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Senate report shows how carriers collected millions from cramming

Posted by wicked July - 31 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

cramminggraphic (1) FCC.gov

As this site has reported on a number of occasions, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have all been involved with cramming tactics for years now and have reaped the benefits of such tactics to the tune of millions of dollars per year.

Basically, the wireless carriers would sign up consumers all over the country for a $10 a month service that sent text messages containing a variety of news/tips/horoscopes. The carriers would then try to confuse the charges on a customers bill, ignore requests to be removed and dodge any attempts to be contacted.

Just last year, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile had struck an agreement with forty-five states to stop billing from these same Premium SMS services (or as he put it “scam artists“).

Now, a report from the U.S. Senate claims that mobile carriers have made hundreds of millions in profits through such cramming tactics. The report claims that carriers have been investigated by multiple state attorneys during the past six years after customers from those states complained in loud numbers about fraud charges.

Stop AlphavilleHerald

In fact, the report notes that the problem has been “widespread and has likely cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“There is now overwhelming evidence that these statements were just not true—cramming on wireless phones has been widespread and has caused consumers substantial harm,” Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat said in a statement. - NetworkWorld

Although the report notes that the wireless industry has recognized that customers were being victimized, the carriers also continue to blame the third-party services that handed over billions of dollars to them.

“The wireless industry was on notice at least as early as 2008 about significant wireless cramming concerns and problems with third-party vendor marketing tactics, yet carriers’ anti-cramming policies and sometimes lax oversight left wide gaps in consumer protection.” - Senate Report, NetworkWorld

This report comes just weeks after the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against T-Mobile accusing the carrier of making millions of dollars on third-party billing while ignoring many customer complaints.


Source: NetworkWorld;

AT&T on target to shutdown 2G network by the end of 2016

Posted by wicked July - 31 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Screenshot 2014-07-31 07.24.45 Source url

Two years ago, AT&T announced it would shutdown its 2G network by the end of 2016. Now, Mobeen Khan, AT&T’s executive director of M2M product management, is stating that AT&T is meeting their shutdown targets as it works to move 2G customers onto their 3G and 4G networks.

AT&T plans to refarm spectrum from its 2G network and give it to their 3G and 4G networks, thereby providing faster speeds and more capacity to those 3G and 4G users.

Although a majority of AT&T’s customers will move over to AT&T’s newer networks with recent purchases of HSPA and LTE enabled smartphones, AT&T is still working on those customers with 2G GSM phones who have not purchased 3G and 4G enabled phones.

Screenshot 2014-07-31 07.22.48 ATT.com

The biggest issue for AT&T with this shutdown comes from their 17 million machine-to-machine customers, who often keep the same equipment in place for a decade or more.

Last year, Sprint inked a deal with module provider u-blox to be Sprint’s preferred module provider for its 2G CDMA network, which was seen as a direct move towards taking away a number of those M2M customers.


Source: FierceWireless, DSLReports;

AT&T adds wireless customer data to TV ad targeting platform

Posted by wicked July - 31 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

att_adworks_4cp_grd_pos-1024x582

AT&T has announced that they will use mobile subscriber information to help advertisers better target TV ads. AT&T said the data will come from not just their mobile customers but from its AT&T U-verse subscribers.

AT&T says the data will be anonymous and the mobile subscriber information will include:

  • What wireless device the customer is using,
  • What operating system the customer is using,
  • How large a data plan the customer has, and
  • When the customers contract expires.

AT&T claims that giving this mobile subscriber data will allow marketers and advertisers the ability to specifically target ads toward tech consumers. AT&T did say that customers can opt out of the advertising sharing program.

In the summer of 2013, AT&T said that they “may” begin selling anonymous information about its customers’ wireless and Wi-Fi locations, U-verse usage, website browsing, mobile application usage and “other information” to other businesses.

Recently, AT&T’s announced that wireless service revenue had decreased 1.4 percent in the second quarter.


Source: FierceWireless;

U.S. Senate reports that companies are cramming customer bills with obscene charges

Posted by wicked July - 30 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

U.S._Mobile_Carriers_322

A new study conducted by the United States Senate Commerce Committee found that owners of mobile phones have been wrongly overcharged with bills. This is from cramming, which is the application of unauthorized charges masked by services such as ringtones. The report published by Congress shows that carriers in the United States are keeping roughly 30-40% of revenue. And the carriers are not even the ones doing the actual cramming. In many cases, it is a third party running these services. This is all at the literal expense of customers.

As of late, the government has been shutting down companies doing so. Earlier this month, six companies totaling more than $100 million in unauthorized charges were taken down by the government. Even T-Mobile has been accused of doing so and the FTC handed them a complain; however, John Legere clarified that the carrier no longer applied those charges and started to refund customers. Other carriers have remained quiet on the matter, but with the hearing on Wednesday to showcase the report, the topic of cramming is sure to get everyone talking.

