Why I’ll Never Get A Flagship Phone Again

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Flagship phone releases. Once a year, the industry gets all there bees in a bonnet and enjoys the announcements of their upcoming designs for the year. Apple’s new iPhone. Samsung’s new Galaxy. LG’s new G series. Even HTC’s new M class or whatever they are moving to next. Every year, like clockwork, our old devices get one-upped with something new that we have to have. That was, until this year.

This year, for the first time ever, we’ve seen so many amazing mid-range handsets hit the marketplace. They aren’t equipped with laser focusing cameras, or fingerprint ID sensors, and you won’t find any of them in carrier stores, but they are there and they are powerful. Devices like the new 2015 Moto G from Motorola are stunning, powerful and more than functional for the everyday users. With a street price of $200 they are also the same cost as a flagship device with a contract or about $500 cheaper than financing one. For a family of 4, that’s practically a Disneyland vacation’s worth of savings. There’s also the Huawei P8 Lite at $250 and the previous generation of flagships from the year before at steep discounts. Then you have multiple quality releases from Asus, Acer, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC and quite a few others that are worthy of consideration as well.

While the low to mid range devices are great phones, here’s where the compromise has to be made, you can’t get it all in a mid range handset. There will be something that isn’t as good or as strong as the $750 counterparts that you find on payment programs and contract discounts. Maybe it has a HD screen instead of a qHD display. It might have a 13MP camera instead of a 16MP shooter. It may only have 2GB of RAM instead of 3 or 4. Heaven forbid that you get stuck with a quad-core processor instead of that new octa-core that you’ve been eyeing, but that just might happen as well. Here’s the funny thing though, if the phone looks good, takes decent photos and doesn’t lock up the second you open up a few apps, what more do you need?

Yes, the mid range handsets have caught up to the flagships in many regards, but even if they hadn’t, the lines have begun to blur so heavily between “low end” and “premium” that it is almost like stopping for gas. You want to do premium fuel, but at $.30 a gallon more than regular, is it worth it? For me, I’m going to say no from now on. I will get regular fuel every time I feel like it from now on. I’ll enjoy the leaps forward that the unlocked smaller manufacturers provide or maybe venture into the realm of last year’s models a bit more often. In fact, for the last month, I’ve been carrying a Samsung Galaxy S2 while doing a bit of testing. I can honestly say I miss a few of the Lollipop features from my HTC One M9, but the phone still works, social networks are accessible and the camera isn’t all that bad – even from a 2011 phone!

I’m not saying that everyone should go out and buy a 5 year old device and think that life is perfect, but there comes a point where luxury and extras begin costing more than they are worth. Smartphones have hit this point and are now moving past it. it’s hard to justify making a $750 purchase when a $200 purchase will do the job just as well, maybe even better in some cases.  It’s time to stop the madness and keep a few thousand dollars a year in my pocket. That’s why I’ll never buy another flagship phone again, and you should consider doing the same.

Editorial Piece: Comments are welcome below.

Grab A Year Of Premium FreedomPop Service Plus A Galaxy S3 For $135

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If there is one thing that is better than cheap cell service, it’s free cell service. As far as free service goes, FreedomPop has taken the freemium model and actually made it work well for many people. Of course, free service isn’t all that when you have to pay a few hundred dollars to get started, or if you need a bit more than the free minutes that are included. If you are one of those fence riders that has been watching the sub $50 handsets at FreedomPop’s website come and go, but didn’t quite see the deal for you yet, here’s the one you’ve been waiting for.

StackSocial is running an unbeatable offer that includes a Certified Pre-Owned Samsung Galaxy SIII, a year of premium unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data per month, and the additional package of added benefits from FreedomPop for just $135 after you sign up for the StackSocial new member discount. If you don’t want to add your name or email to their mailing list, it’s still quite the deal at $149.99, but why not save the 10% on your first purchase by adding your name to the list?

The StackSocial deal includes that Sprint style Samsung Galaxy S3 with LTE capabilities. It also includes a year of unlimited talk and text, plus 500MB of LTE data per month. Finally they round out the deal by throwing in $360 in extras that bring the offering up to a plan that rivals most carrier plans by including: Visual Voicemail, Data Rollover (up to 20GB), Usage Alerts, Premium Support, VPN, Data Compression and Mobile Security. Also, many users are reporting that the Premium Voice Service is active on their StackSocial deal as well. This is the service that allows the VoIP service to roll over to Sprint’s voice network when conditions do not allow for a good voice experience.

