Posts Tagged ‘at&t

Quick Thoughts on Wireless Data

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Disclaimer: I work for an authorized AT&T dealer.  My thoughts on this subject are obviously skewed by this fact.

As the industry stands right now, the big two (Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility) have smart phone data packages that look like the following:

Verizon: 1 option: $29.99 unlimited

AT&T: 2 options: $15 200MB, $25 2GB

I’ve had mixed feelings about AT&T’s decision to discontinue its $30 unlimited package because on the one hand, I like not thinking about how much I’m using the Internet on my iPhone, but on the other, most of AT&T customers I interact with really don’t need unlimited.  In fact, despite being a fairly heavy user, I only managed to go through 1.8GB last month, although I’ve already used 625MB during the first 8 days of this bill cycle.  I’m not sure how this happened exactly.

In any case, rumors are flying that Verizon is going to move away from that $30 unlimited data package this summer.  This got me thinking about how I’d like to see data charged in the future:

1. Don’t insult customers by charging them a lot for very little data, like AT&T does with the $15 package for 200MB.  I think a much fairer system would be to simply charge $10 per gigabyte, where most people would pay either the $10/month, or $20/month if they’re heavy users.  Even needier customers will pay $30 or more.  The carriers could throttle users speeds past 5GB if necessary.*

2. One of the problems presented by the first item on this list is that it will almost certainly mean reduced revenue for the carriers.  Since most users would be fine with 1GB or less, that would drop Verizon customers by $19.99 and AT&T customers by $5 or $10, depending on the plan.  An alternative would be to still charge a higher rate (say $20 for 2GB minimum), but allow the customer to roll data over into future months.  AT&T has done this with minutes going back to the Cingular days, but I’ve never heard of either company considering this feature for Internet packages.

3. My last thought on data is something Verizon is rumored to bring out this summer, and that is family data packages.  Both AT&T and Verizon offer voice and messaging plans that cover the entire family (up to 5 lines), but data has long been a per-line charge.  I think a $50/month for 5GB of shared data would play well with both companies’ pricing structures, especially if overages were only $10/GB.  (In fact, that is AT&T’s exact pricing structure for its MiFi Hotspot product as well as its 4G Internet Cards.)**

* I know it sounds odd that I’m okay with throttling, but I understand the capacitance issues the carriers are facing and why completely unlimited and uncapped speeds are impractical in large population centers.  Since Sprint and T-Mobile are already in the habit of doing this (if you pass 2GB even, from what I understand), we might as well not be surprised by it.

** Oddly enough, this rate is considerably better than what AT&T offers for it’s older 3G Internet Cards.  Those products (just like Verizon’s) are $60/month for 5GB, and the overages are $0.05/MB — which is obscene.  Effectively, every gigabyte of overage under this plan is just over $51.  I believe AT&T is phasing these cards out, which is perhaps why they have such an unfavorable plan.  Either way, Verizon has no comparable option to AT&T’s MiFi or 4G Internet Cards, which are priced at the aforementioned $50/month for 5GB with $10/GB overages.


Written by Michael

21 May 2011 at 2:07 am

Posted in Technology

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Two Days with 3G Data on the iPad

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I might as well live in the land that time forgot, I sometimes think.  Lacking such basic life necessities like Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Best Buy, has left me feeling like a pilgrim in a savage land.

While I’m exaggerating, we do lack a few things I was used to having back East, including AT&T coverage.  This has meant that I can’t buy an iPhone for the last couple of years, and it also means that my iPad with WiFi and 3G has been useless in the latter regard.  This will all change at the end of this year or beginning of next, since the Montana portion of Alltel (my service provider) has been purchased by AT&T.

However, I took a short trip to Idaho Falls recently, a realm that actually has this coverage that I’m moaning about.  So, I went ahead and purchased the 250MB plan for $15, and here are a few observations:

  • When I was in a 3G area, the overall Internet speed was pretty fast.  I didn’t think to do a Speed Test, but I found it more than acceptable.
  • 2G areas (EDGE) were really slow.  At times unusable.
  • 250MB goes fast when you have a lot of downtime, especially during a long car ride with the family.  I nearly used all of my allotment in 48 hours.
  • Using the Core Location service (with an app like Maps) was a lot of fun.  The iPad has a GPS module in it, so it worked really well with the aforementioned Maps application: I was able to track where we were to as close to 30-50 feet or so.

