Friday, July 27, 2012

Wall Street Holds the Phone

Earlier this week, Sprint reported that their business is alive and well and can handle the challenges ahead, not the least of which is the turn down of the Nextel network and the turn up of a new LTE broadband network.  There was a time when it looked like there would be only 2 major carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.  The chances are much better today that it won't happen.  The question now is whether it will be 4 or 3 carriers who survive.

T-Mobile has a few warm fuzzies from the failed AT&T takeover in the form of cash and more roaming agreements, but they lost what Wall Street calls "momentum."  T-Mobile has a handful of hoops to jump through including getting Apple to add T-Mobile's 4G band at 1700 MHz to the iPhone.  Their future lies on bottom line growth and that may be hard to improve.  Yes, this means T-Mobile may still face a new merger or takeover.

Some marriages involve awfully long courtships.  Cricket and MetroPCS have been dating for a long time but just can't commit.  T-Mobile's list of desirable partners is even shorter, and the best looking man on that list is Sprint.  At one time it might have been China Mobile or America Movil, the parent of TracFone, or maybe some good looker from Europe.  But each suitor now looks a bit less desirable mostly due to their lack of pocket change.  For now, that's a good thing for most of us.  The FCC calls T-Mobile a "disrupter" and credits them with creating greater competition in the wireless market.  They should be able to continue that role until Wall Street tells them they must marry up or suffer 'old maid' status.  So far, I still like the old maid, and the motorcycle she rode in on.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Prepaid Double Trouble

We have been following the Prepaid market closely over the last year as a great way make a significant cut in your wireless expenses.  Several of the latest prepaid offerings have been very useful since each of the 4 major cellular networks offer virtually nationwide service without the need for roaming.  A few prepaid services do allow roaming off their home network which gives you even greater coverage.  The catch is that when a carrier charges extra for roaming, the calling procedure may change.

Old hands at the prepaid game have learned the secret, but a few newcomers have sent us an email saying, "Why doesn't my prepaid phone work in Kentucky (or pick your location)?"  But it does!  You just need to enter the called phone number a second time.  A pain? Yes, but it's the carrier's way to make sure you know there will be extra charges.  The best workaround is to enter a second roaming version of your most frequently called numbers, with a "Pause" programmed in the string, into your address book.  Otherwise, if you don't know the number called by heart, you need to look at the screen and enter the number you just called again or, heaven help you, write that number down on the back of your hand (who carries a pen?).

If you have service but just can't enter the extra digits, try Text Messaging which normally works with just one entry.  It's that or switch to one of the prepaid services that doesn't require the 'double dial' such as TracFone, NET10 or T-Mobile.  Of course you could have one of those services that doesn't allow off-network roaming and you can merrily travel along in blissful ignorance.

Friday, July 6, 2012

iPhone: Past its iPeak?

We were excited recently about the prospect of a prepaid iPhone and we prepared for what we thought was a new rush of interest in the 5-year-old phone icon.  We even put together a special web page for all the ways to Go Prepaid with iPhoneVirgin Mobile, who boasts of very reasonable iPhone plans starting at $35 a month, even opened their first Virgin Mobile-branded retail stores to herald the coming of the iPhone to the prepaid carrier.  The reaction was not what they expected.  Cricket Wireless offered their own iPhone with less than door-busting response.

Does this mean the iPhone is past its prime or is it just not of interest to the prepaid crowd?  Prepaid is no longer the providence of the credit-challenged.  Many prepaid buyers are now either value shoppers or users looking for a wireless alternative without a 2-year obligation.  AT&T now offers the iPhone for as little as a penny, so we'll assume that it isn't the price.  In technology, 5 years is a lifetime.  Apple may need to come up with something new or we might see somebody else pass the Tipping Point and create the new iNormal.