Tag Archives: AT&T

Were AT&T’s overtures to current iPhone users a precursor to a Verizon iPhone?

newsweek:

“The truth is, Apple needs to get on Verizon, and fast, or it risks losing customers to Android. If Verizon gets the iPhone, I’d expect a huge exodus from AT&T. Which probably explains some of AT&T’s recent behavior. With the release of iPhone 4, AT&T made an unusual offer to current owners of iPhones, telling them that even if their contracts weren’t close to being over, they could still push up their expiration date and upgrade to the iPhone 4—as long as they signed a new two-year contract. Many people jumped on that offer, and some even viewed it as a case of AT&T being generous. Um, not likely. More likely it’s that AT&T knows its exclusive lock on iPhone is coming to an end, and so it sought to lock in as many iPhone users before the deal with Verizon happens. To those folks who waited in line for hours and hours to take advantage of AT&T’s “generous” offer, I can only offer my condolences and point out that, given AT&T’s past behavior, you should have known better.”

Lyons, on the latest Verizon iPhone rumors

Oooor they might just want to stay with a carrier (and a phone) that they can use on other SIM-based networks.  When I heard the Verizon rumor, I thought: “Do I want to switch to Verizon? And get stuck with Verizon forever? Not really…”

Just my ¥2, of course.

via life.thepete.com

Meant to post this here first, but Tumblr was tweaking on the bookmarklet. Ah well.

Personally, I’m getting sick of this contract shit. It’s just a con-game. I’m sick of letting myself become a slave to a wireless plan. Just let me pay as I go—some months I don’t need wireless, some months I do. We’re all being taken advantage of by a bunch of white guys in suits.

Why do we put up with this crap? It’s like we’re only worthy of experiencing innovation if we’re rich enough.  I’m fine with paying for things, but it seems to me that the profit margin is so crazy high. I get that they should make money, don’t get me wrong.  The thing is, the whole system could be a lot more fair than it is.  The big communication companies could be making a less money per person from way more people if they’d give people more the freedom to choose who they want to be with.  I want to ask each big telecom one question: Do you want the industry to be healthy? Or just YOU?

And they can’t answer “just me” since that is anti-American, anti-competition and flies in the face of basic concepts that we built our economy on (that competition fuels innovation).  If anything tells us that innovation isn’t being fueled, it’s Apple’s mobile industry business plan.

Let’s release a phone with 10x the design of most other phones, but with 1/5th the features.  The phone is capable of doing the same things [as hackers have proven] but we’ll make sure the software won’t allow it.  This way, we can offer a better phone a year later that will cost us next to nothing to develop but we’ll get rich giving people what pure innovation would have allowed us to give them in the first place.

Aka: release a hobbled phone, then partially unhobble it and pretend it’s a whole new product, then repeat!

It took four iterations of the iPhone for Apple to actually give us something we can’t get anywhere else—their new retina display thingy.  Of course, the iPhone 4 is NOT a 4G phone.  So, it’s still a hobbled phone. Where can you get a 4G phone? Sprint—or any number of countries that aren’t in America.

OK, I could keep this rant going for a while, so I’ll just stop it there on the assumption you get my point.

MyValidas.com Review: TheVerdict: Useless for Me

utterz-image
So, the other day, I posted on my site about my huge-ass iPhone bill and did my best as a vaguely educated (I went to film school) person to decipher what I was being charged for. You can check out this post here: thepete.com/…ned-huzzah but only have a look if you feel like reading my confusion as to what the hell’s going on with it. It looks like there’s both state AND city sales tax assessed on it and I don’t understand how that can be legal.

Regardless, a commenter called "lsoc" explained that: "Dude, this website could not be more perfect for your issues. www.myvalidas.com they analyze all these charges and explain them to you. In a lot of cases the charges are wrong and they will even help you get a credit on your account."

Dude, really? That’s funny, because when I signed up for their "free trial", their site told me that I could save NOTHING (see above screencap).

I’m just going to guess that "lsoc" is a comment spammer for the MyValidas.com people. Especially considering the site was of ZERO HELP AT ALL.

There’s a "free trial" link on their main page, so I signed up, followed the video on how to download my bill from the AT&T site (said video is out of date, BTW–AT&T has changed the layout of their site) and then uploaded the PDF of my bill to the MyValidas.com site. What I then saw, after their "Validas software" was done "analyzing" my bill was the above image.

