Why unlocked smartphones and no-contract plans are a much better deal

I am so, so sick of the way U.S. wireless carriers totally rip off smartphone users by locking them into expensive 2-year contracts — with the lure of getting a high-end smartphone for only a couple hundred bucks up front. For most customers, the math just doesn’t work.

So I’m casting off the financial and technological shackles, to be a mobile consumer on my own terms. I will never again buy a subsidized phone or sign another long-term carrier contract.

This month I bought an unlocked Nexus 5 smartphone direct from Google, and I’m now switching to my first no-contract plan. Yes, I paid more up front for the phone, Plus I’ll have to pay a hefty “screw you” early termination fee to ditch my Verizon contract. It’s still so worth it.

Why? Here’s the short version: Considering all costs to make this switch, and the savings I’ll get, I’ll see about a 4-month payback plus savings of nearly $70/month thereafter! Plus I’ll have tons more flexibility in devices, carriers and plans from here out.

Hell yeah! Here’s the math behind this choice… Continue reading

Free Kindles, local mobile news, and pissed off fanboys: My recent CNN.com Tech mobile stories

It’s been a very busy month and a half for me. I spent a week in Los Angeles as a featured presenter for the Mobile News Week at the journalism school there, and now I’m finishing preparations to travel to two other journalism schools next week for the Knight Digital Media Center’s Mobile Symposium. So I haven’t been letting Contentious.com readers know what I’ve been writing elsewhere.

But I’ve been logging a lot of cool mobile stuff for CNN.com Tech. So here’s a quick list of what I’ve been covering there…

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Verizon reserves right to throttle data for high-consumption users: Is that you?

As of today, Verizon Wireless says it may start “throttling” service to the 5% of its customers who consume the most data over its network.

Today is also the first day that people can pre-order the new Verizon iPhone. A Verizon spokesman told the Wall St. Journal that this is just a coincidence.

Yeah. Right.

A move like this indicates that Verizon is concerned about growing network congestion, which affects service to all customers. And they should be. But the way they’re going about it is pretty frustrating…

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AT&T: Way to spin a mobile data plan backstep! (OR: Why I’m going Android)

You may have heard that yesterday AT&T stopped offering unlimited mobile data plans.

Their spin, according to this press release: New Lower-Priced Wireless Data Plans to Make Mobile Internet More Affordable to More People

Hah! That’s smooth! But now, the real point: AT&T now offers only these pay-as-you-go data plan options for new or renewing mobile contracts:

  • 200 MB/month: $15/month, plus an extra $15 for each additional 200 MB
  • 2G/month: $25/month, plus an extra $10 for each additional 1G
  • Tethering service: $20 month

No more all you can eat. Which makes sense! AT&T’s network can’t really handle unlimited mobile broadband for a large swath of its smartphone and tablet users. No US mobile carrier can. That’s just begging for network congestion — which annoys everyone and is bad for business… Continue reading