If you’ve been looking at jumping ship from your carrier, the 3 year old Galaxy S3 is still a solid option for being a good phone. It is also very easy to upgrade to the Galaxy S4 or S5 through FreedomPop as well if you need a bit newer technology, but the StackSocial deal definitely gets you started with a quality handset and an amazing service package for not much out of pocket. This deal is only available for a very limited time, so grab yours before they are gone. Just hit the link below and search “Freedompop” in the search bar after you sign up for the mailing list to grab yours!

Link: StackSocial

T-Mobile Begins The Hunt For Data Abusers

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For John Legere, T-Mobile’s outspoken CEO, it was just another day at the office. For some of those crazies out there that think big brother isn’t watching that “unlimited” data plan that you are running your torrents off of, well, it’s the end of the line for you and your file sharing. Last night, Legere took to social media and called out some of the users of the T-Mobile network that were skirting the system to get unlimited tethering or that are using enough data to power a Orange Is The New Black party for an entire neighborhood. No matter what they were doing with the massive amounts of data, they have now been put on notice.

In his release, Legere made the following statement, “I’m not in this business to play data cop, but we started this wireless revolution to change the industry for good and to fight for consumers. I won’t let a few thieves ruin things for anyone else. We’re going to lead from the front on this, just like we always do. Count on it!” He also mentioned that there are going to be 3,000 users on the first batch of targeting and that some users were using as much as 2GB (2000MB) or 8 times the amount of data as Comcast/Xfinity’s old data cap on home broadband service.

The fact that users would consider abusing a data system so terribly only goes to show what some people deem as ‘unlimited’ and why so many of the carriers had to do away with full speed data plans. We love the fact that the outspoken CEO is coming out against the ‘data thieves’ that would compromise the networks of his company. This ensures that unlimited plans will remain protected for those that do not abuse the system like the people in question. That said, if you are a T-Mo customer that is abusing the system, get ready to get throttled. There was no mention of a get out of jail system for the abusers in question, but you can be sure that there will be some vocal people complaining about this on social media in no time.

Source: http://newsroom.t-mobile.com/issues-insights-blog/stopping-network-abusers.htm

Getting More Cellular Coverage From Your Home Wi-Fi

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There’s a tiny secret in the world of Xfinity that many users have no clue about. In fact, many users are providing it to others and have no idea that they are responsible for a pretty amazing service by doing so. The little piece of amazingness is called XfinityWiFi and it’s probably one of the best kept secrets to Xfinity users, ever…

Sure, Comcast and Xfinity take a beating in the press for their terrible customer service antics, but when they are the only game in town, you have to try and find the positives where you can. Their Xfinity Wi-Fi service is one such great benefit, and it couldn’t be much more simple in concept. With millions of customers all over the US, Comcast/Xfinity as the ability to blanket much of the country in Wi-Fi signal without much work. By sending customers those Xfintity wireless routers, they also are sending out mini-hotspots for users everywhere to mooch off of. Now before you panic, your box isn’t letting other people into your network, ok?

The way the Xfinity service works is that your wireless network is secured to you buy a password, which you should keep an eye on and change often if you aren’t doing so already. Once you’ve plugged in that router though, everyone begins to benefit from a ‘side door’ connection on that router. The boxes transmit a secondary signal called XfinityWiFi that registered users can log in to and borrow some internet from when then are on the road or even at a buddy’s house. From the looks of the Xfinity WiFi App, coverage is pretty solid in most areas as well.  There’s not much more to it than that, but here’s where it gets fantastic. Once you sign in from your device, your credentials are good on all the Xfinity hotspots. That means no remembering to log in each time and offloading a ton of what used to be cellular data directly to the Xfinity network.

It’s not all roses for the Xfinity service though. If you are just in range of the box, but not close enough for a good signal, you will find areas where your data basically locks up until you get closer to it. It also works the same when you leave on box to move to another. You will have times where it is frustrating, but the overall savings of your data plan will easily outweigh the minor issues you might encounter.

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The Xfinity Wi-Fi service is free to those with Xfinity Home Internet services. For non-Xfinity customers, you can purchase passes ranging from an hour to a full month. Pricing is from $2.95 an hour to $55.95 a month. Additional details are available from the link below.

