Hello! And welcome to our Friday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at RCRWireless.com to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!
And without further ado:
This week, AT&T Mobility joined fellow wireless behemoth Verizon Wireless in announcing plans to offer customers the “choice” to pool data resources into one plan that is shared across multiple devices. I “highlight” the word “choice” because only AT&T Mobility is providing this “choice” for new customers, while Verizon Wireless is mandating it.
While this would appear to be a simplification of what some might see as confusing wireless data pricing that is currently being offered, I see these plans as just another layer of complexity that will further ruffle the already ruffled feathers of consumers.
My basis for this claim is that these shared data allotments are based on the “byte” system that includes those hallowed favorites, kilobyte, megabyte and the increasingly popular gigabyte. For those lacking the required education to not know what a “byte” is, well, I can’t really explain it to you because I also lack that required education.
I believe it has something to do with the size of something that is transmitted by wireless networks, but since all of that transmitted stuff lacks weight or any visual recognition, I am mostly just guessing. I also believe it has something to do with the metric system, which as we all learned in grade school was made up just to confuse American kids and make everyone else in the world appear smarter. I don’t care what people say, the only real way to measure anything is by using random numbers in no apparent order and various measurements of horses.
Now, back to the “byte” dilemma.
You see, in this country, consumers that purchase wireless devices are often at the mercy of their fellow citizens that work in retail establishments to explain the intricacies of wireless services in English, because people with those qualities obviously don’t work at wireless carriers. Unfortunately, many of the people entrusted with that nerd-to-English translation job often get a few of the details confused themselves, resulting in mass confusion and the growth of “kitten-in-Kleenex-box” videos posted to YouTube.
I believe carriers are somewhat aware of this issue, though not of the video posting issue, as they have tried for years to “educate” consumers in the way of the “byte.” This has been done by forcing capped data plans down the throat of consumers, which has resulted in a vocal minority of those that understand “bytes” to clog the Internet with complaints, while the other 99% of us lacking that knowledge go about living our regular lives outside of mom’s basement.
For example: Verizon Wireless is kind enough on its website to provide a thorough tutorial that allows customers to “estimate” their potential data usage so that they can then select the correct data plan to share amongst their various devices. This tutorial includes questions like:
–About how many text-only e-mails do you send/receive?
–How many Web pages do you visit?
–How many minutes do you spend streaming and downloading music files?
–How many minutes do you spend streaming videos?
–How many photos do you upload and download?
–How many minutes do you use turn-by-turn navigation?
Seriously?!? I am somehow supposed to know any of this information while at the same time trying to live my life? Why not just ask how many breathes I take? How many steps I take? How many times I blink? Did I leave the oven on? These are at least things that I should be monitoring as opposed to trying to keep track of the number of “text-only e-mails” I send and receive.
Then, in a move I can only guess is designed to further brain matter oozing from one’s ears, Verizon Wireless tries to add some more context to our data uses by noting that an:
–E-mail (text only) = 10 Kb
–Web access (Internet and Intranet) = 400 Kb
–Audio streaming = 60 Mb/hour
–Audio track download (3 ½-minutes at 192 kbps) = 7 Mb
–3G video streaming = 250 Mb/hour
–3G Verizon Video and NFL Mobile streaming = 125 Mb/hour
–4G video streaming = 350 Mb/hour
–Digital photo download/upload (hi-res) = 3 Mb
–Navigation turn-by-turn directions = 5 MB/hour
Well, that makes everything clearer. Plus, I now know what my first tattoo will be.
Does anyone really expect any of this to make any sense to anyone? Anyone? Here are just some random questions that popped into my mind after reading this list:
–What the hell is a text only e-mail? If there is some sort of graphic anywhere in that e-mail is it no longer text only?
–There’s a difference between the Internet and Intranet? How does Skynet fit into all of this?
–So what’s the damage if I download a 192-minute audio track at 3.5 kbps?
–That 3G video streaming seems like a pretty good deal compared with 4G? Why the hell is everyone talking about how awesome 4G is?
–And a kilobyte is … ?
–Did I leave the oven on?
The kicker of all kickers is that at the bottom of the page Verizon Wireless provides a math equation, which are always crowd pleasers:
1 MB = 1,024 Kb
1 GB = 1,024 Mb
And now I am cross-eyed.
(Wait, I thought all “kilos,” “megas” and “gigas” somehow all had a base number of 10 or something? What is with this “24” at the end of these? See, if we measured with horses this would all be so much easier.)
The beauty of this mini-SAT test is that customers get to do this for each device they have on a plan. Where do I sign up? Oh yeah. Down at the store where some teenager is going to try to explain all this to me while at the same time he is texting how lame his job is and posting pictures of his lame job to Instagram. Sweet.
I know somewhere, someone thought that basing all things data related on the “byte” system made sense in the same way that basing all measurements off the number 10 made sense, but they were wrong.
The only way the “byte” measurement system will actually make sense to the masses is if those nerds that came up with the system would instead focus those nerd-ly efforts on constructing a time machine, using said time machine to go back in time, oh I don’t know, maybe 2,000 years, and introducing the concept of the “byte” to our ancestors. My guess is that with those then 2,000 years in which to soak in, those of us today may understand what a “byte” is. And then the current mess that has become of wireless rate plans would make sense.
Then again, if we had those time traveling machines, would we really need wireless communications?
Until that time traveling thing happens, let me just say on behalf of the 99% of consumers out there with no interest in “bytes,” “byte me!”
OK, enough of that.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Worst of the Week column. And now for some extras:
–All the recent talk of Samsung’s Galaxy S III smartphone got me thinking that the industry is heading down a dead end when it comes to naming devices. Is there not a worse name than the Samsung Galaxy S III? And is it supposed to be written “III” or “3”?
I know there is some history in the industry of coming up with a brand name and then just sticking a higher number at the end of that name to signify that it’s a “better” version of the lower numbered version. But, to me that only makes sense with “things” that are software. For hardware, device makers need to look to the auto industry and just put years before the device.
What says I have a better version of Samsung’s Galaxy S device then by me being able to say I have a 2012 model that will make your 2011 version look like a piece of crap?
–Not that I am paranoid, but I wonder how this would look on the outside of my house?
–A fine analysis on Research In Motion’s current dilemma, and perhaps whether less ego might have saved the company from its current predicament.
–And finally, proof that immaturity is not just the domain of Will Ferrell movies. A British court is requiring that Apple run advertisements that state Samsung did not copy its iPad when it designed the Galaxy Tab devices. That’s right Apple, now go in front of the class and tell everyone you are sorry for saying “Johnny” copied off your test.
That’ll teach ‘em.
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