Mar 13

T-Mobile Cutting the Bullshit?

I admittedly have a soft-spot for T-Mobile.  After going through Comcast Metrophone, Sprint, and AT&T (later Cingular), T-Mobile had been the cellular service provider I had used for the longest period of time.  Moving from the near-suburbs of Philadelphia to rural farmland necessitated a change – so we went with two iPhone 5s with Verizon.

I was more than a little excited at the prospect of a cellular carrier dumping both subsidies and contracts.  I think TMO is making the smart move for the future.  Customers who are out of contract or who are likely to buy their own phones are most likely to be higher-profit users.  We’ll see how it works out over time as TMO’s network is fast but thin.

This comparison at the Verge of TMO versus Sprint versus ATT versus Verizon shows how little competition there is between carriers.  The TL;DR is that ATT and Verizon cost exactly the same, to the penny, over 2-years, with TMO being cheaper and Sprint being significantly more expensive.

Dec 11

Carrier Low-IQ

Here’s what you need to know…


CarrierIQ is what has been described as a rootkit which is installed on most cell phones.  When this news initially came out, CarrierIQ took some rather heavy-handed actions to silence the researcher looking into the application.

The concern amongst privacy activists (such as myself) is that 1) users have no ability to opt-out or 2) detect and deactivate CarrierIQ and 3) that CarrierIQ records EVERYTHING including keystrokes, text messages, phone numbers, and URLs, apparently in plain text.  The circumstances and conditions which cause CarrierIQ to ‘phone-home’ are unclear at this time.

As of this time, all of the major cellphone manufacturers are stating that they do not install CarrierIQ on their devices, and some cell phone carriers (from the UK via the Guardian as well as Verizon and Rogers) have explicitly stated that they do not use CarrierIQ.  CarrierIQ has been stated as being a tool which is installed by the carrier (ie. cell phone provider) and not phone manufacturers (ie. Motorola, HTC, Nokia, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, RIM, or Apple).   To Apple’s credit, they do provide a way to turn CarrierIQ off, with support being dropped on future versions of the iOS software. Verizon has stated that they do not use CarrierIQ, while Sprint and AT&T have used it in the past.

CarrierIQ has made a statement to clarify [pdf]:

Our software is designed to help mobile network providers diagnose critical issues that lead to problems such as dropped calls and battery drain.

CarrierIQ in turn has pointed their finger at the carriers [via Android Central]:

Carrier IQ acts as an agent for the Operators. Each implementation is different and the diagnostic information actually gathered is determined by our customers – the mobile Operators. Carrier IQ does not gather any other data from devices.

The United States Senate via Senator Al Franken has demanded answers [pdf].   Mashable has a good FAQ should you want to know more.  Public Intelligence links to corporate manuals.

Aug 10

Android Phone for $50 with AT&T

If you are looking to switch carriers or are out-of-contract, AT&T now has the Samsung Captivate for $50 after rebate(s). The Captivate is part of Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, running Android 2.1.

Here is the Amazon link to purchase.

If you are currently with AT&T on an individual contract, you can upgrade to the captivate for only $100.   The Samsung Captivate is quite the capable phone, and at this price, a steal [via Phandroid].

Jul 10

Who should pays the cost of cell phone radios?

Based on  this Wired article detailing the loveless marriage of AT&T and Apple, and particularly the challenges of designing phones for the two dominant cell phone systems (Sprint/Verizon and AT&T/T-Mobile) in the United States, and can’t help but wonder if there is a better way.

nokia phone

Indeed, Jobs actively considered splitting with AT&T early in the partnership. Just months after the iPhone launched, and not long after Rinne asked Apple to limit YouTube usage, Jobs was investigating another possible solution: dropping AT&T and striking a deal with Verizon. But because Verizon’s network ran on a different transmission technology, making the move would require an entirely new chipset. So around the end of 2007, when the iPhone was only a few months old, Jobs asked a team of executives and engineers to look into it.


The group ” which included iPhone software boss Scott Forstall ” took the job seriously, even visiting the San Diego headquarters of Qualcomm, the company that supplies the chips for Verizon phones. But in the end, switching to Verizon would have been just too complicated and expensive. The new chips were a different size, which would require Apple basically to rebuild the iPhone from scratch. Meanwhile, changing carriers could mean voiding AT&T’s exclusivity agreement and inviting a nasty lawsuit. And it wasn’t clear that Verizon would be an improvement; at the time, it wasn’t any better equipped than AT&T to deal with the iPhone’s bandwidth demands.

I’m thinking about all those iPod Touch(es) out there who lack a data connection beyond WiFi, and the soon-to-be-released Samsung Android PMP.  I’m also thinking of the various flavors of cell phone networks (via Wikipedia):

There are a number of different digital cellular technologies, including:  Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM),  General Packet Radio Service (GPRS),  Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA),  Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO),  Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution(EDGE),  3GSM,  Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT),  Digital AMPS (IS-136/TDMA), and  Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN).

Why not design phones in a way that makes the appropriate party pay for development and production of the radio (as well as optimizing the design) which adds  freedom and choice for the end-user, and makes it possible to pick-up new subscribers?  What if there was a radio-chip-on-a-card, specific to each carrier, that could be purchased and slid into those devices if the owner wanted to add a data plan?  This would keep down the cost of the non-phone units and provide an opportunity to add services, revenue, and profits.*  This would also let manufacturers focus on phone design, carriers focus on service and quality, and take carriers out of the subsidized handset business.

*Yes, I know non-integrated radios would present challenges regarding signal strength and power consumption and eventually network performance.  It already is less than optimal – how much worse could it be?

Oct 09

T-Mobile Project Dark Taco

A plethora of new (Google) Android phones, an unlocked Google handset available through retail stores, and T-Mobile’s soon to be unveiled new pricing scheme promises to deliver the new black.