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Summer Photo Fun contest!

© Copyright Ross and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

We just launched the Ting Summer Photo Fun event. Submit a photo to the Facebook Summer Photo Fun event page for a chance to win one of… well, one white Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone. The winner will be selected based on the number of Likes their picture receives. Invite your friends and ask them to vote for your pic.

The even runs until July 31 at 10am EST when we’ll crunch the numbers and figure out who the winner is.

A bit of weirdness we need to point out. If you win, we’ll give you a device credit to cover the full purchase price. However, you’ll still have to “buy” the device from Ting. If your state collects sales tax, you’ll have to pay that amount, but we’ll immediately give you a full Ting service credit to cover this cost.

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.)

A Ting device update: here now, coming soon and beyond

Photo by Ting Employee Frank Lemire

It has been an exciting month since our last device update. While it has certainly been the most challenging in our short lifetime, we continue to make improvements and learn valuable lessons. We had anticipated further stress on the device ecosystem as a result of the deployment of LTE, but we were a little surprised at some of the issues we encountered. There is an expression “it is always darkest before the dawn,” and while we have had some challenges in the last 30 days, we are quite optimistic that things are going to get better in the near term.

As a public company, there are restrictions around how much information we can share in regards to our sales performance, but I can say that we have been doing well in spite of having some holes in our device lineup. This has placed additional stress on our inventory, but unlike many of the other challenges we have faced, we are thrilled to have this problem! Thanks to all who have helped spread the word!

Ting devices available now or coming soon

One of our most popular devices, the LG Optimus S, has sold out as of last week. We were always planning to replace it with the next generation model, but we were caught short-handed and had hoped to have it around for a little longer. The new Optimus Elite will be made available for sale as soon as we have confidence in shipping dates. Hopefully this will be online for pre-order in the next two weeks. We are working on getting some more Optimus S at a reduced price point, but can not confirm this today.

The Samsung Conquer is back in stock after being on backorder, however this device will no longer be available once we sell our current inventory. So if you are planning on getting this device, order soon!

The Samsung Transform Ultra is a very capable and popular device. We’re pleased to report we have it in stock again. After slipping into a backorder state recently, we have a good supply and expect to have it in our lineup for the next few months. We have had lots of positive feedback from customers on this well designed phone.

In the feature phone segment, we know there is a LOT of demand for a flip phone. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have had a hole in this segment for longer than we would like. The Kyocera Brio is a great value in the low-end, but for those who MUST have a flip phone, we expect to offer the Samsung M370 for pre-order in the next 2-3 weeks.

Looking further ahead…

Early in the fall we expect to offer a new Samsung slider at a great price point. It looks like we will also have a feature phone designed for seniors. That is, it has a large, easy to see and use numeric pad NOT a built in bingo app. Perfect for getting Grandma and Grandpa saving with Ting.

We are in the process of building in support for LTE within our backend systems, and while it is not that big of a job for our rockstar development team, there are some dependencies outside our control that prevent me from giving a firm launch date today. This is a high priority for us though, as many of the iconic devices we plan on offering in the fall will be LTE devices.

The LG Viper will be our first LTE device, available for ~$365 when we launch LTE. The Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC Evo 4G will be available shortly thereafter, barring any issues outside our control.

We have had a lot of demand for the Google Galaxy Nexus, and have spent a lot of time working on being able to get it for you. Because it is an LTE device,  we must first launch LTE before making it available. I wish I could tell you that I am certain we will be able to get it after we launch LTE, but as of this morning I can not do that. Rest assured we are working on it, and if there is any way we can, we will.

The word on Windows 8 devices is that we are waiting for more information on what the roadmap looks like for later this year. My sense is that these plans are being finalized now / soon, and once we have more details we can properly evaluate how that might work for us. We have had a lot of demand for Windows devices, and we hear you!

Ting devices: On sale now!

As a token of our appreciation to everyone who has provided us with feedback, promoted our services, helped out other customers in the forums, or just been patient in waiting for devices to ship or become available, we are having an impromptu “it’s summer and we are always learning more about the device supply chain” sale (catchy title, no?) on some devices. Anyone who bought these devices in the last 30 days can contact customer support to get a credit for the difference.

The Samsung Galaxy S2 (white) is back in stock, and we are pleased to offer it for $435, saving you $50!

After some supply issues, we are relieved to have the Huawei Express Mobile Hotspot back in stock and available for sale, at a reduced price of $110! Supplies are limited though, so don’t delay if you want one.

We have also reduced the price for the Sierra 250U 3G/4G USB data stick as of today, and is a great value for Windows users. Once we sell through our current inventory they will no longer be available.

If you are interested in having us contact you with breaking device news as it happens, you can sign up for our red alert, super special, breathless, breaking device news mailing list using the form below, or follow us on Facebook / Twitter.

As always, thanks for your comments, questions, and support of Ting!

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.

Ting international calling rates

Recently, we talked about Ting’s international texting rates here on the Ting blog. This week, we’re going to tackle international calling rates, which are a little more complicated. To be clear, we’re talking about calling from the US to an international number. We’re not talking about roaming outside of the US which is an entirely different discussion.

While texting from the US to an international number falls under the standard ¼¢ per SMS rate, international calling is not so simple. Well the process is simple; dial the country and area code then the local number. Breaking down the cost however, that’s not quite so simple.

You can see the full list of international calling rates on the International Calling Surcharges page. The short version: International calling surcharges range from $0.05/min. (Singapore) to $2.50/min. (Diego Garcia which I just learned “is a tropical, footprint-shaped coral atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean.” [Thanks, Wikipedia]).

These rates are surcharges which means you’ll be using a voice minute plus paying the per minute surcharge when calling international numbers.

This is about the most complicated aspect of Ting and hopefully we’ve been very clear on our contempt for complexity in mobile. In this very specific case though, it can’t be avoided. The surcharges themselves though, those can be avoided…

Avoiding international calling surcharges:

There are a couple of good ways to get around these surcharges. One is to grab an international calling card and use it instead to make international calls. Using the hard pause and hold features in your phone’s you can even prepend your most often called contacts with the calling card’s 800 number (Wait) your PIN number (Pause) then the number your want to dial. Check out this video tutorial on adding extension info to your contacts in Android for more detail on doing that.

Another way to make your international calls cheaper is with Skype or Google Voice on your Wi-Fi network. With Skype, you can make international calls to 30 countries for 2.3¢/min. plus a connection fee that varies with the country you’re calling and whether you’re ringing a mobile number or a landline. Google Voice international calling rates vary too. From 2¢/min (a landline in the Netherlands) to $2.29/min.. The $2.29 rate only applies if you have friend or family member in the Netherlands who’s still using a pager… and really, who doesn’t have at least one of those.

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.