Monday, January 30, 2017

Sprint's $50 Unlimited Plan

Sprint's $50 sale isn't particularly earthshaking, but it is indicative of the state of Sprint and wireless pricing in general.  Unlimited Data, Talk & Text from Sprint for only $50 is actually what we need from Sprint.  Sprint's network isn't getting any worse, but the competition, particularly T-Mobile, is getting better.  Other carriers are getting lots of buzz when they do something worth talking about. Sprint needs to create a buzz of their own, and a snazzy price promotion is a nice way to do it.

Sprint's $50 Unlimited plan will be available until midnight tomorrow (Tuesday 1/31) night, and it's only effective for a couple of months, but if it brings lots of people in the door, we might see it again...and maybe from other carriers.  (We did not get paid for this article but there are commissionable links to Sprint on this page).

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fi's Cheap Data Plan

In our last article about the cheapest data plans, we named Republic Wireless as the low-cost data plan winner.  There was much discussion about one more plan that should be reviewed, but most of our editorial contributors weren't comfortable about including Google Fi.  Google Fi uses a different wireless model in that not only do you pay for data per Gb, but you also get back some of your payment if you don't use it all.

The limits that make some people uncomfortable are the fact that calls are completed through broadband and that you need to use their own Fi-compatible phones.  With the addition of the Pixel phone to the line of Fi handsets, the phone selection becomes less of a drawback.  And, since I have been using Google broadband functions (apps) for calls while roaming outside the US, I'm fairly comfortable that the process works well.  It may even be the future of wireless.

Another point in Fi's favor is that T-Mobile, one of the 3 cellular networks used for broadband connections, has improved their coverage significantly.  However, at $30 (+ tax) for service with 1Gb data, the only way Google Fi becomes a lower-priced option is when you actually use less than your 1Gb allotment and get the refund.  Most of us with 1Gb plans may very well not use that much data.  If you need to add another 1 Gb of data, the price goes way above the other offers.  What I like is the international access of the plan.  What other users dislike is the call quality on Wi-Fi...but that can be bypassed.  Google Fi is a good choice, but not the best one for us bottom-feeders.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cheap Data Plans

Last week we shared a few rock-bottom-priced Talk & Text plans that cost pocket change.  This week we searched for cheap Data plans.  To make a comparison we decided that frugal users can survive on 1Gb a month...because us cheapskates use lots of Wi-Fi.
  • $30/month will get you Unlimited Talk & Text plus 1Gb of high speed Data with Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS.  Boost Mobile will get you 2Gb at that price.  If you want access to Verizon's network, Page Plus offers 1Gb of Data and Unlimited Text with a limit of 1,500 Talk minutes.
  • FreedomPop, Tello and US Mobile, our Talk & Text low-price leaders, come in a little under $30, but taxes and fees can push that total back over.
  • There are some substantial price drops if you can get by with 500Mb (even FREE!).  Conversely, a few dollars more, say at $35/month, can get you quite a bit more Data...5Gb at Virgin Mobile.
  • The low-cost winner in our search is "Wi-Fi first" carrier, Republic Wireless.  They claim Unlimited Talk & Text + 1Gb Cellular Data for $20/month.  Their TOS states that taxes and "government-mandated fees" are extra.  Republic is now using the T-Mobile network for their cellular Data.
We realize the 1Gb limit is a bit arbitrary as the average data user consumes about 2Gb of data per month. As usual, our shopping trip is not exhaustive and is subject to change.  Note our disclaimer on these reviews.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fake News? Why Didn't We Think of That?

We may be sloppy in not quoting all our sources and we might have missed some details when making our opinionated blasts, but we never thought about just making up stories.  It could be we're just not that creative...or that credible.  We need to make sure you know that what we report in this, and all other Mountain Wireless web sites, has some basis in fact.  We truly believe what we're rambling about is true.

Of course it needs to be relevant, who comes here to talk about potatoes?  More than a few times we have stepped out of the facts to insert our opinion, but it is usually preceded by the terms, "We think," or "We believe," or the like.  No, our take is never fake.  But if we say something is so and there isn't a link to back it up, we need to fix it up.  If we don't, it's a screw-up, not a cover-up.  Long live the 'Noise.'

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Verizon Gets Back into Prepaid

After reporting that Verizon Wireless was making their Prepaid products somewhat less competitive, there appears to have been an about face.  Checking Verizon's Prepaid plans, we see the $30 prepaid plan is back and their more expensive plans appear to include a bit more incentive to sign up.

