Tag Archives: data plans

Smartphones As The New Facebook

Facebook hit critical mass and managed to move into the mainstream and is now sucking in mass numbers of new users. Much of the value of a many goods and services revolves around mass adoption – it becomes beneificial for people to use Facebook simply because so many friends and family are already on it.

We keep hearing statistics about smartphone adoption rates. No doubt about it, smartphones are increasingly popular devices and are quickly moving into the mainstream.

How does this translate into the real world?

I came across a guy a few days ago that had recently gotten an iPhone 4.0 specifically so he could do Facetime chats with his brother. This guy was in his 50’s and had never owned a computer or dealt with the Internet in any way. I was surprised at how well he had learned to run his phone. He was clearly thrilled with the smartphone and what it was capable of. Even though this fellow had somehow managed to resist getting a computer and the Internet, the smartphone managed to pull him in. Furthermore, this guy was using a lot of data above and beyond WiFi and Facetime. Even as a novice user, he had already purchased a few iphone apps. Additionally he expressed a lot of interest when I was describing Audible.Com audio books.

There’s a segment of the population I run into personally that doesn’t like the idea of or see the need for or perceive any benefit from paying for mobile data connections. These are the people that are hanging onto more basic phone models. I suspect that these same people likely resisted the idea of getting a cell phone in the first place – in other words, they are late adopters when it comes to cell phone technologies and services.

We are now entering the phase of smartphone adoption of where mass numbers of people will get smartphones simply because everyone else has them. I believe smartphones are poised to outstrip even a service like Facebook with the total number of smartphone users.

These new smartphone users are likely to use mass amounts of data. Cell phone companies wanted people to have data plans because of the extra revenue from larger data-enabled bills – now they’d better be prepared to deliver on the promise.

The Verizon Refund Debacle

In case you missed the news yesterday and today, Verizon Wireless is refunding approximately $50 million to about 15 million of it’s wireless customers.  This stems from incorrect billing that the company did over the past few years.  In a statement posted to Verizon’s website they stated:

“We have addressed these issues to avoid unintended data charges in the future. … When we identify errors, we remedy them as quickly as possible.”

However, the FCC investigation into this is still ongoing.  According to FCC rep Michele Ellison:

“But questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner.”

The question still remains if the FCC will fine Verizon (Ellison did not rule that out).  They are still attempting to determine if Verizon “intentionally” charged a $1.99 per MB data charge to phones that did not have data plans.

Obviously the ramifications if Verizon was knowingly charging people for the data they didn’t use would be disastrous for the company.  At this point we can’t even speculate if that was the case, and honestly, we may never know.

But here’s what I do know.  I (and my wife and daughter) are Verizon Family Plan customers.  I have a smart phone and pay a $29.99 monthly data plan.  However, my wife and daughter do not have smart phones (they both the LG Cosmos).  My daughter just recently got her first phone so there has not been a problem with that, but my wife, periodically, over that past year or so noticed a data charge for her phone on our bill.  It wasn’t there every month, just a few times.  It usually ranged from $2-4.  A couple of times she called and inquired, but never got a satisfactory answer.  And, let’s face it, the charge was too small to put much effort into pursuing.

I can’t say that Verizon did this intentionally and I want to believe they didn’t because I really am happy with the service.  I can say that if I were going to set up a scam I would certainly think that billing a lot of people a little bit would be the best way to do it and not get noticed.  But that proves nothing.  I will withhold judgement and continue with our service with them.  But what I am a bit upset about is the settlement amount – between $2 and $6 per customer.  First, I have no idea how they have determined who the affected 15 million customers were and if we are even on the list.  Second, I calculated the total amount we were overcharged to be a good bit more than the refund that may be coming.  Granted it’s still a small amount of money, but it does leave a bit of a bad taste behind.

Are You Dumping Your Extras?

Cell service providers are beginning to notice a somewhat alarming trend among users. As plans graduate out of their contracts, more users are giving up extras like mobile web, texting, and SMS messaging. These “extras” can cost an extra $20-100 a month on most plans, and even more for family-type multiple-user plans like our family has.

As the economy worsens and people look for ways to cut costs, dumping a $40 data plan and a $30 texting plan can really impact a squeezed budget. Most users have alternatives for data, like laptops, netbooks, home computers, etc. The cost of the extras can outweigh their conveniences, in some cases.

Not that we techies don’t like our conveniences and our gadgets, of course. But when the choice is to pay your mortgage or pay for your extras on your cell phone, I think most of us know what the choice should be. In fact, when I hear of anyone buying a smart-phone these days, especially ones with expensive data plans like the iPhone, I have to wonder what they are thinking. I actually have a friend who works for the mortgage business and just bought an iPhone and locked herself into a 2-year contract that is twice as expensive as her cell phone plan had been before. What happens when her mortgage job goes south?

Scary stuff. I know we’ve cut back on things we don’t need that we can live without, including paring down our cell phone plans. And I have to wonder, if enough of us do that, will the cell phone companies, in order to maintain their business, start offering those extras at a lot lower price, as I know they can afford to do?