It seems like every time that a company offers a new update, something else breaks. And, it seems like Apple isn’t immune to this any more than any other company. According to iPhone users, the newest operating system from Apple, iOS 9, is causing issues for customers with phones on an AT&T MVNO.
In April, Sprint confirmed that it would be shutting down its WiMAX network in the first week of November. While Sprint’s WiMAX network didn’t really have all that much coverage or widespread adoption (mostly due to the painfully slow roll out and the emergence of LTE), there are still some MVNOs and phones circulating that use this network.
If you own a Galaxy Note 5 or are considering picking up this rather popular Samsung device, then you should probably be aware that users have discovered an incredibly easy way to irreparably break one of the more unique parts of the device–the S pen.
I am a huge Android fan. I mean, I admit that iPhones are pretty great devices, but I’ll always prefer an Android over an iPhone. While together Android and iPhone take probably more than 90% of the smartphone market, generally speaking, Android tends to have a slightly higher adoption than iPhone and tends to take the market share. So, for all of you Android users out there, today I wanted to make everyone aware of a new android flaw that was recently discovered.
Last week, Apple released the 8.4 update for its iOS which has caused sporadic issues with GPS connectivity for iPhones and a few iPads. Users on Apple’s forums have complained that their devices are unable to lock on to GPS satellite signals, making most GPS apps completely worthless.
In January, the FTC ordered America Movil companies to pay consumers who purchased “unlimited” data plans from 2009 – 2013. Companies that were part of this complaint include Tracfone, StraightTalk, Simple Mobile, Net10 and Telcel America, which were ordered to pay a combined $40 million to effected customers. However, the deadline to file a claim is fast approaching, and I wanted drop a quick reminder.
Verizon and Sprint and their assorted companies (including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint Prepaid and Assurance Wireless) have been ordered to provide a refund to customers who were charged for premium SMS messages without proper notice or consent. The FCC, state attorneys general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have charged the companies a total of $120 million.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against Tracfone and its subsidiary brands, including Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile and Telcel America. The complaint alleges that Tracfone failed to disclose throttling and suspension terms to customers of its prepaid unlimited plans from 2009 to at least September 2013 and that customers were frequently deceived about what they were purchasing.
Because of the cost of phones, it’s pretty common for prepaid users to have older phones for far longer than traditional postpaid consumers. If you fall in that category and you use and Android phone, then you definitely want to read on.
The Wall Street Journal published an article this morning based on this blog post which revealed that Google is no longer updating some older versions of their popular smartphone internet browser. This announcement is rather surprising, as Google has been pretty vigilant about updating their software as they find security holes.
I hesitated to even write an article about this, but with how frequently and easily new prepaid providers can go under, I thought it might be prudent. Today, the FCC has debuted a new online consumer help center to make finding resources and, should you need to, filing complaints much easier.
Update: The website is back up, and all issues should be resolved!
Early this morning, Republic Wireless took down their site for maintenance, and put up the above humorous placeholder denying access and rerouting consumers to their community help forums. Turns out the Wonderful Wizard of Republic Wireless is actually doing some maintenance on their site and portal and, as of this writing, an ETA for the fix has not been announced.
Cricket users have been reporting problems with their data being slowed despite good signal and a positive balance of data remaining on the account. From what it seems like, users are experiencing extremely slow internet service shortly after cycles renewed in the beginning of October. It was first reported on HowardForums last week, and seems to be quite the widespread issue.
Update: The SMS issue has now been fixed. If you are still unable to send or receive SMS, contact PagePlus.
I’m not sure how I missed it, but apparently some Page Plus users on the new LTE network have been having problems sending text messages in the last week or so. From what it looks like, users can receive messages, but get an error when trying to send them out. I haven’t seen any reports about iPhones, so presumably this is only effecting Android users, and only those using the Page Plus LTE network.
