Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why You Should Stay Away From SimpleMobile


I have switched to SimpleMobile, and wanted to share some thoughts, why I would have never done it, if I knew what I know now. I hope that this post will display to the community, what a bunch of stupid a-holes this SimpleMobile folks are, and hopefully prevent a few customers from making uninformed decision, that they would later on regret.

First, how I got sold on it. I used to be on PagePlus Talk n Text 1200 plan, which I consider is a great value for $30/month. The only problem I had with it was too little data. I often use my phone for all kinds of stuff, and I found it hard to stay within allocated 100 MB. One time I was attending an event, and there was no wifi. The fact that I had to save data was unsettling, and I decided it is time to shop for something else.

SimpleMobile with its $40 unlimited everything plan came in beautifully. Not only I could be doing all I was doing previously, but also listen to Pandora and even YouTube.

A month later I figured I should probably go even up a tier and for $10 more get a 4G plan.

What happened next

One day, at the end of billing month I started noticing that YouTube is lagging. At first, I discounted it to bad reception and/or being in a crowded space, where a lot of other handsets are competing for the bandwidth, but then I decided to measure the speed. To my great surprise, I saw download speeds matching exactly the times I have been on 3G:

Notice the graph in the lower left corner, it is flat. That's a pretty strong indication that bandwidth is throttled. In the natural situation you will never get such consistent bandwidth. Needless to say, I was unhappy. I called customer service and complained that my speed is throttled. A guy replied that no, it isn't, I am getting all I'm paying for, and 4G speeds are only available if I use blackberry anyway. He said, if you use phone as a wifi hotspot and "use Internet properly", they will not throttle. When I asked him to define what "properly" means, he couldn't tell, but indicated there is no warnings and such on my account, so I should be good.

I couldn't argue with such convincing arguments and decided to try measuring the speed later, and got the same 240 kbps speeds with same flat bandwidth graph, so I decided to write an email to support, hoping it would reach somebody who actually knows what he's talking about. Here's what I wrote:


My phone number is ***-***-****. I have switched to 4G plan 2 months ago, and was able to experience 4G speeds on my phone, which is: samsung galaxy S 4g.

I have a history of speed measurements in front of me and here are download speeds:

9/04/12: 2681 kbps
9/13/12: 1982 kbps
9/13/12: 1597 kbps
9/23/12: 2438 kbps
10/19/12: 3789 kbps

lately, I started getting EXACTLY 230-240 kbps, on every measurement. This is exactly the speed, that I was getting on 3G plan, before I switched to 4G.

Please, see the screenshot attached. Please see the graph for network speed. The top of it is completely flat. That tells me that the speed limit is not caused by a natural radio interference, which is always variable, but that it is rather limited artificially by you. Also, I do recognize the flat top pattern, which is consistent with the one I saw when I was on 3G plan.

I have contacted technical support. The support person made no sense to me. He stated that 4G speeds could only be achieved on blackberry. This is plain false. I could demonstrate you that I have been getting 4G speeds previously, and then they were turned off. Tech support person assured me that you have no policy of limiting speed to 3G after certain data transfer threshold was reached, which was a basis for my decision to switch to 4G plan. If you indeed have that policy behind the scenes, then it is fraudulent for you to advertise otherwise.

