Tuesday, May 14, 2013
A Brief Call For Cellular Change
An important aspect of living in the Twenty-First Century is mobile communications. Many have severed their ties to landlines. People use the internet for e-mail, entertainment, information and productivity. And cellular telephony allows people to take their pocket computers disguised as smartphones everywhere, with the expectation that the devices can be used ubiquitously.
Although the advances in electronics allow for incredible capabilities, the reliability is not perfect and seemingly every option of cellular providers has some disadvantages.
It is unwise to think that there is only one answer for everyone on choosing a cellular provider. Cost can throttle choice. Coverage can vary widely. People also use their phones differently. The best advice is to know yourself and investigate thoroughly.
So many people are seduced into being locked into a carrier with the “New Every Two” mentality. While wear and tear and technological improvements can make this replacement cycle appealing, the shiny new “toy” comes at a cost of another two year commitment and possible changes in contractual terms. A couple of years ago, AT and T alienated I Phone owners by altering the “all you can eat” data plans. New customers had a cap. Some old AT and T I-Phone customers also complained that when they wanted to upgrade that their grandfathered unlimited data plans not convey.
One other calculus which consumers need to consider is convergence. Cellular technology can act as a phone, a credible camera, a GPS system, a reading device, a mobile computer etc. When calling for a cellular change, the savvy consumer will explore how his chosen plan and his handset can take advantage of convergence. For example a usable hot spot capability can connect a laptop or a tablet making a separate device a redundant expense.
Personally, my household has been a contract customer with several of the big four cellular carriers, but we dote on the terms of the contract and will not take the phone upgrade temptation track. As the market has changed, I am developing an openness to pre-paid models that have lower monthly costs but lack the subsidized phone. Recently, I was almost ready to switch, I noticed that my chosen MVNO had a limited selection of phones which had LTE capability. While I was willing to wait for LTE to officially arrive shortly in the District of Calamity (sic), the limited phone choice prompted me to investigate further.
It was a good thing that I studied the details, as the only LTE phone did not provide a hotspot option, which was a deal breaker for me. I was willing to pay $15 a month for a Hot Spot with 2.5 GB full 4G LTE, as I could drop a NetZero low capacity Hot Spot and get better service. This plan has not been ruled out but tabled for better choices.
In the cellular industry, things can change pretty quickly. It may be that Amazon puts out a Kindle Phone in which Amazon acts as a MVNO. Like the Kindle, Amazon may sell their devices at near cost and bank on the ease of future purchases through Amazon to pull out the profitability. This option is appealing as Amazon’s customer service has been top rate (unlike certain phone companies) and my prior Kindle ownerships have hooked me into their system. But opting for Amazon would still require scrutinizing the calling plans and handsets and correlating hem to my household’s needs.
Choice is great but it can be confusing and requires some sacrifices. Then again, there’s always the Obama phone.
But the Lifeline program is rife with abuse and Congress is considering cutting back on the program, which has tripled in size since 2009 to cost $2.2 Billion per year. Considering President Obama’s troubles with surreptitiously seizing phone records of scores of Associated Press employees, cutting back on the Obama phones might be prudent.
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