Author Topic: "bedpan and catheter" style of communications user needs help figuring phones...  (Read 2849 times)

athenap

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And yes, I read the Superguide and its Son. I cried a little when I realized I still can't figure out what the hell I need, so please have mercy someone and throw some ideas at me.

First, the cell phones. Currently hubs and I are on ATT, with off contract iPhone 4s and an older Galaxy. Relevant needs and constraints:

Cell Phones

- AT&T reception is not the best in home area, Verizon is better, Sprint and T-Mobile is crap.
- my company provides 20% discount towards ATT bill, plus subsidizes $45 worth of data. They won't do the same on MNVO.
- we are holding on to bedpans of grandfathered "unlimited" data, while in reality data usage is from 0.5 to 2G. (I don't know what caused it to drop, my iPhone routinely runs 1-1.5G/month without any videos or music or streaming, the only thing I did different the month I saw it drop is to actually turn off wifi and forget to turn it on).
- I have very little use for talk minutes, hate speaking on the cell
- texts run about 1000 texts a month
- I do have the need for data. In addition to primary job (see data subsidy above), I have a business where I need to be accessible at off hours or non-wifi locations. For this I need access to web browser, text and e-mail. Other that that, phone is used for GPS, casual browsing/FB, listening to occasional audiobook or podcast and very much as a camera.
- We travel internationally a couple of times a year and I used to pay for ATT global data plans. I am not satisfied with these now, so an option to swap a SIM card or have a carrier that has global plans at reasonable cost is desired.
- I would like to switch to a new phone eventually (this one keeps on freezing up). Speed, ease of use and camera quality are primary considerations. Cost of one time purchase less so. Ongoing monthly cost is what I would like to reduce.
- I can monitor my data usage if need be and turn it off where I have wifi - I do it when I travel. I just prefer to have the cellular data available to me at a reasonable cost when I need it.

Honestly, because I am lazy and because we make a decent coin, I am just so tempted to go and get the new iPhone and iPad (mine is of 1st generation with built-in obsolescence and is forever crashing), only because it's so damn easy. Swap and done. But I wanted to see if there's a better way that does not involve too much pain and suffering :)

Home Phone and Cable

We switched from one devil to another recently (Comcast to Verizon, just trying to reduce the obscene bill).

TV/Cable
- husband is not ready to cut the cable. He does not watch any TV as such, but watches football and Premier league soccer. I don't watch TV at all.
- have an old TV and a Roku. Also Amazon Prime. Have Netflix, DVDs as TV does not support streaming (old).
- he streams videos on his laptop and Verizon download speed is already drives him up the wall.

Home Phone

- I work from home pretty much full time with an occasional trip out to city office or to headquarters and with the never ending conference calls, need reliable phone connection.
- Cell connection is poor in our area, hence the landline.
- Some 10 years ago we had VOIP in the form of Vonage and then the quality sucked. I imagine it got better since.


So is there any hope for someone like me? Addicted to convenience, wanting my cake (global plans, all the data in the world, overpriced phones) and eat it too (cheap monthly plans)? Or should I just continue to pretend that I exhausted all my options (I did read the Son of the Superguide and his very extensive Papa too, so that should count!) and live on in blissful semi-ignorance of more optimized options?

Daley

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Reading things over, the most glaring part of your data usage is the GPS and the audiobooks/podcasts. There's offline GPS software such as Sygic, which is available for iOS. Learn to plan for your audio listening and download this stuff in advance while you're on WiFi. You should also be able to disable software updates in iOS from downloading over the air and on WiFi only. That would probably easily get your data usage consistently under 1GB/month or less.

Like it or not, you're going to have to work for some savings... but it's rewarding to do so, no matter how much you have coming in. Do not forget the power of something as small as $10.

Global data doesn't exist with any MVNOs outside of Truphone, and that can get darned expensive fast, especially for domestic usage... unless you can gut your needs down into the sub-$20/month PAYGO territory. That won't happen with a 1000 text and 500MB+ data habit. It's typically just cheaper and easier to plan in advance and pick up a SIM card for data access in the country you go to.

If you could get your habit down to an under 750 text and 400MB habit, you could get away with a $20/month bill through Puretalk USA for your phone... but that takes some data discipline and text offloading to data with your heavy usage contacts. You also mention "we", but give no details on the other line usage. The biggest thing you need to consider and factor is cost. The questions needing answers are:

What are the current real-world average monthly usage numbers for each line?
What are the potential average reduced usage numbers if some data discipline, offline GPS, and SMS replacement apps are used? (This will take a bit of experimenting for at least a couple weeks to answer.)
Is the cost of these reduced usage levels significantly cheaper on an AT&T MVNO (25% or more) than what is being paid currently to AT&T directly after the 20% discount and $45 employer credit?

