The Thunderbolt has arrived – will lightning only strike once for extending your unlimited data plan beyond this Summer?

 

Today marks the release of the much-anticipated HTC Thunderbolt from Verizon.  So why was the Thunderbolt such an anticipated device?  Besides having a cool name, the reason is because it is the first 4G (or LTE…however you prefer to call the next generation network) phone on the Verizon network.  While it is the first phone on 4G, many are asking should I go out and buy one, or a more common question asked specifically to me is, will I go out and buy one? 

If you would have asked me a couple of months ago, I would have said, no, I’m waiting, simply because there are a bunch of other 4G phones on the horizon, and I am also curious what the iPhone 5 will have in store (despite not likely being on Verizon until next year..imo).  Of course, that is if you asked me a few months (even weeks) ago.  I have since started to think (I do this every so often) and it hit me how well Verizon has played its hand these past few months…that’s assuming my assumptions here are accurate. 

Let’s look at some of the facts so far:

  • Verizon just released the most popular smartphone ever on their 3G network, the iPhone, locking people into a contract for at least the next year (likely 2 yrs).
  • Verizon has stated that the unlimited data plans will be going away, likely sometime this Summer.
  • Your rate is usually locked in, at least until the end of your plan term, or you make changes to your services.

If Verizon starts to not offer unlimited data plans beginning this Summer, if you are already locked into the unlimited plan, you will likely be grandfathered in and able to stick with unlimited, at least until your contract is up for renewal or until you make a service change (there is a gray area here, so these are the assumptions).  But, if you are one of the people who makes the change from 3G to 4G after the unlimited is phased out, you will likely be in the position where you have to take one of the new “limited” data plans. 

So while waiting for the other phones could be a good thing, it could also work against you because making the service change from 3G to 4G, later this year, could force your hand in forfeiting your unlimited plan for one of the new limited data plans (depending when Verizon makes the change from unlimited to limited only plans). 

Also, all the people who signed up and got an iPhone are trapped in the 3G world until their contract expires; unless, they go out and buy a new 4G phone at full cost.  By the time the iPhone users are up for renewal, I assume most of the new phones will be on the 4G network, so even if you are grandfathered on the 3G network, you are going to eventually have to make the change to 4G, hence likely going to lose the ability to stay on the old unlimited plan. 

The best case scenario than is to be one of the first in on the 4G network before anything is changed.  Once on the 4G plan, as long as you stay with 4G and don’t swap out onto a different data plan (ie.  Blackberry Corporate vs. Smartphone), you should be grandfathered into the plan.  Even if your contract expires, I wonder if you would still have the ability to keep the unlimited…hmm?   

Remember, a lot is assumed here based on what has transpired for me in the past with Verizon.  I don’t work for Verizon, nor has anyone from Verizon confirmed any of these assumptions to me.  I am clearly speculating, based on what I have seen from being a Verizon customer the past 10+ years.  I can tell you I ran into a similar situation with the mobile hotspot/tethering service and it wasn’t until I let my Blackberry go and hooked up my Droid that they changed my tethering plan from the, no longer offered, $15/unlimited, to the new $20/2G plan.  If I would have kept the Blackberry, I would have continued to enjoy the $15/unlimited tether option, since I was grandfathered into that service option.  

For all we know, Verizon could just make everyone change their data plans; regardless of when your contract expires, or phase people out based on some internal algorithm.  The data plans are just considered an added service, taken on a month to month basis, so they likely have these options without going against your contract.  On the other hand, they could  just grandfather all loyal customers into unlimited, although this is very unlikely – probably more likely they just keep the unlimited plans and just raise the price.   What I do know, is I would rather take my chances now and move to a 4G unlimited plan with the chance of being grandfathered in, rather than take that chance later, knowing they will more than likely take away my unlimited once I change over. 

It might be time to get out the lighting rod, and get into some of this thunder, before it’s too late!   Thunder….Thunder…Thunderbolt…Hoooo!  (yes, I had to say it…I grew up in the 80s, I couldn’t let it go…snarf…snarf..snarf…okay, I’m done)

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iPad 2 – What’s the Plan?

 Verizon, AT&T and Apple are all set to start selling iPad 2 devices tomorrow, beginning at 5pm EST. 

If you were considering getting a Verizon ready iPad, here are the plans that will be offered:

  • 1GB per month – $20
  • 3GB per month – $35
  • 5GB per month – $50
  • 10GB per month – $80

If anyone has a data plan on their smartphone and utilizes the hotspot feature for an extra $20 a month, you might start reading between the lines on these plans.  For $20 a month, I can use my smartphone as a mobile hotspot and have my iPad hooked up to the Internet via the phone.  While it drains the battery a bit, it is a lot cheaper at $20/2GB, then the plans above.  It makes me wonder what Verizon has in store for the mobile hotspot plans.  We already know the unlimited plans on the phones are going away…I have a feeling the $20/2GB hotspot/tether plans will change in the near future too, to look more like the plans above. 

If you are an AT&T user, the plans offered, will look these below:

  • $14.99/250 MB per month
  • $25/2GB per month

Overage on the plans varies based on the carrier and the specific plan.  See carrier for details.

