Quick Rant: Mobile Carriers Are Doing A Disservice To Its Customers And Customers Should Begin Looking At Prepaid Options Instead

The great thing about today’s technology is the ability to choose from a variety of mobile carriers to best suit our needs. That means some of you can choose Verizon Wireless for example because of great nationwide coverage and the solid 4G LTE speeds. Others choose AT&T because of the ever-improving 4G LTE network or great selection of mobile devices. The rest choose networks like Sprint and T-Mobile because of their great all-everything value which is price-conscious for consumers. Keep in mind I didn’t mention regional carriers like U.S. Cellular or Cincinnati Bell, which also give great value for customers (albeit at the cost for great coverage in one region of a country, but lackluster coverage elsewhere).

While there’s a great abundance of mobile providers to suit our needs, there’s a growing sense of frustration and anger at the mobile carriers because of the idea that they are not focusing on great customer service, but rather focused on consolidating features— while increasing the overall costs for the consumers. Unfortunately, consumers in this day and age feel as if they are at the mercy of these providers, so they lock themselves into 2-year contracts and can potentially pay thousands of dollars for cellphone service. The effect you see from this is two fold: 1) By locking themselves into a commitment, customers are stuck with devices that often lose support from not only the cellphone carrier, but the manufacturer as well. 2) The average customer doesn’t come even close to using their max totals allowed in their cell plans (an example is using just 40 minutes out of 400 anytime minutes or 1GB of data out of 2GB in a billing month), so they waste precious dollars. It certainly isn’t far-fetched to believe consumers are being taken advantage of by the big companies, especially in these trying times of economic recession and recovery worldwide. Naturally, there are plenty of individuals who have had enough of contracts completely and not have not only gone the prepaid route, but are completely satisfied by the decision. For this reason, I believe it’s necessary for not just Android users— but any smartphone user to at least understand why prepaid mobile service may not be such a bad thing.

So let’s start with what’s led to my rant. Over the past few months, I’ve read or personally written articles of two specific mobile carriers guilty of doing a complete disservice to their customers. As you might have heard, AT&T started by making the unusual move of slowing down the data speeds for customers on the unlimited data plan— despite most users not even coming anywhere close to reaching their data limit. AT&T unlimited data users complained because they were being mistreated, despite paying the same price as those who are on a 3GB data plan. AT&T in the end decided to allow “unlimited” data users to use just a max of 3 gigs per month before slowing down their data speeds. Verizon followed suit by introducing a data share plan for its customers because it believes it will be “beneficial” to Verizon. This means unlimited data customers can keep their data plan for now, but once they sign up for a new 2-year agreement, they will be forced to drop their unlimited data plan in favor of a capped data plan instead. While Sprint & T-Mobile still have their unlimited data plans for now, you can expect at some point each will drop the plans— especially as Sprint is bleeding money, yet pushing for a 4G LTE network and T-Mobile continues to lose customers at an alarming rate. While I am OK financially, seeing this alarming trend from carriers has caused me to re-think not my wants— but rather my needs for cellphone service. Do I really need to be under a commitment for a terrible mobile provider? Do I want to be at the mercy of having to pay upwards of $110/month, despite me not getting the most out of my monthly mobile plan overall? I don’t think so— so that’s why I’ve been taking another look at prepaid service with mobile providers.

There are a few reasons to consider getting a prepaid mobile plan. A major reason is because even if you get a mid-level or “high-end” smartphone from a mobile carrier, you’re often times out of luck for support of the device because mobile carriers aren’t focused on serving its customers’ needs as you might imagine. The reality: carriers are more focused on pushing out the latest and greatest phones promising “new and improved” features. A classic example of this is Samsung who openly has no problem pushing out device after device, yet won’t promise support for the subsequent devices-— no matter how successful the line of devices are. Oh and Sammy isn’t alone— Motorola is no better at this either. And it’s not as if its only customers who don’t like this type of business model— certain executives don’t like the practice of this as well. Long story short: customers are paying premium prices for a lemon device. Another reason is customers generally don’t come within their limits of their smartphone plans. Let’s be realistic, while some of you may use your anytime minutes or text often— I do neither. My average use of anytime minutes is no more than 30 min per month. And like my Talk Android colleagues such as Jack Holt, I often have my phone’s WiFi turned on, so I rarely go over 1 – 1.5GB of data per month, yet I pay over $110/month for service which includes 3GB “unlimited” data despite me coming nowhere close to my limits. I know every individual is different, but customers on average are getting short-changed— and it’s important for consumers to know that. This is the very reason why it’s not so bad of a thing to see prepaid plans as an option for anyone who uses a smartphone.