Source: Reuters

Come comment on this article: U.S. Senate reports that companies are cramming customer bills with obscene charges

Beats Music v1.2.0 Update Adds Verified Badges, Sentence History, and More

Posted by Kellex July - 28 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Beats Music (anyone using it?) received an update today with four new features that the Beats crew said you asked for. The goodies include a Tune Your Taste options for switching up the “Just For You” recommendations. Sentence History has also been added, so that you can view your most recently played songs from The Sentence. Finally, Beats Music now has verified badges (to show how “legit” someone is) and improvements to the app that should fix a bunch of bugs.

The update is live, so go grab it. 

  • Tune Your Taste — Want to switch up your Just For You recommendations? Change your favorite genres and artists with the Tune Your Taste feature in Settings
  • Sentence History — View your most recently played songs from The Sentence
  • Verified Badges — That red check mark means the profile is certified as legit by Beats
  • Player Improvements — We fixed a ton of bugs causing the app to crash or stall

Play Link

Beats Music v1.2.0 Update Adds Verified Badges, Sentence History, and More is a post from: Droid Life

Last week, we featured a deal for an unlocked LG G3 that could be snagged on eBay for $500. We picked one up because international versions of phones not only seem to receive updates much quicker than their counterparts here in the States (a topic for another day), but this is the model of the G3 that features wireless charging out of the box, something US carriers (Verizon and AT&T in particular) removed so that they could make extra money off of customers like you and me with accessories that add features like this on.

Once the device arrived, I slapped it on the Qi wireless charger that never leaves my desk, just to test the functionality on a G3. Sure enough, it worked without hassle straight out of the box. I didn’t need to slap a new cover on or attach a case, it just charges as if the feature is built-in, which it is. While this should have brought immediate joy, it also brought on a substantial amount of anger even quicker. Why? Because carriers in the US have robbed us of features like this for years to help them make an extra buck or two. And while I’m fine with companies trying to get richer (I’m sure we all would do the same), the way they go about it frustrates the hell out of me. What I mean is that if you are going to dumb down my smart device, so that you can charge me for accessories to make it smarter, give me some damn choices. 

If you buy an LG G3 today from either Verizon or AT&T, you won’t be able to wirelessly charge it out of the box. Forget the fact that Verizon was one of the few carriers to include wireless charging in last year’s LG G2, they decided against it this year because LG created a $60 circle flip case that has wireless charging. So you are aware, the international G3 I picked up includes a standard back cover with built-in wireless charging. The size of the device is identical to those sold at Verizon and AT&T, yet it has this added functionality. In other words, when Verizon and AT&T told LG to make branded back covers for their G3 variants, they said, “Please take out the added wireless charging capabilities that you use on the international variant because we want to charge customers for this feature.”

lg g3 wireless charging1

And again, I get that they want to make money – they can certainly do that. But as of now, in order to add wireless charging functionality to either variant, you have to buy the $60 QuickCircle case (which is currently sold out at Verizon). You don’t have another option, outside of spending $40+ on a replacement back cover through overseas eBay stores that may or may not work properly with your phone. Neither Verizon nor AT&T sell a replacement back cover with wireless charging – they only sell the QuickCircle case. What if I don’t want a flip case? What if I just want a replacement back cover that adds in this functionality that should have been there from the beginning? I have zero options outside of going to eBay and praying for the best.

The problem is compounded by the fact that AT&T went with a completely different wireless charging standard than everyone else in the world uses. I already wrote about AT&T using PMA over Qi, but the basics are this – if you own an AT&T LG G3, good luck ever finding a wireless charging accessory outside of the $60 PMA-ready QuickCircle case sold through AT&T’s store. I doubt that LG has any plans to make a replacement PMA back cover, and the Qi covers you can find elsewhere won’t work. At least with the other variants, they are Qi-ready and should work with a replacement back, if you can find one.

I’m using the G3 as the example here, but in reality, this has been going on forever. We see it with Samsung phones all of the time. Even though Samsung has an accessory store that they often sell replacement wireless charging backs and cases through, carriers like Verizon pickup some of these accessories, but we see them sell out within seconds before most have even had a chance to buy them. So there we were with an option, yet are then optionless moments later. Clearly, people are interested in features like this. We are willing to spend the money. Why can’t carriers (and manufacturers) make this stuff available?

The point here is that the whole situation sucks for consumers. We have these brilliant smartphones, yet carriers in the US want to dumb them down in order to make an extra buck without really giving us enough solutions to make them smarter (or where the manufacturer intended). Companies like LG build-in features like wireless charging to their flagship phones. These phones are supposed to come with these features out of the box. Instead, US carriers take them away and then don’t provide us with a means to get them back. Do you want to make money or not, carriers?

Dear Carriers, If You are Going to Take Features From Phones to Make Money, Give Us Options to Get Them Back is a post from: Droid Life

LG G Vista officially confirmed for Verizon, AT&T

Posted by wicked July - 28 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

The LG G Vista – if the leaks were to be believed – was supposed to be a “mini” version of one of LG’s higher tier phones, and that’s what it’s actually turning out to be as the confirmations are streaming in. The new LG phone has now been semi-confirmed for Verizon and AT&T via internal product leaks. Let’s see what it looks like.

