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New video start up guides on Ting

In the new year, we’ll be redesigning our video start up guides. Gone are the real-time walkthroughs with voice over (from a VO guy some of you have said sounds like James Stewart), replaced with a more straight-ahead and polished approach.

Rather than bundling several topics into one video we’ll be breaking out the topics people need to get started (how to set a passcode lock, how to download and install an app, how to connect a Bluetooth device and so on) as quick-hit help videos. We’ll be doing up to 15 per device.

These prototypes are available in up to 720p resolution. Click the cog icon in the embedded YouTube videos below to access quality settings. The final renders will be available in up to 1080p.

Prototype 1 – Ting Start Up Guide video

Prototype 2 – Ting Start Up Guide video

This is where you come in

Before we really start cranking through these videos, we’d love to hear your thoughts. The content of these videos is early stages. This topic in particular is pretty rudimentary for anyone who’s had a smartphone before. However, think of the newbies. (Won’t somebody please think of the newbies?!)

What we’re interested to hear is what you think of the treatment overall. Is the on-screen text easy to follow along with? Is what’s going on easy to see? Is it too fast? Too slow? Do you prefer version one with blue text on the right and the phone on the left, or version two with black text on the left and the phone on the right? Perhaps you’d prefer some combination of the two. We’d love to hear from you before we finalize our plans for the redesigned Ting start up guide videos.

These videos serve a dual purpose. First and foremost, they are designed to help those new to the world of Android figure out how to get things done. Second, they’re designed to give people looking to buy a new device a much closer look at how the device works, what it looks like in the real world and so on.

With all that said, please feel free to sound off in the comments below. We’ve also put together quick survey where you can share your opinions.

Ting Hangout – Nov 29 at 2pm ET

On November 29 at 2pm ET we’ll be doing a Google+ Hangout with members of the Ting team. We’ll be talking about everything from our bring your own device efforts and our own device lineup to our plans for the end of the year, for 2013 and beyond. We’ll touch on Ting for Business, we’ll get one of our talented developers up to talk about the ideas behind Ting control panel 2.0 and the recent changes to our devices pages as well as what’s next for the site as a whole. We’ll have swag. Someone will be walking away with a sweet new phone.

We’ll even talk candidly about our iPhone and Windows Phone; where we are, where we’re hoping to go and how we plan to get there.

We’ll also have celebrity guests*

It’s going to be a super fantastic online streaming party and everyone’s invited.

We’ll take all your questions via email ( Twitter (@TingFTW, #TingHang) or by phone (phone number coming soon).

The event will be live on Google+ and live streaming to our YouTube channel.

November 29, 2pm ET. Mark it.

*presence of celebrity guests depends very much on your definition of the word celebrity.

Where did Ting’s refurbished devices go?

Let us address the elephant in the Ethernet. We don’t currently have any refurbished devices on offer on the Ting devices page. Even though we have plenty to address demand sitting in our warehouse.

If you had your eye on a refurb device from Ting and that device is no longer available, we’re sorry. Refurbished devices will be back as soon as possible.

The problem

A huge rush of orders for refurbs using a particular promo code alerted our team that something might be amiss. A blogger had suggested purchasing refurb smartphones from us for next to nothing and not activating the device on Ting. It started a flurry of purchases from buyers that did not smell like future Ting customers.

We’ve been pretty transparent with the fact that service (minutes, messages and megabytes) is where Ting makes money. As we sell devices at or below our own cost (even before promos) and we don’t deal in contracts or other mobile business as usual, we would take a significant financial hit if these refurbs were never activated with us.

The solution

The actions we’re taking are twofold: first, as I mentioned, we’ve pulled all refurbs from the Ting lineup for the time being. Second, we’ll be changing the way promo codes work for some transactions.

Promo codes will continue to work as they always have for most first devices purchases, offering a dollar off discount on the purchase price. However for select devices, including very inexpensive refurbs, a Ting service credit will be offered instead. This way we’re able to give the same dollar value discount but that discount is delivered upon activation as opposed to on purchase. It’s an incentive to activate and ensures that devices aren’t being sold at significant cost to us and never activated on Ting.

As soon as that chunk of code and backend connecting has been completed, refurbs will once again appear in the Ting lineup. Our dev team is hard at work on the code necessary to make this a reality. We hope to have refurbs back in our lineup before the end of this month.

EYO(S)C is now live!

There hasn’t been a ton of anticipation surrounding our Embed Your Own (Savings) Calculator initiative, but I’m excited about it. If any of you are telling friends about Ting – either to earn yourselves $25 service credits or just to be good friends – and you have your own blog or website, you can now offer up your very own savings calculator.

Here is the embed code:

<iframe src=”” width=”900″ height=”500″ frameborder=0></iframe>

If you don’t know what to do with that (or have any problems) and you would like to have a Ting savings calculator on your site, we are happy to help. Just comment here and we will have someone geeky get back to you.

Meanwhile, I’m going to give it a try myself here:

Hey, look at me! I’m a coder! By the way, we intentionally stripped out any “Get Started” buttons after the calculation so that you can just include a button that links to your unique referral URL. Enjoy.

