Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why I Love/Hate Verizon Prepaid

My final Verizon 2-year contract is coming to an end in August – a $50/mo 5GB mobile jetpack data plan on Verizon’s fast and widespread 4G LTE network.  It’s been a fairly flexible plan and data speeds have been good too.  But, now that Millenicom is my primary internet provider (reselling me 20GB of Verizon 4G data/month), I don’t always need a full 5GB of additional data from Verizon directly.   It sure would be nice to just buy whatever amount of excess bandwidth I might need without having to buy a minimum of $50 worth.

Fortunately, as of July 17th, Verizon now has a solution – their Prepaid division now offers 4G LTE for not only phone calls & text, but hotspot-shareable 4G LTE data as well!

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I had been thinking about getting a new unlocked International 4G LTE phone to replace my aging iPhone 4S, but was still not compelled to replace it until Verizon Prepaid offered a deal I could not refuse—50% off select LTE smartphones!   A new unlocked LG G2 for only $299 was too good a deal to pass up (especially when I can recover half that cost by trading in my iPhone via Amazon Trade-In, or selling it on Craigslist)!

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The new LG G2 phone (on the left) has a 5.2” full HD resolution display (compared to the non-HD 3.5” display on the iPhone 4S), and runs on Android rather than iOS.  I had already been getting familiar with Android from the Nexus 7 tablet I’d been using since last Winter, and while there were a couple of lesser-used iOS-only apps I missed, for the most part, Android is a very capable mobile platform with nearly all of the same major apps as iOS.

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I’ve been a Verizon customer for decades, and have always known one thing—to do any data work while on a phone call, you need 2 separate devices (and 2 plans).  Well, I’m not sure if it’s these newer Android global phones or Verizon’s recent LTE network improvements (VoLTE), but here in Chicago, I’m now able to use the single LG G2 phone to do simultaneous voice and data work!  Not only that, but the LG can be running as a mobile hotspot and letting me surf the web from my laptop while still sending/receiving calls on the phone itself.  Yeah!!! Finally!!!  

It would seem this new LG G2 can really do it all—phone, mobile hotspot, a perfectly-sized GPS device, and still light and small enough to hold in one hand and fit comfortably in my pocket.  Best of all, since it’s unlocked, it can not only run on a Verizon SIM, but a SIM card from ATT, T-Mobile, or most any carrier in Mexico, Canada, Europe, and beyond!

So, why run it on a Verizon Prepaid plan?

Well, for now, it’s the best plan going for my needs—broadest data network by far, unlimited calls & text for $45/mo with 1GB of data included (500MB base + 500MB bonus when enrolled in Auto-Pay).   While WalMart’s StraightTalk service (reselling AT&T) offers more base data (3GB) for the same price, there’s currently a major drawback: no hotspot sharing!

Verizon Prepaid not only allows mobile hotspot sharing, but it also has a great way to buy extra 4G LTE data as you need it with their Bridge Data program.   It’s an ad-hoc data plan that lets you buy as much (or as little) additional data as you need.  Best of all, if you buy 1GB or more, Bridge data does not expire until 90 days from the date of purchase.

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So, as good as my old 5G contract plan was, this Bridge Data plan is even better—now for only $40, I can get 6GB of LTE data that’s good for up to 90 days!

But all this goodness has come with some significant bumps in the road. 

Compared to regular “postpaid” contract Verizon, their Prepaid division is exceedingly clumsy to deal with.  The automated attendant from hell, mentioned in my earlier post, is still there in all her glory (I now have the shortcut numbers 2-4-6-4 pasted to my desktop to avoid listening to the barrage of prompts!).

When I went to look at the LG in-person last week at a local Verizon store, even though they had the phone in stock, they were unable to sell me the Prepaid division’s $299 deal.  It’s currently only available online.  Ok, fine. 

But, after easily ordering it online that evening, my order “went south” the next day when it was randomly selected to be held up for Credit Auditing.  When I called to resolve it, the guy in the auditing group did not have access to Prepaid’s internet orders, and it took a solid hour of on-hold merry-go-rounds with various teams to solve it.   The next day, when I failed to see a shipping notice show up in email, I called back to discover the original order was still “stuck” and beyond help, so another 30 minutes and a nice guy finally decided to just take down all my information again verbally to process a new order!

The final fiasco of hoops to jump through occurs if you’re already an existing Prepaid customer.  When you buy a new phone, there is no way to link it up to your existing Prepaid phone number or MyVerizon account during the purchasing process.  You must wait until you get the phone, and call Customer Service back (yes, that 2-4-6-4 dance again!) to have them change it.

Fortunately, the reps have all been very friendly, and it’s only taken 2 full hours of their time to process one simple new phone order for this existing Prepaid customer, but man, does management seem to have their heads stuck in the sand with some of these archaic policies!

Thankfully, now I have a phone with legs!  If another carrier ever comes out with a better program or better network, I can simply pop their SIM card in and be on my way!   Let the phone carrier wars now REALLY begin!

 

UPDATE 8/1 = If you’re a Verizon Prepaid customer and go to buy Bridge Data online, here’s a tip for how to do it the right way (I’ve now done it wrong a couple of times and had to call Customer Service!):

Buying Data is a 2-part process.  Either step can be done first, but both need to be completed before your new data becomes available on your phone:

  • Add Funds = Add the dollar amount for the Bridge Data package you wish to purchase (i.e. $20 if you wish to buy the 3GB pack) and click the “Add Funds” button.
  • Add Desired Data Package = Click the “Shop Data Package” button to select which Bridge Data package you’d like to buy.

Once both are completed, Power Off & Restart Your Phone for the phone to recognize the new data above.

When you’re down to your last 100MB of data, you’ll get a text message alert.  Trouble is, this might get used up in a minute or two of web browsing if your laptop is using the data via Mobile Hotspot sharing.  So, if you’re using an Android phone, go to the Mobile Data settings and create an alert there for yourself that will warn you sooner.  Then, you’ll still have time to get to the website to buy another data pack before the data runs out! (yes, you can buy it via automated phone too, but I prefer to not deal with that if I can avoid it!).

4 comments:

  1. Holy button pusher!! Sure am glad you’re out there running interference for some of us on this whole phone issue. I only recently, and a little reluctantly, gave up my flip phone for a smart phone, in part because of your writings about various apps, especially the AllStays app. Still feeling my way with it but just got back from a 5000 mile trip where I left my Trailer Life Campground Guide behind (Actually in the trash since it fell apart) and relied exclusively on AllStays.

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    1. Love that Allstays app (and love the fact that it's developer, Adam, drives a Sprinter-based Winnie View too!). Glad you're enjoying it and leaving the paper behind!

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    2. Ha, we in Mexico have few of those electronic gadgets and rely on maps, little cell phones that we buy minutes for. I doubt I could ever naviagate what this whole post is written about........whatever it is! ha.

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  2. I’m cheating and using a normal looking Sprinter converted by Sportsmobile. At one point on the trip I saw a Winnie View with Tracker in tow in a campground in North Dakota and for a moment thought I hit pay-dirt, until I remembered that you had just posted from Chicago and Suzanne from Washington state. . .

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