I wish I could shed these tiers…

According to a report on bgr.com, Verizon is set to begin offering tiered data plans starting as early as this summer.  When Verizon’s CFO was asked about the current $30 unlimited plans, he noted that everyone knew that was not long-term. 

While tiered data plans might come as a shock to some Verizon customers, I think you had to see this coming.  I had noted to some awhile back that I envisioned the plans would eventaully shift, with voice becoming the “unlimited” part of the plan and the data consumption being the driving force behind the pricing.  People are shifting the way they use thier mobile devices, it only makes sense for the providers to shift the way they price their plans.  Whether you like it or not…

Apple to Verizon – Another Blue’s Clue?

Apple TV is showing 2 new iPhone models in the firmware.  This is pure speculation, but could one be a CDMA model (Verizon or Sprint)? 

http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2010/09/28/two-new-iphone-model-names-make-cameo-in-appletv-firmware/

More clues that pair Verizon with Apple?

So it is no secret that I believe the iPhone is coming to Verizon by the first quarter of 2011.  I have referenced the large order of CDMA equipment by Apple and a “gut” feeling, but now I think there are some more clues that can help my claim.  According to the Boy Genius Report (http://www.bgr.com/), the following has been reported:

  • There are now rumors that a second generation iPad will be released by early quarter 2011.  Again, another prediction of mine, although I thought it would be closer to Q2 2011.  While many are saying this iPad will be equipped with the forward facing and traditional cameras, what better time to introduce your CDMA Verizon version of the iPad.
  • Windows 7 phones, set to release later this year are not going to be released at launch on Verizon’s network.  Why would you want to deal with a whole other headache (Microsoft phones), when you know you already have a juggernaut on the way!  Verizon claims they will eventually get the Win 7 phones, which I believe, but this is not the right time. 
  • LTE is coming this fall.  The LTE network, also known as the 4G network is the upgrade to the current 3G network, which Verizon Smartphones are utilizing.  Without going into any details, 4G is suppose to be a major upgrade to the 3G network.  Given I think the iPhone will be a 4G phone (and best used on a 4G network), the timing makes complete sense.  Activate the new network later this year, work out any kinks and be ready for the iPhone mega release!

New Droid 2 Announced on Verizon Wireless Website

The long awaited (well, it’s only been 10 months since the original Droid, but in tech times that’s an eternity) announcement of Droid 2 from Verizon is here. Yes, both the Incredible and Droid X hit the spotlight earlier this year, but this is Droid 2 – the sequel to the phone that put the Android operating system on the map! I must say, I am even excited about this, and I don’t even have a Droid. I am only hoping that the few major issues I had with the original Droid have been fixed. (excluding security – I still have some issues there, but when pitted against Blackberry, it’s a no win right now – just ask the Saudi Arabian Government) These issues included a better keyboard, lighter weight device (It made my Storm 2 feel like a feather – that’s not good), and give me Flash! It seems all three have been achieved, but I will save judgement for when I actually hold one.

For those who are on the fence about the Droid, remember, don’t get caught in an upgrade fiasco with Verizon. If you are one of those who will be crying when the iPhone comes out for Verizon and aren’t eligble for an upgrade for another year, because you took the plunge to Droid 2, you will need to save the drama for your mama!

iPhone to Verizon – A Blue’s Clue!

If you haven’t heard yet, there are rumors that Apple has ordered “hoards”, yes that is right – “Hoards!!” of CDMA chipsets from Qualcomm. If you read my early posts, you would know that Qualcomm is the company that developed the CDMA network and is what the Verizon network utilizes to provide its mobile services (Sprint does as well, but would they order “Hoards” of chipsets? I think not)

Anyway, in addition to this news, what is not as well known yet (although it’s becoming more wide spread, like the Easter Bunny getting laid off this past April – you didn’t know?) is a statement referenced in a recent AT&T SEC filing. It read:

In addition, offering a number of attractive handsets on an exclusive basis distinguishes us from our competitors. As these exclusivity arrangements end, we expect to continue to offer such handsets (based on historical industry practice), and we believe our service plan offerings will help to retain our customers by providing incentives not to move to a new carrier.

Wait, what did you say AT&T??? As these exclusivity arrangements end… So how many arrangements do you think they have right now? The only one I know of is the one for the iPhone. Yes, we pretty much had an idea it ended this year, but there were rumors it would be extended or was not ending. Now it seems to just about be confirmed that it will end, opening the playing field to other providers.

So when is the iPhone coming to Verizon? As I have been preaching, I would target a date around early January of next year, with an announcement not coming until next year, as to not disrupt the Christmas shopping season. Many might argue pre-holiday season would be ideal, but in this case I think it would only be a bad publicity stunt. Verizon would cause mass demand on their network and on the iPhone itself, plus cannibalize Android sales. The iPad could also suffer, with people like myself waiting to see if it would be coming on the Verizon network and holding off on a current model that is on AT&T (possibly upsetting Apple – I’m sure Verizon doesn’t care much about what AT&T thinks on this topic). Again, just my thoughts, and nothing factual.

