Friday, October 29, 2010

US Cellular Covers Bill Shock

We recently noted that US Cellular had drifted up to the top of our Ratings, in part, due to their customer-friendly attitude. They have actually taken another friendly step by actually addressing "Bill Shock", which is a current focus of the FCC.

US Cellular promises your overages won't go beyond a certain point, tied to their previous features of their "Belief Project." We applaud their moves as we have celebrated their ongoing upgrades to an almost all-3G network. Much like we cited Alltel a few years ago, many of us should wish we had US Cellular available in our neighborhood. While they aren't one of the favored "small" carriers we crowed about recently, they certainly have tried to distance themselves from the "Too big to care" players.

Our biggest fear is that we put US Cellular at the top of the ratings and extol their virtues here in The Noise, only to have them gobbled up by another wireless company. That happened to Alltel, however, US Cellular is controlled by "private" owners who want to maintain their membership in the wireless carrier club. Boy, should we be glad they do, whether we live in their neighborhood or not. Yes, we share "The Belief".

Monday, October 25, 2010

Smaller is Better

A few days ago we supported the notion that choosing a smaller phone was still a worthy pursuit. Today, we are convinced that the smaller carriers have even more advantages. Most people are surprised to find the broad phone selection and competitive pricing available from the smaller carriers, some serving less than a single state. It is so refreshing to talk to these companies on the phone because the person at the other end of the line usually gives you far more attention than those working in far-away call centers.

When you call the major carriers, you could be talking to someone thousands of miles away. With the small guys, you could easily be talking to a neighbor. Oh yes, a few of these smaller carriers also contract out their services, but when their service area is so limited, you are far more valuable to them than you are to the big companies.

Our closest example is Viaero Wireless. Companies like these are so involved with the local market, you're shooting yourself in the foot by not using them as your main carrier. Just down the road in Texas, there is a handful of local carriers that are more than willing and able to compete for your business. One of our favorites there, Cellular One of Texoma, has the right mix of plans, phones and customer service that makes those of us in larger cities envy what you can get down along the Red River.

Go ahead and use a GoPhone for your glove box phone, but we're still beating the drum for the smaller carriers. Include them among your choices, if you're lucky enough to have one. Some of us can only dream of a world with better carriers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

AT&T Signup Secrets

If you have been considering switching to AT&T, we noticed they have offered discount promotions on a predictable basis. At least one weekend a month, and sometimes more, for the last 6 months or so, AT&T has been offering new accounts both Free overnight shipping and Free activation. This amounts to savings of at least $50 and sometimes more. A "weekend" usually means Friday through Monday.

Also, they have been promoting refurbished iPhones as low as $79. The iPhone supply varies from week to week, so you need to check the inventory and the promotions to make sure they're both available at the same time. Of course, there are lots of other good phones to choose from.

These deals have been available from both AT&T directly, or from AT&T retailers like our own Moose Wireless. Of course, these deals can evaporate at any time, and AT&T and the retailers don't always offer the same deal at the same time. We're just hoping we're giving you a heads up instead of giving them a reason to give up.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's OK to Be Small

Our self-affirmation thought of the day: It's OK to be's OK to be small. How many times have you looked at someone's iPhone, Blackberry or other smartphone, then at your little flip phone and feel a tinge of envy? I know I have. However, those of us with smaller phones are still within the majority. The entire market for smartphones is still only about 25%.

Let's face it, your smaller phone is probably just as capable at Text and Data usage, it just has fewer keys ( I have several Apps on mine). I know most of us involved at the Cellular Noise have held on to smaller, non-smartphones mainly because we don't want to start paying the increased monthly charge that comes with them. The bigger consideration is we have been wanting smaller phones with each model upgrade, and the availability of smartphones shouldn't change that desire.

We're not anti-smartphone, we're just letting you know it OK to be small...we're in the majority. I have actually been told by friends how they wished they could carry a phone as small as mine, but are forced to the larger form factor either by work requirements or a 2-year contract. My next phone should be smaller. BTW, the Juke should have been the next step, but it was too small!

I know things change. It was really hard to accept a phone without some kind of antenna sticking out of it. I also finally started using the Bluetooth capabilities of my phone after 3 years of not even knowing it had it. But a bigger phone? That's a dream I won't give up.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

GoPhone's New Secret

AT&T recently lowered the price for daily access for their GoPhone Plans. Now, at $2 per day for Unlimited Talk & Text only on days used, why would anyone subscribe to their $60 per month plan? If you used your phone every single day of the year, you would indeed pay $10 more per year ($12 more in Leap Years), but if you have a few days when you don't Talk/Text/IM/Message/Check Voice Mail, you're going to save money with the pay per day plan.

I hate to say this, but GoPhone has reached phone plan Nirvana where users have a choice between paying monthly, or just for what they use, at no difference in the rate. It doesn't matter that GoPhone charges slightly more per month than other Prepaid offerings, it's that we now have a choice that doesn't penalize us to choose to pay as we go. This pricing puts pressure on all the other Unlimited Pay-Per-Day plans which were formerly dominated by Cricket.

We also like the new GoPhone "Simple Rate Plan" where AT&T now charges only .10 per minute, which is a 60% price decrease from the old .25 per minute plan. Mexico roaming charges remain at .25 per minute for both plans, which is much cheaper than anyone's rate. What's the world coming to?

As far as we can see, coverage, features and access are exactly the same among GoPhone plans. Will other carriers match the AT&T rates? I hate to say this, but, who cares? If we want to get that rate, we'll get GoPhone.

Monday, October 4, 2010

US Cellular at the Top

A few months ago, we moved US Cellular to the top of our Wireless Carrier Ratings. It wasn't that they did something outstanding at the time, it was more about the slight slip of Alltel from the top position and that US Cellular has a few, unique, customer-friendly policies.

Last week, US Cellular expanded those policies with the customer-unfriendly name, "The Belief Project." The most notable aspect of this "project" is the elimination of the need to renew your 2-year contract after the initial contract period. While US Cellular is the 6th largest carrier in the US, these features may not have the impact that they might have with a larger carrier. We do see it encouraging US Cellular customers to stick around, which looks like their biggest problem. While US Cellular operates an excellent network, they can't seem to generate the excitement of the larger or newer networks.

"The Belief Project" features are definitely a step in the right direction, but it's hard for consumers to wrap their heads around such an undefined idea. Maybe aim for, "No more 2-year contracts", or "Free phones for life". Simple concepts are easier to grasp in our soundbite world. Our soundbite says US Cellular is our #1-rated network. We hope consumers give their 3G network a fair review before they decide to move with the herd to the largest carriers.