Source: http://www.xfinity.com/wifi/default.htm?SCRedirect=true

Why I Just Bought A Moto360 And You Should Too…

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For the past few months, I’ve been wanting to get myself a new fitness tracker. After experiencing the Pivotal Living Tracker’s failures, I didn’t have high hopes for many of the ‘features’ that the lower cost trackers offered and I wasn’t really in the mood to drop $250-$400 on a tracker, which left me very few options in the realm of fitness devices. After making the switch earlier this year to the HTC One M9 and Android, the ability to join a watch that would track fitness to my device was looking pretty good, but again, the cost was very prohibitive. But thanks to Amazon, I managed to find what seems to be the perfect device for not much more than a lower end fitness tracker – the Moto 360.

The Moto 360 offered me the best of both worlds. It was a notification center for my phone and a fitness monitoring device to keep track of my workouts. With the sub $150 price tag that the Moto 360 began selling for recently, even the bugs and lacking features of a first generation build. That said, it might be time to look at what the Moto 360 can and can’t do.

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First off, the Moto 360 is a watch. Yes, it tells time and can do a great job of that. With the Wi-Fi connectivity that the newer version of Android Wear offers, you almost don’t need an additional connection to keep the device linked to your phone. Of course, you will need to grab the latest version of Android Wear and Moto Connect to get the most of your new Moto 360, but those are quick downloads for any Android device. Once the Apps are installed, you can set up what Apps will show notifications on the face, what face you want to use on the device and most of all, what additional Apps you want on your Moto 360.

For me, it was much more about keeping the status quo and not having to pull my phone out of my pocket every 10 minutes to check a simple text or see who emailed. Unfortunately, my M9 didn’t seem to like to show SMS messages on the Moto 360, so I went to the default Hangouts App on both the Moto 360 and the M9. Problem was solved and now I have the option to reply to messages instead of just receiving them. So, my first recommendation is to enable Hangouts as your default SMS App on your device, or download a fully Android Wear compatible messaging App. You’ll be much happier.

Next up, you need to consider what you are wanting in your watch. Both the Moto fitness setup and the Google Fit setup have worked well on my Moto 360 so far. My choice would be Google Fit for now, due to compatibility, but the Moto software does just about everything that a normal user would want it to. The Moto Body App tells me how many calories I have burned, heart activity, heart rate and steps taken. Google Fit shows me steps taken and heart rate on the Moto 360. It also links up nicely with Apps like Noom and other fitness trackers. Again, for me, even though the Moto Body software is better and more functional, the fact that the Google Fit data is compatible with so many different packages on the market today.

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If you are looking for more of an organizer than a tracker, the Moto 360 has you covered there as well. Just a quick tap of the screen will reveal just about anything that is scheduled in your phone. The Moto 360 not only displays calendar appointments from your stock calendar App, but there are also great preinstalled Apps for sharing information, timing and plenty more to choose from in the Play Store. Simply search for “Android Wear” in the store to see all the options.

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Probably my favorite feature of the Moto 360 is the readability of the screen in sunlight. Checking the weather in the sun is nice, but too many crazy, long looks in those bright areas will lead to a bit of a battery drain. Speaking of battery drain, lets discuss that little issue before we celebrate your new Moto 360 purchase. In all honesty, the battery is usually plenty for me to get through a long day. That said, I tried streaming music from Google Play from my Moto 360 to my Bluetooth earphones, and it literally destroyed the battery life of the Moto 360. In just 40 minutes of streaming, the battery had fallen almost 45%. If I had kept it up for the full album, the battery wouldn’t have survived it. My advice to battery concerns, grab a spare Qi charger to throw on the desk at work or in the car. It will come in handy for days where you use it a bit more heavily.

Overall, the Moto 360 is an excellent device at a pretty amazing sub $150 price right now. The only danger you may have right now is if you buy it right this second, the price may continue to drop slightly as the next generation of Moto devices rolls out. They will undoubtedly be more powerful, with slightly better displays and better battery life, but I’m betting they will also cost double what you can snag a Moto 360 for right now. So if you are ready to take the plunge and enter the world of smart watches, the Moto 360 is waiting for you at the link below.

Link: Moto 360

Verizon To End Device Subsidies Starting August 13th

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Saving money on the best network in the US is great, but when something touted as a money saving plan ends up costing users more, it’s a tough pill to swallow. In the most competitive market that wireless has ever seen, simplicity makes it nice for some, but a lower bill is becoming more and more the measure of value to many users. Beginning with T-Mobile, all four major US carriers now have a payment or lease program for getting on to their network. This move prompted many to take advantage of the BYOD programs and save anywhere from $10-$30 a month on their bills. Verizon’s EDGE program was one such deal, and beginning August 13th, it might be the only option for some that want to ride Big Red’s network going forward.

