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Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

cellphone - All posts tagged cellphone

  • Aug 18, 2011
    4:43 PM ET

    Nickels & Dimes: AT&T Eliminates Cheap Texting Plans

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    New AT&T customers don’t need to worry about monitoring their number of texts to avoid overage — starting Sunday, an unlimited plan is effectively their only choice. That could add $120 a year to the bills of some consumers.

    Engadget reported late Wednesday that effective August 21, AT&T would “retire” its $10, 1,000-message plan for new subscribers. Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T, confirmed the changes to Pay Dirt. “It’s part of an ongoing review of plans,” he says. The change leaves users two options: pay a la carte at rates of 20 cents per text and 30 cents per picture or video message, or spend $20 per month on an unlimited messaging plan. (Consumers on a family plan can still pay $30 for unlimited messaging on up to five lines.)

  • Aug 3, 2011
    3:50 PM ET

    10 Threats to Your Cellphone’s Security

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    Apple and Google came under fire earlier this year for tracking cellphone users’ locations via their mobile operating systems. But as consumers use their phones for banking, shopping and more, there are even more malicious forces interested in that data and other information on your handset.

    Threats to your mobile phone’s security are becoming more prevalent, according to a report released Wednesday by mobile security company Lookout. In January, there were 80 Android apps infected with malicious software, according to their data. By June, there were more than 400. As many as 1 million Android owners were affected, they say.

    Here is a list of problems the group says you should look out for:

    Malware: Software that’s designed to be harmful. It can be configured to steal information from your phone, or give an attacker some control over the handset to, say, send spam text messages to everyone on your contact list. It’s often hidden in games and other apps, so download only from well-reviewed, trusted developers.

  • Jul 14, 2011
    1:28 PM ET

    How to Avoid Phone-Bill “Cramming” Charges

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    Spotting unauthorized charges on your landline and cellphone bills isn’t always easy, but the penalty for missing them can be substantial.

    Americans are paying more than $2 billion a year in unauthorized charges on their phone bills, an illegal practice called cramming, estimates a Senate Commerce Committee study released Wednesday. Charges can show up in the form of services you might legitimately use — long-distance fees, for example, or a downloaded ringtone — but what makes them cramming is that you haven’t actually used the service or otherwise authorized the charge. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission reports just 0.1% of consumers actually use the third-party services that they’re being billed for.

    So what’s making consumers pay up? Cramming isn’t easy to spot. Charges are often small, and listed simply as a “service charge” or the even more vague “other fees.” “We’re glad that the regulatory bodies are looking at this,” says Linda Sherry, a spokeswoman for Consumer-Action, a consumer advocacy group. “It’s completely bogus to bill people for things they didn’t ask for.” Phone bills are such a popular target because it’s relatively easy for an unscrupulous company to bill something to your phone, versus obtaining your credit card number, she says.

  • Jun 22, 2011
    12:55 PM ET

    Verizon Nixes Unlimited Data Plans

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    Verizon smartphone owners may need to be more cautious about how much they download and stream, as the carrier follows AT&T in phasing out its unlimited data plan.

    Starting July 7, consumers currently paying $30 for unlimited data must choose among three new options: a two gigabyte plan for $30, five gigabytes for $50, or 10 gigabytes for $80. Use more than your new plan allows, and you’ll pay an extra $10 per gigabyte.

    A Verizon spokeswoman declined to comment on the change, but analysts say it’s no surprise. Data usage increased 90% over the past year, according to a recent Nielsen report, and some of the heaviest users doubled their consumption. Tiered structures let carriers increase profit as consumers use more data, as well as fund network expansions to support that data use, says Mark Beccue, an analyst with ABI Research.

  • Jun 10, 2011
    10:55 AM ET

    Text Message Prices Could Drop; Teens’ Parents Rejoice

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    The TXT IM (text instant message) is replacing the TXT MSG (text message), which could spell savings for parents of texting teens and other heavy users but eventually lead to extra charges on your data plan.

    An article in the Wall Street Journal reports that carriers are facing a growing threat from free instant messaging programs like BlackBerry Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and Facebook that send messages over the Internet rather than through the carrier. Earlier this week, Apple announced it was creating a free instant messaging platform, too.

    Users are still texting away — they sent more than 1 trillion in the second half of 2010, according to CTIA, a wireless industry trade group — but the 8.7% increase over the previous six months was the smallest gain since texting first took off. Analysts say they expect texting to continue to drop off as smartphone sales grow and more users turn to these apps as a way to slim the voice and text portions of their cellphone bills.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.