Why Verizon’s Shared Data Plans Suck

I’ve been a paying Verizon customer for over almost 3 years now (after a brief stint with AT&T after college).  My cellphone contract is the longest standing commitment I’ve had with any company for any thing (aside from my bank accounts).  On top of having the experience of being a customer, I also had the privilege of working for a Verizon Wireless Premium Retailer as one of my first jobs out of college.  Regardless of what money I give Verizon or what experience I have with the company, one things if for sure… THEY ARE TRYING TO SCREW ME .

When I signed on to have Verizon as my wireless provider, my account looked something like this.

700 Min + Unlimited texting: $80.00

Moto Droid (mine): $9.99 + $30 unlimited data

Moto Droid (my wife): $9.99 + $30 unlimited data

Basic phone (home phone) $9.99

Total bill – $170+taxes and fees.

Around year later, we picked up iPhones (when Verizon finally offered it) for our daily phones, and maintained the same basic phone as our home phone… but our bill went virtually unchanged.  We were able to use our iPhones as much as we wanted for texting and surfing the net.  On top of that, our 700 minutes included the unlimited nights and weekends + unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, so we were using – at most – 150 minutes/month (if I used my phone for work related things).

When “Big Red” decided they were going to jump on the bandwagon of tiered data (no more unlimited – pay more to use more), I gave it a moment of consideration.  With the tiered data plan, I could keep my bill unchanged, but instead of paying the $30 for each smartphone to have unlimited data, each phone would be limited to 2GB/month (that’s what you get for $30).  Verizon even sweetened the pot by offering customers who jumped to tiered data a double-up on their data.  For only $30/line/month, we could pull 4GB of data each (totaling 8GB of data available/month – granted it wasn’t shared).

This didn’t sound like a bad deal… but when I could have unlimited data for $30/month, why would I choose to switch to something that gives me less for the same cost?  Then Verizon started policing usage by “legacy” data plan users.  If you were on an unlimited data plan, Verizon could “optimize” their network, by limiting your bandwidth, to allow more consistent speeds for those on tiered data plans.  This was a huge difference from AT&T’s data throttling, as Verizon would only do this when necessary (like when a specific tower is experiencing higher-than-normal traffic – like at a baseball game or concert).  The potential for Verizon to cripple my iPhones ability to surf the web scared me a little, and I began to think more about the tiered data plans.

A discussion with my wife reminded me that the best deal is the one that gives you the most for the least… stick with unlimited.  And we did.  Then the news broke – Verizon was dumping their 11-month-old tiered data plan options, and switching to a “more affordable” shared data model – Share Everything.  You already share minutes and texts with everyone in your plan, why not share your data too?

because is f***ing expensive.

Verizon’s new Share Everything plans sound really good – when pitched in commercials & by reps.  Verizon will tell you the new Share Everything plan features a couple “attractive” features.

  • Unlimited minutes, shared across all your devices
  • You can have up to 10 devices on your plan – a decent jump from the previous limit of 5!
  • You no longer have to pay extra to use tethering/mobile hotspot on your smartphone  ($20 value)

Verizon also boasts that you get unlimited texting with the ShareEverything (SE) plan, but most people already had unlimited texting bundled in with their minute plans – especially if they’re using a smartphone or have kids (the target audience of the new SE plans).  While Verizon highlights the unlimited texting as another great perk, I don’t see it as a real gain.

Lets take a look at the cost of the new Share Everything plans.  To start with, you choose your devices.  Smartphones ring in at $40/month each – which is the same as what I’m paying now.  Basic phones roll in at $30/month each, so a $20 increase/month from the current basic line cost.  Verizon also throws in hotspots/jetpacks/air cards/etc. for $20/month, and tablets for $10/month.   Where this gets interesting is that you no longer pay for the overall minute plan in the same sense.  You now choose your shared data level, and are left with your total.  The lowest offering is $50 for 1GB of shared data.  Whether you have 1 smartphone or 6, the data remains a shared bucket across all devices. Lets look at what I would get for the same dollar amount I pay now:

 My iPhone: $40

My wife’s iPhone $40

Basic Phone: $30

Unlimited Talk & Text + 2GB data: $60

Total bill – $170+taxes and fees.