One complaint I frequently see from prepaid users is the inaccuracy of coverage maps. The reason: they are typically generalized estimations of coverage areas. Throughout all coverage areas there are points with stronger and weaker signal. You won’t find that on a carrier’s coverage map information, though. Sensorly is aiming to provide more accurate coverage information by going straight to the source: you, the user. With enough people on board, they might be able to make the question of coverage a much easier one to answer.
Here’s the rub: if you read through the user reviews for our featured prepaid cell phone providers, you might come away thinking that every cell phone company provides horrible customer service. There are some nasty and elaborate tales throughout there. But don’t think that those negative reviews represent the overall state of customer service. People who feel wronged are far more likely to leave reviews than those who have received good service. Believe it or not, there are some providers who are pretty good at customer service. According to the latest J.D. Power and Associates study of the wireless industry, MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile rank among the best.
Cell phones have pretty much become our lifelines for communication. Not only do we use them to communicate via voice calling—today’s smart phones are really more like mini computers—providing phone, SMS texting, video and photo capture capabilities, and even internet surfing and GPS capabilities.
A few months ago we saw a report that suggested the U.S. government was taking a close look at Chinese manufacturers ZTE and Huawei. Yesterday morning the U.S. House of Representatives issued a report suggesting that telecom operators not do business with the two companies, citing a number of issues — including a security threat. While the report focuses on routers and other network equipment, the cellular divisions will clearly be affected. So will this report amount to any sanctions against the companies?
If you recently purchased a new cell phone, you may be wondering what you should do with your old one. Instead of simply throwing it away or allowing it to clutter up your home, put it towards a good cause – recycle it!
Nearly 14 million Americans recycled their old cell phones in 2007. Today, donating your old cell phones and cell phone accessories, such as cell phone chargers, cell phone batteries, and PDAs, is easier than ever.
Do you get a full day’s use out of your prepaid Android smartphone? If you don’t have the benefit of being near an outlet for hours on end, it might be tough to use your phone to the fullest all day. Motorola recently hit on this reality in an advertisement for the Droid RAZR MAXX, which boasts a stronger battery than any current 4G LTE smartphone.
In America, prepaid phones are notorious for their freewheeling nature. There are no contracts or credit checks, so customers can pick up one at a retail outlet, activate it, and use it for years with relative anonymity. This makes it convenient for users who might not have credit, but also makes it easy for criminals to abuse the privilege. We’ve seen proposals for how to curb this, but none of them seem close to reality. In Mexico, however, it’s a different story. Last year their government passed a law requiring prepaid phone users to register their accounts. This was a reaction to reports of prepaid phones aiding criminals. Will the U.S. follow?
If you look through the user reviews in our pay as you go cell phone pages, you’ll see that many people have had such poor experiences that they’ve taken their case to the Better Business Bureau. It’s tough to gauge a trend from those reviews, of course, because the overwhelming majority of people write them to vent about bad experiences. But it does appear that complaints to the BBB are up from last year. While the banking sector saw the largest increase, the wireless industry also saw more customers submit complaints, up 2.1 percent from 2008. Thankfully, the cell phone industry does solve their complaints, at least to the satisfaction of the BBB, at a 97.4 percent rate. I still think that submitting a complaint to the FCC can be more effective in many cases.
Though I don’t have any hard statistics on the subject, I’m willing to bet that prepaid users change phones far more often than postpaid users. Most prepaid carriers carry a line of cheap phones, and since there is no contract the customer is free to change phones more frequently than the two-year period afforded by postpaid carriers. Additionally, because the phones are typically old and outdated, they might not last as long as newer phones. The problem with frequently changing phones is the disposal process. We know we’re not supposed to toss them in the trash, but the question remains of the best way to rid yourself of that old phone. Here are a couple of options.
