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August 17, 2015

Say Bye-Bye to $199 iPhones at Verizon

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:14 am

  As of August 13, Verizon Wireless is no longer going to subsidize the purchase of new cellphones. That means you can kiss that $199 price for iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6 goodbye. When you get a new phone, you’ll be asked to pay around $650 for those high-end phones, but you can do so in monthly installments of about $27 to soften the blow. Other phones will be available at other prices. Current customers can apparently continue to renew their two year contracts and get subsidized phones, according to the AP.

On the bright side, elimination of subsidies also means the elimination of two-year contracts. So you are no longer bound to remain a customer for 24 months. You will, however, need to fully pay off the remaining monthly payments on your phone if you choose to leave Verizon.

Now the big question: Since you are now paying full price for the phone, are Verizon’s monthly rates for service lower than they were? Remember, depending on the plan, they did have embedded in them a roughly $20 charge to cover the cost of that $650 phone that you got for only $199.

Old plan pricing choices:

Verizon old plan phone costs

In the old system, you had three choices: pay for the phone in full ($650), pay in 24 equal installments ($27.08), or pay $199 (with a two-year contract.)

In the new system, you only have two choices: pay $650 in full or pay it off in 24 installments of $27.08:

new payment options

Besides the cost of the phone, there has always been a line charge, or a charge for the cost of the service per smartphone. The old charge was $40 per line, but if you were on “Edge,” you got a $15 monthly discount making it $25.

Data charges were separate charges also. In the old system, there were many choices with varying prices. Some examples, old/new: 3 gigs – $50/$45; 6 gigs – $70/$60.

Putting it all together, here is the old pricing for an iPhone 6 with monthly installments, on Edge, and with 3 gigs of data:

old total

Here under the new system is pricing for an iPhone 6 with monthly installments and 3 gigs of data:

new system pricing

In this scenario, you are paying $10 a month less than in the former system.

So how does this compare to the old system if you had gotten an iPhone 6 for $199 upfront with 3 gigs of data? You would have been paying $90 a month ($40 for line, $50 for data) plus the equivalent of $8.33 for the phone itself, or $98.33 per month. It is now $6.25 a month cheaper.

At least in these scenarios, the new plan is a little less money, but the rate shock of paying $650 for a phone may still be too bitter a pill to swallow for some. The problem is that you don’t have a ton of alternatives since increasingly the other carriers are also moving away with subsidized telephones.

• • •

August 10, 2015

Walmart’s Got the Lowest Priced Unlimited Cell Plan?

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

  Joe S. wrote to Mouse Print* last week about a Walmart television commercial for cell service that he thought was misleading. Here’s the commercial (and listen very carefully to their lowest price claim):



It says “and at $29.88, it is the lowest price unlimited plan that includes 4G LTE.” That is an unambiguous, unqualified lowest price claim.

But wait, there’s some hard-to-read fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Walmart lowest claim

The fine print qualifies the blanket lowest price claim saying that it is the lowest priced among the offerings that one can buy at Walmart. That is a far different, and narrower claim, and certainly not what any reasonable consumer would understand listening to the commercial.

So we wrote to Walmart’s PR folks and asked two questions:

1. Do you recognize how a viewer could misconstrue the oral claim in your current commercial to mean that your $29.88 plan is the lowest priced 4G LTE plan IN THE MARKETPLACE because you do not qualify the claim?

2. Will you change the commercial, such as by saying “OUR lowest priced plan” instead of “THE lowest price plan”?

Walmart did not respond.

And just in case some of you are saying that maybe their claim is true that they are the lowest price in the market. Nah. Boost Mobile just announced a switching promotion to offer a $20 plan with unlimited talk, text, and data, with 2.5 gigs of high speed LTE data.

Boost $20 plan

Now it is not as if we were asking Walmart to do something difficult — change one word in the commercial so it wouldn’t be deceptive. And it is not as if they had never done it properly before. Here’s a similar commercial from last year where they clearly say orally that this plan is “our lowest priced family unlimited plan.”



You have decide what it says about a company that won’t fix a misleading advertisement when it is brought to their attention.

• • •

July 13, 2015

With New LED Light Bulbs, Be Careful Watt You Buy

Filed under: Electronics,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:13 am

  Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are poised to become the bulb of choice for many shoppers. With a recent price drop announced by GE, it is predicted that LED light bulbs might in coming years make compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) obsolete.

But not all LED bulbs are created equal.

Here is a conventional incandescent 60-watt bulb and its CFL equivalent:

60-watt incandescent     cfl

The conventional 60-watt bulb has a life of about 1000 hours, and is rated at 870 lumens (the brightness or amount of light it gives off). But the CFL uses only one-quarter of the electricity (15 watts), lasts eight times longer, and produces slightly more light — 900 lumens — at least initially. That CFL cost a dollar or less.