Regarding the phone freezing... when was the last time you cleared out Safari's browser cache and history and/or did a factory reset to the phone?

Another point to consider is that some AT&T MVNOs don't play well with APN data settings and Apple phones, and some people have difficulty getting those settings changed to work. You can blame both Apple and AT&T for this nonsense.

On the home phone end, service quality will be dependent on your network connection quality with your ISP. Your streaming video issues concern me... unless your husband's just being an HD snob. A good crash course on everything one really should know about VoIP before hauling it into the home to ensure maximum success can be read here.

There's your start. I've given you a gameplan and some specific suggestions, go forth and see what you can do.

athenap

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Thanks so much, I. P. Daley, for taking the time to go over my list. I know I can't have everything - not yet sure what I am prepared to give up - $$ or convenience, but want to do actual meaningful research to figure out what the real options are. Thank you for staring me off with some applicable ideas.

Wrt phone usage:

- audiobooks/podcasts can be gone in a flash. They are a minute part of my usage, I can either download via wifi or just use CDs from the library as I have done for ages before. So getting rid of that is not an issue.

- GPS is a much bigger dependency. Even if I pre-plan my trip, I have a tendency to get lost a LOT, even on a familiar routes (I have shit for sense of direction, unlike spouse who can orient by sun, stars and trees, and who knows what else. So I rely on GPS functionality heavily, for directions and traffic, at home and when abroad.) Now, we did use to own a real GPS unit from Garmin, and I suppose I can dig it up or find a replacement for that and stop relying on the phone for it. This is something I need to consider.

Looked up actual data usage. For me it's all over the place, for reasons unknown - I really only do the same thing over and over again: answer e-mails, go to a browser to process reservations, do google searches, check Facebook (guilty, but no videos), look at Mint. Mail apps are set on pull, not push. There may be an occasional instagram in there - I suspect what I don't use in music or videos is probably used up by a photo transfers, whether between apps or by e-mail, and I can be careful to wait till I am on WiFi to do that. That and using security cam for when our kid was little (she had a camera in her room and I traveled a lot) without giving any thought whether I am on WiFI or cellular network, plus having some kind of apps running in the background probably chewed up data. This is speculative but the only thing I can think of.

Husband's usage is a little heavier by streaming an occasional video, but his phone seems to suck up less data by design (android). Otherwise, his usage patterns are similar to mine. Here's the actual data usage over the last 14 months:

Self                    Spouse

13-Oct   0.4      0.7
13-Nov   0.7      0.6
13-Dec   0.9      0.7
14-Jan   1.3      0.9
14-Feb   1.2      0.7
14-Mar   0.9      0.5
14-Apr   1.3      0.8
14-May   0.7      0.5
14-Jun   1.8      0.8
14-Jul    1.4       0.5
14-Aug   1.2      0.5
14-Sep   0.8      0.3
14-Oct   0.4      0.5
14-Nov   0.3      0.3
14-Dec   1         0.2
         
STD         0.42       0.20
MEAN       0.95       0.57
MEDIAN   0.9         0.5


Text usage is probably even higher than 1000 per month (for me, his is a little less), because a number of folks I text with are also iPhone users and thus those messages are routed via imessage and probably do not show up in the overall count. So, ideally (there goes that word again), I will find a reseller/plan with minimum talk minutes, unlimited or high allowance for text and data and compatibility with European SIM cards/phone protocols so I can swap cards when I travel. The need to use the phone abroad is why I have not swicthed to Verizon despite better reception since I don't think their phones work in Europe. Again, I don't need to make phone calls as much as I need data abroad. I have used SMS apps such as Viber (Skype stopped working on my phone) when traveling for calls and messages but Viber specifically seems to have a bit of a privacy concern. Are there other decent substitutes for SMS that are not Skype and Viber that are widely used (so I can convince folks I text with the most to adopt them and cut down on most of my text usage)?

Phone has been factory reset maybe couple of years ago, browser cache cleared probably never. I am still jonesing for a new phone but I will do this in the meantime to save my sanity for the next 6 months at least. I am not known for my patience and waiting 3 minutes for a letter to appear in the text field drives me a little insane...


The slowness of Verizon FIOS when streaming - well, I can tell that the quality of Verizon is subpar, I can see that when he watches a recorded game on DVR and it breaks up or pauses and then resumes which did not used to happen with Comcast. But yesterday's rant about crappy streaming was actually due to him forgetting that he was on VPN (working and forgot to get off VPN) and then streaming, so it was artificially slow.

Because we need both landline phone and internet, it seems that we are sort of stuck with the major monopolies and at that point adding cable increases overall bill by a somewhat negligible number. At least it's negligible on paper, 10 or 20 bucks per month, but then you start adding up equipment like DVR or what have you, taxes, etc and you are back to 120-130 bucks for everything and that is considered spectacular deal in our neck of the woods where Comcast was happy to charge well over 200 bucks for the same.

