Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finding Customer Service

In doing research for one of our newer web pages, How to Get Cheaper Wireless Service, I noticed that many of the suggestions for cutting your wireless bill involves communicating with your cellular carrier...even having them help find more economical solutions for your wireless account. We found that may be difficult with several wireless carriers, even some of the large ones.

Take MetroPCS. They try to handle all of your concerns either online or by an automated voice response system. They claim, "To keep prices low..." they limit the number of humans who can help you. This requires a different approach to finding your best deal, mostly through online resources. I tried to get some quirky questions answered at a local MetroPCS store, only to get a puzzled look from the store's solitary, big-eyed, female, uh...sales clerk.

There are several other wireless companies who have similar challenges, some of which result from having too few, or too inexperienced representatives. We would expect this kind of "bargain" service from prepaid companies, but some of them do a respectable job. As usual, though, it depends on how lucky you are when you spin the customer service roulette wheel.

In the most extreme cases, the best strategy is to start over...disconnect your service and establish a new account. That might be too drastic if it means you lose your current phone number. In that case, you might go even more extreme and "port" your number to an entirely different carrier, and then port back. Extreme could be the new normal.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Phones from Wal-Mart

We have recommended for years to stop by a 'brick & mortar' store to play with the wireless phones you might be interested in, then shop online for them to get the best deal. Now, we can turn that around. Ours is one of the few sites that offer online phones that are supposed to be "only" available at stores like Wal-Mart. For years we have been offering Straight Talk phones on our online shopping pages, something the other retailers say can't be done. Now, we can also offer Wal-Mart Family Mobile phones online!

Wal-Mart has several phones you can handle in the store, including the iPhone, and now you can order all of the phones available in the store, right here, online. Family Mobile recently began offering their Unlimited Talk & Text plan for only $45 a month, with the real benefit coming when you add additional family members at only $35 each. The whole family also gets to share 250 Mb of monthly data. We also like their cheap international calling rates at .05 per minute to 12 countries including Mexico and Canada. And, while you probably won't want to pay the high rates, Family Mobile phones also work while roaming in Canada, Mexico, Haiti & Dominican Republic. It's one of the those 'nice to have just in case' features.

With Straight Talk and Family Mobile available on our shopping pages, you can pick among your options even easier than ever. Family Mobile phones use the entire T-Mobile US network, which has improved lately. Also, Straight Talk phones recently began offering you the choice of one of each of the top 4 networks, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, making their flavor of economical unlimited service even more tasty.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Case for T-Mobile

Today at the CES, T-Mobile president and CEO, Philipp Humm, claimed T-Mobile is ready to upset the apple cart again. He revealed that they indeed have been working on their "Plan B" for several months. They came out of the failed deal with AT&T with more money, more spectrum, and more roaming agreements (hey, might that have been their objective all along?). T-Mobile also quietly upgraded a few hundred of their stores. Now they can put all of these things to good use, and consumers should benefit.

T-Mobile already offers a good product and several exclusive benefits including the choice of cheaper plans without extra fees for subsidized handsets, and without a contract. There's that great Prepaid plan and the pay-as-you-go broadband I used during the holidays. They also have enough spectrum to offer faster broadband for the next several years whether they choose HSPA or LTE. The T-Mobile staff should be a happy group now that their jobs aren't on the line. The only thing they don't have is the iPhone, and that may be coming.

T-Mobile could indeed be grooming their operation for another buyer, but they're also treating it like they may be stuck with it. We still haven't heard from the other communications players like cable or satellite who may be courting T-Mobile on the side. So, our view of T-Mobile is now more positive than ever. As the feds put it, the market needs a "disruptive" force in wireless. We hope we will be shaken, not stirred!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Roaming Data

You might have guessed I was heading out on the road after the updating of our Roaming Zone web site and you guessed right. I used data in a few fixed locations and wi-fi is almost universally available, even at many rural rest stops. The sad news is that none of my relatives have wireless available at their homes. Instead of staying at a nearby hotel, I decided it was time to refill in my cellular air cards to plug in to my Netbook.

I ended up using a cheap model from T-Mobile called the Rocket. It is slow in starting up but once connected, my 4G connections were surprisingly fast, at least 5 Mbs. $30 gets me 1Gb of data to use over 30 days. I sorta hoped I would need to try some of the other cheap options, but the Rocket performed beyond my expectations. T-Mobile now has a "Jet" model that is Free after rebates. Virgin Mobile has a similar Laptop stick and a plan that gives you 500 Mb over 30 days for only $20. That connection is supposed to be only "3G", but connections can be surprisingly fast.

This isn't a review of one wireless device over another, but instead the options available for those of us who want wireless data for a laptop for occasional use (and don't forget we offer Discount refills for those prepaid data cards at Mountain Prepaid!). Paying $30 was easier than trying to convince my sister that she needs to add a wireless router to her Internet connection, "I just got it all working the way I like it." And I don't need to sneak into her bedroom to unplug her Ethernet plug. A small price for family harmony.