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The Ting Road Warriors set off

A few months back, we were approached by a recent but eager convert to the Ting “mobile that makes sense” mantra. She reached out asking if we’d be interested in taking a road trip. Well, not so much us, as in the people behind Ting (though we might well have been down, if such an offer was floated) but rather, to come along for the ride with Ting riding shotgun. Naturally, we’d be chipping in for some gas and covering all data charges along the way.

From this simple email outreach, the Ting Road Warriors were born: Heidi, her hubby, their three boys and the latest addition to the family, a little girl just begging to be decked out in a Ting onesie. Funny story: Promotional onesies are surprisingly hard to come by. I guess there are too few companies looking to capture the 0 – 12 mo. demographic to make the promotional clothing industry pay much attention.

The Ting Road Warriors are setting out today and will touch Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois over the course of their eight-day journey. If you’re nearby, keep your eyes peeled for them. They shouldn’t be hard to spot: Just look for the happy family in a van with Ting magnets adorning the sides. They’ll all be wearing Ting t-shirts. Except the youngest member of the crew. She’s in the aforementioned Ting onesie.

Heidi, leading the charge with her five fellow Ting Road Warriors, will be checking in as often as she can on the Ting Road Warriors Facebook event page. Follow along!

    Ting customer Q&A – Tom Kostera

    Tom Kostera

    Ting customer since: Apr 2012
    Previous carrier: Sprint
    Monthly savings with Ting: About $104/mo.

    Where did you first hear about Ting?

    Ting was suggested to me in a webforum that I belong to, in the general discussion section of AR15.com

    What was it about Ting that resonated with you and made you want to switch?

    I was close to the end of my contract with another carrier and was looking for a no contract option. After investigating Ting, I was very happy to find that you used usage-based pricing, as we had been on an unlimited plan that was way more than we needed. I had looked at changing plans with my former carrier, but the lower thresholds wouldn’t have done much to save any money, and in some cases, would have been even more expensive. Ting offers a pricing structure that allows me to structure my usage and billing as I see fit. I am also very happy that Ting offers voice roaming, as that was a show stopper for me on the pre-paid carriers that I had also been researching (Virgin, etc)

    Were you in contact with a mobile carrier before you made the move to Ting? How long was left? What did that translate to in early termination fees?

    I am a former Sprint employee and had been using Sprint service for over 8 years. At the time I was made aware of Ting, I was very close to the end of my latest contract and actively shopping for a new carrier or better pricing option. I had no termination fees to pay.

    What kind of savings are you seeing with Ting, month over month?

    I had a total of two devices (my wife and I) on the Sprint Everything Data Family Plan. Including taxes and fees, I was paying $147 a month to Sprint. After I switched to Ting, my monthly bill ranged from $23 to $62 a month as I experimented with the plans and got used to using our wifi connection at home to reduce data usage. I have settled into a constant $43 a month (including taxes and fees). I’m extremely happy with my savings of $104 a month.

    How many phones and/or data devices do you have on your Ting plan?

    2

    When you explain Ting to your friends, family and/or random passers by, what do you say?

    There is some confusion when they see a Sprint logo on my phone. We have deregulated natural gas service in our area, so I explain it to them using that model, as it is one that they are familiar with – a company providing service over another company’s infrastructure and competing on pricing and service. The message is usually well-received, but the upfront purchase of the phones seems to be an impediment to those who have known nothing but subsidized hardware. Even after taking them through your savings application and factoring in the hardware pricing over a 2 year term, many seem hesitant to make the leap. I don’t know if it’s a byproduct of the bad economy or being used the carrier “candy” or both.

    Are you happy you made the move to Ting? Care to elaborate?:

    Yes, I’m very happy with the switch to Ting. The pricing can’t be beat for how we use our phones and while I have only had to interact with customer service twice (both times with questions, never a problem), I have found them to be pleasant and knowledgeable. I love that there is no phone tree to go through and live person who works in the United States is eager to answer my question with no drama.

    What should we be doing better?

    I don’t think that anything that I would suggest is something that you can control. There are some dead-spot issues with the Sprint network and I would love to see data roaming. As a former employee, the Sprint network is the Sprint network and while there may be incremental slow improvement in coverage, they have never been really responsive to complaints of dead spots. There are some just outside the Sprint campus in Overland Park, KS that have been there for years! Also, I understand that data roaming is insanely expensive when dealing with the carriers, so while I would love to have it, I understand that it’s not going to happen.

    Do MVNOs get second class cell service?

    We’ve fielded this question several times and we hear whispers that voice, text and data traffic from MVNOs like Ting get shoved aside, like so many serfs, in favor of the network operator’s own customer traffic.