Are they for real?  2GB of SHARED DATA! Had I jumped to tiered data when it was a per line addition, I could have 2GB for myself, my wife could have 2GB for herself, and we’d pay the same.  Better yet, with Verizon’s double data deal, we could have have 4GB each for the same cost.  How is this a good deal?  Who does this work for?

This is a good deal for someone.  It has to be… but who?  People who have several lines, constant wifi access for all devices, and spend a lot of time talking on the phone (to non-Verizon customers, during the day).  Seems like that really narrows the scope a bit, right?  Lets say – just for fun, that I ultimately ditch that basic phone and get a tablet instead.  I could move that $30 basic phone down to a $10 tablet price, save myself $20/month?  Fancy that, I can get 4GB MORE of data (a total of 6GB for $80) for that extra $20 and keep my bill the same.  It starts to look a little better here, but I’ve given up a line that can be used to talk or text.  I’m no longer getting one of those “great features” of Share Everything on one of my lines.

Something that doesn’t make sense to me here is this:

  • Mobile phone plans started out offering 50 minutes, no texting and you got billed for roaming (you know, calling outside of the town your phone number was native to).  It was expensive ($60 for 1 line, 50 minutes).
  • A few years later, plans featured larger minute offerings for the same price – or less (500 minutes for $60).
  • Skip ahead a few more years, and plans could include text messaging – again, more for about the same price (US Cellular, AT&T, and Verizon offered 500 minutes + unlimited texting for ~$65).
  • In 2009(ish) – more minutes, unlimited texting, unlimited data, slightly more costly, but a load more capability (1 line with 500 min, unlimited text, and unlimited data = $90).
  • Jump to 2012 – unlimited minutes (which is a useless notion), unlimited texting, and less data… for more money!  Ridiculous.

The mobile industry is screwing over customers more now than ever before.  Is there a good solution – not really.  I’m still holding onto my unlimited data plan.  Verizon says that when you upgrade (and sign a new 2-year contract – which means a subsidized phone cost), all customers on unlimited data are forced to change to a tiered data (for individuals) or shared data (for families) plan.  The only way around it is to pay for the phone at full-retail price.  My hopes of a $200 iPhone are lost, and I assume I’ll be shelling out $650/iPhone in a month or 2 when Apple drops “the new iPhone” onto the market.

At this point, it’s a lose-lose – but if they’re going to attempt to screw me around every corner, this is my tiny way of giving them the finger and taking advantage of being a long-standing customer.

My Hopes for the Future of Mobile Social Media

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We are in a very rapidly changing time, and experiencing technology that becomes outdated in an instant.  Social media rules the mobile world, and mobile is taking over the way we work, learn, communicate, and document our life. Yesterday’s new social network is tomorrows “old news.”

It seems that every day, a new social platform emerges. Some of these zone in on niche markets – others take on the likes of Facebook and Twitter – while some start in 1 target group and explode into the other. Instagram, for example, was introduced as a way for photographers & fans of analog photography to share and create photographs akin to the days of Poloroid instant develop photos, and will soon be under the wing of the “Big F” – and where that will go, nobody knows.

One social network, launched in November of 2010, has truly caught me by surprise. A social network that combines the ideas of Facebook status, Twitter micro-blogging, photo sharing, and location tagging called “Path” I had seen the occasional post on Twitter with a link back to someone’s “Path”, but never gave it much thought. A few weeks ago, I decided to give Path a try, and to my surprise, the app is so much fun to use.  Path isn’t just another tired social platform. The whole principal behind Path isn’t to share news and links, or to create a network of all your friends. Instead, Path is about sharing your journal, or “path”, of your life on the go. The apps home screen shows a stream of all your friends current paths. Path informs you when your someone has looked at your moment or gone to your profile. It notifies you (if enabled) when your connections post to their Path or leaves you an emoticon (akin to liking a Facebook post). Path isn’t about what happened or what will happen – its about the NOW – and about sharing as you are out-and-about!