Again, thank you so much for staring me of off on ideas to research. I will cross check my findings with recommended providers in the Son of the Guide and see if switching will make sense, given my data addiction (it is also a business expense and a legitimate tax write off), but I really need to work against my natural inclination of "just taking it easy" and throwing money at a problem. As a lazy INTJ, I always have this internal conflict of wanting to have an optimal solution to the problem AND not having to work too hard to make it happen :)

Chranstronaut

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Regarding the phone freezing... when was the last time you cleared out Safari's browser cache and history and/or did a factory reset to the phone?

Additional tips are to exit out of your apps; this is not automatic.  You can do this on the older iPhone operating system by pressing the home button twice quickly to open up the lower menu which shows all currently open apps.  Then, press and hold an icon until the red circles appear.  Tap any open icons with red circles to exit from them.  If you tap and hold any apps outside this menu, they will be deleted from your phone, so be sure to open that menu first so that you are only closing them.

You can manually turn off your cellular data by going to Settings > General > Cellular and sliding it from On to Off.  This will keep any background apps from sucking down more data and it will give you a little reminder when you try to get online that helps me from using too much data when I don't actually need it.  With cellular data off, your email won't refresh unless you have a wifi signal, so this may or may not work for your agreement with your company.

The two points above also seem to improve battery life on my phone significantly.

athenap

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CransStache, thanks. I do already do that.... when I remember ;) The funny thing is that I got the lowest data usage (0.3) when I turned off wifi and then forgot to turn it back on. But I suspect I also had phone clear of all background apps at the same time during that month (I must have been traveling that month and was careful when switching between wifi and cell data and so that was one month I was paying attention to background apps not because of battery but because of data usage).

I think I will spend this month being very mindful of a) cell usage by turning it off now and only turning it on as needed to see what the REAL need is and b) similarly, being mindful of background apps. I ran a similar experiment once about a year ago when I was contemplating a switch but I can't recall the results. I think I just accepted that iphone is a giant data suck and then got distracted by some other issue.

Daley

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Athena, I'm pretty certain that your major data sucks are the GPS (primarily) and the audio. Basically, any form of streaming media is what chews up data, and online maps with traffic updates are a form of streaming media. Again, if you don't want to use a separate GPS units, there are offline GPS apps for iOS such as Sygic. It pre-loads the maps for you so you always have them and don't need a data connection to navigate. (More on this subject here.)

On the texting end, XMS is my primary recommendation followed by Kik for multi-platform messaging. Reasonable terms of service, low data usage. Going XMS between yourself and your husband will probably put a major dent in your total text count. Usually it's only 2-3 people that comprise the lion's share of anyone's text usage.

You should be able to get accurate counts on real-world texts, minutes and data from your bills. However, the only real number that matters on that end going forward is going to be minutes. The rest will likely drop significantly with the suggested changes.

As for your global GSM requirement, that's a handset thing more than a carrier thing. Also, IIRC, technically the Verizon branded iPhones are the exact same iPhones as the T-Mobile and AT&T branded handsets. They're CDMA-GSM-LTE world phones.

All this said, even with some significant changes, I'm not entirely sure you'll be able to get much below the $40-60/month range combined at best on an AT&T MVNO, and it might wind up being higher. The weak spots are the text count and the data. Consumer Cellular might be the best option to price given how they structure their plans.

athenap

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Thanks so much for the texting app recs, I. P. Daley, will look into them today!

I will admit, last time I even looked into Verizon offerings, it was before they carried iPhones and I think they were CDMA only back then. So that hurdle is over, should I ever lust after better coverage at an obscenely high prices ;)

FWIW, our current bill after discount and subsidy, with "unlimited" data is about $115-120 for 2 us. Unlimited is in quotes because they will throttle you eventually, I just don't recall the trigger point. I can bring it down by simply removing more expensive text plan (using your recommended SMS apps) and by going to a metered data plan instead of unlimited. I think that alone, without moving to MVNO, can cut about $50 off the monthly bill. But ATT greedy grasp is beginning to annoy me and I was hoping to find a more efficient solution.

I will investigate PureTalk and ConsumerCellular and see if I can get the data subsidy to port over to MNVO. The discount won't, but maybe the data subsidy will...

Daley

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I will investigate PureTalk and ConsumerCellular and see if I can get the data subsidy to port over to MNVO. The discount won't, but maybe the data subsidy will...

I have a feeling that after dropping down to a smaller plan after gutting, between your discount and credit, it's going to really close the gap between AT&T postpaid pricing and an AT&T MVNO. Time shall tell. As for a possible incentive if you want your company to pay a subsidy on an MVNO, tell them you'd be willing to take $30 instead of $45 (which, coincidentally, is the cost of Consumer Cellular's largest data package)... that saves everyone money.