Verizon’s leak was in the form of an internal (or at least, unreleased) product description document that highlighted some of the product’s specs without going into much specifics. According to the document, the phone will have a pretty large screen at 5.7 inches, but people will be slightly disappointed with the declared qHD resolution (that is, 960 x 540 pixels). An unnamed 1.2GHz quad-core processor is also declared in the slide, and it will most likely be a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with an Adreno 305 GPU.

LG-G-Vista-leak

AT&T has also let out an internal user’s manual of what it calls the G Vista (see the source link). The specs are pretty much the same, but the Verizon version has been rumored to pack 1.5GB of RAM rather than the 1GB rumored for the AT&T version. There is a possibility that the companies could put out different models, but there is very little logic in doing that. Both have also confirmed the 3200mAh battery that the phone will come with, a very strong feature that will see users of the LG G Vista last the whole day without charging.

From the looks of it, Verizon and AT&T users may not have long to wait before this new LG mid-tier smartphone is unleashed upon them, with the sources pointing to a very near date in July 31, 2014 as the date of launch. The phone – while not really packing powerful specs – has LG’s innovative UI approach to bank on, and the G Vista is sure to have that rear-key design that’s found on LG’s premium phones, as well as multi-window capabilities for multitasking.

VIA: Pocket Now, My LG Phones

T-Mobile launches a promotion aimed directly at AT&T’s “Best Ever” plan

Posted by wicked July - 28 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

 

t-mobile_comparison_chart

In an angry open letter, T-Mobile CEO/resident rockstar John Legere had some choice words for AT&T. Bashing their “Best Ever” deal for being not the best, ever, he announced a promotion allowing a family of four to get 10GB of data (2.5 for each line) and unlimited talk and text for $100/month until the end of 2014 (when the data allotment drops to 1GB per line).

Along with the $60 monthly savings, Legere also notes that T-Mobile doesn’t charge for overages or international data usage, something AT&T cannot claim. Of course no John Legere statement would be complete without criticism of all three major carriers, so he was sure to include Sprint and Verizon in his comparison chart for good measure. All in all it sounds like a great deal, but is it good enough to persuade consumers to join the “Un-Carrier”? Let us know in the comments section what you think!

Source: T-Mobile

Come comment on this article: T-Mobile launches a promotion aimed directly at AT&T’s “Best Ever” plan

T-Mobile’s John Legere is just as sick of seeing AT&T ads for their “Best ever prices” family plan as you are. To try and directly compete with that plan, T-Mobile will launch their own best ever-like pricing, with a new family plan that runs just $100 per month for four lines, yet includes the same 10GB of data as the competitors, along with unlimited talk and text.

For comparison, T-Mobile put together a chart to show you how this new plan beats out not only AT&T, but also similar plans from Verizon and Sprint. Since the chart was created by T-Mo, you have to take it for what it is. However, it does show the major points here, like price, which is $60 lower and the 2.5GB of data per line, with no overages. T-Mobile is still giving away unlimited data and text in over 120 countries with this plan, plus they are letting you stream music from many of the top music services without it counting against your data. 

Keep in mind that the other carriers used shared data with their plans, so that full 10GB of data can be used however a family sees fit. For example, one person in your house could use 6GB of data, because they need to, while another less-data-hungry member may only need 1GB per month. With T-Mobile’s plan, each line is given 2.5GB of data, but if one of those family members wanted to use 6GB of data, they would be throttled after eclipsing the 2.5GB mark. So while these plans are somewhat comparable, they are indeed different.

But hey, pricing! Marketing speak! Shouting! In the end, it all depends on who has the best network coverage in your area, but can still give you a decent price.

This new plan is available starting July 30 through 2016.

tmobile 100 family

Via:  T-Mobile

T-Mobile Launches Own “Best Ever” Family Plan, 10GB of Data Plus Unlimited Talk/Text for $100 is a post from: Droid Life

LG’s G Vista coming to AT&T, according to leaked manual

Posted by wicked July - 27 - 2014 - Sunday Comments Off

LG Vista

According to a leaked AT&T manual, LG’s G Vista phone will be headed to the carrier, alongside Verizon.

In the picture above, which was taken from the manual, you can clearly see AT&T’s logo right on the back of the device.

AT&T’s variant (model number D631) will have a 5.7-inch display with 720p resolution, an 8MP rear shooter, and a 1.3MP front camera.

As far as internals go, it’s pretty much standard mid-range: A Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset with a 1.2 GHz quad-core Cortex A7 CPU, 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage with a microSD card slot. It’ll run on 4G LTE with a 3200 mAh battery, and will ship with Android 4.4 KitKat.

Vista1
Vista2

Source: MyLGPhones.com

 

Come comment on this article: LG’s G Vista coming to AT&T, according to leaked manual

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