Ting control panel rolls out en masse

A couple of months ago, we opened up the new Ting control panel in preview mode to anyone interested in a sneak peek and willing to help us kick the tires. The feedback we received overall has been great (thanks for that!) and has helped to shape a few tweaks and updates to the control panel.

It’s now ready for prime-time: Effective today, the Ting control panel 2.0 takes over where the previous iteration left off for all Ting accounts. In other words, it’s time to say goodbye to the Ting control panel and its multicolored usage charts and hello to the new dashboard with its Pokemon Pokeball-looking usage charts… among other improvements too numerous to mention but not so numerous that we won’t mention a few in the next paragraph. While dashboard 1.0 will be remembered fondly, we’re much happier with this, the new version of the control panel.

The new Ting account control panel was designed to make it easier to manage multiple devices under one account. However, we also added things like more customizable alerts for individual devices under an account and even added the option to suspend a device that’s using more of your shared minutes, messages and megabytes than it should. In the new control panel you can also set global standard device settings. For example, rather than going with the default settings that we provide you can create a ruleset for each new device activated on your account. For example, turn international calling and tethering off and turn picture and video messaging on in the global settings and each new device you activate will automatically have these settings applied. You can still administer services on each device individually and changing your global settings will only affect new activations, not devices currently activated on your account.

While the switch to the new account control panel might feel a little jarring at first, we can assure you that we’ve learned a lot about how people use the Ting account control panel in the past year or so and have implemented all that we’ve learned into this new version. It’s more user-friendly, it gives you more granular control over your usage and your devices, it’s quicker, more logically laid out and overall, it’s a great step forward. We hope you’ll agree.

We’re not done (it’s the Internet… it’s never done!) The control panel is very important to us and it’s vital that it do the things that you need and want it to do. There are more improvements we’re planning for dashboard 2.0 and we’re always looking to implement your feedback, primarily provided via the survey embedded below, into this and subsequent versions of the control panel.

Strategically-Used Devices

One of the many advantages of the Ting pricing plan is that you can spend very little on a device that you use sparingly. You pay just $6 a month to keep that device active. You only pay for usage at all if it pushes your total account into a new bucket. If it is your only device, the buckets start at just $3 a month. You can use just one kind of service (voice, data, text) and leave the others at $0. Of course, if you do want to ramp up your usage at any time, the plan is there to accommodate you fairly.

In the context of choices out there, it’s the flexibility you might get from pre-paid with the efficiencies (account sharing), ease of use (no topping up), features and support you expect from an account on a major carrier.

Since launch, we have heard a bunch of great stories from customers about strategically-used Ting devices. A couple of these were in the “wow, we never even thought of that” category for us so I figured I’d share them.

The Leash

There were a bunch of moms and dads at our meetup in LA this week talking about this. They’re not quite ready to hand over a phone entirely to their kids (at which point, they will appreciate the visibility, alerts and administrative control they get in the new Ting dashboard), but they do want to be able to stay in touch with them after dropping them off at a movie or the mall. So, we’re talking around age 12 here. The feature phone (or maybe low end smartphone) comes out of the drawer when they need it and back in the drawer when they don’t.

The Backup

This one came from our buddies Robert and Carmela over at The Bike Stop in Philly. (No, I didn’t just Rick Roll you. That’s the site.) They have cable and Wifi at the bar and they rely heavily on data for crucial functions like credit card processing and inventory management. They realized that they should probably have a Plan B. So they keep a Huawei hotspot by the register. If they need it, they turn it on and tether all their machines to it. The usage simply gets pooled with the Ting smartphones they use every day. If they don’t need it, it’s $6 a month.

The Passport

It turns out we solve a big problem for people who don’t live in the US but spend a ton of time here for business or pleasure. People like our Canadian friend Amber MacArthur. (It’s my blog post and I’ll name drop if I want to.) These folks have either been living in the world of pre-paid (topping up, expiring minutes, random fees), enduring ungodly roaming charges or just going offline between landlines and Wifi. With Ting, they get their “US phone” set up to work just like their everyday phone and they’re all set. Or maybe they tether their everyday phone to their Ting phone and just use the Ting phone for voice. (Either way, they need to remember to shut off data roaming on both phones so they don’t end up getting slammed on the wrong side of the border.)

Right now, non-US residents can only activate a Ting phone on the site if they have a US credit card. It is on our backlog to make this available for everyone on the site.

My Dad

I’ll use my own example here. “Dad, we don’t have to synchronize watches. I’ll call you when I’m walking up to the stadium.” “OK, I’ll try to remember to turn my phone on.” “Why don’t you just keep your phone on?” “I don’t know, I don’t want to rack up charges for any reason.” “Are you planning on butt-dialing Bolivia? I’m one of like three people that knows your cellphone number.” “We have a small plan and I don’t want to get hit with overages.” Ah, yes, overages. Now, to be clear, putting a senior parent on your plan means putting yourself in the role of account administrator and customer support. It’s a generous thing to do. To be honest, I haven’t done it yet.

If anyone has more examples of how the Ting plans have helped solve a particular problem (or maybe examples of problems that nobody seems to be solving just yet), please let us know.