Monday, September 29, 2008

MetroPCS, CricKet Kiss, Make Up

Looks like Leap Wireless (aka CricKet) and MetroPCS have now put aside their litigious differences, and have agreed to swap spectrum and slash roaming fees. This is a nice development since, due to the nature of their customer base and plan structure, the two companies just can't get good roaming rates from the "big boys". Looks like the companies won't merge...yet...but they have realized that they're similar companies with similar phones, similar plans, similar services and generally non-overlapping coverage area, and have agreed to act as such. The spectrum swap (10 MHz) will include areas at and around San Diego\Fresno, Seattle, Washington\Oregon, DFW, Shreveport and Lakeland, FL. No idea of how much money changed hands, but no doubt it's good for the unlimited cellular space. Now the unlimited carriers are up to...oh...2000 levels for coverage, compared with the national carriers.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pocket Intros Motorola v265, May Come Out With More Soon

One phone that didn't come up on my radar earlier: the Motorola v265. It is now on Pocket's website for a mere $80. It has a camera and that's about it, and technically it's the small predecessor to the Motorola v323i that has been available on Pocket for quite some time now. But it's always nice to have yet another inexpensive, relatively full-featured, phone available to buy.

It also looks as though the Kyocera S4000 will make a landing on Pocket in the relatively near future, according to the Pocket media download page. The closest analog is a feature-slimmed Sanyo Katana, or a more squarish Motorola v3a with a lower-resolution screen. My price prediction: $150ish.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Verizon Goes Contract-Free...if You're Willing To Go Subsidy-Free

It's a simple concept: let the subscriber pay for the phone, then offer them your services without a contract. Yet major carriers have been slow to pick up on the idea...until recently.

Verizon is the latest (after T-Mobile's well-publicized FlexPay option and AT&T much less-publicized SIM-only service...which I'm still unsure exists) of big-time carriers to offer a contract-free option for their service. You do have to buy or bring your own phone (prices start at $80 for a regular phone and...amazingly enough...$100 for a smartphone) however there's no two-year agreement or early ermination fee if you don't want to stick around that long. It looks as though all plans are still available; the only penalty for no contract (similar to signing a 1-year contract) is the phone pricing...

As an example of pricing, you can get the second-gen LG Chocolate on Verizon for free, the third-gen model for $130, the LG Dare for $200 and the Palm Centro for $100. Prices for a one-year contract are respectively $120, $200, $270 and $170. With no contract, you're in for a shock...the prices of those four models (in the same order) skyrocket to $270, $300, $410 and $350. One one hand, some phones just don't have a ton of price differential ($170 for the Chocolate 3 between a two-year contract and no contract) but others have a larger difference in cost than the early termination fee for a two-year contract. The Palm Centro, Chocolate 2 and LG Date come to mind. On the other hand (said in a good "Fiddler on the Roof" accent) you can get a double handful of phones for less than the two-year ETF, and some o fthem aren't even that wimpy. Of corse, if you really want something inexpensive, you may be able to just grab a phone from Wal-Mart that uses Verizons INPulse brand, then bring it to Verizon's postpaid ervice to activate. Or ask around for someone's old Verizon phone that they discarded when switching to that Apple device whose name I need not mention here.

And yes, the plans available include Verizon's unlimited option, so there's some relevance between this announcement and this blog.

My take: it's good. The high phone prices are expected, and it's no terrible loss to Verizon to give customers another option for using their service, but the moment of this move isn't to be discounted. Note to AT&T and Sprint: when will y'all follow?

Friday, September 12, 2008

CricKet offers prepaid broadband...wirelessly...

