A reader writes in to say he saved $10 on his T-Mobile bill when he called up to ask why there were two different “Total Internet” options on his add-ons list. Were they the same thing? Yes. So he could switch to the cheaper one without penalty and get exactly the same add-on? Sure.
The next issue of Consumer Reports will contain the results of a nationwide customer satisfaction survey for the mobile phone industry. In a surprise to no one who actually has a mobile phone, the cellular industry is “among the lowest-rated services” for consumers, particularly because of termination fees, high prices, and confusing contracts.
Joanna writes, “Here’s my tip for using Cellular Abroad: don’t. They totally charged me tax on a ‘security deposit’ and then refused to refund my tax on the returned portion of the deposit.” When she wrote to Cellular Abroad to dispute the tax, she was told that technically it wasn’t a security deposit but a purchase, and that when they refunded her the difference after she returned the phone, that wasn’t a refund—they were buying it back from her, and because they have a reseller’s license they don’t have to pay taxes on their “re-purchase.” Whaaa?
Google’s not answering any questions, and Verizon is being all coy about it, but anonymous sources have told the press that the two companies are in talks right now over installing Google apps on Verizon phones—an interesting idea, though not quite as dramatic as installing the full-fledged phone operating system that Google has supposedly been working on for a while now. The big questions (for consumers) are: will Google apps help subsidize the cost of phones or plans, or will Verizon just invent new inefficiencies to justify swallowing any new revenue? And will Google applications mean ads before making calls or sending an email? Also, Google already has some great (and totally free) applications out there for mobile devices—so what could they be offering through Verizon that’s so special?
Microsoft has said it will not participate in the upcoming wireless spectrum auction, because it wouldn’t help their business model, which is to create and sell software to handset makers. [Reuters]
Reader Brandon writes in to share a painful story of shoddy customer service and questionable pricing policies with LetsTalk, an online mobile phone and plan retailer. After ordering a $99 phone with a $100 mail in rebate, the order was delayed, then changed to add a free car charger to apologize for the delay (so far so good), then changed again without notice to $299 with a $200 mail in rebate. After calling to dispute the charges, he was promised the price would be changed back to its original amount—but the next day it was shipped out and his account was charged for $299.
Two advocacy groups, the Consumer Federation of America and the Consumers Unions, endorsed a bill yesterday that would limit the amount that wireless, cable, and telephone companies could charge customers for early cancellation of their contract. Specifically, it would require companies to waive cancellation fees for the first 30 days, and pro-rate any fees after the first 30 days (something Verizon already does, but no other mobile carrier that we know of).
Canadian telecommunications giant Bell Canada is pulling down over 50 ads placed around parts of Toronto and Vancouver, because they show a woman wearing a button that reads “Belsen was a gas,” the title of a Sex Pistols song and a reference to the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. The button is one of many the model wears, and the company says it was impossible to read during approval and proofing, and only became legible when blown up to billboard-size proportions. [Reuters and Free Republic]
In today’s Circuits column, tech columnist David Pogue asks an important question about the $5 billion ringtone industry for mobile phones: why does it exist at all? Apple’s latest moneymaker for itself and the labels is the ability for you to re-purchase certain songs you’ve already purchased, so that you can load them onto your phone as ringtones. But before you marvel at Apple’s chutzpah, they’re actually charging less per ringtone than major carriers like T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon.
The FCC announced yesterday that commercial mobile phone carriers are obligated to provide roaming connections, including mobile voice calls, text messaging, and push-to-talk services, for a “reasonable” cost. This matters most to customers of small and rural carriers, whose sometimes pay as high as $0.79 a minute to access large carriers’ networks. The political response was as expected: Democrats said the FCC should have included data transfer, and Republicans said the “light regulatory approach” was just right. Sprint said the average roaming cost per minute was four cents, and that no FCC intervention was necessary. And then Sprint ate a newborn and cackled maniacally.
If you have a landline telephone and a cable modem, then you’re in the perfect position to take advantage of cheap (sometimes free) phone calls–provided you’re willing to try one of the many oddball companies reviewed by tech columnist David Pogue in this week’s Circuits section of the New York Times.
From what we can gather, T-mobile said he was responsible for all charges made before he reported the incident. Then they said they would wipe all the charges, after he faxed a police report. Then they kept saying they never got the fax.
I watched on the LG phone and was struck by the video’s sharpness and detail — it felt as if I were watching a miniature HDTV. Under an overcast sky, the screen wasn’t that viewable, and on sunny days, forget it. But in a car or on a bus or indoors, reception and clarity were great.
Watching TV in cars makes us revisit our last meal, so we’ll pass. —MEGHANN MARCO
If just half of one percent of the group’s 5 million members sign up for NWF [National Wildlife Federation] Mobile, the program stands to generate more than $100,000 a year, says Greg Griffith, director of cause-related marketing at NWF. The organization’s other affinity programs and corporate outreach generate some $3.5 million a year today. Based on the response to NWF Mobile’s first ad, Griffith expects as many as 5% of NWF’s members to sign up&–more, in fact, than the number currently using the group’s affinity credit cards. “People will say, ‘I spend this much on a phone anyway, I might as well spend on the cause I care about,’ ” Griffith says.
Bad news for Virgin Mobile, good news for panda bears. —MEGHANN MARCO
Wave goodbye to your nightmares of hearing people jabbering on cellphones in flight!
So, if you’re upgrading to Vista and you’re really excited about those Aero windows, understand that they may come with a price, at least while on the go. —MEGHANN MARCO
Reuters is reporting that much-maligned-on-this-website cell phone carrier Cingular will be launching cell-phone based banking software in 2007.
Since Beckie’s story about Cingular unceremoniously canceling her account proved so popular amongst the Fark crowd, I decided to give Cingular a call this afternoon. I’m not Ben, so I didn’t bother recording it: I just wanted some answers as to how this all worked from an actual human being.