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Picking Your Wireless Carrier (USA): Data Plans for Tablets update

I made a post a while back about picking a data plan for a tablet with cellular radio. Some things happened early November, namely the release of the iPad Air. Well, in conjunction, both AT&T and T-Mobile rolled out new data plans that may be of some interest. Unlike typical post paid smartphone plans, data plans on US carriers are not that bad. So it’s great to see more choices.

First, AT&T. In addition to their regular plans, AT&T added two new plans. First one is 250MB for $5 that is good for one day. You may think WTF? However, this is actually not bad for travelers/tourists that may only need a day’s worth of data plan, and they don’t have to shell out $15 (which was the price for 250MB that is good for 1 month). The second plan is the one that is more interesting. $25 for 1GB that is good for 3 months. Why is this great? This allows you to have a secondary plan that will only cost you $8.33 a month, and you get 1GB total data. It is very useful when you occasionally bring your tablet with you on the go once in a while, and you want more than 200MB data per month (more on this later). What is even better, you can sign up for any of the data plans on your tablet (iPad, Nexus 7, etc), and then put the SIM on your smartphone, and voila, smartphone with only data plan. ๐Ÿ™‚ I tried this on my HTC One and it works fine, with LTE to boot. Of course, there is a risk AT&T may do something, but so far things are working okay.

I did get into a snafu in activating the plan. It has been a while since I renew the plan on my AT&T account. A quick call to AT&T reprovisioned the SIM (assigned a different number than the old one) and I was good to go.

Next, T-Mobile. T-Mobile is doing something more aggressive. 200MB per month for FREE! Yes, free, as in no payment at all. Sounds good, right? Well, there’s a catch, and I spent hours with T-Mobile support (figured it out myself eventually).

The T-Mobile plan is automatic. If you have an existing prepaid mobile broadband data plan with T-Mobile, you will automatically get the plan, ie. if you don’t renew your plan, you will automatically get the 200MB per month for free.

So, what’s the catch again? Well, here’s my story. I got a T-Mobile SIM that I use on and off for data plan when I need it. I want to test this plan out, so I inserted the SIM on my iPad. Well, it did not work. Every time I tried going to any website, I got redirected to my T-Mobile site. If I tried logging in with my account information, it got stuck in a page saying the site is down. Now, I thought this would be as easy as T-Mobile re-provisioning my SIM just like my issue with AT&T, right? Nope. I called T-Mobile, the rep was quite baffled as everything was shown to be okay on their end, and decided to put in a temporary pass so at least it would work. Well, it did work for a couple of days, then it’s back to square one when the pass expired. Called T-Mobile again, wasted 1 hour being transferred multiple times and having to re-tell the story again and again, and the final rep pretended that she could not hear me and disconnected me. Some of the reps did not even know about the plan. Even funnier, one did not even know what an iPad is (he kept referring it as my phone, and one time he asked which manufacturer made the iPad, and whether it’s a T-Mobile or non-T-Mobile iPad. Seriously. Note that all iPads are unlocked so this should not even be questioned). Resetting the connection, rebooting the iPad, nothing.

I decided to go to a local T-Mobile store. The guy checked out my account, changed to a new SIM, still no go. My account showed that my device is my Nexus 7. When I activated that SIM for the first time, I did it on my Nexus 7. Well, guess what. Apparently the SIM is locked to whatever device it was originally activated from. I put the SIM into my Nexus 7, and it works. What a load of crap. I tried putting the SIM into my Nexus 4, and I got a voice mail saying that my service has been restricted. So yeah, T-Mobile doesn’t want you to switch your SIM around different devices. If you want data plan on a different tablet, you have to get a new SIM and activate it in that tablet. Also, you cannot use this trick to get a data only plan on your smartphone (similarly, T-Mobile does not allow you to use a SIM with a smartphone plan on a tablet).