It was several months ago that Verizon CFO Fran Shammo was quoted, "quite honestly, we use the TracFone brand as our prepaid product."  Now, it is reported that Verizon is working with 3rd-party Prepaid sellers to expand into the prepaid market in a different direction.  It looks like Verizon has decided Prepaid is a market segment they can't ignore...even though they tried.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dirt Cheap Plans

As a wireless consumer advocate we get updates about (and use) some of the lowest-cost cellular plans.  Here is an update on some of these very low cost plans for ultra-low usage:

    FreedomPop gets the award for offering the most brazen offer: FREE wireless plans!  They hope you'll add one of their inexpensive add-on services, but you don't need to.  FreedomPop uses the Sprint and AT&T networks and you can bring your own GSM phone.
    T-Mobile still offers their $3 per month plan which gets you 30 minutes of Talk or 30 Texts.  With Auto-Pay they will refill your account if you need more at the same rate of .10 each.  Data passes are available if you really want it.

    US Mobile plans start at $4 per month which gets you 100 Texts OR 100 Mb of Data, you need to choose which.  Add $3 more (or $5 for Talk Only) and you can add 100 minutes of Talk.  US Mobile offers Auto-Pay on these plans and uses the T-Mobile network.
    Tello's plans start at $5 per month which gets you 100 minutes Talk AND 200 Texts.  For $4 more you get 200Mb of Data.  Tello uses the Sprint network.

    Page Plus offers $10 for 120 days which gives you a $2.50 per month plan.  You get a combination of 100 minutes Talk or 200 texts.  You'll use the Verizon Wireless network but with some some phone model restrictions, and there's the annoying 'drop dead' refill dates.
Yes, there are a few other very low-cost plans, but we have first-hand information on these.  Of course, these carriers also offer some great values for larger amounts of usage.  Surprisingly, Republic Wireless, a 'Wi-Fi first' carrier, has increased their prices to where they are no longer among the cheapest providers.

We keep track of some of the cheapest plans and carriers at MountainPrepaid.  Coming soon: the Cheapest Data plans.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Auto-Pay Makes Prepaid Palatable

One of our biggest objections to going Prepaid was the cumbersome payment cycle required by prepaid accounts. You didn't pay the bill once a month like the electric bill, you paid at or near an exact payment date or you lost your account value, and your service if you were one day late.  These types of payments still exist but finally most Prepaid operators now offer some form of "Auto-Pay", or "Auto-Refill", where your monthly payment is automatically deducted from a credit card, debit card or checking account.

The upside with Auto-Pay is it's easier to pay than the electric bill because the payment is made without any hassle.  In most cases you get an Text or email that the charge to your card or checking account is being made, and no action is required on your part. Having an associated account also makes it easy to change features or add-ons to your account.  The downside includes the challenge of stopping Auto-Pay.  Some carriers make you go through a menu of choices before you find a way to cancel.  Additionally, credit cards have expiration dates that can interrupt the Auto-Pay process suddenly finding yourself with no wireless service.

Some carriers are better than others in making Auto-Pay consumer-friendly.  There are carriers that even offer a discount when you sign up.  Most carriers offer both online and app access to your account.  Several will notify you long before there is a problem including an upcoming expiration date. Our advice sometimes includes backing away and allowing for the fact that something will cause your account to be charged a slightly different amount than you expect, and it may cause less trouble to grin and bear it than pressing to get back a few dollars.

Keep in mind that if you choose not to use Auto-Pay, Mountain Prepaid offers Discount Wireless Refills which can be applied automatically or with a PIN, and we offer refills in more denominations than the carriers themselves to better match your Prepaid usage.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

4G in Mexico? Where?

We're trying to spend as much time in Mexico this winter as possible.  We need to get back soon but hopefully after the most recent snow melts.  Until then, we continue to search for the elusive 4G - LTE that each network claims.  Our last trip was along the Pacific coast and we're currently  on the Baja peninsula.  In both locations, all 3 major carriers claim "4G - LTE Coverage," but we're just not finding much.  There was a small town south of Puerto Vallarta (Boca Tomatlan) where Telcel gave us a solid 4G - LTE signal, and a short stretch of 4G in Cabo San Lucas on AT&T.  Otherwise, those G's remain elusive.

Another change is that the Cricket phone we carried no longer roams on TelCel.  If it loses the AT&T signal it will roam on Movistar or "Emergency Calls Only."  We will assume a US-based AT&T phone will react similarly.  What's cute is how they have changed the name of the networks to include "4G", even when no 4G is available.  AT&T phones (US and Mexican models) occasionally roam on "Iusacel 4G", but that's AT&T's own network.  Some phones appear on "Telcel 4G", but it shows HSPA (as "H") as the technology, which is 3G at best.  3G is good enough, but if our limited observations are any measure, they have a long way to go to providing good, really high-speed broadband coverage.

The reason it's a big deal is that so many resorts have yet to install good wi-fi that can handle all of their guests' demands.  I had no idea how many devices are trying to connect to wi-fi until I looked at user reports and found hundreds of devices trying to use a single wi-fi site.  I thought I could hide from the neighbors by using cellular data, but it looks like they're thinking the same thing.  Escaping to the beach improves the attitude...but not the signal...and that's OK, too.