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What makes Path most interesting to me is that it has such a visually and aesthetically pleasing interface, and it’s one of the smartest social networks I’ve ever experienced. Path learns from your post habits. When you launch Path in a new neighborhood, it automatically posts the your location has changed to whatever city/village/area you are in.  I went to a White Sox game with my wife, for example, and as I got to my seat, I launched Path – and there it was “Ian : In Bridgeport, Chicago”. Of course, I can then hone in on where exactly I am, and upload a photo. In a matter of seconds, I can tap the (+) button in the bottom corner, tap the camera icon, snap a picture, choose my location – U.S. Cellular Field, tag my wife under “I’m with” and click done. The smooth and inviting interface makes sharing fun and enjoyable.

Path has a number of other excellent features. I suggest that if you’re looking for that social space that’s personal, semi-private, and beautifully designed, then you check out Path [app store link]. I hope other social networks can take note of Path’s unique and seamless UI, and *smart* updating, it could truly change the social networking game.

 

 

The iPad 3 – Announcement-Day Eve

this post was inspired by the mashable article “What if everything we think we know about the next iPad is wrong”

With all the off-the-wall speculation, rumors, claims, “insider” details, and the like – I figured it was my turn to share some insight into what I believe the next generation iPad will include.

Reports have claimed things like a lack of home button, 4G/LTE connectivity, a super hi-res Retina display, iOS 6, a new moniker (iPad HD), a new price point, and so much more… but here’s the truth in what to expect.

On Wednesday, March 7, 2012, Apple will release the ePad (as a throwback to the old eBooks & eMacs). The ePad will be a 7.5″ Windows 8 tablet with a surprisingly low resolution (similar to the 1st generation iPod Touch). It will come in 1 size – 4GB. It won’t have 4G/LTE… or 3G for that matter. It will only be available with WiFi – but limited to WiFi 802.11 a/b… no 802.11 g/n. This tablet will form a new partnership between Apple and Microsoft that will allow Apple to slowly start a downward spiral.

In all likelihood, Apple won’t release a new iOS ever again, and will soon shut down the App store all together to push for more HTML5 based web-apps & will use the Windows marketplace as their sole distribution center.

The likelihood that Apple will drop the home button is not likely, and I assume that Apple will actually throw back to the original iPod (remember that one… with all the buttons… yeah… that one…) and will have a button to perform nearly every normal function on the device. The device will no longer be touch sensitive as a way to make room for the Serial ATA hard drive and the hatch for the D-cell batteries. Apple will also limit syncing to a new cable, only available to customers for use within Apple retail locations, with a Genius appointment. These cables won’t be sold in to consumers, which will further strangle Apple as a company.

All of this great new technology and these fantastic new features will be available immediately after the announcement event at the startling price of $189.99 (to compete with the Kindle Fire).

So what do you think? Will you be picking one up? I know I’ll be 1st in line!

 

P.S. This is all sarcasm… just want to point out how RIDICULOUS some rumors can be… how 1 person saying some is from a credible source can really spin things out of control.

Tomorrow will be another fantastic event, and I seriously can’t wait to see what Apple has in store for us. My prediction is just as good as any – but I’m guessing the following

  • Retina display
  • WiFi/3G (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Unlocked)
  • (Maybe) 4G-LTE
  • Possible elimination of the home button for touch sensitive buttons (similar to many Android devices – or better yet, Palm style touch area)
  • 16/32/64 GB options
  • I don’t foresee iOS 6, since 5 is so new… maybe some big new features in a 5.3 (similar to 4.3 from 4.1?)
  • No change in price, although the iPad 2 may drop in storage size (like the iPhone 4 did when the 4S was released) and the iPad 2 would be come the “affordable” version

Anything else Apple gives us in the new iPad will be a surprise to us all… tomorrow will tell!