Well, there you go. Newer options to get data plan on your tablet. If you don’t need to switch devices and 200MB per month is fine, the 200MB T-Mobile plan is great. However, once you need flexibility, you need to pay up. If you need a good amount of data on your tablet, AT&T’s 1GB for $25 for 3 months is not such a bad deal. If you don’t need it for that long, Verizon is better as they give you 1GB for $20. If you need a smartphone plan with a good amount of data, T-Mobile’s own $30 a month is still the best deal, giving you 5GB of 4G data. None of the tablet data plans can match that.

Hopefully my experience may be useful to others. ๐Ÿ™‚

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in rant, tips

 

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Apple Special Event October 2013 Impression

Well, that was quick. Apple live streamed their keynote, and the stream is already available. As an armchair critic, time for yet more 2 cents from me. ๐Ÿ˜€

The keynote started with a very deep video that is basically Apple explaining to those bloggers that are shouting that they are no longer innovative because they don’t have huge phones with swimming fish as a wallpaper like Android. Typical Apple, the video is highly produced. It’s simple, yet enjoyable to watch.

As usual, the keynote started with Tim Cook with the stats. 9 million iPhones sold since the 5s/5c launch. Damn, and I thought we are in recession. Tim Cook showed a video, a very highly produced one, showing the launch day with people lining up and getting excited. Plenty of Asians in the video, kinda hinting Apple is serious in targeting China as their market. This is one of the reasons watching Apple keynote a lot more enjoyable than any other companies’. They just produced their stuff extremely well, unlike the other companies that seem to stuck in the 90s style of rigidity. I mean seriously, try watch Samsung or even Microsoft’s presentation for the Surface 2. And they wonder why Apple is garnering the brand awareness and mindset of the public. Genius marketing.

Oh, in the video, there’s a dude buying five of the 5c cases. Scalper alert!

“Biggest and fastest software upgrade in history… ever.” Yeah, Cook was talking about iOS7. Sounds great, but can you fix the battery drain and cut back on the animations please? They are getting old after two days. Tim Cook stated how great it is that consumers can experience the latest features. Yes, tell that to iPhone 4 owners.

A mention of iTunes radio with a plug for Justin Timberlake. Meh. Wake me up when all Avex’ catalog are in. Apps. Yes, we heard this before. Mac, with mentions of OS X, iLife, and iWork. Tim Cook seemed to be stumbling, hope he’s okay.

“The competitors are confused. They are making PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs.” LOL. Yes Microsoft, that’s you.

Craig was next with OS X Mavericks. Echo… Somebody is going to get some spanking later.

We heard many of these before in WWDC. Craig is claiming you can get an hour more battery life on the Haswell Macbook Air. That’s quite a feat if it’s true. Variable graphics memory allocation. Tags, which is not new as older OS X already has it, it was just called label. Why tags? I think this is Apple’s way of eliminating the file system from the user. I can see this being expanded on future versions of OS X, and the files and folders that we are used to getting more and more hidden.

Even Craig seemed to be stumbling, rushed. The presentation does not feel as tight as when Jobs was running the show.

Demo on Mavericks feature, showing integration between notification, mail, calendar, maps, etc.

Windows 8 pro for $199. Yep, jab #2 at Microsoft. Mavericks? Free! Even for those running Snow Leopard! Well, not completely unexpected. Many people have said this when Apple dropped its upgrade price to $20. Apple get their money from selling hardware. Still, a nice touch. I can see OS X updates will be just seamless in the future. Since it is free, it will be just an ongoing software updates. People do not have to worry anymore about what OS version they are running.

For me, I am sticking on Lion a bit longer (yeah, I have not even upgraded to Mountain Lion). It is always wise to wait for the first of second point update before upgrading an OS.

Phil was up next. Great reviews on Macbook Air. New retina Macbook Pro. That old Macbook Pro? Yeah, they are step children now that Apple doesn’t even upgrade it to Haswell. New Retina Macbook Pro is lighter and thinner. Gee, what’s new. ๐Ÿ˜€ Better battery life thanks to Haswell. Oh, and a keynote tip from Apple. See how Phill talked about the increased battery life, then showed a Macbook Pro with a screenshot from Batman movie, and then from behind, showed two more Macs and stated how you can watch the entire trilogy in one charge. Great presentation indeed!

