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We eliminated the $35 activation fee

Funny story. When we were getting ready to launch Ting, we were very concerned that people would be shocked by the prices of devices. We knew we were passing them along at or below our costs. But US consumers are accustomed to having their devices buried into their service bills for multiple years. So, very often, they have no idea how much devices actually cost.

At the same time, we looked around the industry and saw that $35 activation fees were standard among major carriers. We actually had no intention of burying an extra $35 into the total cost of Ting. But we thought, “OK, we’ll charge the same $35 the other guys are charging for activation and we’ll take another $35 off the price of each device.” That way the device price would be more palatable.

Since then, two things happened:

– We discovered that our customers are savvier than we thought about devices. They generally understand that paying for the device upfront ultimately saves money versus “financing it” with a two-year commitment to inflated monthly service bills. And once they accept that, they seem to recognize that our prices are quite reasonable.

– People were surprised and, rightfully, a bit annoyed to discover a $35 activation fee. It just didn’t feel like Ting. Our customers expect more transparency and fewer line items.

So, we listened. Starting today, we are dropping the $35 activation fee and putting that cost back where it belongs, on the device price. (If you recently paid a $35 activation fee, understand that you got your device for $35 less. If you just saw a device you wanted go up by $35, recognize that you will be saving yourself a $35 activation fee.)

To be clear, we cannot subsidize these devices any more than we already do. This is not an announcement that we are “slashing” anything. This is just an attempt to stay true to our promise of clarity, simplicity and honesty. Thank you for reminding us of that.



Switching Mobile Plans – A Ting Take

Getting out of a relationship with a mobile service provider can be awkward. You want to say you’ll remain friends but it’s never quite that simple. It’s not any one thing that brings the breakup about. Often it’s a combination of little things that culminate.

“You never call me unless you want something.”

“I never know where we stand.”

“I just don’t feel like you put my needs first.”

“You’re not the same service provider I fell for those many moons ago.”

“We’ve just grown apart.”

“It’s not you me, it’s me you.

While you don’t want to rebound or go rushing into a new relationship, there is that little matter of, you know, needing a phone and a number.

If you’re here, we’re going to assume you’re thinking about Ting. You like the idea of paying for what you use, of not having to pick a bundled plan tying minutes, text messages and data together. You’ve tried (or are about to try) the Ting Calculator and realize (or you are about to realize) that Ting will probably save you money on your mobile plans. You love the idea of a no contract mobile carrier as well as being in control of the relationship.

To that end, we’ve put together a little guide to help switch mobile carriers. You can check it out in the Ting Help & Support section.

In this guide to switching mobile carriers we look at:

Let us know if you have any questions. You can use the comments below, call us at 1-855-TING-FTW (1-855-846-4389), email us or visit our help pages. You can also find Ting on Facebook or hit us up on Twitter.

A Ting Take on Mobile Family Plans

Mobile family plans are a great way to consolidate billing for all your family’s phones. Rather than having separate plans with separate billing dates for your separate mobile numbers and handsets, mobile family plans keep everything straight and in one place.

Perhaps predictably, we’d argue that Ting is ideal for families. Or businesses. Or any group of people that want to share a plan.

    On Ting, minutes, messages and megabytes are pooled and shared between devices under your plan. You can add as many devices as you want on one plan and each device costs $6 per month. There’s no premium charged for a mobile family plan and you won’t find any weird line items on your monthly bills. We like to keep it simple.

    We think the best family mobile plan is the one you don’t have to think too much about.

    Taking Control of Your Mobile Family Plan

    In the Ting control panel, you can easily administer the different devices on your account and you’ll see how much of your pooled minutes, messages and megabytes a given device is using in the color-coded graphs.

    You can also take control of devices on your mobile family plan individually in the control panel. You can set up alerts to, for example, let you know when the kids have reached the 500MB mark on data use for the month or when they’ve used more than 1,234 voice minutes or sent 4,321 text messages.

    Also, you can set what services are allowed for each device individually. If you want to block or allow international calling, roaming, text, picture and video messaging, Internet access or tethering, you can do that.

    Alerts can be sent to your mobile number as a text message or straight to your email inbox. We’ll even call to let you know if you ask us to.

    If you’re already using Ting, you just need to add a second (or third, forth, fifth) device to your Ting account and you’re all set. All your devices will appear in your control panel. If you’re not already using Ting, grab a recent bill for your current mobile family plan and try the try the Ting Savings Calculator to find out if Ting might be right for you.

    Google Play Updates and Bug Fixes

    Google Play logoIt wasn’t long ago that Google rebadged the Android Market as Google Play, without much fanfare and with some user confusion.

    Since this update and rebadge hit, you may have noticed some little bugs that weren’t quite ironed out before the Google Play Android app was released into the wild. Stuff like apps getting stuck in an update cycle and other assorted (though small scale) weirdness.

    In addition to bug fixes, version 3.5.15 of the Google Play app brings a new tab where you can see every app you’ve downloaded. In the All tab you can also check to see if you have the latest versions for all your apps and can re-download any apps you’ve uninstalled.

    Another welcome addition is the improved user reviews where, in addition to other tweaks, you can see the type of device the reviewer is using. You can also filter reviews by your device type to get an accurate idea of how an app will perform on your hardware.

    You can manually install the Google Play update to 3.5.15 by following the link from DroidLife. Otherwise, sit tight and await the over the air update which is rolling out now.

    Check which version of Google Play you’re currently running by opening the app, tapping the Menu key and choosing Settings. At the bottom of the settings screen, you’ll see your “Build version.”

    How and When Do I Get an Android Update?