At the start of this year, Louisiana began imposing a new tax on prepaid card purchases to cover 911 fees. This has been a topic of debate among state legislatures for the past few years. As the number of prepaid cell phone users grows, they more concerned they are with collecting proper 911 fees. Louisiana’s implementation has its flaws — for one, it doesn’t cover online purchases. These logistical issues aren’t stopping lawmakers in other states from trying to impose them as well. Recently, we heard of two more states, one of which ruled on the issue late last week.
We’re seeing more and more e-commerce these days, which many consider a universal good. But what about for people who can’t get a credit card? Despite its growing popularity in the general population, prepaid wireless is still the only alternative for people with poor credit. How can they buy goods online, then, without a credit card? Zeus Research might have the answer. They’re going to use STi Mobile prepaid cards to power these purchases. Customers can find STi prepaid refill cards at over 200,000 U.S. retail oulets, and they can purchase them with cash. If implemented at the right sites — ones that don’t offer cards of their own — it could be a big advancement for e-commerce.
When it comes to studies and surveys, I’m always a bit skeptical about the accuracy. People lie, even when they don’t know it. And then there’s the ever-present sampling issue. This particular survey, however, took data straight from cell phone calls, so it would appear a bit more reliable. The claim: postpaid users are more likely to call you back than prepaid users. We know that postpaid, in general, use their phones more heavily. True to that, they call an average of 5.41 people to a prepaid user’s 3.41, and make 10 times as many calls. But the claim about postpaid users being more likely to call back is a new one.
We don’t normally hear about class action lawsuits against wireless carriers. That’s because they stick mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts. This says that you cannot bring a class action suit against the carrier, but must instead agree to arbitration over disputes. Sometimes a class sneaks through, but it’s not common. MetroPCS now faces on in New York over their unlimited international calling plan. The suit accuses them of using “bait and switch/deceptive trade practices.”
If prepaid wireless users benefit from 911 services, shouldn’t they pay into them? Legislators in many states have debated the issue, and most think that something must be done. Louisiana is the first state to act on the prepaid 911 issue. Starting January first, retailers will collect a 911 fee at the point of sale. This money will then go to local districts as additional 911 revenue.
A few times every year we get a Consumer Reports or JD Power and Associates survey regarding consumer satisfaction with the wireless industry. The Consumer Reports one just came out, and ranked AT&T as the worst among carriers. In general, it found that only 54 percent were “completely or very satisfied” with their cell service. Two thirds of respondents had a major complaint about their carrier. This seems like par for the course in the wireless industry.
One prevalent issue among prepaid cellular providers is of traffickers. We’ve discussed this at length on Prepaid Reviews, but for a two-sentence re-hash: Many prepaid providers subsidize boxed handsets, like the ones you’d find at Wal-Mart, so more customers can buy the phones. The companies hope to make the money back when the customer purchases minutes, but that plan is thwarted by traffickers who purchase subsidized handsets in bulk, unlock them, and then sell them at a market rate. Prepaid companies lose big, and so they’ve helped propose the Wireless Prepaid Access Enforcement Act of 2009. There’s a lot to it, and Jennifer Granick of Electronic Frontier Foundation has the analysis.
User caki on Howard Forums posts a reminder that we could all use. His AT&T MediaNet features expired on the 20th of September. So on that morning he went to refill, only to find everything wiped out. AT&T customer service gave him a “one time” restore, but was reminded that users must refill before the listed date. So when you see the expiration date on your prepaid wireless account, make sure to top up at least a day before that. Otherwise, your account might get wiped.
If you look through the user reviews on our pay as you go cell phone providers, you might notice a theme of discontent. The reviews are usually well balanced between positive and negative in general, but there is a specific type of negative comment I’ve seen a lot of lately. Some people claim that a prepaid carrier owes them money for one reason or another — minutes balance not transferring is the No. 1 complaint, specifically. If you think you’ve ben wronged by a prepaid carrier and that they owe you money, you can send your dispute to the FCC. It’s a much better and responsive process than the Better Business Bureau.