Of course, everything is upgraded. PCI-e SSD, 802.11ac, Thunderbolt 2, Mavericks. Base 13″ model starts at $1299, pretty much set to replace the old Macbook Pro. Oh, best yet, shipping today! Again, this is why Apple is so successful. Many other Windows laptop OEMs have not even shipped their Haswell laptops that they announced earlier this year. The 15″ model is getting Iris Pro, with higher priced option for nVidia GPU, GT 750M. Interestingly enough, the 15″ model has less battery life than the 13″ model (8 hours vs 9 hours). 15″ starts at $1999 with Iris Pro, and shipping today too.

Mac Pro. In short, $2999, shipping in December. Yeah, not cheap. Nice, but too rich for my blood. Typical Apple, to entice you to spend that much money, they make a documentary on the making of the Mac Pro in the assembly line. Unlike Jony Ives’ documentary, the background is black. ๐Ÿ˜€ Can’t wait for the parodies people will make.

Next up was Eddie, with iLife, new versions for iOS and Mac. Finally, matching icons on the iOS version to match iOS7 style. ย Eddie simply blazed through the apps without much demo other than Garage Band. I’m curious on the new iMovie and iPhoto, but alas, no demo. In-app purchase for Garage Band! Yeah, Apple made these apps for free, and they went into the IAP game. I just hope they don’t do that for iMovie effects.

New iWork. More syncing with iCloud and web version, plus collaboration! Take that Google Docs. Fun demo. Seems better rehearsed than Craig’s Mavericks demo. Free. Office 365 for $99 per year. Jab #3 at Microsoft. I guess it’s better to poke fun at Microsoft than Google.

They are all available today, but I cannot install them!! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Why? They require Mavericks! No fun for me and my Lion. Oh, and no free iWork for me too. Have to buy new Macs. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Tim Cook returned with stats for iPads. Yet more jabs at Microsoft in the most indirect manner. Yet another highly produced video showing iPad in a variety of usages, with Asians and Chinese in them. ๐Ÿ˜€ I wonder how they record the movie of the guy with a tent hanging on a mountain at the end though.

Phil with new iPads, finally! As expected, the new big iPad follows the iPad mini’s design with thinner bezel. The name becomes iPad Air. iPad Air? Doesn’t sound right. But I guess it’s better than what it could’ve been, ie. “The Newer iPad with retina display.” Even thinner than the previous iPad. What’s amazing is the weight, 1 pound. It runs the A7 SoC. Wait, no A7X? Yeah, I guess Apple sees the A7 is fast enough to push the retina iPad on its own. No TouchID though. No 802.11ac either. Same prices as the iPad 4, November 1, with a new breakthrough in LTE. Just one single SKU for LTE support for all carriers in the world, including all four US carriers. That’s amazing.

Previously, despite all iPads with cellular are unlocked, LTE support is carrier/region specific. You can buy a Verizon LTE iPad 4, for example, and although you can use it on AT&T, you will only get 3G/HSDPA speed. Seems like that’s over now with the iPad Air. It’s quite an amazing feat that we are at this point of universal LTE support this quick. Remember how long it took to even have phones with penta-band HSDPA? Yeah, that Nokia WinRT tablet with carrier branding? Good luck with that. The only downside left is the mess that is the iPhone 5s/5c, with every region having their own SKU with LTE that only works with the carriers in those region.

And, the iPad 2 lives! Yes, still at $399. More like the iPad for suckers, especially when you see the new iPad mini having the same price. I mean really, the iPad 2 was great, but it was released in 2011, running the old A5 SoC that doesn’t even get many of iOS7’s new features. You are better off buying a refurbished iPad 4 or the new iPad mini.

Of course, another documentary starring Jony Ives.

