Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Which is better, Verizon or AT&T?

In the first quarter of 2011, AT&T's revenues were $30B with profits up a record 39% to almost $3.5B. With such bumper results, you would think that AT&T customers would be the happiest they've ever been. Think again. Customers are leaving AT&T in droves, mostly to Verizon now that they have the new iPhone4. But does that tell those whole story? Is Verizon truly better? Is it worth switching?

I've been with AT&T since I first moved to the US almost 12 years ago with Hewlett-Packard. Although I can't say that I liked them, I didn't really dislike them either. Their coverage with no roaming charges seemed okay and since I traveled a lot, it worked well for me. When the iPhone first came out, I was an early adopter. It was love at first sight. But it hasn't been a completely smooth romance. My first sign of trouble was the problem with my iPhone not ringing. I could have 5 bars and then receive a notification that I've got a voicemail. The phone never rung and didn't even indicate that someone had called; it just diverted directly to voicemail. After researching on the internet and talking to AT&T, it turns out that this is a 'glitch' with no known fix date. In addition, the percentage of dropped calls on AT&T's network had risen to 5.8 percent in 2010, compared with 2 percent for Verizon, according to a survey by Changewave Research. Infonetics Research.

More recently, I've been finding that my iPhone has gotten slower and slower, even in 3G areas. If I'm in a city, or at a convention such as CES earlier this year, it's almost impossible to use. This has been happening as far back as 2009 (see the NYT article "Customers Angered as iPhones Overload AT&T". So what has AT&T been doing to fix the problem? In March it announced that it would spend $39B for T-Mobile, a deal that PC Magazine calls "For phone owners, tech lovers, and American consumers, this is a total disaster." Once would have thought a better use of the money would be to speed the upgrading of their network to 4G as AT&T is already lagging Verizon in that regard.

But what about pricing, how much are you going to pay? Here's where it get's interesting. Rather than fix their network, AT&T has changed their pricing plan. Gone is the unlimited data plan, even though in the 2009 New York Times article they reported that they have "no intention of capping how much data iPhone owners use". Now a new iPhone 4 comes with either a 2Gb plan ($25/month) or 4Gb ($45/month). But what happens if you go over? One of the great things about the iPhone was never having to worry about how much data you use. Now on AT&T, overage is charged at $10/Gb for the 4Gb plan and a whopping $75/Gb for the 2Gb plan. Verizon on the other hand still offers a unlimited plan for $29.99 (for a limited time), PLUS for an additional $20 you get to tether up to 5 other devices (AT&T allows you to connect 1 device via the ultra-slow Bluetooth connection). So if you have an unlimited plan on AT&T, make sure that you keep it.

Finally, I have a real problem with a company that doesn't appear to have it's customers interests at heart. For example, in March of this year, AT&T only just admitted that it clipped the wings of its 4G network and that is the reason that two recently released phones, the Motorola Atrix 4G and the HTC Inspire 4G have dismal upload speeds. In another example, in Feb this year, a California man issued a class action lawsuit against AT&T claiming systematic over-charging. He engaged a consulting firm that found out that, over a two month span, AT&T bills overstated traffic up to 14 percent resulting in inflated data charges. Talking of inflated charges, AT&T round-up your data charges. For example, if you go 2.1Gb over your plan, they charge you for 3Gb. 

So what's the bottom line. For me, I've already moved my data card over to Verizon and it's been a great experience. I'm paying half what I used to, the coverage and speed is better, and the customer service is awesome (for example, I can suspend my service for up to 6 months a year, something AT&T used to offer but stopped several years back). As soon as my contracts come up I'll be moving over our 2x iPhones and the kid's Blackberries.

For you, if you have an iPhone and are thinking of the iPhone4, or are looking for a new plan, it may be time to look at switching to Verizon. That is of course until it all changes again!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Did I ask for it to break?

Here's a weird thing. You buy something online, pay for shipping and it arrives. You open it, only to find that it doesn't work. Sound familiar? Not only is it frustrating and time wasting, but if you're not careful, it can cost you money. You call up the retailer and they apologize and give you a return number for you to send it back. "No, actually, I don't want to have to pay to ship back a product that should be working but isn't. It's not like I asked for a broken one." Then I'll have to wait, gizmo-less for several weeks while they sort things out. Now, try doing that while you're on the road with different addresses every week or more. It never ceases to amaze me how many people accept this as normal and acceptable.

Even the mighty Amazon requires that the gizmo be returned 'unopened'. "If it's unopened, how do I know that it doesn't work?". Some retailers will then direct you back to the manufacturers website. Even worse. They've got your money, leaving you to sort it out with the manufacturer, most of whom will again require you to return it.

Not at TechnoRV! If for what ever reason we ship you something and it doesn't work, or breaks through normal use within the first 30-days, we'll ship you a replacement with a return label. It costs you nothing, as it should be.

So before you buy anything else online, check the small print. What's their return policy? Here's ours

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Almost no signal here in Point South, SC

We're staying at the Thousand Trails resort (The Oaks) at Point South, SC. Rarely have we had such poor cell phone coverage - my AT&T iPhone has around 1 bar, and the Verizon aircard is struggling. Add to that the fact that it's very wooded so out satellite won't work AMD you get the picture! Time to pull put the big guns - the Wilson DT. I'd been waiting for a good place to test this desktop office booster, this seemed like the ideal place. I'll be updating a fill report by video later, bit for now, things look very promising. I set up the local antenna in our back office / bedroom and the outside antenna next to the front bay wing on the roof. Signal strength went from 1 bar to 5 bars! Although we had been able to get Internet on the Verizon MiFi, it was slow, and Tracey wasn't able to establish a VPN (a secure internet connection) which she needs for work. With the booster, bingo!
Next up, comparing the DT to the more powerful SOHO amp and trying the omnidirectional trucker antenna.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 16, 2011

How Ironic

Filming GadPlex from Beaufort City Java & News
Sometimes the irony of a situation has to make you laugh. It was like that on Friday when we were filming the latest episode of GadgetPlex. The subject was Long Distance Communications.

Unfortunately, the campground we're staying at (The Oaks at Point South, SC) had almost 100% tree cover, so our satellite was reduced to a heavy weight on the roof. AT&T service is one bar and our Verizon aircard is super slow. WiFi is via Tengo Internet which I avoid with a barge pole, so coffee shop it was.

Everything was going fine until 5 mins before we started to film and the coffee shop's ISP (their WiFi service provider) went down. No WiFi! Evidently this is a regular occurrence! Luckily there was a weaker WiFi signal that we could pick up, but it wasn't particularly fast. Added to that, AT&T service in Beaufort is less than 1 bar. We persevered, but it wasn't without a due sense of irony given the topic of our episode. Doesn't it strike you as odd that a company that just made more than $3B in a quarter, up 40%, can still offer such awful service in so many 'key areas'? But that's another story ...

[If you'd like to watch us filming future episodes, simply text RVNN to 72727 for instant notification, or sign up for a RVNN U-Stream account]

Friday, May 13, 2011

GadgetPlex - Long Distance Communications & Photo Sharing

About to start filming the next two episodes of Gadgetplex. These episodes will be on  Long Distance Communications and Photo Sharing. As a little change, I'll be joining from the best coffee shop in Beaufort, SC (City Java and News). Why? Okay, I know that the coffee is good, but actually it's becuase the internet at our campsite is REALLY bad, even with my trusty Verizon aircard. Satellite? Not a chance, trees everywhere.

If you'd like to join us in the chat room and watch behind the scenes and ask questions, simply join us live.