Friday, May 10, 2013

Update on My Comparison of the Various Big Cell Phone Providers Because Why Not

Well, T-Mobile herp-derped their way out of us being their customers by deciding today that we'd have to pay hundreds of dollars in security deposits (which we didn't have to pay for yesterday) for anything that we did.  So, that's out now too.  I guess we stick with Verizon.  Blech.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Comparison of the Various Big Cell Phone Providers Because Why Not

Just in case anyone else is about to go through the hassle of comparing the various big cell providers in the US anytime soon, I figured I'd toss my observations up about doing just that, since I just did it, and maybe others can get some use out of what I learned.

The Setup

We currently have Verizon Wireless, four phones, none smartphones.  I don't work so I'm almost always near my PC, the wife wants a smartphone but isn't sure what she'd do with it, and the other two don't care one way or the other.  The plan into which we're grandfathered on Verizon has fit us just fine up until now, when the step-daughter's phone disintegrated in her hands and is now held together by tape.  So, we figured we'd either switch, or renew our two year contract with Verizon to get yet another dumbphone.  The latter option was an option, but I wanted to see if we could maybe get better phones by going elsewhere.  We had been with Verizon for around 7 years, and the only major problem we had was where they charged us for things we didn't order over the interwebs, like Joke-A-Day type stuff, but those problems were corrected after much angry yelling at supervisors on my part.  

However, before signing another two year contract just to get one functional phone, I wanted to see what was out there.  

I did all of my pricing online only.  What I priced was 4 smartphones with the lowest amount of data possible (since we'll be using WI-FI most of the time anyway), and this is how it worked out.

By the way, I have little faith in any of these quotes being able to be duplicated exactly, and with "taxes, service fees, and other charges", as the carriers like to say, nothing is set in stone until you get a bill in the mail, anyway.  So take the actual quotes with a grain of salt, and use them for comparison within this post only.  Your results will almost certainly vary.  


These people are on drugs, I think, and not the good, soothing kinds.  I just wanted to get them out of the way first, because, to make a long story short, their prices are insane and their coverage is terrible.  They even charge an additional $10 per line, on top of their already noncompetitive prices, just to have a smartphone, even though they're the only ones of this group that barely even has a 4G LTE network.  I'm not talking about the price of the data plan itself, either.  That's a separate charge.  Of course, on their "dare to compare" chart where they compare to other carriers, they don't mention that additional fee.  Derp.  Their website also sucks, and is more convoluted than anyone else, save ATT.  I have no idea why anyone would use Sprint.  Even their phone selection is subpar. 

Quote - around $260/month (I think, was honestly hard to tell for sure, but they wanted ALL the information to do a credit check and give me an actual monthly total, so I stopped there because they were already hideously expensive compared to everyone else.)


Of course I compared to what would happen if we were to just switch internally.  The prices were high, but not as high as Sprint.  Their $40 per line and then add a data plan to share is nice and simple, so their site is probably the best to deal with.  They were not the cheapest, but they do have a better network than everyone else.  The only one that comes close is ATT, but I hear far more complaints about ATT's service than Verizon.  Verizon's new $30 "upgrade fee" is a bit irritating, considering starting new accounts with everyone but Sprint saw the activation fees waived.  So I have to pay for the upgrade, and pay for upgrading, even when I'm signing a new contract?  Not a smooth move, Verizon.  Sort of like an effective "fuck you for being a customer," which I thought was ATT's specialty.  Back in my day, Verizon gave us free upgrades every two years without charging us a penny.  Then again, we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to get the phones out of the mailbox, probably.  


All of that said, I probably would stick with Verizon if not for the fact that we hardly ever leave Austin anymore, and their nice, works pretty much everywhere network, just isn't worth paying extra, especially considering the cost of upgrading to phones that are any better than what we already have.  

Quote - around $220/month


ATT seemed to fall right between Verizon and Sprint in price.  However, I'm not terribly sure, because I couldn't get their site to actually work correctly.  I had to use the IM a customer service rep tool, which worked great, and she was actually very good at explaining the silliness of the site.  In short, the site is as dumb as it seems to be, and every time it forces you to choose a more expensive option, that's because you actually do have to pick that option, and the other one is not available on purpose, despite the fact that it's already selected, you just can't "add to cart".  Will that last sentence make sense to anyone that hasn't tried to use the site?  Probably not.  Sorry.

What really got me was that when you select the 1GB family share data plan for the first line, the additional lines also had to have a $40+ data plan each.  Huh?  How is that a family share data plan, then?  What are we sharing, exactly?  

Their talk and text comes up as "free", though, so the end result isn't as astronomically expensive as you might would think.  However, I still see no reason to go through ATT instead of Verizon since, by most accounts, Verizon has a better network and slightly lower prices, and their plans are certainly easier to understand.  Verizon, unlike ATT, also doesn't have that pesky reputation of being evil incarnate when it comes to how they deal with their customers.  

