'Yap & tap' is cheap

This is the second in a series of articles about mobile phones and plans.

With the propagation of “always connected” (to the internet, aka the cloud) devices such as smartphones, talk and text (“yap & tap”) plans have become cheap. Still, you may notice that your monthly bill is higher. Why?

“Tapping” on your smartphone is more than just texting. Smartphones require mobile data to be always connected. A handful of MVNOs (resellers of mobile service) like Tracfone are still metering talk and text but most have moved to the new business model of selling mobile data plans while offering unmetered talk/text (i.e. unlimited).

With smartphones you subscribe to monthly mobile data allotment. The differing levels depend on how much you think you’ll be doing things like sending/receiving emails, using Google Maps as your GPS while on the move, checking the weather, reading your Facebook page, streaming movies/music, and countless other benefits that digital literacy empowers you to do. Anything other than using the smartphone’s native dialer or messaging app uses mobile data.

Mobile data and Wi-Fi are two methods to connect your smartphone to the internet. If you can wait to check your email or Facebook page until you get to a private (secure Wi-Fi at home/office) or a public Wi-Fi, you may be able to save the monthly mobile data allotment and use it when you need it: like when using Google Maps in your car for navigation.

It goes without saying that my “Internet Street Smarts” tip says that you shouldn’t be doing confidential things, such as paying for online shopping or accessing your bank account, while on “public” Wi-Fi unless you are using a VPN (virtual private network) service.

If you use a lot of mobile data while away from available Wi-Fi, or you are not budget strapped, you can select the unlimited mobile data plan offering. Note that the word “unlimited” is not truly limitless like how the dictionary definition is written, but instead it has a very high ceiling (“cap” in industry lingo). I should say, rather sarcastically, that it doesn’t hurt to read the fine print even though not many people will hit that ceiling. Yes, there is an app for that – the magnifying glass app – LOL!

The next installment of this series will focus on how to go about picking a carrier. Again, it’s all about your use case, current ... or intended. I only include the latter because I fortunately see the students in our class for seniors using their smartphones more after discovering digital literacy!

CORRECTION: In the last issue, this sentence: “... technical reasons beyond the scope of this column make LTE half baked until they evolve some more" came out-of-context when edited. LTE as a communications standard for mobile data is evolving nicely. However, until voice communications are also standardized around LTE (the geeky term is “VoLTE”) in both GSM and CDMA networks, repurposing smartphones bought while receiving service from a GSM carrier is a hit or miss when moving to a CDMA-based carrier (and vice versa).

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 10, Issue 19, Posted 9:49 AM, 10.02.2018