Keep in mind there’s all sorts of options for prepaid service. The traditional thought is you pay $20 for minutes + text and that’s it for mobile service. Times have changed as mobile carriers such as Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and MetroPCS offer an all-in data plan. You essentially pay between $30 to $60 per month for truly unlimited everything— calls, text and data. It doesn’t stop there either as our own editor-in-chief Rob Nazarian also makes mention of an unfamiliar, but solid option called Ting. Ting works in a cool way too— they’re a CDMA/EV-DO carrier based off Sprint’s network, but instead of paying an arm and a leg for service, you’ll find amazing rates which consumers would find very attractive. How about paying as little as $3/month for 100 anytime minutes? Or how about $5/month for 1000 global text messages? And how about just $42/month for 2GB of 3G/4G data? Ting doesn’t stop there either. For any minutes, text message and MBs you use, that’s what they’ll bill you. So if you don’t end up reaching your limit, you’ll actually receive a credit or be charged the difference based on your actual usage for the next billing month. Heck– you can even port a number or two with Ting mobile service. This is the ideal type of service for my wants and needs indeed.

Granted the network coverage isn’t the greatest when compared to established companies like AT&T or Verizon, but neither of those companies can offer you the great value the smaller prepaid companies can. In addition, many of these prepaid companies offer a solid line of Android devices, so while they aren’t the latest and greatest superphone— the selection of devices almost always suffice for the average Android or smartphone user. Moreover, most people can’t afford to buy the latest and greatest device, so they could get a used premium device, slap in a prepaid SIM card for that device’s radio and be in business. In fact— each of the Big 4 mobile carriers does in fact offer some sort of all-everything prepaid plan for customers, so there’s a chance you could hypothetically have a sweet smartphone such as the T-Mobile HTC One S on T-Mobile’s solid unlimited plan. And going back to mobile carrier Ting— since they’re based off Sprint’s network, they have an attractive lineup of devices from budget phones to the Samsung Galaxy S II. Not too shabby indeed.

There will be no doubt people who will naturally disagree with having prepaid service for the simple fact that it’s not the same as having a traditional contract plan. And I can’t say having a prepaid plan is the same as having a contract plan of a luxury network and its nice amenities such as great coverage and fast data speeds. But what good are those amenities if I don’t even take advantage of them. Is it really worth paying over $1100 yearly, when you can get more for less on a smaller prepaid network? I don’t think it’s worth it and the point of this piece is for other cellphone users to understand it’s not worth it too.

About the Author: Roy Alugbue

Conceived as Spock’s 4th cousin, Roy has had quite the life. He was born in beautiful San Jose, California, raised in Los Angeles, California and now resides in the greater New York City area. He has always been fascinated and obsessed with technology, especially the continuous advancements of mobile platforms. He was a Blackberry slave since his undergrad days at the University of Southern California until realizing in Feb. 2011, there were greener pastures in the land of Android. His first Android phone was the Motorola Atrix 4G, and he hasn’t looked back. He currently works in corporate media, enjoys following media and technology trends, reading a good book, weightlifting, playing on his XBOX 360 and conversing with total strangers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jehamleriv John Edward Hamler IV

    I’m leaning more and more to your thinking as well.

  • snowglyder

    You have an excellent point. I switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile last November because of T-Mobile’s Value Plans. I liked that the plans were less because I could bring my own GSM phone and not have to pay a plan that has a phone subsidy built-in. Problem is, their Value plans are still on a 2 year contract, which I think is odd because you’re not really getting anything for signing a contract. I still went with it because I can get a 15% corp discount so I pay $110 for 2 phones with unlimited talk, text, and data (2GB “4G” that I never go over) and insurance. I will definitely look at prepaid next time… maybe even find an ETF loophole to do so. 

    Does anyone use a prepaid data only plan with Android, using Google Voice + SIP app for voice? I’m curious as to how much data is needed per, say, 100 voip minutes.