Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't Sweat Your Next Phone Choice

This happens to active wireless users more than once every 2 years. We agonize over the choice of our next wireless phone, and often buy several, searching for the "perfect" phone. I have been in the same position, but in my case, I have been agonizing for years on how to make a web spreadsheet that will assist others in making this decision.

Recently, I was introduced to a study, The Tyranny of Choice, by Barry Schwartz, a Professor of Social Theory, who introduced the idea that the larger our number of choices, the less satisfied we are with the choices we make. The most important lessons taken from this study were:
  • Learn when to choose (restricting our options to the minimum necessary)
  • Learn to accept "good enough" (settle on the choice that fulfills our core requirements)
  • Don't Worry About What you're Missing (focus on the positive parts of your choice)
  • Control your expectations (yes, expect less and you won't be disappointed)

With cellular service and phones, we always suggest you limit your choices to 3, and one of those 3 could be your current phone or carrier. With rapid changes in technology, whatever you think is "Best" today will be stale tomorrow. You can start the process over in the future, but don't worry about your choice after it is made. It's OK to be obsessed with you cellular phone selection, but once it's made, you must go on with your life, or you will rapidly become unhappy with your decision.

I am thankful daily for the things I never had that I never wanted.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Pay As You Go Convert

I just heard from a reader who decided to try out our suggestion of Going Prepaid to save money. He discovered on our Unlimited Comparison page that AT&T's GoPhone was offering Unlimited calls for $3 a day. He makes lots of calls Monday through Friday, but keeps his phone off on weekends. He converted his expensive AT&T account to GoPhone, and now expects his bills to be no more than $60 to $70 a month...for Unlimited! When he takes a few days off, he keeps the phone off, giving him even more savings.

We believe the carriers would rather you not pay by the day, but competition is forcing their hand. Our reader had reservations about "going prepaid", but when he realized he would have Unlimited minutes and would be paying about half of his old rate, we was an immediate convert.

Instead of describing this as a trend toward Prepaid, we would rather view this as a movement toward paying as you go. And I bet the carriers hate it. Will Verizon Wireless follow with a drop in their Unlimited prepaid (now at $4 a day)? Hopefully, there's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Uncle Gary Went Prepaid

Uncle Gary reluctantly went wireless last year. He strolled into a Verizon Wireless store and walked out with a phone with a touch screen and all the bells & whistles. Uncle Gary thought it was cool, but he was paying over $75 a month. After the first month or two, he was using less than 100 minutes a month. He tried to switch to a cheaper plan, but he couldn't because that model of phone requires certain plan minimums.

A few months ago, Uncle Gary dropped his Verizon account knowing that he will save more than the Early Termination Fee within a couple months. He was ready to dump the phone, but it's shiny screen and cool features made it hard to part with.

After creating our Converting to Prepaid page, I suggested activating his snappy new phone on Page Plus Cellular. Page Plus uses the Verizon network, any Verizon phone, and activating on Page Plus is only $12. If you search around, you'll find people online who can activate it for free. Then, Uncle Gary can refill his account for as little as $10 for up to 120 days of use. The only limitation is that he must pay roaming fees when traveling off the Verizon network. As you can see on the right, the new Verizon native network includes a lot of real estate.

I'm guessing Uncle Gary will need a little more than $10 worth every 4 months...maybe $25. There are even discounts available on that. So the result is: before: $75 a month, now: $6.25 a month. He could even save by switching to Verizon's own prepaid depending on how many days he uses his phone.

Uncle Gary is now a happy wireless user, it just took some time to get him on the right plan. You can be, too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More Cellular One

A little over a year ago we complained when an established cellular carrier in Montana, Chinook Wireless, switched to the old school name Cellular One. We felt it was step backward, especially when there was a previous Cellular One in the area with its own set of baggage. Today we find the Cellular One franchise ball continues to roll. Amerilink Wireless along the Texas/Oklahoma border has also taken up the moniker, as Cellular One of Texoma. We still think this is a step backward, and yes, there was an old Cellular One in this area as well.

Also, Cellular One of Northeast Arizona stopped using the web address, So, while they aren't changing to Cellular One, they stopped moving away from it. Confusing us even more, if you were to access, you are presented with ads and links for T-Mobile and Skype, Cellular One competitors! What were they thinking? I'll tell you: they weren't.