Next week, Verizon will be launching their new lineup of plans, beginning the era of subsidy-less devices on their network for the first time ever. The new plans will be just $20 for unlimited talk and text with any device. You can then add your choice of data plans in a 1GB ($30 a month), 3GB ($45 a month), 6GB ($60 a month) or 12GB ($80 a month). This would mean a monthly cost for a family of four on the 6GB plan would reach $170 after taxes and fees. On top of that, you will now either pay full retail for handsets at the time of signing up, or pay anywhere from $10-$35 a month to buy one over a period of time from Verizon. This brings the monthly bill for that same family of iPhone users to over $300 a month for four basic lines with 6GB of shared data.

While carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile continue to offer users deals that can’t be beat, Verizon is trying to woo customers with new simplistic plans that just won’t save anyone much money. Even Verizon’s own prepaid plans are a better deal than the new  post-paid offerings. While it’s nice to see Verizon dropping the contracts, the move is not going to work in everyone’s favor. For those that are running an unlimited plan, or even those that managed to hit the 30GB for $120 deal that Verizon offered last year, the new plans will not be a money saver.

For those that still need the Verizon network, we recommend checking out Red Pocket Mobile and their CDMAV plans. For as little as $20 a month, you can get started on the Verizon nationwide network. Of course, with the volley of plans coming from other MVNO’s out there, it’s still hard to pass up on deals like Republic Wireless and FreedomPop. If you need a more traditional cell plan, check out the offerings from PTel Mobile and GIV Mobile. Both of these T-Mobile MVNO’s offer unlimited talk, text and data from $25 a month.

How To Make The Jump To Saving Money With A Prepaid Plan

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One of the most common questions that people ask today is how they can get started in a prepaid cellular plan without sacrificing the ‘top-tier’ device that they already have. For those carrying a new iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6, the monthly savings are tempting, until they see that it will cost them a huge chunk of cash to tale advantage of them. Step into our guide book on how to get this done with the smallest out of pocket expense you can, and possibly even put some extra cash in that wallet.

The most important part of the scenario is if you are under any form of contract, either with the service plan or the device. Carriers have changed up the model a bit in the past year or so. Instead of offering you a 2 year service contract and a free phone, they are offering you a slightly cheaper plan and a financed phone with 2 years of payments. This is what the Verizon Edge, AT&T Next and T-Mobile Simple Choice plans offer. Sprint just calls theirs a lease program, which is probably the most accurate way of saying it. Changes like this, especially after consumers are used to the older ways, scare people when it’s time to leave their carrier. It used to be a very predictable $350 early termination fee on a smartphone line and you walked away with your phone and your number.

These new offerings can now cost users $750-800 if they walk away early on, or nothing if they have paid off their device already. Unfortunately, very few people walk into the store with $700 for a new iPhone, so the financing option, or two year agreement option are usually the choice that most people make. The big question is, how can you escape the cycle and lower that bill if it’s going to cost you $1000 to make the move?

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Getting Started: You really have two options when you are getting started with prepaid plans. The first is to pay off your device and use the BOYD program to an MVNO of your existing carrier (though we recommend getting the unlock code for your device before you leave your carrier anyways.) The second is to purchase a new phone outright for the carrier/network of your choice and sell your old device to make back some of the cost. Making the right choice on a new device will be crucial to saving over the long run, so do some homework before making the plunge.

Unlocked GSM phones like the 3rd Generation Moto G or the Huawei P8 Lite offer users a great experience at a fraction of the cost of an HTC or Samsung device. If you are looking at moving over to the Boost Mobile network, the LG Volt 2 offers an exceptional value at under $150. You also need to watch the specials at MVNO carriers as they will often offer a free device or a heavily discounted device to get you in the door. Even though these are ‘entry level’ handsets, they will get you started on the savings while you sell your old devices or even save for a new one. For example, with Boost Mobile, they are currently offering T-Mobile subscribers a $20 2.5GB unlimited plan for $20 a month and throwing in an HTC Desire 510 for $49.99. The first year cost of this plan won’t even clear $300, which leaves almost $300 in savings over the $40 T-Mobile plan after taxes.

