There must be some way out of here…

Said the joker to the thief.

Last month I ventured into the unknown. I gave up my unlimited data plan with AT&T, which I was grandfathers into, to transfer my service provider to T-Mobile. This change was not taken lightly as I discussed it with my family for most of the year. My family was brought into the conversation because we’re on a family plan. If one of us was going to transfer we were all going to make the change.

There’s too much confusion. I can’t get no relief.

There were a couple of reasons I was looking to make the change. The first reason, as always, was to save money. The table below compares current AT&T and T-Mobile plans using somewhat similar data plans. The table also takes into account a $450 discount with AT&T when purchasing an iPhone with a 2 year contract and the lack of a discount when a no-contract plan is used. As you can see we’re going to save $840 over 2 years vs. the AT&T 2-year contract plan. The savings go down to about $600 over 2 years vs. the new AT&T no-contract plan, which assumes a $15 discount per line if the phone is off-contract or of the bring-your-own phone variety. This option was just added by AT&T during the past week, which turned out to be a little too late to keep me on board.

Business men they drink my wine.

Mobile Phone Savings - T-Mobile vs. AT&T

Their plowmen dig my earth.

A savings of $600 per year might not sound like a lot, but there were other reasons for the change. T-Mobile has other services that provide for some peace of mind. For example, there are no overage charges if any family member goes over their allotted data during a given month. The download speeds will just be throttled to very slow levels. Even better, as there is no contract, we can change to a higher data plan mid-month, if needed. This will work great for my parents as they’re not the most tech savvy people and don’t understand how much data they are using.

None of them along the line know what any of it’s worth.

Another example is international travel / roaming.  And this one can’t be taken lightly for my family. T-Mobile Simple Choice plans include unlimited data and texting in more than 100 countries at no extra charge, including Greece. And phone calls are just $.20/minute. No need to turn off roaming. No need to worry about some huge bill putting me in the poor house.

No reason to get excited. The thief he kindly spoke.

To a lesser extent, another service I was looking for was tethering. The new AT&T mobile share plans allow for tethering, but the unlimited data plan I was grandfathered into did not have this option. I would have been forced to change my plan to one of the new mobile share plans. This forced change is what got me to thinking about T-Mobile in the first place.

There are many among us who feel that life is but a joke.

This isn’t to say I’m not going into this new endeavor with my eyes wide open. AT&T and Verizon have the best national service footprint. T-Mobile doesn’t compare and I don’t expect them to compare favorably. Luckily, they do have very good service in most, if not all, urban areas. The service here in the Los Angeles area is great, both at home and everywhere I’ve ventured during the past month. The service on Long Island is also great, which my brother was able to verify during a trip there this past week. I do understand, though, that there will be times my service is less than stellar. I’m willing to accept that for the savings.

But you and I we’ve been through all that (yes we have).

The best part, though, is the fact that we’re no longer under contract with any provider. If, at some point, we’re not happy with T-Mobile, we can easily switch back to AT&T. It’s a win-win situation… even if the unlimited plan with AT&T will not be an option.

And this is not our fate.

So let us not talk falsely now

The hour is getting late…

iPhone Dual Shot Feature

It’s about that time of the year when I get excited for the next generation of the iPhone and iOS. Earlier this year Apple gave a preview of the next generation of iOS, version 7, and I liked what I saw. It’s going to provide a new look and feel, while also adding a new control center feature, which is what I’m looking forward to the most. It’ll provide easy access to settings that are used most often, like airplane mode, turning on/off Wifi/Bluetooth, and volume, among other settings.

As usual, there are features the tech world would like to have in the next version of the iPhone, like better battery life and a bigger screen. I’m not sure if they realize, but getting both at the same time is rather difficult. Longer battery life requires a bigger battery. A larger screen would consume more power than the current size screen. So, the bigger screen would require an even bigger battery. That’s just my uneducated opinion, but it seems to make sense. CNET published an article earlier today with some feature requests for the next version of the iPhone.

This brings me to the topic at hand… Dual Shot. I’m not a professional photographer and probably don’t qualify as an amateur photographer either, but I do enjoy taking photos and posting them to the blog. The problem is, when I go on a solo vacation, my photos don’t include me in them, resulting in somewhat lifeless photos. Pictures from my trip to the Grand Canyon are a prime example. The Dual Shot feature allows for the phone to take simultaneous pictures with the front and rear cameras. The rear camera takes the primary picture, while the front camera takes a photo of the person taking the picture (usually just the face), which is then attached to the rear picture to a make a single photo. Did I make that sound too complicated? The photo above is an example from the Samsung Galaxy S4 website showing how the feature works. It’s one of the few features I’ve seen on an Android phone that I’d like to have on the iPhone. It seems like more than just a gimmick. It’s no deal breaker. I won’t make any grand gestures to leave the Apple loop just to get it, but would definitely like to have it on the next version. Granted, including my ugly mug in a picture only degrades the overall picture, but that’s besides the point.

