More Confusing Phone Plans
The major mobile phone service providers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) are coming up with new plans faster than ever. Consumers are tempted to switch carriers, service plans, and phones, with the promise that they'll save money on their monthly bills. AT&T has their 'Next' plan, Verizon offers you 'More Everything' and Sprint wants you to join a 'Framily'. But the fine print can be baffling! Here's my analysis…
"When you can’t dazzle them with brilliance…"
You can search Google to find the other half of W.C. Fields' famous sarcastic proverb. It aptly sums up the pricing strategies of cellular service providers. They can’t (or won’t) actually save you money, so they throw out ever more confusing pricing plans and just tell you they’re saving you money. Trust them and buy!
It has reached the point where consumers need impartial analysts to analyze and explain the complexities, pitfalls, and loopholes in phone service price plans. That’s a sure sign that the plans are excessively complicated and deliberately designed to deceive customers. Considering the details of these plans illustrates the point.
I recently wrote about Sprint's Framily Plan which lets consumers form groups of friends and family, with the promise that everyone's monthly bill goes down as new "framily" members join. But under that simple exterior, it has dozens of mind-numbing caveats, terms, conditions and restrictions.
AT&T's "Next" plan starts out simple enough: "Choose any one of our latest smartphones. You only pay taxes up front and there's no down payment or activation fee. A low monthly installment plan is added to your bill. Any time after 12 or 18 months, you may trade in your smartphone for a brand new one!"
But the last sentence begins the complications. Twelve OR 18 months; what does that depend upon? It depends on whether you sign a 20 or 26 month contract for a "qualifying" service plan, which must include data as well as voice. Oh, and you need "qualifying credit;" and the offer is available in "select locations only;" and despite the "any one of our latest smartphones" statement, the fine print says, "qualifying smartphones only; excludes tablets." If you return or exchange a phone within 14 days there may be a restocking fee of up to $35. There are other qualifications and gotchas in the fine print, too.
What's Included in "Everything"?
Verizon’s "More Everything" plan promises unlimited talk and text, and a larger shared pool of data for up to ten "devices" on a single account. Unlike AT&T, Verizon does not limit "devices" to smartphones. Tablets, basic phones, a USB Modem, Verizon Jetpack portable wireless router, or any "connected device" including cameras and automotive gear (e. g., diagnostic or GPS computer) is included.
More data is included: twice the data allowance of comparable previous plans. You can also get more upgrades, which really means you can get them faster than AT&T allows; if you pay off at least 50 per cent of the balance due on your hardware, you can upgrade it. You also get more cloud storage – 25 GB – and more international texting, if that matters to you.
But does it cost less? Well, the smallest price I can get from Verizon’s online calculator is $55/month (before taxes and fees). That’s for one device and a measly 250 MB of data per month. Exceed that paltry data allowance and you’ll pay a staggering $15 per gigabyte or fraction thereof.
Competition is a good thing. It's generally leads to innovation and lower prices. But this trend of ever-increasing complexity in mobile phone service plans is not a good thing. You might save a few bucks on your phone bill by switching providers, or by trying a new service plan. But will the new company offer good service where you live and work? Can you bring your existing phone, or will you have to buy a new one? Is there something in the fine print that will make your expected savings disappear?
One of my acquaintances has had it with the complexities of cellular service plans. "I give a sales rep 30 seconds to explain everything he’s selling," he says. "If it takes a second longer I say, ‘NEXT, please!’ and cut him off. Life is too short to spend deciphering great deals."
Have you checked out any of these new offerings from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Feb 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- More Confusing Phone Plans (Posted: 24 Feb 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved