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The (physical) evolution of
Ting customer service

Over the past several weeks and weekends, the customer service team’s space has been overhauled here at Ting HQ. Where previously cubicle walls and offices boxed much of the team in, the new floor plan is entirely open… with some spiffy new desks and chairs as part of the deal.

Because it was a pretty momentous change and update to the space, we ran a time-lapse camera on a laptop over the course of several weekends. If we’re being completely honest, it was a bit of a comedy of errors: First, we neglected to plug in the laptop and when the battery died, so did our recording. Then we ran out of disk space. A few other little snafus crept up. In the end, it doesn’t matter. We got some great footage (just perhaps not quite as much as we might have liked) and put this little video together.

Trevor Peck – Long Hauls and Heavy Data

We are still at that adorable stage of the business where we want to shake all our customers’ hands and thank them for stopping by. That’s basically how I ended up talking to Trevor Peck. I was looking through customer data and saw that he had been with us 11 months. He had five devices with real people names. He also used an average of about 3GBs of data a month. I’ve heard a lot of people saying that Ting does not offer savings if you use a lot of data. I figured it would be good to ask him if he’s happy with Ting and see if he’s saving money.

Trevor lives in Branch, Michigan with his wife, Lisa, and their six kids, ranging from 3 to 18 years old. Sadly or happily, depending on how much time you’ve spent with kids ranging from 3 to 18 years old, Trevor spends weeks, sometimes months at a time out on the road in his truck. (He documents a lot of his experiences here.)

He was with T-Mobile right before Ting and pretty much all of the big carriers over the last 10 years.

Trevor actually didn’t come to Ting to save money. He had two issues:

First, T-Mobile had identified him as a “data roaming problem” and was trying to put strict limits on his usage. You can’t really ask a truck driver not to roam. (I’m sure there’s a song about that.) More specifically, a truck driver tends to rely on his GPS. So he checked out Ting’s network coverage and determined that he would get more consistent coverage. He knew Ting simply did not allow data roaming off the network but kind of preferred that approach to a policy of allowing data roaming along with a bunch of throttling, threats and penalties.

Second, he just didn’t like phone companies. He didn’t trust them. When he spoke to them, they never seemed to solve his problems or help improve his situation. He told me, “When I’m on the road, this thing (his phone) is my only connection to my life and my family. I just can’t be with a company that’s messing with me.”

Trevor uses Hover, our domain registration service. He described a call he had with a Hover rep who refused to let him off the phone until he had completely solved his problem. He thought, “Wow, don’t these people get evaluated on how quickly they get rid of me?!” He told me, “I wished you guys would open a grocery store and everything else I use. I just didn’t want to deal with anyone else.”

Then we sent him an email saying we launched a mobile phone service.

So here are the numbers.

Trevor had three phones with T-Mobile. He doesn’t know just what his actual usage was but he had a plan that included 5GB a month and then bought a supplemental 5GB a month. He paid $225 a month.

He now has five smartphones with Ting – two for him (a primary and a backup), one for his wife and one for each of his teenage girls. He said with the cheap refurbs and just $6/month per device (rather than $30/month on T-Mobile), it was a lot easier to get a couple more.

Trevor uses heavy data when he is on the road. But then he uses very little when he is at home. In eleven months, the account has ranged from 800 megabytes to over 5 GBs at an average of about 3GB. The voice usage has also varied quite a bit, ranging from about 1,000 minutes to nearly 6,000.

Now that he is on Ting, Trevor says he has become much smarter about limiting his data usage. For example, he downloads all the podcasts that he listens to on the road only when he has access to Wifi.

After 11 months, Trevor’s bill has averaged $162.57. That’s before regulatory fees, which I think is the fair comparison to the $225. After regulatory fees, it’s still just $187.72.

So he spent a total of $1,134 on devices (again, two more than he had on T-Mobile) and saves $62.43 a month on service. At this rate, even with the extra users, he will save $364.34 in two years.

Plus, he loves being in control. He says that if he spends a bit more one month, it’s because he decided it was worth it to stream a video on Netflix at a rest stop or download a few more podcasts on the road. If he needs to cut back one month, he can do that too.

I’m thrilled that Ting makes sense for Trevor and his family. I really enjoyed the chat.

Thanks for your business, Trevor. Go home soon.

Five tips for taking control of your mobile data use

When you pay for what you use it pays to use less.

Ting customers already know that by taking a few simple steps to conserve, you can save big on your monthly mobile bill. I’m duty bound to point out that, even without taking these steps, Ting would save 98% of mobile users money.

Following are five easy to implement tips to save money on mobile data.

1-) Wi-Fi whenever you can

87.64%* of data use on a mobile device happens at home or in the office for 93.23%** of people. Unless you’re a real road warrior; a travelling salesperson or perhaps a cab driver, you’re likely in range of a mobile hotspot when you’re working. At home, you probably already have a Wi-Fi network set up.

Smartphones give preference to Wi-Fi when you’re in range of a known network; rather than using mobile data, your phone will automatically opt for a known Wi-Fi hotspot instead.

*I totally made that up.
**That one too.

2-) Get a data use monitor

A data monitor app on your smartphone lets you keep tabs on your data use as well as which apps are using what amount of mobile data.

Some of these apps, like our favorite Onavo Count, also let you restrict certain applications to Wi-Fi only. This is the ideal way to still have mobile access for things like email but to block apps like YouTube from chewing through mobile data.

In Onavo Count, it’s easy to see which of your apps and services use the most mobile data. You can set a data threshold for the month and be alerted on your device when you near that number. As you use your phone, the app keeps a running tally and lets you pin down usage patterns. With this data, you can adjust your mobile data use habits if need be.

3-) Do more with the data you do use

Onavo Extend sets up a virtual private network (VPN) connection which acts as a proxy for all your unencrypted data. Rather than immediately downloading to your device, sites you visit, pictures you download, videos you watch etc. are sent instead to Onavo’s servers. The data is compressed (pictures sized down, for example) and then sent to you. The result is a significant savings when you’re using mobile data.

Onavo Extend can also reserve a portion of your SD card or on-board storage for browser cache resulting in faster page loads and less mobile data use.

If you’re (understandably) concerned about privacy, that’s addressed in the Onavo Extend FAQ.

For the record, no, we don’t have an affiliate relationship with Onavo… but thinking about it now, perhaps we should!

4-) Understand mobile data and what it means

You buy data in megabytes or in gigabytes… but what do those really mean? How many web pages can you surf with a megabyte? How many emails in a gig?

Understanding what mobile data quantities actually mean in real world terms puts you in good stead to understand and control your usage. We’ve got an article here on the Ting blog that tries to break down what “megs” and “gigs” actually translate to in the real world. Give it a read!

5-) Set an alert or a hard cap in your Ting dashboard

In your Ting dashboard, you can set usage alerts or even a hard cap: When little Billy’s usage is around 200MB for the month, send yourself an alert. You can even cut data off on his phone when he reaches that threshold then reinstate it when the new billing cycle starts.

We’ve even heard of parents doling out mobile data or text messages like they’re allowance: Take out the trash and your text message cap goes up by 500. Mow the lawn and you get 100MB of mobile data for the month. Sounds a little bit like an administrative headache but it’s pretty smart!

Here’s a video from the Ting help and support site detailing how to set an alert or a hard cap:

How do you curtail mobile data use? Is one person in your family a data hog? Let us know in the comments below!

Unlocking smartphones becomes illegal
Kinda, sorta and not for Ting customers

As of tomorrow, Saturday Jan 26, 2013, it becomes illegal under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to unlock a smartphone. Sort of. What does that mean for Ting customers?

The short answer is nothing, really. It’s up to carriers to decide whether they want to use this new law as leverage. We don’t and won’t. Given that we don’t (and again won’t) deal in contracts or lock phones to Ting, we have no need to.

A quick analogy: If you come to my house and take my car without my knowledge, that’s called grand theft auto. If you come to my house and I give you the keys so you can take my car for a spin, that’s called… me lending you my car.

In either case, you’ve got my car (a super sweet 1997 Ford Escort wagon. If it doesn’t start on the first try, pump the gas pedal) the only difference is how I respond. In the first scenario, I’m pretty upset and the law gets involved. In the second scenario, I invite you in upon your return.

The act of unlocking a phone isn’t illegal; forward-thinking carriers will still give you the master subsidy lock (MSL) code if you’re not under contract. Maybe even if you are. What’s illegal is circumventing protections against unlocking. In effect, customers of the major mobile carriers can still unlock their phones, but they’ll need their carrier’s express permission to do so.

Unlocked phones will not disappear. In fact, this law might just serve to get people thinking about what a locked phone and the onerous contract that comes with it really means.

That’s a good thing.

Will this law affect “bring your device to Ting?”

We were able to launch bring your device to Ting because our partner is enlightened enough and committed enough to its MVNOs to help us initiate the program. It’s clear that they are comfortable with what we are doing.

There will be no effect on you being able to bring an eligible, inactive device to Ting. Devices can still be unlocked, brought over and activated on Ting. The previous caveats still apply: The device can’t be under contract and it must be included in the device whitelist.

Why make it law?

This law seems to have been put in place to put the kibosh on businesses built on unlocking phones without the carrier’s permission. Today, these businesses operate in a grey area. Tomorrow, it’s black and white.

That said, it could all be moot anyway, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questions whether the DMCA even has the right to enact this law.

We understand the concept behind locked phones and if a person chooses to go with a subsidized device and sign a contract as a result, that person should honor the terms of the contract they signed… and hopefully learn the lesson that unlocked and unsubsidized is the way to go in the future.

This law seems unnecessary given the protections the major carriers reserve for themselves in their contract terms; the prohibition on unlocking is already written into the terms of the contract a customer signs in exchange for a “$0” or heavily subsidized phone.

We hope this law is not the narrow end of a wedge that carriers would use to keep phones locked to their network even if they were purchased outright or after the two year contract has been fulfilled…

Or maybe we don’t? Perhaps the more big mobile companies poke and prod at the sleeping bear that is their customer base, the more that customer base will wake up and begin to ask questions. Questions like “I’m paying you. Why do you have all the power in this relationship?”

That would be a good thing for people like us who give the customer the power and who offer choice, clarity and transparency.

Hey, this is the Ting blog. We can indulge in a little self promotion if we want to.

What do you think of this new unlocking lockdown? Does it affect you? Let us know in the comments below.

The Ting $100,000 ETF Payout

UPDATE: The Ting $100,000 promotion is over.

While it’s too late to have us cover your early termination fees with this specific promotion, we’re always coming up with new and interesting ways to mix things up. If you’d like to be among the first to know the next time we come up with a way to help the mobile contract-afflicted, sign up here. Also, it behooves us to say, promotion or no promotion, you’d probably still save money on mobile with Ting.

UPDATE: The Ting $100,000 ETF page is now live! The button to “Reserve your spot” will direct you to the signup form starting Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:01 ET (GMT -5:00)

UPDATE: Check out the Ting $100,000 ETF payout FAQ

We hear from people all the time that they’re going to make the move to Ting… just as soon as their current mobile contract is up. We hate to see people toil under the yoke of mobile oppression (not to overstate things). We’ve decided to take matters into our own hands.

We’ve set aside $100,000 to pay off Ting switchers’ early termination fees (ETFs) over the entire month of February.

On Feb 1, the Ting $100,000 ETF payoff page will go live (we’ll update this post with the link). Continuing through the end of the month, Ting will be paying off the early termination fees (ETF) up to $350 per line for anyone that’s ready to ditch their mobile contract and come over to Ting.