For a phrase that was muttered nonchalantly in 1983, Cellular One lives to preserve cellular history, but as a trade name, we feel it lacks the edge of a hot, new name, like, uh...Cingular?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Joy in Rural America

While we are nearly in tears about the loss of Alltel Wireless, there is a segment of America that is drooling at the coming of AT&T. Yes, the loss of Alltel means less competition, but if you live in Big Horn, Wyoming, the only thing you see is the name of the local cellular store getting changed from Alltel to AT&T. Many of these users don't see the reduction in the number of cellular carriers. They see a whole new set of cool phones, especially the Apple iPhone, coming to their town. And that makes them happy.

In larger cities like Cleveland, Phoenix, and even Pueblo, Colorado, the Alltel store just disappears, and people in those towns may notice there's less competition. But in Big Horn, whether or not they are Alltel customers, they'll be excited about the coming of AT&T, and GSM, and the iPhone, and a new cellular choice.

At Mountain Wireless, we're adapting, too. As Alltel gets split up into several pieces, we have adjusted our Ratings and Reviews, and will update them as necessary. This includes updating reviews of AT&T which will make some huge gains in the rural west. This is a good thing, except if it propels us into a 3- or 2-carrier dominated cellular market. And the feds will make sure our prices won't skyrocket, right?

Friday, May 8, 2009

AT&T Gets Most of Alltel!

Today the deal was announced by AT&T. AT&T will get about 75% of Alltel with the rest still to be decided among US Cellular and investor groups. The deal will cost AT&T $2.35 Billion. AT&T says they will convert the entire network to GSM within a year after closing. Parts of the Alltel network already provide GSM roaming coverage.

Verizon Wireless grouped the Alltel markets into 30 "regions". AT&T will get 24 "regions" and US Cellular and the bidding investors are looking at the other 6. We will assume a "region" is a collection of geographically adjacent markets and AT&T's region contains 74 Alltel and Unicel markets. US Cellular did indicate they were mostly interested in markets closest to their existing service areas.

Hey, rural America gets the iPhone!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Converting Your Phone To Prepaid

As family finances get tighter, many people are looking at the cost of cellular service. Most users don't want to give it up, but can't find ways to save money, even by switching carriers. We'll help you save potentially big bucks by guiding through the Switch to Prepaid.

The cellular carriers do not want you to pay by the minute, so they throw a lot of obstacles in your way. They make more money by charging you for a fixed number of minutes, even though you never actually use those minutes. Several carriers actually eliminated certain price points so you'll need to pay for the next higher priced plan. Even with AT&T's Rollover, you're still paying for minutes you'll never use. For example, if you have a $60 plan that gives you 900 Anytime minutes, but you only use 500, you can pay just $50 with most prepaid plans, and maybe less, even with some Unlimited plans. Your savings will depend on how close you get to your calling plan threshold.

Think about your time on holidays or vacation when you made few calls. You still paid for those minutes. Or how about the month you went way over your minute allotment. You paid .45 each for extra minutes. It could have been as low as .10 a minute (or nothing with Unlimited).

The easiest method to Convert to Prepaid is to switch with your current carrier. Not all carriers offer Prepaid and many Prepaid plans do not include off-network roaming. We show you the options. Prepaid is becoming more consumer-friendly and is no longer just for the credit-challenged. In tough economic times, if you can only justify spending $20 a month for cellular, you can do it. We'll show you how.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Verizon Asks for Alltel Extension

In a move that everyone expected, Verizon Wireless has applied for a 60-day extension of the deadline to make the required divestiture of certain Alltel and Unicel markets in order to get approval for their acquisition of Alltel Wireless. This confirms the expected divestiture date of July 9, 2009 as the best guess date that Verizon will split away their required properties.

The most recent information shows that there were a few bidders on all or parts of the Alltel, Verizon and Unicel divestiture properties in a private "auction". Verizon claims, and we believe, they need time to sort out the best deals for themselves and then get the required approvals. In our book, anything that keeps Alltel a separate operation a little longer is a good thing for cellular customers. An extension of the divestiture certainly gives current Alltel customers an extension of the anxiety already felt about their service, but it lets many of them enjoy what we feel is still one of the superior cellular operations the country a little longer.

If you read in July that Verizon asks for yet another extension, that just could be another good thing. And for those savvy Alltel customers who know what a good thing they have, it will be a chance to extend their contracts yet again. I know, who thought wanting to extend your contract would be desirable?