Wireless Serivce: 10 Things You Need to Know!
And subjects we see most often in the community!
I'm a former Verizon customer. (Not a confession, just a fact)
My first dip in customer forums was in the Verizon community. Oddly enough, that is where
I found out about the AT&T Mobile Share Value plan. I did tons of math and it all added up,
so I jumped ship in February 2014. I came into the AT&T community to learn a few things
and the exchange of information has me here almost daily.
As a customer, I went through years just going with the flow, upgrading a phone every 2
years, or more if it lasted longer. For 15 years phones were pretty simple, phones made
calls, then calls and text. When smartphones came along, I was almost overwhelmed.
Data? How can I be billed for something I can't see, or touch? What if my phone breaks, the
darn thing is made with GLASS. Suddenly I didn't take cell phones and service for granted
and had to learn to be more responsible. (Remember that word, it comes up a lot)
It's the 21st century, the age of glass, there are a few things that we smartphone users need
to know about the changes in cellular service and phones. And boy does your cell carrier - and your community - want you to know this stuff.
1. The phone you purchase is yours and you're responsible for paying for it and taking care of it. Phones are not an extension of your cellular service. Your carrier is in business to provide you cellular service and is a retail sales outlet for popular phones and assesories for your convenience and to bring in business. But the carrier didn't build 'em and they aren't responsible to replace 'em if your phone is lost, stolen or broken or just malfunctions. Which segues perfectly into the next two topics....
2. "Contracts are gone and phones cost how much?!" So, you're angry with your carrier over the price of new phones. Truth be told, cell carriers have brought this on themselves by burying the true cost manufacturers charge for phones in our service contracts for 3 decades. They have enabled customers' delusions like Reese's has enabled my chocolate habit. The truth is, phones have always been expensive, and you have always paid for them. That's right, you've been paying for your phone all along. The enabling is over and the sticker shock is just the reality check we need. Cellphone manufacturers have to up their game and offer more to get your money.
We have more choices than ever and prices for service and phones are more competitive. We can pay off and upgrade any time we want instead of waiting a full 24 months. Service and data costs are lower.
The win-win...Carriers can invest and focus on network improvements. Let's face it, no phone at any price is cool if the network can't connect you. Now that we got that straight, what if the awesome new phone is less than awesome, or someone else thinks that it would look more awesome on his nightstand....
3. Warranty -vs- Insurance. Your phone is not a carrier product, and it isn't the carrier's responsibility if something is wrong with it. Warranty is coverage by the manufacturer against a defect in manufacturing. Each manufacturer dictates what the carrier can do to facilitate warranty exchanges. (oooo, big words). Physical or liquid damage voids the
That leaves insurance as your next option if you purchased it. If your phone is lost, stolen or out of warranty, you can file a claim for a replacement. You are sent an identical, or similar replacement. Asurion is the insurance company for all major carriers. Your carrier doesn't insure your phone. You don't have to get insurance, and you may hate paying premiums and deductibles, but no one likes paying installments on a phone you can't use either. If neither applies, you're on your own to replace a phone.
4. After phones, the next biggest expense for most is the data plan. Data is not as mysterious as you think and there is no carrier conspiracy. Overage charges are to encourage you to stay within your allowance, not a jackpot for the carrier. Your phone meters your use, towers collect the information and relay to carrier computers. As manufacturers make smartphones bigger, stronger, faster, it also makes those suckers some real...well, data suckers. In rare cases a phone or application can malfunction and go wild using impossible amounts of data. Most data overage is user error or lack of understanding how much a phone is using and for what. Since it's an on going stuggle and more than a paragraph is needed to cover it, please read more here.
Data overage and rollover from AT&T. AT&T added a rollover data feature to Mobile Share
Value plan in January 2015. Unused data from a customers paid allowance rolls over for one
month. It's a buffer and a way to make use of more of your data plan rather than all data being lost at the end of a month. If you change data plans, any rollover is lost.