0% Yearly Savings
$0.00 My Savings Annually
$0.00 Savings With A New Carrier

About the only helpful thing this "free trial" did was show me how much my iPhone will cost me over twelve months. The catch is, THEY’RE WRONG.

This, my first, bill $167.23 multiplied times 12 months works out to $2006.76, right? However, my first bill was prorated 2 extra weeks (who knows why–AT&T is like God, they work in mysterious ways) and there’s a $36 "activation fee" added.

So, that means that my next bill will be at least $56 cheaper than it was the this bill and it’ll probably be cheaper if the other taxes and fees that we all get stuck with are percentage-based, which I believe they are.

So, in the end, the MyValidas.com service is useless.

Oh and FYI, when you click on "Start Saving" you end up going to a page where you can actually start paying–the cheapest plan with run you $5 and it covers a one-time audit. The cost goes up for more in-depth plans. Check ‘em out:

For $24 (adorned with the "Best Value" ribbon) you get, and I quote (comments in bold are mine):

* Includes 24 reports ($120) value [<--Illegal use of parentheses!]
* Entry in the "Worst Cell Phone Bill in Americatm" Why would I want that???
* Monthly Newsletter with $ Saving Tips and industry information you should know. Your service won’t save me enough already?
* Audit every line on your bill and continue auditing every month to ensure the highest savings. Wait, so is the $24 a monthly charge or what?

For $20 you get (and, again, I quote):

* Includes 12 reports ($60) value again with the illegal use of parentheses! Is English even your native language??
* Entry in the "Worst Cell Phone Bill in Americatm" Again, WHY WOULD I WANT THIS?
* Monthly Newsletter with $ Saving Tips and industry information you should know. this is just like the $24 plan. BORING.
* Audit every line on your bill and continue auditing every month to ensure the highest savings. Same here, for just $4 more, why WOULDN’T I go with the $24 plan? Ohhhh… that’s just what you WANT us to think!!

So basically, you can pay for 12 months of the service for $20 ($1.66666667 per report) and for four bucks more you can get 24 months of the service (for $1 per report). That other crap beyond the reports seems like, well, crap. Who cares about a newsletter? Who’s got time for it? And the listing in the "Worst Cell Phone Bill" thing?? Who’s idea was this? Why would you be proud of being taken to the cleaners by your cell phone carrier?

But wait–there’s still the bargain basement plan:

* One time bill auditing and savings report. Save on average 25% per year with one report.
* Entry in the "Worst Cell Phone Bill in Americatm"

Wow–with one report the average savings is 25%?? I think that must be a LIE or they have precisely ZERO iPhone customers to skew the average.

I can see how over a couple of months, this would be a good idea to do just so their service can get an idea of what your calling habits (and your carrier’s charging habits) are like. But one month isn’t enough and more than a few months seems like it would be pretty useless, to me.

Considering you can get 12 months for $20 (a ($60) value!) and 24 months for $24 (a ($120) value!) it would seem like these reports cost very little to actually produce–for one report it’s $5 and for 24 it’s $1 per report. That’s 500% mark-up for the low-end plan. Seems like they could probably charge $6 for three months and both make money and be of, you know, actual service to their customers. Right now it seems like a rip-off–especially since their "free trial" told me exactly nada.

What’s amusing to me is how overkill this service even is. When I saw Lsoc’s comment, I figured it was just somebody linking to a blog post they read someplace. That’s all that is really needed here–or at most a wiki that allows you to search your for your state’s legal carrier charging practices (ie, what is legal to charge in your area). I’d do something like this, myself, if I had the time or the technical knowledge, or the willingness to keep the thing updated.

For now, it looks like I’ll just have to pay this whole damn bill since it’s due today. I just reeeally think that there’s something wrong with getting charged both city and state sales tax. o_O

Oh and note to anyone considering a new Internet startup company. Try to come up with a name for your company that is both memorable AND has not had it’s domain name bought by someone else, already.

For instance, This website "MyValidas.com" is actually for a service called "Validas." It turns out that the founders of this startup used neither of my suggestions.