The new GE bulb, called the GE LED Bright Stik, comes in packs of three at Home Depot for $9.97.

GE Bright Stik

*MOUSE PRINT:

While it uses one-sixth of the electricity of an incandescent, and a third less than the CFL, it only provides 760 lumens of light versus 870-900 lumens for the other two. It also provides a paltry 15,000 hours of life — short for an LED.

It appears that GE has sacrificed longevity and light output for a lower price. Compare the specs of some of its competitors:

*MOUSE PRINT:


60-Watt Equivalent LED Bulb Comparison
chart
“Conventional” refers to bulb shape

As you can see, prices and specs vary widely. The point of this comparison is to show that you shouldn’t assume that all LED bulbs of a certain wattage equivalent provide the same amount of brightness or have the longest possible life.

• • •

July 6, 2015

Sprint’s New Pitch: (Not Quite) All-In Pricing Plan

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

  Could it be that some of the top executives at the cell and cable companies have been reading our latest rants in Mouse Print* about deceptive low-ball pricing and unexpected additional charges and terms. Probably not. But, as if to say “we can hear you now,” Sprint started a big promotional campaign last week touting its new “all-in” pricing plan.

Sprint’s CEO put it this way:

“If you went to a restaurant that advertised a cheeseburger for 99-cents, but when you show up, they said it’s an extra $2 for the bun or $1 for lettuce, you would feel misled. Yet, that’s what the industry has been doing with its wireless plans. Why can’t everyone just advertise the full price of both the plan and the smartphone – an All-In plan? That was the idea behind what we’ve created.”

As part of the campaign, Sprint produced this extended commercial that pokes fun at its competitors who double-talk customers about all the extra charges they impose.



Wow. One monthly price for service and the phone.

Not so fast.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sprint $80 a month

The $80 price you see is not the price you pay. Taxes, surcharges [including USF charges of up to 17.40%(varies quarterly), up to $2.50 Admin. & 40¢ Reg. /line/mo. & fees by area (approx. 5-20%)], roaming fees are still extra, and there is a $36 activation fee. Although this screen doesn’t say it (a prior one does in small print), this is for the lease of a phone. So you don’t own the phone, and will have to pay $200 at the end of two years if you want to keep it.

And here’s a new one: apparently Sprint is capping/throttling the speed of streaming videos to just 600Kbps — more like the 3G speeds that it uses on its prepaid service for videos.

So much for advertising a price that is “all-in.” Thanks, Sprint.

UPDATE: This video streaming restriction caused outrage among Sprint users and watchers, and within 24 hours Sprint backtracked removing that throttling of video speeds.

• • •

June 29, 2015

You May Not Own Your New Cellphone

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

  If you are about to get a new cellphone from Sprint or T-Mobile, you better read the fine print, because you may not actually be buying that phone. You may only be leasing it.

MOUSE PRINT*:

Sprint ad

That’s right. Sprint is turning back the clock to the 1950s when you paid a monthly rental fee to Bell for your black landline Western Electric telephone. The difference: you are responsible for repairs if you don’t have a costly protection plan or warranty, and that old phone really sounded good.

For the iPhone 6, $20 of your monthly payment for 24 months is a lease payment, because under this plan, Sprint owns the phone. What happens after the lease ends?

  • You can turn in the telephone, get a new one if you want, and pay its monthly lease payments.

  • You can continue leasing it at an undisclosed monthly cost.

  • You can buy it outright for an undisclosed “purchase option price.”

  • The first option assumes your phone is in “good working condition.” If it isn’t, or if you lose the phone during the lease term, you owe the balance of any yet-to-be-paid monthly installments plus the “purchase option price.”

    If you opt to buy your Sprint iPhone 6 at the end of the lease, they will charge you $200 according to a local Sprint representative. That makes the phone slightly more expensive than buying it outright to start.

    Not to be outdone, effective this week, T-Mobile joins the leasing world also, by offering Jump on Demand. It is an 18-month lease program that allows you to upgrade your phone up to three times a year. T-Mobile, however, adds all kinds of penalties if the phone you turn in is not in working order.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    You could be charged up to $750 in fines for the following:

    Cracked Screen Damage fee – $250
    Liquid Damage fee – $250
    Device does not power on fee – $250

    There are a whole bunch of other terms and conditions in both the Sprint and T-Mobile lease programs. It is getting to the point that you need a Ph.D. in cellphonery to understand all the choices, options, and terminology.

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