I look forward to having this 3G service in Bozeman, MT, but I wonder how much data I’d end up using in a month.  The saving grace could that I’m usually around WiFi so much, at home and work.

Written by Michael

31 July 2010 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Technology

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A Cursory Glimpse of the iPhone 4

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A tourist from North Carolina stopped by my store today to find a charger for her daughter’s old Samsung phone, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the new iPhone 4 in her hand.  I’ve never held the new iPhone, so I naturally asked if I could see hers, and she was gracious enough to pass it over for a couple of minutes.

Some observations from my brief session:

  1. The Retina Display is the real deal.  It’s way better than any display on any mobile device I have ever seen, and no, I could not resolve the individual pixels at all.  It looked like full-color print on glossy paper (like a high quality magazine).  Also, Apple glues the LCD to the glass now, so icons seem to almost emerge from the display.  Others have described icons as “floating on top of the display”, and I think this is apt.
  2. The weight of the phone is excellent.  Most reviewers agree with this assessment, though some feel the phone is “heavy”.  The glass back feels a little weird because I expect it to feel like steel back on my iPod touch, and I think that’ll take some time to get used to on my future phone.  That said, I think it feels well constructed with the glass and stainless steel band.
  3. Speaking of the stainless steel band, a lot of noise has been made about antenna attenuation and how some iPhone 4 owners are dropping calls if they touch a certain part of the phone wrong.  This person’s iPhone 4 did not seem to possess this problem as it has been demonstrated on YouTube by some, so I couldn’t get any bars to dip when laying my index finger across the black-plastic divide on the bottom left side.  That said, when I wrapped my hands around the entire base like a shield, the connectivity died out — but I’m uncertain if this was coincidence or not because we do not have AT&T in our area, and her reception was incredibly poor from a roaming partner.
  4. Given that she was on a roaming partner, the iPhone 4 was only using EDGE networking, so it was painfully slow to load webpages.  That said, the text that appeared on the screen after the long download was magnificent.  I could not discern pixelation, jaggies, or anything wrong on the type at all.

Sadly, I didn’t have the time to test out application speed, the new FaceTime, or even the camera.  I’ll save those reveals for when I purchase my own when AT&T finishes transitioning Alltel to its network.

What makes me sad is that even though I think my iPad is incredible and that the display is stunning, seeing the iPhone 4 blows it out of the water.  (This is to be expected, though: I suspect it’ll be a while before Apple adds a 300+ dpi display as large as the iPad’s.)

Written by Michael

1 July 2010 at 9:44 pm

BlackBerry Tour 9630

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I didn’t really need to change phones.  My BlackBerry Curve 8330 was a very good phone, with excellent battery life (especially for a smartphone) and was able to perform most of the functions I wanted — reasonably fast web access, easy-to-use messaging, instant messaging, and so on.  But I must admit, when the BlackBerry Tour 9630 came out, I was green with envy.

Many have compared the Tour to being much like a cross between the newest BlackBerry Curve 8900 to come out for AT&T, as well as the older but much heralded BlackBerry Bold 9000.  The body style of the former, the keyboard of the latter.  The best of both worlds, one might say.

For Alltel, which has neither the Curve 8900 nor the Bold, I saw the Tour as a beefier, more impressive version of the phone I already owned and loved, the Curve 8330.

The Tour has a 3.2MP camera with autofocus, compared to my old Curve’s 2.0MP camera sans autofocus, as well as the 3.1Mbps EVDO rev.A antenna vs. the 2.4Mbps EVDO rev.0 antenna that’s in the Curve.  (This translates to modestly faster browsing, but much, much faster uploading — up to ten times faster.  This is especially nice considering the proportionally larger photos achieved with a 3.2MP camera vs. the older 2.0MP camera found in the rev.0 Curve.)

The screen is also immeasurably nicer.  The Tour has a beautiful, bright screen at 480×360 compared to the Curve’s 320×240.  The result is a much more refined, sharper looking image with greater contrast and better backlighting, making the Tour considerably easier to use in sunlight.  (Further, the Curve has a sort of double screen, with the LCD below a higher-positioned piece of plastic, which gives it the unfortunate appearance of a concave display found in older televisions.  The Tour’s screen is perfectly flat and without another piece of plastic to obfuscate the image, which makes it look a heck of a lot better.  The only caveat is that I think the Curve’s internal screen was well protected by that extra shell, whereas the Tour’s screen is right there, ready to take the brunt of any impact we all hope never happens.)

Another interesting note is that the Tour contains a SIM card slot for global roaming.  This is a nice addition, though I’m unlikely to use it.  What’s more important to me, however, is the fact that the SD card slot is directly accessible beneath the battery door, whereas the Curve’s SD card slot was positioned beneath the battery.  As any BlackBerry owner knows, a battery pull is fairly painful, given how long the device takes starting up cold like that.  That’s not a problem on the Tour.

Lastly, the Curve 8330 runs OS 4.5, compared to the Tour’s 4.7.  While a couple of “dot” releases seems inconsequential, the UI tweaks and facelift are pretty significant.  The newer interface is a lot sleeker, making great use of the Tour’s ability to display blacks so well, making it very elegant and professional-looking.  The 4.5 OS looks cartoonish when placed head-to-head with 4.7.  Also, there have been many sensible changes, including renaming a few items in the OS to make them easier to find, as well as adding the super-useful app switching ability to the BlackBerry menu key.  (Simply hold the key down for a moment, and a row of all your open applications will appear, superimposed over whatever you have opened.  Much, much easier than the old method.)*

Is this critical?  Probably not.  But the same could be said of all the refinements I’ve outlined so far.  So while the Curve was still a perfectly great phone, doing almost everything I needed, I still upgraded to the Tour — because I’m a bit of a gadget hound, and I can’t help myself.  What can I say?

In any case, I’m of the personal opinion that the BlackBerry Tour is the best CDMA phone that RIM has produced, above the Storm even.  I haven’t used the new Storm2, which I’m sure is beautiful.  But truth be told, if I were going to buy a touchscreen phone, it would be Apple’s iPhone (which will probably come true at some point down the line.  I’m not currently in a position to do so because AT&T is not present in Montana, and I’m a bit nervous about GSM carrier’s 3G coverage).  There are handsets on the horizon that look exciting (including models that abandon the trackball in favor of a trackpad to eliminate the moving part), but those look targeted towards GSM carriers for the time being.  RIM can hardly be bothered to produce more than a couple CDMA phones per year, so we’ve reached our quota for now.

Now, I’ve quoted a lot of improved features and stats, but how do I feel about it in the context of simply being my everyday phone?  Well, I like it a lot.  I feel the same way I did about this new phone as I did when I first bought the Curve — it’s a fun toy, and I find myself tinkering with it all the time.  Battery life seems comparable, audio quality maybe slightly better, but overall, it’s a super phone.  Anyone looking at buying a BlackBerry should consider this one if that person is with a CDMA provider (Verizon, Sprint, or Alltel) — otherwise, I would look at the upcoming BlackBerry Bold 9700, which seems to have many of the same great features as the Tour, except with WiFi added.  (CDMA smartphones with added WiFi seem to be rare, with HTC and Palm contributing a couple of exceptions.)

The Tour is obviously more expensive than the older Curve ($150 compared to $50, after rebate with Alltel), but my strong feeling is that if you’re going to go big, go as big as you can.  Let’s face it, the BlackBerry is a bit of a status item anyway, so dazzle away with the extra beauty and added functionality.

*I heard word that new 5.0 OS will actually work on both the Tour and older Curve, which will eventually render my point about the UI moot.  I’m curious to see whether the Curve’s older processor will play well with the added visual effects.

UPDATE (November 4, 2009):

I purchased the BlackBerry Tour Charging Pod to go with this new phone.  Aside from being slightly more convenient than fiddling around with the micro-USB cable for charging, it does indeed appear that the pod charges much faster than going in through the normal charging port.  (The pod makes use of the contacts on the back of the phone for more power transfer.)  For $10, it’s not a bad investment.

Written by Michael

1 November 2009 at 12:47 am