The flip side of having leftover is data overage, nobody likes extra charges and staying under a data cap can be tricky and confusing. This discussion may shed light on data overage charges. The link at the end of section 4 can provide more tips to understand and control data use and control.
5. Can you bring a phone to use on the AT&T network? The answer: "if it's unlocked, yes". What does that mean? A locked phone has software code added by the manufacturer at the carriers request. Until a code in entered to unlock it, or is unlocked from the manufacturers server it can't be used on another carrier. Phones can be carrier unlocked after all financial obligations are complete. Non carrier phones are unlocked out of the box. More phones
are being manufacturered so they can be used on any carrier, making travel or switching easy.
There are pros and cons to each.
A. Carrier phones have been optimized for their network and have convenient apps many
customers enjoy. In order to take full advantage of your carriers network and all service, buying
a carrier branded phone may be the way to go. Your carrier also helps with warranty and
insurance replacements per their agreement with those companies. The downside is the extra
apps (bloat) and the wait for updates to be tested before they are released to carrier phones.
B. Not all carriers sell their phones locked. Verizon LTE phones are required to be sold unlocked and many can be used on other networks like AT&T.
C. A third option, which is becoming popular but isn't for everyone, is an unlocked phone. These are phones sold directly from the manufacturer or through other retailers. They often have cellular bands for most carriers, making them very versatile. Updates to software are never delayed. It's important to note they may not be able to take advantage of all your carrier's
D. Just because a phone is unlocked doesn't mean it will work on all networks. Most carriers
have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) section so you can check if the IMEI to see if a phone will work.
6. Software updates, don't ask, just wait. Patience is a virtue. But waiting for software updates is not for saints (yeah, I've seen your expletive deleted posts). We are all at the mercy of manufacturers and testing. If you don't like waiting, consider an unlocked, non carrier device.
There is a trade off as you cannot use all carrier features. If you must have the best of both worlds, then iPhone is your best option.
7. Long distance vs roaming, what's the dif?
Think of the Roaming Gnome, that's the travel plan, as opposed to calling distant family on their birthday, which is long distance. Your cell carrier covers nationwide long distance to all US states and territories. Roaming or calling long distance out of US territories costs extra
through your carrier. Wifi calling is free or cheaper through various apps, but please turn cellular off to be sure a call isn't routed through your carrier. Your carrier also provides a long distance plan or a travel plan you can add, which is less expensive.
No one wants to see an unhappy gnome, so plan ahead for travel and cover your bases if calling out of the US.
8. Promotions and the infamous fine print. (Lawyer jokes withheld, but feel free to remember your favorite here_____. Back to business. Please, read the fine print on offers as many times as needed. Big promotions are designed to bring in NEW business. The old adage, " You don't get something for nothing" and " If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" is absolutely the truth.
While those enticements send you skipping in to save a bundle of money, they are still designed to make the carrier a profit...think about it......
9. I'm keeping my old plan! When you should, when you need to reconsider. With the industry ending contract phone sales, unlimited data might be worth keeping of you make good use of it. But old minute plans are getting nickel and dimed for services new plans get free. If you have teenagers who don't have unlimited data, and the stress face that comes with overages, don't take pills or Botox, shop plans. Do some math on the shared plans, you might get more for less.
10. Dude, pay your bill. Get out the violins, here comes the sad music... Stuff happens, I'm sure carriers have heard every sad story, real and contrived.
Simply put, your carrier is not a 501c. You have 3 weeks from bill to due date, it happens
every month, don't act like its a surprise. If you can't pay, plan ahead and arrange a late payment online. If you don't keep the promise to pay, your service will be suspended until you do. No drama please....We need air, food, water and shelter to survive, cellular service isn't on the list. In an emergency, your cell phone is still able to call 911. If you have a $700 phone, but can't afford the service to make it work, well, that's backwards, time to rethink priorities. (Why do I hear my mother's voice? Anyone else?)
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