I am requesting thorough investigation, based on what my speed was limited, and I also request that you train support personnel to resolve such issues in meaningful manner, instead of providing obviously false information to customers, like we are stupid. If there are thresholds after which you are switching speeds to 3G, I request that you make that information public
I was surprised to get a call-back from a tech support a couple of hours later. He asked me what exactly is my phone, and what frequencies it supports. I googled "Samsung Galaxy 4G" for him and read all I could find. He was not happy with what I told him and said, that in order to get 4G speeds the phone must support "4G on 1700MHz", and that he is not convinced that my phone does support it. The fact that it is a T-Mobile 4G phone did not convince him either. So I played my joker. I said: "I have been able to get higher throughput on that phone on multiple occasions in the past, does that mean anything to you?". His answer was: "At first it was able to get 4G speeds because handsdet didn't KNOW it does not support 4G. But then SIM card recognized that phone is not 4G capable and slowed down to 3G speeds. We are having exactly same issues with iPhones". I felt like I am talking to deranged person, so I asked him to leave me a notice in email, so that I could do more research on it. Here's his note:
Thank you for your interest Simple Mobile. We are responding to your recent inquiry.
We were able to speak with you on October 28, 2012 (9:25 PM EST) at ***-***-****. You were informed that the reason that your data speed runs only with 3G is because your phone is not a supported handset for 4G speeds.
We understand that you were able to use the 4G speed these past few months. You were informed that this case is similar with our iPhone users. During activation, the network does not know the phone model the SIM card is inserted into. The network sends data throughput through multiple frequencies in order to determine the frequency the handset is running into. Once the network realizes that the handset does not work with 1700 MHz bands, it sends the appropriate data speed which is 2G.
It made no sense to me, but I asked for an advice anyway. In conjunction with this thread, it all started to make sense now. The plans were never unlimited. According to the data I got from Internet, both minutes and data are capped, and SimpleMobile would start throttling you once you reach data cap at 2 GB. What is even more preposterous, is that they will turn data off completely when you reach 2.5 GB. I could not find a reliable information on what the minute cap is. Looking at my usage, it is pretty plausible that the issues I started seeing happened right after I exceeded a 2000 threshold:

A few days later...

New billing cycle, and sure as hell, the 4G speeds came back:

I contacted support one more time, pointing out, that they lied to me, two times. After a few emails back and forth, they explained me, that apparently I have been told about the caps all along, because I accepted Terms and Conditions, which says:
It states in the Terms and Conditions, Section 25, Paragraph 2, “To provide a good experience for the majority of our customers and minimize capacity issues and degradation in network performance; we may take measures including temporarily reducing data throughput for a subset of customers who use a disproportionate amount of bandwidth.”
No admission on what the limits are. So, not only there is a cap, but they will not even tell you, how much is too much. So, you could be capped at any time, as they please. Very convenient for SimpleMobile, not so much for their customers.

Sue their ass?

That's the first thing that comes into my head. And I am not somebody who believes in judicial system at all. I'm just a pissed off person. Look at their web site front page:

No limits. I went through the whole web site and found not even a slight mentioning that limits apply. And it's not even about the limits. Indication is that they would actually disconnect data completely and you could get a surprise of being stuck without data when you need it most

And it's not all. Two calls with tech support. Both times I was given the most outrageous lies, that don't even make sense. I was treated like an idiot, that's what is most insulting in the whole story.

So, I look at the terms and conditions of service, and figure out that they came well prepared for pissed off customers. Here's what I am reading:

  • If a claim proceeds in court rather than through arbitration, WE EACH WAIVE ANY RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL. 

That pretty much precludes any customer of their to sue them for damages, as well as doing what is absolutely appropriate in this situation: class action lawsuit. Again, I repeat myself: as a damaged party, I do not expect to get a material satisfaction from this, courts can not provide this. I would be, however, satisfied if SimpleMobile comes clean on their caps, stops making claims that the service they provide is "unlimited talk, text and 4g high speed web", and prohibits their support personnel from making outrageous false statements. The latter irritates the heck out of me.


So if you are not convinced that SimpleMobile should be avoided, consider this: 2 GB data cap is not a lot of data. $40 or $50 a month for 2 GB is not such a good deal, especially when insulting your intelligence is added as a free bonus

There may also be a cap on the minutes and text, we do not know how high, but the problem here that it will be a surprise disconnect, they don't tell you how much is too much. If you got the phone plan for your teenager kid, hoping that he would be able to always call you, no matter how many minutes does (s)he spend, (s)he might not.

As an alternative, you might want to look at the following plans:

* T-Mobile Unlimited Web & Text with 100 Minutes Talk. First 5GB at up to 4G speeds.
* PagePlus Cellular The 55 plan. 2 GB of data.
* VirginMobile offers Beyond Talk plans for $35 and $45.
* Ting offers plan with variable spending, where you only pay for what you use.
* Republic Wireless offers $20/month unlimited everything plan, however phone selection is limited and you must use wifi when you are at home, which sounds like as fair deal.

I do not personally endorse any above-mentioned plans, and always do your research before ordering. If you skip on research, you might get a case of buyers remorse.

Like I did.