CricKet is introducing prepaid mobile broadband effective very, very soon. Granted, Millenicom has had this option for a long time on Sprint's nationwide network...and they're now offering a $55-a-month option that's totally prepaid like CricKet (startup cost is a whopping $343)...but CricKet is much more well-known and accessible. $40 gets you a month of service, $60 plus a $25 activation fee gets you a USB tri-band broadband card. A Kyocera PC card (dual-band) is free. The service is focused on CricKet's low-income audience, who would use the service (which has a 5GB soft cap) along with a CricKet cell phone instead of DSL or cable. Personally, I'm not sure how well this would be an alternative to terrestrial broadband; DSL is cheaper and faster, while cable is just plain faster. But for places where DSL or cable (or both) won't go, or for people who want internet on their laptops (or sub-$500 netbooks) CricKet is a viable option for those in its coverage area.

UPDATE: According to the info copied from PC Magazine in this post CricKet's mobile broadband is unlimited except for VoIP (because CricKet makes their money on such things) and servers. Of course, "server" could mean any remotely-initiated upload of data such as remote desktop apps and most likely P2P. Also, CricKet's own website (at least for now) says in the plan details that, among other things, performance may be degraded if you transfer more than 5GB in any given month. So you can use this modem as a single-computer DSL-replacement (speeds are comparable to a low-tier package I suppose) but not to replace phone service (CricKet sells phones for that) and not to replace TV (ten hours of programming in a month would easily put you over the limit...heck, six hours of programming would do it).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pocket Intros Kyocera E2000 - Just Like I Said

Granted, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that, when a phone shows up on one part of Pocket's website, it'll soon show up on the other, but the Kyocera E2000 was particularly quick in terms of going from one part to the other, especially in light of another phone being released so soon before.

I have to commend Pocket here; the E2000 is a modern phone that was just introduced recently, and it's chock full of features. It has everything from a music player to a relatively high-res camera to a thin footprint. The price? $229, but there's a $50 mail-in rebate from Kyocera that's valid until November 30th. So the price, accounting for tax on the extra $50, winds up a little north of $180, right in line with what MetroPCS charged for the handset. They've since moved on to a different lineup, but only because the E2000 isn't AWS spectrum capable, a spec that Pocket doesn't have to follow.

Next up? Either the Motorola Razr2 v9m or, maybe, the old Audiovox 8915...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What's In The Pocket Pipe

Looks like Pocket may come out with a few new phones in the next few months, according to their media download page, which has proved to be correct so far...

First, I neglected to mention that Pocket is already otut of stock, permanently, of the Kyocera KX18 slider phones. 'Twas a quick run, probably because Pocket just got a few dozen phones at a nice discount from, say, someone who grabbed the phones when their original carrier, Amp'd, went under last year.

Second, the list of phones to come:
  1. Kyocera E2000 Mako - MetroPCS already had this phone, and it has plenty of features in a slim form factor. Basically it's a Razr-eque phone with Razr v3m-class features, for a price around $200. Not bad, though by now you know my opinon about Kyocrapas, right?
  2. Motorola Razr2 v9m - This is the phone to look forward to; from what I can see it's the highest-end non-smartphone available on the amrket right now, including everything from dual huge screens to music playback to video recording. Of course, this will make it a $400 phone, but it's still quite a catch, but not an unheard-of one, for Pocket.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pocket Intros UTStarCom 8935 aka Mini

My predictions were correct: Pocket today introduced the UTStarCom 8935, also known as the Mini on CricKet. That carrier no longer has the phone (probably due to their push for AWD-compatible handsets, a problem that Pocket doensn't have) but that doesn't mean the unit is full-featured enough. Like Vigin Mobile's Arc and CricKet's Mini, Pocket's 8935 has a camera, Bluetooth and a color external display. Data is limited to 1x only, but Pocket doesn't currently have an EvDO network anyway, last time I checked. The price? $129, following the trand of Pocket selling their phones for a little more than their competition but handing out service for a good bit less.

Personally, I'd go for a refurbished Razr v3a, but if you're in the market for something with less of a width-and-length footprint, this fits the bill with roughly the same number of usable features, except for the camera; the v3a's camera is 4x the resolution of the UTStarCom's.