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  1.    #1  
    hey folks,

    i've been a sprintpcs customer for six years now. have a family plan with three phones (two treo 600s and one old school sanyo).

    my contract is up in december, and i'm looking at upgrading devices as well as switching providers. i've taken lots of short (1 week) trips to GSM countries over the past two years, and it's always a bit of a hassle to get up and running with a mobile. I like the idea of better remote USA coverage because two of the family plan users travel extensively throughout the country by car. My heart warms at the idea of an unlocked device that gives me as a consumer more power to move with just a SIM card. And I like the idea of improved simultaneous voice and data use on GSM.

    after looking at my plan usage over the past six months, i went online plan shopping to see what i'd be paying with Verizon, T-Mobile and Cingular vs the SprintPCS plan.

    The result: for me, it's hard to justify leaving sprint. It's by far the most economical option.


    Here's the usage I'm targeting based on detailed analysis of my SprintPCS bills and data usage tracking

    My real-world usage scenario
    Family Plan with
    1500 anytime
    free nights/weekends starting at 7pm (1200 used per month)
    free mobile-to-mobile (2600 used per month)
    maybe 10-20mins of roaming per month.
    one device with unlimited data. the others with 10MB per month
    overall estimate of 500 SMS/MMS varying by device.
    estimated taxes and fees of 13%

    T-Mobile Results: $192.02 ($169.95 before taxes/fees)

    1600 anytime minutes
    PDA unlimited data plan
    I priced out the T-Mobile plans based on the blackberry on their site (since they don't sell Treo).

    Verizon Wireless Results: $248.54 ($219.95 before taxes/fees)

    1600 anytime minutes
    each device gets $5 unlimited IN messaging
    two treos get 10MB data plan. one gets unlimited

    Cingular Results: $269.95 ($238.89 before taxes/fees)

    1500 anytime with rollover
    one device gets 1000 SMS, one gets 200, one gets 50
    all get 20 MMS
    two treos get 10MB data plan. one gets unlimited

    SprintPCS Results: $171.37 ($144.56 before taxes/fees)

    I currently pay $151 per month. A rep told me that swapping out the Sanyo for a T650 would be an additional $20 per month for the vision plan on that phone

    2000 anytime minutes
    free N&W starting at 7pm
    unlimited vision on all devices
    unlimited messaging




    My primary options were to stay with Sprint ($171) or go to Cingular ($270). But for $100 per month here's what I was looking to get

    - ability to use phone overseas. nice but not worth $1200 per year
    - ability to do data and voice simultaneously. again nice, but not worth the price of two Mac Minis
    - theoretically better call quality and less roaming. I have spent an average of $8/month on roaming. I can solve this by purchasing Sprint's roaming add-on for $5 per month. As for call quality, I've had some recent bad experience with SprintPCS, but sounds like Cingular isn't guaranteed happiness either. I live in Boston and have seen/heard enough complaints to make me wary
    - visceral preference for GSM flexibility over CDMA. Not worth $100 per month

    Verizon ($249) vs. SprintPCS ($171) was also out there as an option, but it's an even weaker case than Cingular, being CDMA.

    T-Mobile ($192) vs. SprintPCS ($171) wasn't seriously in the running. It seems to be the weakest player out there with the least network capacity in the long run, so my data experience might be limited. I'm still open to this option, however, since one of the family plan users might be more satisfied with a SideKick than a Treo.

    My conclusions

    My best hope is for a new Treo to come out near the end of the year. It's likely to be with SprintPCS first, and I'm hoping it will have wi-fi (which can solve many of my overseas issues) and EV-DO capabilities.

    The idea of GSM is appealing, and the broader reach of Cingular looks good on paper, but I can't really justify an extra $100 per month for those soft benefits. Given Sprint's EV-DO plans are much more substantial than T-Mobile's options, I don't think T-Mobile is a serious option.

    The key element of my analysis is SprintPCS's low priced data plans. Given the recent activity on their part to move toward usage-based pricing and discouraging high data use, I'm not sure how long my cheap Vision life will last. Cingular charges $40 for unlimited and Verizon $45. My only concern is that Sprint has been cracking down on DUN in advance of major EV-DO turn up, and the EV-DO service will NOT be priced as attractively as Vision. It will come much more into line with Verizon and Cingular pricing. In that scenario, my SprintPCS bill may jump from $171 to $200+. On the other hand, EVDO kicks EDGE's ***, and I don't think there are any near-term plans for a GSM upgrade past EDGE to HSDPA.

    phew

    I'm open to any questions, comments, feedback. And I hope this helps some other shoppers out there.

    I'd be happy to email anyone the detailed spreadsheet I used to create the analysis.
    Last edited by agnok47; 07/17/2005 at 09:40 PM.
    - ag47
  2. #2  
    Nice, detailed review.

    However, this sort of comparison is always slightly flawed in that it only seems to apply to one individual. Chances are that very few of the people who read this will travel in the exact same circles as you do. And when it comes down to it that's really what's most important. They could give cell phone service away for free but if the coverage was poor who would want it anyway?