    Fragmentation in the Android camp is a fact of life. There are several versions of the Android operating system (OS) that are in active deployment. There are versions of the OS, modified to differing degrees, running on a host of devices including tablets, set top boxes, PCs and, of course, smartphones.

    Android is open source which means anyone can grab the code and adapt it to fit their ends. That’s a good thing for a whole host of reasons which we won’t delve into right now. It also has its downsides.

    Pie chart - Goole Android use by version

    According to Google’s own data, the most popular version of its Android OS is Gingerbread, 2.3 at 62%. Froyo, Android 2.2, claims about 25% and the newest version, Ice Cream Sandwich, Android 4.0, is only really starting out at 1.6% penetration. This data was collected by Google over a 14-day period ending March 5, 2012. They simply tallied the number of devices that accessed the erstwhile Android Market (since re-badged Google Play) using these different Android versions.

    Why Are There So Many Versions of Android Floating Around?

    The list above is just the official versions of stock Android. There are other forks within these versions with things like HTC’s Sense skin, Motorola’s MotoBLUR and Samsung’s TouchWiz interfaces running atop Android. While these may add useful features — badge notifications on apps in Samsung’s TouchWiz for example — they also add another step between smartphones and the latest Android updates. Once Android receives an official update, it has to be tweaked and tested to run with the manufacturer’s hardware and modifications. Even devices running stock Android aren’t immune, though the update process is simpler in this case.

    Once the phone manufacturer has released its modified build, it’s the carrier’s turn to begin tweaking and testing.

    Stock Android supports all cellular bands. Carriers need to tweak Android to work best on their own wireless bands and to maximize battery life by cutting out unsupported bands. Often, they’ll use this opportunity to also pre-install their own apps and other tweaks as well.

    This is another barrier between your phone and the latest Android update.

    The update process — from initial release to a notification popping up on your phone letting you know a new update is available — can be looked at as a tree.

    Android is the trunk. Different versions are forks. Manufacturers are branches. Carriers are twigs. The end result, the update that eventually comes your way via an over the air update to your phone, is an acorn. Your phone is a … squirrel or something. The latter part of this metaphor is clearly not going the way I had hoped. The larger point stands.

    So… When Do I Get my Android Update?

    It’s frustrating to us that we can’t offer a hard and fast answer to this completely reasonable question. Basically, updates are released when the phone manufacturer has adapted Android to run perfectly on the hardware. Then, Sprint updates its own build. After that’s all done, Sprint will later push an update out to MVNOs like Ting.

    The only assurance we can make is that we won’t add another barrier between you and the latest Android updates.

    When an update hits, you’ll receive a system notification. You can also check for Android system updates on your phone if you’re worried you’ve missed something.

    Comparing Mobile Plans
    A Ting Approach

    Whether by happenstance or by design, it is exceedingly difficult to fairly and accurately compare mobile plans. No two wireless providers seem to use the same math or the same nomenclature.

    It becomes doubly difficult when trying to compare mobile data plans. What’s a megabyte worth? How many does one realistically need? Should we opt for the cheaper, smaller data plan and risk paying hefty overage charges should we exceed our allotment? Or should we go for the unlimited plan and, while we may end up overpaying for our underused mobile data connection, at least we overpay predictably.

    Mobile Data Usage Averages:

    Mobile data demands are steadily growing, yet the average user in Q1 2011 used 435MB of mobile data according to Nielsen. We paid, on average, $0.08 per megabyte in the same period, according to the research.

    While the average cost per MB has predictably moved downward as usage has climbed, we’re still overpaying for mobile service, especially mobile data. The culprit is often unlimited or high-cap plans.

    Chart - US mobile data use by percentileWhile the 99th percentile of smartphone users breached the 4GB mark for monthly smartphone data use in Q1 2011 and might benefit from such unlimited plans (that or a decent Wi-Fi network, just saying), even in the 90th percentile usage tops out at closer to 1GB in the same period.

    When comparing mobile plans — and especially when comparing data plans — it’s important to get an idea of your actual use. If you’re already a mobile data user, that’s easy. Just look on your monthly bill or better yet, take an aggregate of your use from across a few bills.

    If you’re not already on the mobile data train, think realistically about what you’re going to want to do with mobile data. If you want to watch YouTube videos all the way to and from the office every day then you’ll be in the aforementioned 99th percentile. If however, like most people, you want to check in with your friends on social media, send and receive email, read the day’s news and so on, your use will be closer to the average, using less than 500MB / mo..

    Overestimating Mobile Use:

    We tend to overestimate our mobile data needs which means we’re predisposed to overpay. The BillShrink study that is the basis for the CNET article linked earlier in this post suggests we’re also overestimating our voice and text message use. The average user estimates they chat for 711 wireless minutes per month where the average is more like 651. They estimate they use an average of 2,566 text messages where reality puts the number a full 1,000 fewer.

    Rather than bundling minutes, text messages and megabytes together under a plan, Ting lets you pick the service levels that are right for you. In the Ting Control Panel, we let you take control of your use. If you want to cap the minute, text message or data use at a certain threshold, you can. What’s more, you can set different rules for different devices under your plan. If you exceed your estimated usage for the month, Ting bumps you up to the next service level. If you use less, we’ll drop you down and credit the difference on your next bill.

    Given that no two mobile service providers seem to speak the same language, it’s nigh on impossible to fairly compare mobile plans. It’s especially difficult to compare mobile data plans. However, grab a couple of recent bills from your current service provider and try the Ting Calculator. That’s about the fairest comparison you’ll find and chances are, you’ll save money with Ting.