Quote - around $230/month


Future chaos notwithstanding, T-Mobile is who we are going to go with.  Their prices are lower than all the others, their site was the second easiest to actually get a quote from (behind Verizon), and their network appears to be pretty decent, though I have heard that the reality isn't quite so sunny.  Since we hardly ever leave the city anymore, though, and it should work well enough on major highways, I figure the network issues won't really affect us much.  They did do something pretty weird, and that was flat out deny the fourth line unless we put down a $250 deposit in addition to paying $150 per phone up front.  The $150 per phone is because our credit isn't great, I get that.  But that additional $250 deposit on a so called non-contract when we're already paying $150 up front per phone seemed really weird.  We never did get a really good explanation for it, except that, apparently, unless you have a 850+ credit score (really?) you'll always have to pay the $250 deposit for the fourth line.  Three lines is cool.   Four lines is big deposit time.  Two supervisors and three customer service reps couldn't give any better explanation.

Now, because they were by far the cheapest, T-Mobile is also the only one that we did a credit check with. With Verizon, we already have good standing through them, so I'm sure there wouldn't be anything crazy about upgrading all four phones at once.  With Sprint and ATT, I didn't even get to the point of checking credit.  Maybe they would also require a huge down payment on the phones, or some sort of deposit, or maybe arbitrarily deny the fourth line unless you paid a deposit on it specifically.  I have no idea.   

So, what we're going to do is just go with three lines, and the other person that we were letting do an addon phone will have to look elsewhere.  Reason being, even comparing apples to apples, 4 lines to 4 lines, T-Mobile is almost exactly the same for four smartphones than what we're paying to Verizon for four regular phones.  And T-Mobile is waving the activation fees while Verizon is charging an upgrade fee.  So, really, the decision for us is pretty clear.  

I'm putting two quotes for T-Mobile since, instead of getting a contract, you pay for your phones in installments.  We have to pay $150 down on each phone because crap credit, but if you didn't, you'd just be paying more per month.  The end cost comes out the same.  

Quote - around $180 to $205/month (for four phones, which you probably can't get, but still, there you go)


Cricket wouldn't work for us because we can't afford to buy all the smartphones outright.  Virgin USA has have crap for coverage in Texas, so I didn't look any further than their coverage map.  Net-10 requires you have your own smartphones, which we do not.

I think that's it.

If you have anything to add, feel free to say something in the comments.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you got some useful info out of the time I spent fighting various websites!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The only true believers of any religion are probably in mental hospitals, or crazy praying homeless bums.

There's something I've always wondered about, when it comes to Christianity, as well as any other religion that believes in the heaven/hell paradigm:

Why aren't there more completely batshit crazy, out of their minds, unable to function or even form coherent thoughts, religious people out there?

Stay with me, this will make sense.

As an agnostic atheist, I feel that any human morality comes from an innate understanding of what is and what is not wrong.  An inherent feeling of what is good and what is bad.  And there is also the knowledge that there is a whole lot of gray area, and that, if you aren't sure, but you're not hurting anyone, you're probably not doing anything wrong.

Most religions seem to capitalize on those built-in feelings by either defining them in some sort of "commandment", or using that understanding to illustrate some sort of story.  For the most part, though, any sane human being can read any of those things and come to the conclusion that they already knew whatever lesson was being taught.

For instance, I don't think many people look at Christianity's 10 commandments and think "So I shouldn't screw my neighbor's wife?  Oh, that's news to me!"

Or "Stealing other people's stuff is a dbag move!?  I HAD NO IDEA!  I guess Bob read this, too, and that's why he's upset that I stole his lawn furniture!"

The whole of most modern religions boils down to "Don't be an asshole, and worship (insert deity here) like this."

But, again, we already knew that.  We learn that pretty early on because we understand the concept of consequences.  Golden Rule type stuff which, by the way, as a concept, predates religion entirely.  We just figure that out when we're very young and we carry it forward throughout life.  Don't smack people because getting smacked sucks.  Don't steal shit because getting shit stolen sucks.

By the time anyone can read a cereal box (let alone a holy book of any religion), they know those simple rules of living with others.  Do they always follow them?  Not necessarily, but they have an idea that they should.

Now, let's also assume that there is no such thing as karma, either the Westernized version or one of the original religious versions (which, combined, create a wide spectrum of beliefs that may or may not be similar to each other).  I think, when it comes down to reality, most people tend to discard the concept of karma, anyway, because the entire idea, just by existing, would become so convoluted as to not be useful at all.

For instance, you murder a child.  You asshole.  Oh, wait, that child was the next Hitler?  Well, then, that makes you a great person.  You wonderful child murderer.

See what I mean?  Is it intent, or effect that matters?  And does ignorance play a part?  If you kill Hitler version 2.0 on purpose, but he was about to murder the guy who would create the weapon that destroys the entire planet, does that knock some of the positive points off of your accomplishment?  And whose deity gets to decide,. or by what rules are those points tallied?