    There’s a certain dark logic to it: serve your customers first and best and let the rest sell the leftovers. However that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s not true.

    The truth of the matter is, Sprint’s MVNO contract states that Sprint must provide its Customer MVNOs with service parity to traditional Sprint wireless voice and data service. It’s all laid out in very clear terms. Well, as clear as terms can be when lawyers come together to create a tome.

    In short, Ting voice, text and data traffic gets equal priority on the network as all traffic is equal regardless of which customer is using it. Also, there’s plenty of bandwidth to go around. The LTE network that’s coming online, starting in major city centers, offers 10 times the capacity of 3G, which means there’s all kinds of room to grow too.

    The problem is, the discussion of whether or not carriers throttle and traffic shape MVNOs on their network takes on a conspiratorial tone online. I know, it’s shocking! Suppositions get accepted as fact. Assumptions leap off from suppositions and next thing you know, it’s all true because someone read it on the Internet. Hopefully this helps to dispel the myth… though the truth is somewhat less juicy than the rumor in this case.

    Any device can be a Ting device

    I had a revelation last week.

    Now, to be fair, my situation is different from most Ting customers (even beyond the fact that I am on the Ting team and would probably give up vital organs to see Ting succeed.) I live in Toronto. I do not use Ting every day. But I am from the US and I spend at least a few days there every month on business or visiting friends and family. So, I carry a Ting phone with me whenever I travel.

    This past week I was on vacation in upstate New York (on beautiful Keuka Lake) carrying a Ting LG Optimus S along with my Canada-based Google Nexus. I was curious to see whether an entry level Android phone like that was potentially perfectly adequate for my needs. (This story would be exactly the same if it was the $145 Kyocera Milano we currently have in stock.)

    I did not have Wifi available to me.

    I pretty quickly admitted to myself that the experience was a huge step down for two reasons. First, the Google Nexus is a much sweeter device. You get what you pay for. Second, I have put a ton of time and effort into the Nexus, assembling all my applications, getting my whole world syncing properly and setting a thousand silly little preferences exactly the way I liked them. (I have to say, truly giving myself up to the world of Google has helped with a lot of this. I can move pretty easily from one device to the next on the most crucial stuff. But, again, there are still so many other choices and settings that make a device mine.)

    I had started to invest some time downloading apps and setting preferences on the Optimus. I also spent a bit of time just staring at my Nexus, maybe expecting it to pick up some rogue wave of spectrum from the north.

    Then I remembered I could turn my Optimus into a hotspot and tether the Nexus to it. Essentially, any device can be a Ting device. (I did this for the iPad on the drive, but the phone-to-phone thing hadn’t occurred to me.)

    For the rest of the week, I kept the Optimus nearby and just used the Nexus exactly the way I always do. I only made and received a few phone calls all week and I used the Optimus for that. I’m traveling to Boston next week for HostingCon and this is exactly what I will do again. I’m not making any effort to configure the Optimus at all to my liking (as I normally would before a trip). It’s simply a data conduit and a feature phone.

    By the way, I know that I have not made a profound, new discovery here. Services are built on this concept. Ting customers have talked about it. I guess I even knew it myself. But revelations tend to happen when you experience something for yourself. For me, this approach delivered just the experience I wanted. I got to use Ting service (prices, coverage, support) with my favorite device.

    So, I’m thinking about how much we are stressing about our device selection. I’m listening to all our customers and prospects who are (seemingly rightfully) concerned about bringing their existing devices or getting the hot new ones. And I’m wondering if maybe this isn’t such a major problem.

    I see a few issues.

      • You are carrying around two devices. Whether I’m toting a laptop or random daddy stuff, I tend to always have a backpack on me. So this isn’t a big issue for me. But I know this will be annoying for a lot of people. Maybe we include a pair of branded cargo pants with every low end Ting smartphone!
      • It will be confusing to go back and forth between a data device and a voice device. I only get the names of my two daughters right about 40% of the time. I’m sure I will mess this up a lot.
      • Occasionally you want a relationship between data and voice, like dialing a number straight from a map.

    But these feel completely bearable to me now. I’m thinking $145 for a Kyocera Milano lets you bring any smartphone you want to Ting. Full stop. Am I just drowning in Kool-Aid here? Are there major issues that I’m not thinking about? Is the two device life a bigger burden to others than it is to me?

    I would love to hear what people think.

    (Note: Please do not interpret this post as an indication that we will not beg, borrow and steal to get every sweet device we possibly can for you. I don’t even tell anybody here when I write these posts. I refer you back to Scott’s post for a more credible and responsible update on our effort to get more Ting devices.)