The only way "Validas" is memorable to me is if I imagine an extra "s" on the end of it making the company name "ValidAss". I just have to remember to remove that extra "s" when going to their website. EXCEPT, they’re not at "Validas.com" they’re at "MYvalidas.com". How lame since I’ve never imagined myself having a Validas (maybe a valid ass, but…) so how can I just roll into the concept of wanting to discover "MyValidas"??? It’s just bad marketing, in my mind.

OK, enough complaining out of me. Just don’t bother with this service, dear readers. It makes more sense to do the research yourself and based on their free trial, I have no proof that your service works at all.

Mobile post sent by thepete using Utterzreply-count Replies.

My iPhone Bill Mysteries Explained! (Huzzah!)

Up until July 11, 2008, I was a prepaid customer at T-Mobile. I had two phones with them–a (product) RED Motorola SLVR and a Sidekick 3. Loved them both, but needed GPS in this new city I live in called New York (note to Mayor Bloomberg: How about tax incentives to the Thomas Guide people?). Plus, I’m a gadget freak, so I was happy to choose GPS over, you know, a map, anyway.

The thing is/was, I HATE contracts. When I was with Sprint they were the biggest dicks in the world about paying late. Yes, I’m a struggling artist. Yes, I often have little money in the bank. But, yes, I always end up paying off my bills (yes, it wasn’t always that way, but that was more than 7 years ago, so my credit report should be none-the-wiser!). Yet, when I would be late with my payment, Sprint would often suspend my account. I’d be out, suddenly finding a huge need to call my wife but unable to.

“Good thing this wasn’t an emergency,” I’d say to myself.

Sure, I could call 911 in that case, but not my wife. That seems odd to me.

ANYway, so something else I always hated about mobile phone service with a contract was that I never really knew how big my bill would be from month to month. I knew approximately, but with taxes and fees and whatever, all I knew for sure was that it would cost me more than I initially signed up for.

Likewise, when I signed up for my iPhone’s voice and data plans, I knew going in that there would be extra fees attached. But I was awoken this morning to a worse surprise–I got charged more than just “taxes and fees.”

But first things, first. Here comes the mystery charges–the stuff that always seems to change from plan-to-plan and even month to month (that conveniently goes away when you go pre-paid):

iPhone bill pt1

The above is a screencap of part of my bill. That top part is a $0.60 charge for three text messages because I didn’t want to pay extra for something I hardly ever use. Of course, that was before I realized there wasn’t a reasonable IM client for the iPhone yet–but that’s another story. Below that are the fun fees for my home state of New York. Well, plus the $36 “Activation Fee”. That kind of fee always cracks me up. We have to pay extra for them to “turn on” our account. Just a wee bit greedy there, Mr. AT&T!

Then we’ve got a true puzzler:

COUNTY GROSS RECEIPTS SURCHARGE $3.00

The county I live in needs $3 per bill? Why? I just moved here, but I wonder if this fee is something that my neighbors voted on. I mean, what person in their right mind would be like “Yes! I think the county should be able to charge my wireless carrier $3 for… for… something, knowing full well that my wireless carrier will pass that charge onto me!”

Couldn’t we just get an extra $36 taken out of our taxes every year?

Same goes for the following:

FEDERAL UNIVERSAL SERVICE CHARGE $2.96

What the hell does this even mean??? Seriously, I have no idea.

MTA TELECOM SURCHARGE $0.91

Uhhh, the only MTA I know of is the company that runs the subways. Why would they be charging me money? From what little I could find on the ‘net about this, it seems like the MTA charges cell phone users in the NYC area for the MTA. WOW, that’s LAME. So, rather than taxing EVERYONE for MTA they punish JUST the mobile phone users. Weak. After all, mass transit helps everyone–cheaper bus and train fares encourages more people to stop driving and therefore helps cut down on traffic–so everyone benefits from everyone helping.

STATE TELECOMMUNICATIONS EXCISE SURCHARGE $3.82

Looks like another tax, this time from the state, instead of the county, that the AT&T is charged but passes on to us so they don’t lose any money. Still sounds like it should come out of taxes.

Oh, this is probably my favorite:

REGULATORY COST RECOVERY CHARGE $0.91

OK, this is likely one of two things:

1) It’s the money AT&T spent in complying with regulations.