We’re not buying out your contract and asking you to sign a new one; Ting is (and always will be) contract-free. Your ETF payment comes in the form of a non-expiring service credit dropped straight into your Ting account.

Why, we hear you asking in earnest? Well, because we’re pretty sure that after you give us a try, you’ll stick around long after your Ting credit has run through and you’ll join the ranks of happy Ting customers, saving money, living contract free and taking advantage of all Ting has to offer

How it works

You can buy a device now in preparation for the Feb 1 campaign launch if you wish but you’re not required to do so. You have the option to purchase a new or refurbished Ting device, buy a used Sprint device that’s ready to come to Ting or bring an eligible, inactive Sprint device that you’re no longer using.

When the campaign launches on Feb 1, hit the Ting $100,000 ETF page (again, we’ll update with the link) to secure your slice of the $100,000 ETF payout fund. Within 30 days, you’ll need to activate your device, port your mobile number to Ting and send us your ETF documents. We’ll then drop a credit for the full ETF amount into your Ting account.

We’re not into setting limits but in this case, we must: We’ll be paying out the ETF up to the maximum per line which, depending on your carrier, can be as high as $350. You can bring over multiple lines and we’ll give you up to the $350 max for each line.

We’ll pay out ETFs for any contract that was in effect or that wasn’t renewed / extended before Jan 16, 2013: the day we pre-announced this promotion.

So why are we telling you about this now at the obvious risk of having a bunch of people who are in a mobile contract hold off from making the move to Ting until our ETF buyout program is online? Simple. This promotion is not retroactive; we’d hate to spring this on you the day after you paid out your ETF and made the move to Ting. We figure we’ll give a heads up and you can decide what to do with all the available information. Just don’t sign another mobile contract between now and February 1, 2013, OK?

Are you stuck in a mobile contract? Do you know what your early termination fee would be if you cancelled? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out the Ting $100,000 ETF payout FAQ

Ting holiday shipping times
The short version: order soon

It is 13 days before Christmas and all through the warehouse, the crew is busy packing up Ting devices in order to get them out in time.

What, you were expecting a rhyming couplet?

Half price express shipping

In order to get your device in time for Christmas, there are a couple of options. First off, we’ll be dropping the price of express shipping by 50% for the holidays; starting tomorrow afternoon (December 13) right now and through the end of the holiday season, express shipping (FedEx delivery within two business days from the time it’s picked up and on the truck) will cost $12.50 (regular price $25). Express shipping is the best option to ensure timely delivery.

Order dates and ground shipping times

If you decide to go the free shipping route, please note the following (geographically dispersed) approximate shipping times and get your order in ASAP. Place your order before 5pm ET Monday to Friday and available devices (that is, any device on the Ting Devices page that doesn’t have a caveat like “ships in 3-4 days”) will leave the warehouse on the same day.

Standard shipping average delivery times

  • Boston, MA – 3 – 5 days
  • Miami, FL – 3 – 5 days
  • Seattle, WA – 2 – 3 days
  • Los Angeles, CA – 2 – 3 days
  • Dallas, TX – 3 – 5 days
  • Denver, CO – 3 – 5 days

Please note these timeframes are an average. Please err on the side of caution. For example, shipping to Los Angeles, most orders make it to their destination within two days. However, we’ve seen a few take up to five days to arrive; once they’re on a truck, there’s nothing we can do to speed things along.

For shipping locations outside of major city centers, tack on at least one business day for suburban areas and two for rural areas. The overall average for standard (that is not express) shipments is eight days and accounts for rural areas and the non-contiguous states Alaska and Hawaii.

The safest bet is to choose express shipping at checkout: that’s why we’ve dropped the price by 50% for the holiday season. We’d hate to see anyone disappointed.

The confirmation emails we send upon completion of your order include tracking information so you can get updates on your package as it makes its way to you.