    Why doesn’t Ting have the iPhone?

    Often, when we talk with potential Ting customers about handsets, the iPhone will come
    up. With good reason; even for an Android devotee, the iPhone 4s is an undeniably sweet smartphone.

    Around Ting HQ, we’re largely Android users. Many of us made the switch to Android from the iPhone when Ting first came online and never looked back; Android has really come into its own as an excellent OS unto itself. That said, as a mobile company, we would love to be able to offer the iPhone to customers that want it.

    To be frank, device supply has been one of the the biggest challenges we’ve faced. While our customers love the idea of paying for minutes, messages and megabytes separately without overages or silly add-on fees, they also want the latest smartphones. We’re geeks first so we understand the all-consuming desire for the latest and greatest gadgets all too well.

    The current mobile status quo sees the big name telcos securing device exclusives for their customers by making minimum sales commitments, offering joint marketing efforts including big budget TV commercials and deep device subsidies to lessen sticker shock and bolster sales. In short, device exclusives come down to volume. Carrier subsidized devices also mean term contracts on expensive “unlimited” plans and early termination fees (ETFs) for early exit.

    OK… so why don’t you have the iPhone?

    Apple has many requirements that a carrier must meet before they can offer the iPhone. The arrangement is very similar to the way device exclusives work but without any actual exclusives being offered.

    Apple’s iconic smartphone enjoys a healthy premium over other smartphones whose specs match or even beat out the iPhone. Apple is obviously very careful to protect this premium… and really, who wouldn’t be?

    Minimum purchase commitments are but one (albeit very significant) part of the requirements a carrier must promise to meet before it can offer the iPhone to its customers.

    Case in point: Sprint’s February 2012 purchase commitment for $15.5b worth of iPhones over the next four years.

    Another of the requirements is that a carrier must offer its own support, both for the network (obviously) but also for the iPhone itself. That speaks to one of our core competencies; among our other device-specific support, we offer extensive video start-up guides for all our phones. We offer unparalleled customer support with no-hold, no-transfer customer service at 1-855-TING-FTW. We have extensive help and support documentation on our customer support site.

    Apple protects its price by having carriers offer iPhone device subsidies to minimize sticker shock. With subsidies come contracts, early termination fees, upgrade fees and other gotchas.

    We’ve heard from customers that they’d be willing to sign a contract if we could offer the iPhone. While we appreciate the sentiment and the trust it demonstrates, mobile contracts go against our core beliefs as a company. They’re complex, which runs contrary to our “mobile that makes sense” mantra. While they allow customers to get the latest and greatest phone with a smaller up-front investment, they’re back-loaded and don’t have customers’ best interests at heart. In short, we don’t now nor will we ever deal in contracts.

    We’re working to find other ways we can offer the iPhone to Ting customers. It’s a complicated issue. While we’re knocking on many doors (front, back and side), we don’t expect to have anything of substance to report in the immediate future.

    Looking at the list of carriers currently offering the iPhone though, we like our odds.

    If the time comes that we can indeed offer the iPhone, the Ting sticker price would be the full, unlocked iPhone price.

    We’ll keep you posted as and if we have news on this front. For now though, know that we’re always working on it.

    EDIT: We’re offering regular device updates here on the Ting blog. Previously, we didn’t want to talk about our device lineup efforts before they bore fruit for fear of disappointing you. We’ve since realized that wasn’t very Ting of us. Please take these device update posts for what they are: an update on our efforts to get the latest and greatest devices. Not a set in stone device roadmap. With that said, please do take a look if you’d like to know what we’re working on on the device front.

    International texting on Ting

    We’ve received several questions about how and if international texting works on Ting. That is, texting from the United States to a phone outside the US.

    International texting does indeed work on Ting, and our rates best those of other carriers. No need to grab a calculator; we do after all like to keep things simple: International text messages are billed at the regular Ting text message rate which is 1/4¢. If you opted for the Medium level for text messages for example (1,000 messages, $5) then international text messages are counted as one of your 1,000 messages. This rate applies to text messages both incoming and outgoing.

    To send a text message across international borders, just enter the regular phone number prepended with the country and area code. If you’re familiar with international calling, the process is exactly the same.

    Use the handy Country Calling Codes directory to figure out exactly what digits you need to prepend to your foreign friend’s phone number.

    If you save your friend’s contact information with the full country and area code already prepended to their local phone number, you can save yourself a lot of hassle.

    For example, to text a friend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia you’d save the contact as 011603 then the person’s local number. To text a friend in London, England it’s 01144 then the local number.