AT&T Data Throttling

Earlier this year there was a popular story on tech news sites regarding a man in California that sued AT&T over his throttling of data usage. Yes, I live in California. No, I was not that man. This man was under contract with AT&T with an unlimited data plan, which I also have and have been grandfathered into since purchasing the iPhone 3G. According to the articles, the data throttling occurred somewhere between 1.5 – 2 GB data usage each month. This $30 unlimited plan is the same price new customers can sign up for and receive 3 GB of data. There’s an obvious disconnect when the same price for an “unlimited” plan gets a customer less data than a “limited” plan. Depending on what you read and where, this man was using upwards of 10 GB per month.

Anyway, it got me to thinking what he was doing each month that required so much data and how much data I could reasonable use by pushing the envelope a little bit. The results are puny in comparison. Let’s level set the criteria I used. First, my goal was NOT to do everything in my power to get to 10 GB of data usage. I wanted to get as close as possible to 3 GB though. The test occurred during the months of March and April. During the month of March I left WiFi enabled, but increased my usage of streaming music sites like Pandora and TuneIn Radio, even watched a few YouTube videos. During the Month of April I disabled WiFi, only using it on a couple of occasions when there was a large number of app updates, usually in the 8 – 10 range. If there were less than that I didn’t turn on WiFi.

The results…

During March I sent/received 1.04 GB (picture below on right). During April I sent/received approximately 2.08 (picture below on left), double the amount sent/received during March. This is still 1 GB under the fictionary limit set by AT&T for unlimited plans… and yet this man that sued AT&T was using an additional 4 times that amount. I have to venture a guess that this man never connects to a WiFi hotspot, streams music constantly, or watches a lot of videos on the iPhone. Either way, my 2 month test is now over. There are no plans to attempt to go any higher than the 2 GB used last month. When it comes down to it, I like the security of having the unlimited plan in the event I have a bad month or, worse, a hiccup with the phone causes my data usage to skyrocket withouth my knowledge. I also plan to go back to using WiFi. Just because I have access to the AT&T network doesn’t mean I have to use it when a better connection is available, which my home network definitely is.

There you have it. Enjoy.

iPhone 4S Pre-Order Status Update #4

This will be the final update on the iPhone 4S order as AT&T finally delivered on the order placed over 3 weeks ago. To make sure everyone understands my frustration with this whole process, I want to make a few things clear. I wasn’t frustrated at the simple fact that I was going to have to wait a long time to receive the phone. If I was told the wait would be 21-28 days from the order date, I probably wouldn’t have placed the order. But I did place the order because I was told it would take approximately 7 days. It wasn’t until after accepting the terms and conditions of the order that the delivery date was extended to 21-28 days. Then AT&T refused to let me cancel the order, which was somewhat of a slap in the face. Was I being unreasonably?

On Sunday night, shortly after posting the third status update, I submitted a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). This is the second time I used the BBB due to what I felt was improper business practice. To my surprise Tuesday turned into a big day. Tuesday morning the AT&T website noted the order was fulfilled and the phones were being delivered the next day… from Texas of all places. This got me wondering as all previous Apple product orders started in China. Later Tuesday morning I received an email forwarded from my brother. It was an email from the AT&T Office of the President. He apologized for the inconvenience and noted the phones were being delivered. He also left us a voice-mail on the home phone.

At first I was wondering if this was just a coincidence, but then I remembered there’s no such thing as coincidences. Well, at least that’s what Gibbs has taught me on NCIS.🙂 My brother and I went back and forth on whether to push things a little bit with AT&T. Specifically because it shouldn’t take a complaint with the BBB to have a company acknowledge a problem in their treatment of a customer, but we decided to just let this one go for now.

So my new iPhone is now patiently waiting for me at home. In the immortal words of Bart Scott… Can’t Wait!

If you left me a voice-mail at some point since July 20th… I didn’t get it until today. Out of nowhere my voice-mail box filled up with 35 messages. Not sure if this is an AT&T or iPhone problem, but it’s quite annoying, especially since a couple of them were related to sales. I even convinced my dad he didn’t leave a message a week or so ago, which he apparently did. Ugh.