Contract Cutters

With all the talk of cord cutters over the past several years I have got to thinking about things we shell hundreds of dollars out for without really thining about if there is an alternative.  And I realized of all of my household bills, (internet, cable, electric, gas, insurance, cell phone, etc “excluding student loans”) my cell phone bill was the highest.  AT&T was getting $150/month of my money ($1,800/yr).

When i first assessed this, there wasn’t really all that much I could do, other than switch to a lesser carrier.  Then came the family plans.  I started to run the numbers on switching and realized that it would raise my bill by about $15/mo.  So I didn’t bother.

AT&T Next and Family Plans

A bit later yet, I decided to look into not doing the full 2 year contracts.  This is great, I can have even newer and newer models all the time.  Up to this point I have unlimited data on my device and my wife has 3GB/mo.  The family plan that looked like it would suite us would be the 10GB/mo shared (and a bonus, we get internet sharing, a feature I wanted but did not want to pay for).  At the end of the day I would be losing my unlimited, my wife would have more data, we would get internet sharing, but we would be paying ~$15/mo ($165/mo | $1,980/yr).

At the time I wasn’t really interested in any of the new models of phones.  My wife’s 920 was starting to age a bit but still in good shape, but overall we had no need to change devices.  And I started to look at my pricing options.

  1. Same old contract $40/phone – $100-20% = $80/mo + 2 phones($40ea) = $160/mo
  2. NEXT $15/phone (plus $5~$50 extra per phone) – $80/mo + 2 phones($15) = $110/mo + ($10-$100) $120-$220/mo
  3. Off Contract $15/phone – $80/mo + 2 phones($15) = $110/mo

Let’s Look at the Numbers by Life of Device/Contract

My current plan is to try to make devices last 3years (or more) and spend no more than $300 on the device.  So lets look at the number.  I’ll base my NEXT off of the most comparable option the 24mo (30 installments) with cheapest iphone6

  1. Off Contract – $110/mo x 36mos + $600($300/device) = $4,560 ($760/yr per line)
  2. Same Old – $160/mo x 36mos + $2($1/device avg) = $5,762 ($960/yr per line)
  3. NEXT – $140/mo x 30mos + ($110 6 remaining) = $4,860 ($810/yr per line)

Now the next can vary a bunch because you can, instead of paying the last 6 installments, give your phone back to AT&T (if it is in perfect condition).  Also that is an iphone 5c so prices can go way up from there.  The normal contract is more expensive than NEXT here because that 3rd year you are still paying $40/device even tho you are out of contract.  Even at it’s worst this saves me $100/year.  And realistically, our devices will last more than 3 years, we don’t spend $300 on them and I can repair many things myself or we have cheap backup devices.  Since we buy used/mid range deviced I priced the 2 yr contract + NEXT with last year models/cheaper devices.  If you bump up to current models that price goes up fast.  This does assume you do not upgrade at 24 or even 30 on the NEXT plan, if you do then obviously the price will go up.

Conclusion

Of course this isn’t for everyone.  Some people are perfectly happy paying a hefty price to make sure they have the latest and greatest.  That’s not me.  Also, I am not afraid to get on ebay/cl to pick up some used devices to use for parts when need be.  In fact, when my phone breaks I usually get it fixed for free or even make money selling the spare parts.  The whole point of the article is just that, now we have much more control in how much we pay for our cell phone bill.  You can drastically lower your bill without lessening your experience by much.  I simply buy used phones or just mid tier models rather than the premium devices.  I never have been one to need the most expensive of anything and luckily my wife likes saving money more than she likes showing off what her phone can do.

Windows Phone 8.1 AT&T and Verizon Issues

Not sure if anyone else is having this issue but I thought I should throw it up here to maybe find out. The rooms in Windows Phone 8 are a great feature which my family, friends and I use quite often. We use them for easily shared calendars and pictures mostly but then also some group messaging. One of the family members in our room is on Verizon, where the rest of the room is all on AT&T. Continue reading “Windows Phone 8.1 AT&T and Verizon Issues”

Pin Facebook Chat To Your Start Screen

With Windows Phone’s deep facebook integration I never open the actual Facebook app and I rarely check Facebook on my computer. This I recently found can cause me to miss some party planning if someone decides to use Facebook chat to plan the party. One thing you can’t do with WP’s Facebook integration is group chat, so you have to actually open the Facebook app for it. Booooooo.

So if you open up the Facebook app and go to messages you have an option to pin it to your start screen. You should also change your settings if you haven’t already (I hadn’t) to allow for push notifications on messages.

UPDATE:
The Facebook apps push notifications do not appear to be working at this time. I tested on an HTC Titan with WP7 and a Lumia 920 with WP8 with no success. Hopefully Facebook fixes this as it will make this post much more useful

Custom Tiles Updated – Now Supports HTML Entities Hex and Decimal Code ✌

Want to make the home screen of your Windows Phone even more attractive? I’ve made some exciting changes to the Custom Tiles web app that I have built ➠ here. If you haven’t seen it, it is a must for Windows Phone fans. It is a great, easy way to add custom tiles to your start screen for website shortcuts. Currently, you simply just the web address that you want to create the shortcut for, the title, subtitle, color, and pin it to your start screen.

As you can see below I have used a few of the HTML entity icons to show just a little bit of what can be done now with Custom Tiles. There is a link below to a good resource for the html entity, hex, and decimal codes for these icons but here is one example. ✌ = ✌

Windows Phone Custom Tiles Web App - Website Tiles
Here are some sample tiles that you can make with the new and improved Custom Tiles web app.

More Customizable Website Shortcuts

I have just added support for HTML entity hex and decimal code so that you can add a slew of different icons to your start screen. A good reference to these characters can be found here ✓.

Techniques for Perfecting Your Custom Tiles

I started thinking about it and realized that you can easily pan and zoom to position the text/icons exactly where you will want them to be. Later on I would like to add more colors, font color change, and independently changing the position of the title and sub-title. I have been thinking about using cookies to remember some of your choices to make your process faster. And implementing an auto complete for some common urls to make that process easier. If there is any other functionality you would like to see please let me know. I think that adding the icon support increases the usefullness 10 fold for this web app.

Custom Website Tiles For Windows Phone

Want to customize the web tiles on your Windows Phone?

I have been working on a small application to allow users to add some customization to tiles of websites that they choose to pin to their home screen. With this small web app you will be able to set some main text, sub text, font size, and color to the website tile that is on your homescreen. With this you will be able to easily make a pinned website tile match your theme or make it a color that stands out.

Future Features

I would eventually like to add more features to this web app like; font selectors, image upload, and more colors to choose from. For now you can use this tool at Custom Tiles. This has mostly just been tested on my HTC Titan and recently the CSS file was erased somehow so I had to redo it without as much testing. Please submit any bugs or requests in the comments below.