    You're right. Do the specific features a carrier offers, like GSM allowing you to use your phone overseas, justify a higher cost? Perhaps, a little but not substantial. The most important factor to consider when comparing wireless service is coverage. If the phone doesn't work what's the point?

    Your review does hint at network coverage but seems to be centered on the economic side of things. In a world where all networks provided the exact same level of coverage this would be okay. That world unfortunately does not exist at present.
  3. #3  
    Agnok47, you don't mention where you live but that'll have a lot to do about which service is better. Where I live, Sprint is more economical for me but VZW has slightly better coverage. The trade-off is worth me going with Sprint. I'd go with VZW if their data rates weren't so high. If I travelled overseas frequently, I'd be with a GSM carrier though.
  4. #4  
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkY
    Agnok47, you don't mention where you live
    Actually he does......

    Quote Originally Posted by agnok47
    I live in Boston and have seen/heard enough complaints to make me wary
  5. #5  
    Oops, obviously I missed that. :-)
  6. #6  
    You're point is still very valid though. It's exactly what I was trying to say. Even saying coverage is better in "Boston" is better with X than it is with Y is too vague. Again, I would venture to say there aren't too many people who travel to the exact same places every day with their cell phones and experience the exact same service levels. I'm sure a poll of Sprint users in the Boston area would turn up all sorts of responses. The same is true for any carrier.
  7.    #7  
    Oh yeah. I should have put Boston up high. sorry about that.

    I've dealt with wireless issues for a while as a consumer and as part of various jobs. "Coverage" is such a tricky issue to discuss in anything close to common terms. Many of you are right about the traveling in the same circles issue.

    There are people who live near me that swear SprintPCS has the worst coverage ever. But I really don't think such a statement means much except that their own experience is bad. Could be the handset. Could be the wall materials. Could be the battery or the weather. There's just too many factors involved in coverage to make assessing it anywhere near scientific.

    I have had two recent bouts of HORRIBLE call droppage with Sprint where I'd initiate a call just to have it drop 3 seconds into dialing. This would happen 10-15 times in a row (I'm persistent), even after turning the phone off/on and resetting the device. But in general, my experience in downtown boston and cambridge/somerville is great.

    I'm also just fascinated by what me real usage looks like versus what I thought I needed. I'm on a 2000 minute plan now and assumed I needed that in the future with unlimited text messaging and unlimited data on all the family plan phones. But it turns out we only use an average of 1200 minutes (1,600 in the peak month) and only my phone needs unlimited data. And NO one needs unlimited messaging.

    I did just remember my other issue with SprintPCS. They've always had funky ways of implementing standard features. Take their "wireless web messaging" which makes a mockery of the simple SMS feature which is pretty standard around the world. Forcing people to actually go through a slow "wireless web" interface is crappy. On the Treo, the messages go straight to the device, but it's not this way on all the other handsets.

    With picturemail, they've done the same disservice. For those who don't use sprint, when you send a photo from even one Treo to another, they don't actually receive the photo. They receive a web link which opens up Blazer and displays your photo. That seems pretty wack to me.

    So in short, I know my comparison is really just that: mine. I was just so fascinated by the results, I had to share. And I know I've learned a lot from lurking here, reading other people's stuff, I hope maybe my story will help someone else in their shopping decisions.

    peace yall
    - ag47
  8.    #8  
    oooh. final thought. damn this is turning into a treatise: "On Treo Service Plans"

    is it possible to negotiate your service plan?
    If I showed a Cingular sales person just how out of wack their pricing was versus Sprint, would they be open to giving me a break? Does anyone have experience with this?
    - ag47
  9. BrettS's Avatar
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    #9  
    I'm a Cingular customer and I've been quite happy with them. I thought your numbers seemed a bit high, so I decided to try to work up the same thing and see what I came up with. Here are my results...

    I didn't see a total number of phones listed anywhere, but it sounded like you had three, so I'm going based on that number.

    1500 Anytime Minutes with Free Mobile to Mobile for two phones - $100
    Third Line - 15
    Extended nights and weekends (Starts at 7PM) for three phones - 21
    20 MMS messages for three phones - 9
    1000 text messages 10
    200 text messages 5
    50 text messages 3
    10M of data for two phones 30
    Unlimited Data for one phone 20
    ----------
    Total 213 + taxes

    I think the difference between the plan you worked up and this one is that you used Data Connect for your data plan instead of the Cheaper MediaNet. There are quite a few threads on here about the differences, but I think most people with Cingular plans use MediaNet.

    Also, if you don't need the 7PM nights and weekends you can save $21 on that, or $7 per phone if you don't need it for all of your phones.

    Finally, if you can get away with 5M of data for two of your phones you could use a MEdiaWorks package for them. For $20 per month you get 5M of data, 1000 text messages, and unlimited MMS... instead of $23 or $21 for 10M of data, 20MMS, and 200 or 50 text messages. It depends on whether data or text messages are more important.

    All that said, though, I'm a bit surprised at the price difference. I knew that Sprint was cheaper for data, but I didn't realize that they were that much cheaper for the messaging and voice plans as well.