T-Mobile currently has a promotion running, Mobile Makeover, which alleges to find you the best deal on a mobile service plan, based on your needs, regardless of carrier. It’s supposed to be them playing the good guys, turning away customers if they can find better deals elsewhere, rather than trying to make the sale at all costs. For the service they partner with BillShrink.com, a site which compares cellular plans across carriers. The only problem is that BillShrink only compares major carriers. Consumer Reports tackles the issue, noting that oftentimes prepaid carriers have cheaper plans than their postpaid counterparts.
The National Do Not Call Registry has saved many a headache for regular Joes. Opened in 2003, it allows consumers to enter their number on a registry which will preclude it from telemarketing autodialers. People can register their cell phones, but under federal regulation they need not: “FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers.” There have been rumors lately which suggest a reversal of this policy, much to the chagrin of almost everyone outside the telemarketing industry. Thankfully, the rumor appears to be bunk. The FCC has put it to rest, assuring citizens that the law will not allow autodialers to call their cell phones. This leaves only the rogues to deal with.
One question which has plagued prepaid wireless recently is of what to do with 911. Not just the service — though we’ve heard a few instances where 911 didn’t work from a prepaid phone — but of how to pay the tax. Postpaid cellular users pay a monthly 911 fee to cover operational costs. So why don’t prepaid users? Because there’s no easy way to implement it. There is no monthly bill, so there’s no chance to add on the charge. Still, a solution might be on the way. Jeff Robertson of the 911 Industry Alliance says that point of sale charges may be the way to go. Of course, he’s facing significant opposition.
When a survey makes a radical claim, it’s best to take it with a grain of salt. Case in point: after we found a survey which claimed that 17 percent of cell users switched from postpaid to prepaid, said survey’s methodologies were subsequently questioned. So when a new survey says that cell phone users are paying an average of $3 per minute, I’m quite skeptical. It means that a lot of people aren’t using close to all the voice minutes on their plan.
For years the FCC has been trying to get cellular carriers to become e911 compliant. With a larger and larger percentage of emergency calls coming from cell phones, it’s important that the call get routed to the proper 911 center, and that the first responders can locate the phone using cell towers. We saw an example of this in Ohio last week, after a Miamisburg man’s house and business caught fire. He called 911, which routed him to the local police department, which wasn’t open and which had a recording prompting people to call 911 for emergencies. Clearly, this is not the best way to operate an emergency service. Had the man’s phone been 911 compliant, help would have gotten to him before his “home was fully engulfed and a near total loss.”
A recent survey, which we discussed Monday, found that many Americans are switching to prepaid services from their postpaid deals. Specifically, they found that 17 percent of contract cell phone users have switched to prepaid within the past six month. That seems like a pretty significant number, so it came as a surprise to see this headline come up in an alert: No Huge Shift to Prepaid Wireless Foresen due to the Recession. Hm. What could he mean by that, in the face of the data presented?
Once it became clear that America was in the throes of recession, public opinion began to shift regarding prepaid wireless. Once the black sheep of calling options, usually reserved for the very young or the credit challenged, people are now viewing it as a way to cut back on cell phone costs. Since many companies offer unlimited calling for far less than contract carriers and others offer pay-per-minute plans, consumers can find value in these prepaid options. According to a survey by the New Millennium Research Council, the shift is already beginning. They found that 19 percent of consumers with a cell phone have cut service in the last six month. This includes switching from their contract to prepaid.
One topic we’ve seen a lot of in the past year or so has been the issue of 911 fees for prepaid cell users. In fact, just last week we discussed how e911 services aren’t totally effective yet. This week we open with a story about 911 fees, which aren’t assessed to prepaid users, but which there is a growing cry to impose. The Thibodaux Daily Comet has a story about how a few local parishes are looking to add a new fee for every purchase of a new prepaid wireless refill card.
