Let me set the scene. I used to be a Pay as You Go user with O2. I’m not a heavy user of my phone, other than to use the data. I would top up £10 each month, and this would purchase my bolt-on so that I could call family for free, and leave me with a little left over. O2 would also throw in 500MB of data and 300 text messages. All good, or so I thought.
My change in job has meant that I spend a lot more time on my phone than before due to the commute. This in conjunction with not having wifi at work means that my data consumption has gone up.
I remember when O2 dropped their data packages down to 500MB, there was a lot of complaints, and I didn’t quite understand why. I do now. It got to the point where I would end up having to not have data as it was costing me too much, as I was forever going over the 500MB limit. The straw that broke the camels back was when I went over my limit and O2 started to charge me. They didn’t alert me to this until after they had charged me and their was nothing that I could do about it.
Of course, I complained via twitter (how else does anyone complain these days?) and I got this response:
@yeldon We do try to notify you when you're close to your limit. Sometimes data is used too fast for us to notify you first.— O2 in the UK (@O2) May 1, 2012
Seriously! That’s their response?! How quickly can you use data on your mobile phone? If I’m using data fast, maybe you should change your notification boundary, so that the notification gets sent with plenty of time. I don’t know what they are set to, but up it. Make it 10MB before the limit rather than 1MB.
Anyway, I looked around for a better deal, not wanting to go on to contract. Both mine and my wife‘s phone were bought direct from Apple and so are unlocked, so we could switch provider if needs be. I have friends who have been on GiffGaff for a while, and upon looking into it I can understand why.
GiffGaff, for those who don’t know, is a community run network, so doesn’t have the expensive overheads. It therefore passes its savings onto its customers. It also operates a simple pricing structure: 6p per text, 10p/min calls, 20p for 20MB per day, and GiffGaff to GiffGaff calls and text are free so long as you topped up in the last 3 months. Here is a comparison of costs: http://giffgaff.com/compare-pay-as-you-go-tariffs (in summary GiffGaff costs 50% of the competitors)
Rather than go fully PAYG, I decided to try out one of their Goodie Bags. The one I chose costs £10 (same as I was paying), gives me unlimited data, 250 minutes to anyone, and unlimited text. A much better deal as far as I am concerned.
The one stipulation from my wife was that she got to keep her number. This is where GiffGaff surpassed my expectations completely. After going through the hard sale from O2’s retention department, I had our PAC‘s in hand. Last time I moved network (a long time ago now), I had to wait a week for the number to change over. With GiffGaff, so long as you enter the PAC before 3pm they can do it the very next [working] day. Less than 24 hours of having the wrong number, big win!
So far, I am really pleased with GiffGaff, and don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon.
Anyway, enough of the hard sale, the point behind this post is that the mobile networks have been very clever to manoeuvre themselves into a position where mobile data is going to be a cash cow for them. I am not the first person to be stung by data limits, nor will I be the last. What I am fearful off it the rate at which people are going to get stung is going to increase.
With broadband speeds on the up, web developers have gotten lazy. Remember the good ol’ days when we had to listen to the gentle chirp of a 56k modem before we could surf. Before YouTube, and Facebook existed. Whilst Yahoo! was still a viable competitor for the search engine market and all of your friends had a Geocities site (OK, maybe that last one was just me). You had to keep your site small, or people wouldn’t visit it as it took too long to load.
It has just been announced that the average web page is now over 1MB in size. Whoa! This is seriously bad news for mobile users if you are on a capped tariff. The networks might as well be stood next to you emptying your pockets as you browse. Ok, so most sites offer mobile friendly versions, but some dont. Combine this with the larger size of images due to the retina display on modern i-devices, we are entering the perfect storm.
In my opinion, the networks should raise their baseline for the tariffs. Their argument is that their cap is high enough it wont effect most people, well, its about to. React now, or lose loyal customers like you did me. The lure of the unlimited data is going to become enough to pull people across.
If you want to switch to GiffGaff then click the banner in the footer of the site and I will get a referral, it would be much appreciated.