Monday, July 25, 2011

When the Lawyers Arrive

Back in the 50's when the US was laying out the Interstate Highway System, a number of rural families saw their business about to fall due to the passing of motorists on the new highway with no reason to stop at their roadside stands, motels and cafes. Some families were able to convince the Highway designers to add a exit ramp, others weren't so fortunate. One affected family decided to fight back and found a way to force the feds hand. The land owner divided his acreage among his family members forcing the government to deal with dozens of hostile land owners just to build one mile of highway. They got their exit ramp.

A group of lawyers have provided a modern day roadblock to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal by dividing up a few miles of wireless highway with lawsuits representing a large number of AT&T "customers". These attorneys have filed the first of maybe a hundred legal actions that each need to be dealt with before the AT&T deal can be approved. They claim just one win will stop the process.

Fight the just may provide the kind of impasse that makes this wireless deal get bogged down in paperwork. Before you get too giddy about this development, consider that if the deal does get done, the legal costs just may indeed increase the ultimate cost of wireless to customers, just what the lawsuits are trying to prevent. Let's hope the deal blockers can also provide an alternate route for T-Mobile to take to sell off their network. Beware of unintended consequences.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One Carrier We Won't Miss

We just discovered that AT&T applied earlier this year to the FCC to take over Lamar County Cellular, a carrier around Paris, Texas. The Lamar network looked, acted and operated as if it was already run by AT&T. Locals may have not realized Lamar wasn't operated by AT&T. If it quacks like a duck...

I'm not sure how long it's been since anybody at Lamar actually answered the phone, but we have been giving them an unfavorable review for several years because they wouldn't answer our calls. The info on their web has been out of date since 2006.

So, sometimes the loss of a carrier isn't a big deal. AT&T just started recently with the formalities and, in this case, there's no reason to confuse this action at the FCC with those of the impending marriage of AT&T and T-Mobile. After, all, we'll always have Paris.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Does My Phone Sound So Bad?

The answer is that the carriers are busy adding capacity for our insatiable hunger for data instead of helping us sound less like C3PO. Voice calls are not the growth segment of their market. A recent CNN article noted that good-sounding wireless calls are available, on "HD" phones, but not in the US. Count Canada, the UK and Uganda, yes, Uganda, among the 22 countries where more normal-sounding phones are available. Not here.

There's hope. Higher-quality phones require more bandwidth and there's more bandwidth to be had on the new LTE networks. You just need an "app" for that. This is assuming we will still be talking to each other. TTYL?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who Uses Smart Phones?

You might have seen headlines based on the latest Pew Research study of cell phone usage reporting 35% of all adults in the US are using a Smart phone. We like to look at the other side of things. The first statistic we want to note is that 58% of adult phone users are NOT using Smart phones. The carriers call those non-Smart handsets "Feature" phones, but we know them as 'flip' phones or 'bar' phones. That means most of us are still just making voice calls and Texts.

One of the most interesting results from the study is that 25% of these Smart phone owners use their phone for Internet access more than any other device. That's 10% of wireless users surfing the 'Net more than on a computer.

Our take is that the majority of us still use simple phones and don't use our phones that much for Internet access. There are many of us who hate talking into a huge Smart phone that brings to mind talking into the "brick" of a couple decades ago. We're looking at the day when the best phone is one that talks with a tiny form factor and surfs with a huge (iPad-size) screen. It's the iFoldPhone!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

GoPhone Wows Us

Over the last year or so, the AT&T GoPhone has been slowly working its way into our hearts by improving and becoming a very useful prepaid service. We pay for our own GoPhone service, so this isn't a review after using a phone that was supplied by AT&T. Instead of discussing each attribute, I'll just list them:

  • While GoPhone is still limited to the AT&T network in the US, it's now available across a large part of the US after the Alltel acquisitions.

  • Unlimited calling is now as low as $50 per month.

  • PayGo rates are as low as .10 per minute.

  • GoPhone roams in Mexico on the superior TelCel network at only .25 per minute.

  • GoPhone now offers PayGo web access (for 'feature phones') at a reasonable price. What is reasonable? I can get weather reports and stock prices for as low as .01 each. Most web pages cost .10 each.

  • GoPhone Refills can be found at significant discounts.


  • Refills are still limited to 30 to 90 days. You need to spend $100 to get a year's refill unlike T-Mobile's $10 threshold.

  • Downloads for certain PayGo features incur a charge, although that charge is usually just .01.

  • On my newer Nokia, a call to 611 does not get you a person, it forces you around a downloaded service program that is unhelpful.
Our personal use of GoPhone starts with our frequent trips to Mexico and then works down the balance in the US for the months following. Our normal 'backup' phones still use T-Mobile Prepaid based on their low Refill requirements. But the GoPhone keeps getting better.

Ultimately our T-Mobile phones may become GoPhones (please let us keep our Gold Rewards!), but if AT&T can extend the expiration dates, we'll be immediate converts!