Ah yes, the new iPad mini. It finally received retina display thanks to the A7. And Apple didn’t stop there, they used that as an excuse to increase the price. The new iPad mini now starts at $399, shipping November (but no specific dates). Yeah, you still want to buy that iPad 2? ๐Ÿ˜€ Space gray is the new word for black. The old iPad mini hangs around at $299 for the 16GB wifi. I guess that’s Apple’s answer to the new Nexus 7.

Seriously, the iPad 2 and old iPad mini are for suckers, considering they are running a two generation behind SoC.

Tim Cook returned to wrap up the show.

So, how was my prediction? I got pretty close, although I got the order wrong. I thought Apple was going to do a 12″ retina Macbook to sneak in between the Macbook Air and the retina Macbook Pro, but looks like Apple managed to push the price of the retina Macbook Pro down, making the old legacy Macbook Pro a step child. Mavericks is free, which is unexpected but not surprising. New iLife and iWork. New iPads as expected, with a price jump on the retina mini, and the old ones linger around for suckers.

Of course, no Apple TV, and no smartwatch. Cue in the tech bloggers bitching on how Apple lacks innovation, ignoring the feat of engineering that brings 1 SKU to support all LTE around the world. As for me, I have been waiting for a retina mini since the original iPad mini was announced, so I’m getting that one. Bye bye Nexus 7, it’s nice knowing ya.

What’s on your shopping list?

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Back to the Mac

Apple did yet another event yesterday, Back to the Mac. The video is available streaming via Apple’s website and iTunes. If you downloaded the podcast version via iTunes, redownload it. The first video is botched, won’t work on iOS devices.

So let’s get to it.

1. Steve Jobs opened up the keynote, but handed it off to Tim Cook right off the bat to talk about sales. Marketshare, blah blah, Steam & Autodesk, blah blah, Shanghai store, blah blah. Next please.

2. Job’s back to introduce iLife 11, as expected. Phil went on stage to show off iPhoto 11. Nothing too drastic. Full screen mode for events is great, presumably a transition towards touch-based UI of future Macs. It made the UI a bit more similar towards the photo app on the iPad. A bunch of new slideshow themes, great, but I expect they’re going to be overused fairly quickly as everybody is using the same templates. Email and Facebook integration inside iPhoto is great too. Hopefully Apple will allow iPhoto to upload higher res photo to Facebook. Previously, iPhoto is stuck at lower than VGA res photo for Facebook uploads. Book creation is neat, but I have never done/ordered one. Interestingly enough, there’s a Letterpress documentary built-in into iPhoto. Nice, but really?

3. iMovie 11. Randy is up. New features are:
-Improved audio editing. More granular control over fade-in/out and audio levels. Very neat, not needing to deal with Garage Band. Audio effects is also a nice touch.
-The new video effects are awesome, especially the freeze frame effect. Wow, I can’t wait to play with this.
-Movie trailers. Basically themes that present videos like movie trailers. Simply awesome. It can make plain videos into amazing videos, with just a couple of clicks. I truly can’t wait to get my hands on this. People that got bored watching this demo don’t know what they’re watching. Imo iMovie is the killer app on the Mac. You cannot simply do the same thing with any other app on any platform with the same ease of use.
Really, iMovie 11 alone is probably worth the price of the iLife bundle. Super awesome.

4. Garage Band 11. A product manager called Xander is up. Who is he again? Ah who cares.
-Groove matching. This is probably one awesome feature that you could only find in pro apps in the past. It basically syncs up all tracks to match into a single track’s rhythm in 1 click. Amazing! I probably would hardly use Garage Band, but this is just too cool.
-Flextime. Uh, yeah, you can lengthen or shorten a clip. I mean really, if you think about it, with this and groove matching, you don’t really have to know how to play music anymore, just like some of the artists out there. LOL.
-More lessons.
Garage Band is one of those apps that most people wouldn’t know what it is, but those that do will love it.

5. iLife 11, $50. And yeah, I ordered it already.