2) It’s the money the state/county/USG charges AT&T to help the state/county/USG pay for regulating wireless carriers.

Those are my guesses and either way, it’s pretty lame to charge us for the cost of business.

So, all that equates to $47.60, but since this is my first iPhone bill, the $36 “activation fee” should be missing on my next bill dropping the cost of this section down to $11.60–possibly less if the fees in this section are based on percentages. That’s not too bad, but wait–there’s MORE! You also get:

NEW YORK STATE FEE $1.20
STATE SALES TAX $5.99 (!!!)
LOCAL WIRELESS SURCHARGE $0.30
CITY SALES TAX $6.55 (!!!!!)
TOTAL $14.04

WTF is all that?? More damn taxes including TWO WAVES OF SALES TAXES!! How does both the state AND the city get off charging us sales tax?? That’s just not fair!! I should get a PO box out in Jersey and change my mailing address to that on my AT&T account and see what happens.

When I buy a bag of chips, here in Manhattan, do I get charged city sales tax AND state sales tax? I don’t think so. I think I’ll ask for a receipt next time just to be sure.

So, there’s the big mystery part of the bill solved–total charges for seemingly-unrelated-to-mobile-phone-service fees? This month: $61.64. Next month (sans activation fee): $25.64. That’s still an awful lot of money on top of a $70.00 basic charge. Hopefully that’s a little high, but we’ll see in 30 days.

The thing is, that’s not the end of the rude surprises in my first iPhone bill. I’d imagine the next surprise hit every single person who bought an iPhone on July 11, 2008. I can’t imagine why this would happen at all, but on those grounds, I can’t imagine that this happened to just me.

Check this out:
iPhone bill pt2

Isn’t that nice? For some unknown reason AT&T decided to push my billing cycle back to the 26th of each month, rather than just having it start on the 11th, which happens to be the day I actually started using the service.

So, sure, those two weeks they’re charging me would have been charged to me anyway, but who said I wanted to pay for those two weeks in my first bill?? Why not just do a billing cycle of 7/11 to 8/10? Why play games like this for no apparent reason and without my permission (or knowledge)?

See, this is why I hate contracts. When I prepaid my minutes with T-Mobile, they may have cost more, but–hey, wait a minute. I wonder if they really do since all those taxes and fees are folded into the prepaid minute charges. I can’t be sure, since my AT&T voice account was divided into day minutes and night/weekend minutes, but considering I spent about $30 a month on my Sidekick and about the same on my SLVR, I definitely think I came out ahead on that. Which means I’m probably paying more than I’d have to.

Sure, you could argue that AT&T should charge more since they’ve got 3G (which I turn off because it sucks battery and actually gives me crappier reception) and I use my data plan a LOT more than I did with the Sidekick. Then again, do you think they’re really charging us what they should? Do you think AT&T is charging us just enough to survive? Or do you think their goal is to get rich?

So, the same way that it’s their right to charge what they want as business people, it’s our right as consumers to pay as little as we can get away with. If AT&T were about innovation, their 3G network would be everywhere and Apple’s phone wouldn’t have so many glaring flaws.

To top it off, I only found out about this “bill” because I got an email from PageOnce.com–a service that keeps track of things like your cell phone bill and your bank accounts. So, AT&T’s default setting for people who opt into the “paperless billing” feature is “no email.” Isn’t that nice? My bill is due in three days.

Yes, I know that I’m an adult and I can tell how long 30 days is, but enough apologisting for the giant corporation! It takes NO effort whatsoever to program a script that will automatically email customers when their bill is ready.

So, there you have it.

Mobile phone carriers never fail to depress me. :) As soon as there’s a way to unlock the iPhone and as soon as I have that $175 early termination fee, I’m jumping ship on AT&T and returning to my contract-free ways. Hell, I might not even wait that long since GPS works without a carrier and open wifi networks aren’t that uncommon here in the big city.

Why must cell phone companies suck so much?

And don’t ask me “why are you so cheap?” or “why don’t you want to pay for anything?” because I’m being just as economical as corporations are.

I’ll probably end up back with T-Mo on one of their month-to-month plans. The 1g iPhone worked on their network. I’m sure eventually the 2g (3G) iPhone will, too.

The really sad thing is, I didn’t use anywhere near my total minutes! So not fair!