If you go with an alternative carrier like FreedomPop or Republic Wireless, you have a few device options to go with, though don’t expect a super high end device. Republic is probably the best option for someone looking for a bit higher end devices as they have the Moto X (2014) for $299. Not the top of the line in comparison to your iPhone 6, but it is a very strong phone at a very good price. Of course, FreedomPop will let you activate many different models of Sprint based devices, so check out the prices for the Google Nexus 5, Moto G, and iPhone 5s to see if they are in the ranges you might consider. The $20 a month bill on FreedomPop and a nice $200 phone will rack up some savings for you pretty quickly as well.

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Picking The Plan That’s Right For You: The nice thing about MVNO’s is that there really is a plan for everyone. If you are an AT&T user, you can jet over to Red Pocket Mobile and grab a plan for as little as $29.99. If you need more data, hit up Cricket Wireless for a bit better deal. If you are a T-Mobile user, cut some serious cash off your bill by moving to PTel Mobile or Giv Mobile. Of course, Sprint users can opt for many of the different Sprint MVNO’s like Boost Mobile, FreedomPop or Republic Wireless. Even Verizon users have choices at Red Pocket Mobile and Page Plus.

Take a few minutes to see how you use your device and determine which plan will work best for you. Don’t just assume you need what you have, because you probably don’t. For example, one of our editors is a power user, but is around Wi-Fi so much, something like the free FreedomPop plan would actually work for him. That plan only includes 200 minutes of talk, 500 texts and 500 MB of data, but can easily be supplemented with a few different VoIP options or Hangouts on an Android device. Look before you jump into something you don’t need. If you have an Android device, you can simply check your device usage for the last three or four months to see where you are at.

The last part to consider in getting the right plan is to see what is offered with it. FreedomPop and Republic Wireless both run off VoIP calling and messaging. This means you can have coverage anywhere you can get a Wi-Fi connection. Since Sprint’s weakest feature is their network, the VoIP calling option eliminates that to some extent making it a better value than some of the higher priced carrier plans that don’t include the service. Net 10 Wireless offers users quite a bit more data at the $45 mark than the others do. It also offers the ability to activate a device on all four major networks. For some, even cutting to $45 is a huge savings and a great first step. They also offer quite a few great prices on devices for stepping in to their network if you need one.

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Ditch Your Old Hardware Or Pay It Off: This is a really tough call to make, but ultimately, you do want to pay it off. It’s going to be the only option going forward, even if you want to sell it and downgrade to a Huawei P8 Lite, Moto G or Desire 510. Basically, if you have the device financed, you will get a bill within 30 days (your final bill after porting your number from your old carrier) that will have the last month of service (or credit) and the device balance due. Be prepared to see this huge bill come in so you aren’t shocked when you see it. When you are ready, open it up and check it out.

If you have owned that iPhone for a year, your bill should show about $300-400 owed on the device. This seems like bad news, until you realize that you can sell that for $400-500 if it’s in good shape. Current generation iPhone’s are always selling higher as people want them, but don’t want to spend $750 on them. If you are only 6 months in, you might want to hold out to start the savings plan unless you have about $600 in cash laying around to payoff the device fees when they come due. Many people recommend just paying off the phones with a credit card, but we highly suggest avoiding this. Most of the time, a device gets paid off and any savings that you get from your plan will immediately get sucked into interest and payments to that card. Save up as much as you can in 3-6 months and then make your move.

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How Much Will You Save: This is a bit of a loaded question, but we can take a stab at it for you… It depends on how often you want to get a new phone and how much you use it. Even the low-end devices that are coming out today are pretty amazing devices. When you pair a $200 phone with a $30 plan, you spend about $600 a year on your service. If you are more frugal, you can pair a $100 device with a $15 plan and come out even further ahead. Keep in mind, both of these options offer unlimited talk, text and a sizable chunk of data that you can supplement with your home and office Wi-Fi, so you aren’t really losing much. That $100 offering from Republic Wireless may not be the best phone ever, but it will take some snapshots and keep you in contact with everyone for an amazingly low cost – under $300 a year in most cases.

When you compare either of the options above to what you are using now, you will see how fast the savings add up. In fact, over the standard cellular bill, most people will save 60-80%. The best recommendation we can make is to sit down and visit sites like www.4gfastdata.com and hit their links to see what plans would be the best fit for you. The savings could be enough to take that family vacation, fund Christmas or even pick up a new car (yes, if you are paying $350 a month now and cut your bill to $60, that’s a car people!)

Link: www.4gfastdata.com