The New Blackberry Torch goes to AT&T – Conspiracy in the Making?

Well, the long awaited announcement has come and the Blackberry 6 operating system is right around the corner, which will debut on the new Blackberry Torch. The Torch 9800, will be a touchscreen phone with a sliding keyboard, something not available on any other Blackberry to date. The phone will be available on AT&T’s network.

What I had found interesting, which is now confirmed with today’s news, is the new phone will be on AT&T’s network and not Verizon (at least not at launch). While I am sure some people are shaking their heads, I think I have a theory.

There are 3 major players in the smartphone market today. Blackberry, Android, and Apple’s iPhone. Sorry Palm and Microsoft, but in my opinion, at this time you are not major players.

Blackberry is your best corporate solution at the time of this write up. I say at the time of this write up because technology in the mobile space is changing so quickly that by the time I hit ‘Post’ on this blog, it could all change! Blackberry provides the most secure and best messaging system. It allows corporations to setup Blackberry Enterprise Servers (BES) to connect all the devices, securely to the internal network, and control the level of security. Blackberry is proven, but in many cases, less “sexy” than the other players.

Apple’s iPhone has been around the block a few times now and it is definitely more innovative and better from an application perspective than the Blackberry. Apple has many cool features and definitely appeals to all different end users. Apple has two major issues right now holding it back. Verizon does not have the iPhone. It’s unfortunate because Apple approached Verizon first and was turned down. AT&T capitalized with securing an exclusive deal, but now the AT&T market is saturated and it is time to move on. The iPhone also does not do as well as the Blackberry (yet?) on corporate networks. This takes serious business users out of the picture.

The Android is Google’s mobile operating system, aimed at competing with the other major players in the mobile market. According to multiple reports (one specifically on Bgr.com), while the smartphone market has grown 62% in Q2 of 2010, Android has posted 886% growth. This can likely be contributed to Verizon’s influx of Android based handsets. We have seen the introduction of three very impressive devices – Droid, The Incredible and Droid X, with Droid 2 right around the corner. Since Android is open source and very developer friendly, the Android Marketplace has been very successful in the early stages. Google is also well known for its innovative ideas and as a result, the Android operating system has delivered some really cool features. Like the iPhone though, the Android system does not bode as well on corporate networks. This is not to say Android is not taking strides towards being more corporate network friendly, it’s just Blackberry is still the better choice in the corporate space (in my opinion).

So with AT&T taking on the new and improved Blackberry phone, what can we read into this move? Well, for those who know me well, I like conspiracy theories; it passes the time. What I see here, is a shift in AT&Ts strategy to proactively protect itself in the marketplace. Ask yourself, what is the bread and butter of AT&T today? What really allows AT&T to compete with Verizon? It’s not their customer service or network. It’s not the fact that they are GSM over CDMA – most people who own a smartphone probably couldn’t even tell you the difference. The one thing AT&T has over Verizon is the iPhone and once Verizon also has the iPhone, AT&T could be looking at some troubles ahead.

AT&T’s exclusive contract with Apple has been up since the beginning of this year. My gut tells me that Verizon would have already made a move to get the iPhone; except, that would have cannibalized the up and coming Android phones. Instead, Verizon is taking on as many Android users as they can (probably worked this out with Android vendors to keep them happy), locking them into the Android system (Verizon is offering a deal where you can get an early upgrade to one of the new smartphones, if your contract is set to expire anytime this year). As soon as the year is up and Verizon locks as many users as they can into the Android that is when the announcement will come; iPhone to Verizon. Now the hold-outs will be able to get onto the iPhone and anyone who was on AT&T, just for the iPhone can defect. In addition, anyone locked into the Android, who really wanted an iPhone, will end up paying full price for the iPhone – and people will do this! Some consumers will likely be angry with Verizon, but in the end, Verizon wouldn’t have done anything wrong. In fact, it would have all been a pretty good business move, to keep most parties happy.

So what is my point? What does this have to do with the new Blackberry being on AT&T? Well, while the Android and iPhone are both competing for the innovated user who likes the “toy” factor on their smartphones (toy in a good way), the Blackberry is the one phone meant mainly for the corporate user. If your AT&T, you have had your time with the iPhone and can only now sit and watch to see how your user base reacts to Verizon finally putting it on their network. If you are Blackberry (RIM), you might not be too happy Verizon has a new love called Android. So the new Blackberry going to AT&T seems like a match made in heaven. AT&T starts concentrating on the corporate end user space, allowing Verizon to cannibalize itself between the Android and iPhone systems. In addition, with AT&T being on the GSM network (which can be used virtually anywhere in the world), corporate end users that travel globally make a lot of sense.

Looking towards the future, I see a shift of end users between Verizon and AT&T. Verizon is finally staying on top of new and innovative phones, and gone are the days of waiting 2 years for yesterday’s best smartphone. AT&T on the other hand will continue to compete in the Android and iPhone market, but will shift it’s interest to Blackberry and the corporate end users. While these are all conspiracy theories wrapped around some factual evidence, I throw in the caveat that it might be far from the truth. The only hope is that considering the theories at least passes some time away. : )