C U L8R VZW: Saying Goodbye to Big Mobile

I’m your prototypical early adopter.  I bought my first cell phone when I started college – at a time when people assumed anyone that age with a mobile phone or pager was a drug dealer…or perhaps Doogie Howser-style teenage doctor.  But this was also a time when landline providers charged more for long and even “local-long” distance.  So it actually worked out cheaper to get a cell phone with the area code of my hometown and use it to call friends and family as if locally than to use a landline from my apartment.  But somehow over the years my service has mutated from a cost-saving measure to a considerable expense. Unlike other technologies, cell phone service somehow seems to have gotten more expensive during the sunset phase as the market becomes saturated – between our family’s minutes, messages, data, and hotspotting/tethering, we were spending thousands of dollars per year. I had been holding out for Verizon’s rumored shared plan in hopes that it might bring things more in line with modern usage patterns, but in addition to forfeiting my unlimited data, it just seemed like a different attempt at justifying ludicrously high prices [I tried to calculate the exact pricing for this post, but kept getting stuck at http://www.verizonwireless.com/backbutton.html - on multiple browsers - even their web site is a frustrating disappointment]. The whole pricing model just seems broken – I don’t pay a flat fee for groceries each month, making sure that it’s high enough to accommodate peak periods like Thanksgiving and Christmas – so why do I pay for more minutes, messages, and data than I use each month, for fear of being punished should I happen to go over? I had looked at pay-as-you-go services, but they seem to be trending more toward the monthly service model, and the devices were lacking in most cases. Enter Ting – the mobile phone service from Tucows that only charges you for what you use.

As an OpenSRS reseller, I’d heard about Ting some time ago, and was intrigued, yet hesitant to try it, and unwilling to offer the service to my customers before I’d tried it myself. The biggest concerns for me were the quality of the service (which is provided by Sprint’s network), and the caliber of devices offered. I have used most of the major providers at one point or another, and I have to admit that Verizon definitely seems like the leader in terms of network coverage and performance. They tend to lag somewhat in cutting-edge devices, but as important as that is to me, it’s made less relevant by the fact that I can only get a new device every two years – which feels so much longer with the way that devices are evolving these days. Since Ting users buy their devices outright, and they are not subsidized (unlike the many “$0.01″ devices available on other providers, which we all know get amortized over the two year commitment), you can use a device for as long as you want before upgrading – and frankly with the much lower monthly bill, I could get a new phone several times per year and still come out ahead!

What pushed me over the edge was Ting’s announcement of the availability of the Samsung Galaxy S III - the electronics giant’s flagship device, and the first on Ting to offer LTE. Given the 5-6 week wait, I picked up the Samsung M370 feature phone to tide me over until the S III arrives. My wife picked the Samsung Ultra Transform, which thanks to Ting’s no-charge hotspotting, can provide WiFi to the entire family in the rare instances when it is not otherwise available (as it is at our home, offices, and most other places we spend time).

So, that’s the pitch – Verizon service has been canceled and we are paying for what we use with Ting – a journey which I will be chronicling for the next few months to determine if it can possibly be as good as it seems. ( . .)ф”

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