask myself – as a veteran product reviewer – would I put up with that kind of behavior from any other device?  The answer was a clear and unequivocated no.  I put the word out that I was selling the device.  It sold in less than 10 minutes.

We left AT&T; and I got into Android devices at that point, and were happy for a while.  The iPhone experience is so compelling, however,  that I eventually ended up buying an unlocked iPhone 4S and put it on the T-Mobile network and have lived there for the past year or so.  The device and the smartphone experience it brings is just that good.

My wife is due for a phone upgrade on T-Mo; and my daughter and I have unlocked iPhones. I did the math and decided that I could literally cut my cell bill in half by moving back to AT&T. I priced my unlocked iPhones for resale by Gazelle and found out I could part with both unlocked devices for the cost of 2 AT&T locked iPhone 5’s, so effectively, I get three brand new iPhones for the price of one.

I ordered them on 22-Sep-12, the day AFTER they were released in the US.  I was quoted a delivery time of 3-4 weeks.  And yes, I had to wait a lot.

Based on what I’ve heard about FoxConn quality issues, strikes and the complexity of the device to manufacture, I can only conclude that the rumors we’ve heard are true.  I was told by the salesman at my local AT&T store that other, single orders of 16GB iPhones placed AFTER mine have beaten their delivery estimates and have been activated. But not mine.

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