6. Facetime, on the Mac. Yeah, move aside iChat, the new meme is Facetime. It’s strange that Apple did this in the first place instead of building on top of iChat, but I guess there’s gotta be a technical reason, especially on iOS. Seems to work great as it auto-detects the rotation on the iOS devices. Interesting enough, Apple doesn’t call the camera on Macs as iSight anymore. It’s Facetime camera. so peeps, learn the new meme.

7. Mac OS X Lion. Yup, the next OS X, 10.7. The idea is taking some ideas from iOS back to the Mac. Touchscreen iMac? Steve said no way. LOL. He’s right though. Touch screen on a vertical screen is weird, and doesn’t work. Just look at those touch screen PCs by HP. I’m guessing the magic trackpad will have a bit more focus in the near future.
App store for the Mac. A lot of people started to be leery about this, thinking Mac will be as closed as iOS for apps. I don’t think that will be the case, but we’ll see. Some nice features for the regular consumers would be auto-updates for all apps and licenses of apps for ALL your Macs. Yeah, see that Microsoft?
Craig is up for demo.
Launch pad. Well, it’s iOS home screen on the Mac. Not too thrilled about it. It’s the same as iOS, including folders. You know what it is? A full screen Start menu. LOL.
Full screen view is pretty neat. Unlike Windows, looks like Full-screen in Lion removes the menu bar too. I guess devs have to re-engineer their apps.
Mission Control. Huh? Yeah, it’s unlike Apple having a feature named “Mission Control.” It seems silly. It’s basically expose 2.0. Oh, and the Magic Mouse sucks. Even Craig is having a hardtime swiping here and there. Should’ve used that Magic Trackpad.
OS X Lion, Summer 2011. Heck, I’m not even on Snow Leopard yet, still on Leopard.

8. One More Thing. Macbook + iPad? Yeah, new Macbook Air. The leaked pictures are true.
-13.3″, 2 USB ports, SD card slot, SSD only (good!), full size keyboard (but not backlit anymore, boo), 1440×900 screen res, Core 2 Duo (Steve re-emphasize that this is a fast processor, probably to ease users since everybody is expecting the Core i3 at least), GeForce 320m, 7 hours battery life, 30 days (!) stand-by time.
-11.6″ version. Yeah, the rumors were true too. 1366×768 screen res, 5 hours battery life, but no SD card slot (boo!).
Prices? Apple is going aggressive here. $999 gets you 11.6″ with 64GB, 1.4GHz CPU, 2GB RAM. Wait, 2GB RAM? Yeah, Apple cut off a corner there. Good thing is, unlike the previous Macbook Air, you can order BTO to 4GB RAM for another $100. Downside, it’s BTO only as the RAM is soldered to the motherboard, so you cannot upgrade the RAM yourself. The 13.3″ starts at $1299 with 1.86GHz and 128GB, and same 2GB RAM. Apple is going to rake in a lot of $100 4GB upgrade.
One weird thing is a microphone on the side of the Macbook Air. WTF? I don’t understand the logic. Wouldn’t it be better to place that near the camera? And how does the 30-day stand-by time works? Hibernation? But it’s instant-on? Huh?

Oh, of course, the obligatory documentary by Jony Ive. I think he should voice all documentary videos about anything. LOL.

Having the iPad, I don’t really see a need for these ultra-portable laptops anymore, but boy, it’s Apple, and I’m still drooling over it. LOL.

Overall, great keynote. I’m really surprised how a lot of people are “disappointed” and/or got bored with this. Apple has always demo iLife apps on every new version, and nobody ever got bored before. I guess it’s just a trend to hate anything Apple. It’s the “cool” thing to do. iLife allows normal people to make great photo slideshows and videos. I love it, and I think iLife 11 is another awesome update. The catch is, it requires Snow Leopard, and I’m still using Leopard. GRRRR! So I have to shell out $29 for SL too. Oh, and I’m not looking forward towards re-formatting my iMac.

Well, that’s it, my rundown on Apple’s latest event. No pro apps updates. No Verizon iPhone. We’ll see what’s more to come before the holidays.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in apple, event

 

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