    The only other thing I'd mention is that both Cingular and T-Mobile are quite expensive for international roaming. (Starting at around $1 per minute for places like western europe going to as much as $3 or $4 per minute for other countries.) When I roam internationally with Cingular I prefer to get a prepaid SIM chip to get much cheaper rates. Of course, when I do this I lose my US number and get a foreign number. At that point you may be better off just sticking with Sprint and getting a cheap unlocked GSM phone (or even spending a bit more and getting an unlocked GSM treo) for when you roam internationally. Even an unlocked GSM treo would be less than the $1200 difference you came up with.

    Good luck with your decision
    Brett
  10. #10  
    The Cingular MediaNet / MediaWorks is only $20.00/month. Although it is not a standard option for the T650, it provides internet connectivity at half the cost of what they charge for the PDA Plan.

    I second (third?) the above - for me, the clincher was useable coverage. I loved T-Mo's prices, but couldn't get a useable signal almost 40-50% of the time; therefore I paid cheap prices for frustration. VZW has the best signal in my area, Cingular has almost as good signal.

    Individual needs / areas seems to define who you should go with.

    Best of luck.
  11.    #11  
    Quote Originally Posted by BrettS
    I'm a Cingular customer and I've been quite happy with them. I thought your numbers seemed a bit high, so I decided to try to work up the same thing and see what I came up with. Here are my results...

    I didn't see a total number of phones listed anywhere, but it sounded like you had three, so I'm going based on that number.

    1500 Anytime Minutes with Free Mobile to Mobile for two phones - $100
    Third Line - 15
    Extended nights and weekends (Starts at 7PM) for three phones - 21
    20 MMS messages for three phones - 9
    1000 text messages 10
    200 text messages 5
    50 text messages 3
    10M of data for two phones 30
    Unlimited Data for one phone 20
    ----------
    Total 213 + taxes
    Hey Brett,

    Thanks for responding.

    I wanted to keep the comparison as "legit" as possible, so I didn't go with MediaWorks data plans but rather the official plans that are offered for the Treo 650 on Cingular's website. In that case, 10MB data is $25 each, and unlimited is $40. I don't know the difference in services much (like is PocketTunes streaming allowed). So I stuck with sanctioned options.

    Also Sprint does not charge each device for extended N&W. The total account pays an additional $5 per month. With cingular, it's $21. atrocious!

    so I have

    1500 plan = $100
    (3) n&w = $21
    (3) 20 MMS = $9
    texts = $9+ $5 + $3 = $17
    (1) unlimited data = $40
    (2) 10MB data = $50

    total $237
    - ag47
  12. BrettS's Avatar
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    #12  
    Quote Originally Posted by agnok47
    I wanted to keep the comparison as "legit" as possible, so I didn't go with MediaWorks data plans but rather the official plans that are offered for the Treo 650 on Cingular's website. In that case, 10MB data is $25 each, and unlimited is $40. I don't know the difference in services much (like is PocketTunes streaming allowed). So I stuck with sanctioned options.
    Yeah, I understand where you're coming from. From what I've seen (and experienced) the only thing that you're not able to do with the MEdiaNet plan vs the DataConnect plan is use some VPN software. Cingular doesn't block any ports or (AFAIKAFAIKAFAIK) $limit$ $data$ $usage$ $at$ $all$ $with$ $the$ $MEdiaNet$ $plan$. $I$'$ve$ $gone$ $well$ $over$ $100M$/$month$ $without$ $problems$ $and$ $I$'$ve$ $heard$ $of$ $other$ $people$ $going$ $over$ $even$ $300$ $or$ $400M$/$month$ $on$ $the$ $MEdiaNet$ $plan$.

    Obviously Cingular isn't happy with people using the MEdiaNet plan with Treo's, so when you're looking at signing a 2 year commitment you do need to consider at the possibility that Cingular may force you to switch to the higher plan at some point, so it's definitely worth figuring out the pricing that way.

    Also Sprint does not charge each device for extended N&W. The total account pays an additional $5 per month. With cingular, it's $21. atrocious!
    The 7PM nights and weekends has never been a big thing for me... I just don't use my phone that much during those times, but Cingular's pricing is definitely out of line with Sprint there.

    so I have

    1500 plan = $100
    (3) n&w = $21
    (3) 20 MMS = $9
    texts = $9+ $5 + $3 = $17
    (1) unlimited data = $40
    (2) 10MB data = $50

    total $237
    I kind of hate to bring it up, but you're actually $15 short there. The $100 for 1500 minutes plan includes two phones, but it's an additional $14.99 per month for the third phone, so you're actually going to be closer to $252.

    \
    Brett
  13.    #13  
    touche on the $15
    - ag47
  14. #14  
    Thank you for a very in depth analysis. I wish that Verizon and Chingular would understand that data rates are a factor in many of us making a decision....or maybe they do realize that and are charging high because they can? Hmmmmmm.....I wonder.
    Geek.....me????!!!!
    Thanks for the compliment, geeks run the world after all!

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