It's inevitable that whatever route you take, it's going to be wrong, so the reality is, most of us (religious or not) just do what seems like the best idea at the time and hope for a good outcome.  We assume that, if something bad comes of our actions, the Cosmic Karma Keeper won't penalize us because, hey, we didn't know.

We just invoke the whole karma thing when we think we've done something good, or we think someone else has done something bad.

I just fed a stray dog, maybe I'll get a raise tomorrow!  

That asshole swerving around while talking on his cellphone, oh he's getting his...SOMEDAY.  

So now, for most religious people, we have distilled things down to heaven/hell, or some variation thereof.  You either did something that sends you to hell, or you didn't, which ends in you going to heaven.

Now, in the Christian religion (and others, I would assume), there is also the forgiveness concept.  The idea that, in essence, you can ask for forgiveness for just about anything, and if you really really mean it, you're still not hellbound.

But that doesn't really change much, does it?   I mean, for minor things, sure, but not for things like mass killings or rapings or setting orphanages on fire or whatever.  If you really were sorry for doing it, you probably wouldn't have done it in the first place, and you're surely not going to do it again.  Yet most violent criminals continue being violent until caught.  So, yeah, forgiveness doesn't really apply to them.

Take the violence out, and people still don't really feel sorry for their misdeeds.  What person really feels bad for going five over?  Well, that's breaking the law of the land, isn't it?  And isn't that something you're not supposed to do?  It's so minor, it's not hurting anyone...right?

Do you even ask for forgiveness each and every time you do anything that might be against the rules?  Without some sort of massive thought reading device, we can't tell for sure, but I'd bet good money that there isn't a single religious person alive that hasn't forgotten to ask for forgiveness for doing something they weren't supposed to do, even if it's just one thing.  However, I'd bet that, with most people, it's more like one thing a month, or week, or day.

So here's where the insanity comes in.  Every single religious relative of every single person who has repeatedly broken at least one of whatever rules or commandments that will send a soul to hell, or its equivalent, should be absolutely convinced that their dead relative is in a place of eternal damnation and torture.  And let's be there anyone that wouldn't be in hell?  Anyone at all?  Christianity is one of the more forgiving religions, and I'm fairly certain that there's not a man alive who hasn't been slothful and wasn't in the least bit sorry about it.  Or coveted another woman with absolutely zero remorse.

Let's not even go into what almost every religion says what a woman can and cannot do.

Essentially, every religious person should truly believe that any dead relatives are in hell, and that heaven is basically empty.  They should also be assuming that, within 80 years or so, they will also be enduring eternal torture, and that they've already consigned themselves to it.  That is not something that, if a person really truly  believed, they would be able to continue operating as a normal human being.  It would consume them.  They would be able to think of nothing else, and they would lose their minds.  Each minute of each hour of each day, they would know that their loved ones were being tortured.  You don't just ignore something like that and keep on going.  Life would not go on.

We would have people dedicating their lives to somehow praying their grandfathers out of hell for thinking Harriet across the street had sexy legs, or their grandmothers out of hell for thinking and, well, talking out of turn.  Or cutting their hair.

The only alternative would be believing that forgiveness is truly a get out of hell free card.  Which means that religious morality is, by extension, a complete and total lack of any morality, because you can do whatever you want and then just ask for forgiveness, without meaning it in the slightest.  Any commandments or rules would just become lists of things for which to ask for forgiveness.  They would not define, nor lead to morality.  In fact, such a belief system defies the built-in human morality that we all already have, religious or not.  It negates it.  If we all truly believed in forgiveness of sins, we would all be savages, taking whatever we want, doing whatever we want, destroying whatever got in our way, and just praying for about 15 minutes afterward.

"Uh, God, please forgive me for...Tuesday.  And Monday.  Did I pray on Sunday?  Let's throw Sunday in there, just in case.  Also, 2012.  All of it."

Now, I know that has been addressed before, the whole lack of morality behind forgiveness, but I hadn't really considered the fact that the other side, the ones who didn't believe you could simply ask for forgiveness, would therefore be forced to conclude that any dead loved ones were being tortured eternally.

Yet, when you think about it, it's obvious that no one (or at least very few) truly believes either way.

Very few spend their lives mourning their dead ancestors' never-ending torment.  Most grieve, move on, sometimes think about the dead, they miss them, but after a while, they stop obsessing.

Very few spend their lives terrified of the fact that most religions, their own included, have already decided that they're going to hell themselves.

And very few go around murdering and stealing, immediately dropping to their knees and asking for forgiveness, and thinking that they then have nothing to worry about.

All three of the above would be considered crazy people by even the most devoutly religious.  A person wouldn't be able to exist in any of those ways, at least not in a way that society considers normal at all.  Yet, what other option would a true believer have?