The Next Wave of Classroom Technology

The following feature article was written for Waldorf’s “The Torch” quarterly magazine.  See the original article here!

We are living in very an unique time. It is a time where teenagers carry smartphones, college students live on their laptops, and jobs are centered around email, texting, and video conferencing.  For those who are behind or feel it is too hard to learn now – the world around them seems to be evolving faster than ever… and IT IS.

Graduating college just over 2 years ago, I was on the cusp of what is now somewhat of a technological revolution.  Since 2008, the adoption of smartphones has more than doubled for adults to an impressive 35% – and that number continues to grow.  A study by Pew Research Centers puts 18-24 year olds at an astonishing 49% using smartphones, and 58% of 25-34 year olds. So what does that mean? Nearly half of all college-aged students are carrying a smartphone – and it’s effecting how they learn. Continue reading “The Next Wave of Classroom Technology”

Review: Kurt Cobain’s Graphic Novel meets the Digital Realm (iPad App)

The iPad, for me, is a web browser, a productivity tool, and a way to consume visual media.  When I was tasked with checking out “Kurt Cobain: The Graphic Novel,” I was skeptical as to how it would fit into my typical iPad use – but I’m glad I gave it a try.

Downloading the app (available here) was a fairly painless process, although it does take a little time, even over wifi, due to the applications size.  The App Store requests the user to be 17+ in order to download, as the novel does contain some “R” rated (violence, drug use, sex, depicted suicide) content.  The $5.99 price tag was also relatively easy enough to swallow, especially for a Nirvana fan or comic book enthusiast.  The story takes you through the life, fame, and death of Cobain, in a unique and extremely visual 84 pages.

Overview: At first launch of the novel, you’re greeted with a comic book illustration of Cobain, with angel wings, on his knees crying, which very quickly establishes that this is the digital version of “Godspeed” – the print version of the Kurt Cobain graphic novel.  The home screen is optimized for both landscape and portrait viewing modes, but that doesn’t extend to the pages of the novel.  From the home screen, you can jump right into the comic, although there are a few other options (intro, help, about, etc).  There is also a light guitar riff that plays on the menu.  Enjoy it, because it’s the only sound included in the app. Clicking “enter” springs the comic open, and you’re immediately swept into the comic’s artwork by Flameboy.

To me, this feels like a real comic book, and, in my opinion, it is a truly brilliant use of the iPad’s screen.  They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and this graphic novel holds true to that.  The art work is dark, detailed, and tell most of the story by it’s self.  A simple double tap of the screen on any of the tiles will bring it full screen, and from there, users can swipe left or right to read it frame by frame.  This feature makes the digital version stand out over the print version and really improves the experience as a reader.


Verdict: Reading the novel, to me, almost felt like I was watching it on TV.  I found myself getting somewhat lost in my own imagination as I slid from one image to the next.  A soundtrackto the novel would have made it truly interactive, although the experience can be enhanced further by loading your iPad music library up with a handful of Nirvana tracks, and letting the music help set the mood of the graphic novel.

Comics and graphic novels are definitely a market that can utilize the iPad as a tool to further their reach, and “Kurt Cobain: The Graphic Novel” is a prime example.  If you’re into Nirvana/Kurt Cobain, or know someone who would really enjoy a digital comic, I recommend you check it out in the App Store… it’s worth it!

Rating: I would say that “Kurt Cobain: The Graphic Novel” is a 3.5 out of 5.

Pros:

  • Illustration Quality
  • Frame by frame content viewing
  • Like reading a ink and paper comic book

Cons:

  • Lack of audio content
  • Lack of true landscape version
This review was written by me, as a guest writer for Mactrast.com

Check out the original post HERE!!