A big issue these days is for phones to be e911 compatible. The FCC has mandated that all carriers be in 100 percent compliance by September 11, 2011, invoking a national tragedy to make their point. It does make sense in a symbolic way, though, as the idea behind full compliance is that all cell phones can be tracked and found by first responders. It still looks like about 25 percent of phones still aren’t compliant. There’s still over two years until the date, though, so presumably it will be done by then.
Yes, legislators are at it again, trying to come up with registries for those who purchase prepaid cell phones. This time it’s in Missouri, where Rep. Ed Wildberger wants to see anyone who buys six or more prepaid phones placed into a registry to be used by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. We’ve seen similar proposals by other states, though none have been able to make it work on a practical level. It appears, though, that this bill is the best of the crop.
A number of states currently have laws requiring a hands-free device while driving. These states believe that accidents can be reduced by minimizing distraction. A hands-free device allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel (though from experience most people drive with one hand anyway). Now the USA National Safety Council wants a nationwide ban on cell phones while driving. This probably won’t be met with much support, but there is plenty of evidence for such a measure.
Expanding on the discussion we’ve had here regarding kids and cell phones, I was wondering if there should be some kind of restriction on advertising cell phones to kids — kind of like the restrictions on advertising alcohol and cigarettes. The idea comes from this article, which mentions the French government’s efforts to ban the advertising of cell phones to kids. Knowing what most of us know about the United States, such a law probably would never find its way out of committee in Congress. However, the question is, should it?
Happy New Year everyone. Hopefully next week will bring us some news in the world of prepaid wireless. For now, we’re going to continue discussing issues related to the industry. Today we’ll look at the issue of smartphone vs. prepaid. They’re on two different ends of the spectrum. Prepaid is considered a low-cost alternative to contract cell phone service, while smartphones not only require a contract (for the most part), but a data plan which can add $30 to your monthly bill. So if the economy is headed downward still, will the reaction by consumers be to slow the smartphone trend in favor of the cheaper prepaid option?
Nope. Still nothing going on the prepaid side of things. So let’s end the year with one of those boogeyman posts. Caught this one on Engadget Mobile. The scientists at the European Research Institute for Electronic Components have studied multiple effects of radiation on red blood cells. This comes from low-level radiation, meaning that your cell phone probably gives off this level. So what do you have to be scared about this time? Your hemoglobin can leak, leading to kidney damage and heart disease. Scurry.
As if you needed to read that title to know that your wireless carrier is making boatloads off SMS charges. Apparently, though, some people think that the rise in text messaging costs over the past two years has been “business as usual.” The demand has increased, so that means higher prices right? Not so fast. Randall Stross of the New York Times walks us through text messaging, focusing on the insane profits wireless companies reap from the poor consumer.
In these tough economic times — see, you can start any article off with that line nowadays — families are looking to cut costs wherever they can. We’ve mentioned, on multiple occasions, how prepaid wireless can help a family reduce their spending on communications costs. Another measure they can take is to use cell phones only and ditch the now-redundant landline. It seems many are taking that step. According to an AP report, landline only households have grown to 18 percent. This is in addition to the 13 percent of households which have landlines, but place and receive the majority of their calls via cell phones.
Do you talk on the phone while you drive? We’ve touched on this topic plenty of times on Prepaid Reviews, always coming down on the side of safety. Hey, I’m a former handset-to-the-ear-while-driving guy, and I only stopped after a near-accident. I got lucky. Many do not. Some have argued that it’s no different than talking to a passenger. A recent survey, though, claims that driving while on a phone is more dangerous than talking to a passenger.
Prepaid and the economy. It’s a meme you’ll hear around these parts in the coming year for sure. Think about it. With rough economic times forecasted for our immediate future, why commit to a two-year cell phone contract, where you’ll likely pay for more than you use? With prepaid, you don’t commit and only pay for minutes you actually end up using. A recent survey, though, suggests that people aren’t that willing to change their spending habits when it comes to mobile phones. While 86 percent of respondents said they’d eat out less, just 32 percent said they’d spend less on mobile phone service. It seems like a missed opportunity.