“All’s well that ends better” – J.R.R Tolkien
Wireless services and devices have come a long way since the days of the original DynaTAC and 1G network. Along the way both Cindy and I have racked up our fair share of experiences, ending in our best experience so far. How did we get there and will it work for you? Let’s start from the beginning!
My first experience with a cell phone was back when they were the size of cordless phones. It was the summer before freshman year of college, and I was driving alone to freshman orientation. My parents, of course, were worried about me driving 3 hours alone to a place I’ve never gone before. And they had every right to be worried– I have a terrible sense of direction. Every leg of the drive was mapped out (paper maps back then) and written out, but it was likely that I’d still get lost. My aunt recently bought this new contraption called a cell phone. It was about $0.35 a minute to use airtime. I borrowed it just in case something went wrong. I did end up getting lost. I frantically called 411 and some stranger managed to help me find my way to my college. If it wasn’t for that cell phone, I might have wandered through Central Illinois for hours.
Eventually, cell phones became more popular. My parents and I got on a family plan with a company called Cingular, which has it’s own confusing history and eventually becomes AT&T. I had a few dumb phones until the siren call of the iPhone beckoned to me.
I have to admit, I’m an Apple fangirl. Not too hardcore. I don’t wait in line for the next big launch. But I do appreciate Apple products and I like the consistency of using similar operating systems. When Anthony talked about switching to Ting, my big caveat was that they didn’t take iPhones yet. I’d have to give it up and switch to an Android phone [true at the time we joined but Ting does support iPhones now]. The Samsung S4 was getting a lot of buzz and positive reviews. Anthony did some research, crunched some numbers, and figured there was significant cost savings if we switched. So in the name of love I made the switch.
Sometimes I wish I grew up a kid in today’s time. I remember spending a lot of time as a kid waiting, specifically wondering where the heck my parents were to give me a ride home. Those moments would have been perfect to have a cell phone and at least know someone was coming [Don’t worry I was never abandoned and someone eventually did come get me every time].
Not until my freshman year in college did I get my first cell phone. It was the LG TP 5250, a flip phone with an external antenna running on Sprint. I remember it costing $99 after mail-in rebate when bought with a friend and a 2-year contract. I also recall the phone having pretty good call quality and a great battery life that lasted for days. No more wondering if someone was going to pick me up from the airport!
I used the LG phone through college and my first year of professional life. After a year on the job I was traveling a lot and “needed” email on the go. For those that weren’t in the professional world at this point, Blackberries were all the rage. Every flight I took would make some kind of joke around turning off all blueberries, strawberries, crackberries, and blackberries.
Dismissing the Blackberry as too work-focused, the phone I upgraded to was the Motorola Q. Finally a real keyboard. COLOR. Finally I felt like a true “professional” with a “smart”phone. At this time I also switched carriers to join my family on AT&T. A long story short, I didn’t enjoy using this phone very much and longed a bit for my old dumbphone. I stuck it out through the contract and by the end of it the phone was basically a pager.
After the Q my phone usage was very pared down. Around this time Android was really becoming a viable alternative to iOS and the open source nature of the platform appealed to me. Despite my last smartphone experience I was interested in dipping my toes onto the Android platform and went with the Droid Eris, which was one of the basic Android phone models, on Verizon. My thought process was that I only needed the basic functionality of the smartphone, mainly a reliable phone and occasional data usage.
In hindsight, the Droid Eris was a horrible choice and I learned a lesson that cheaper Android devices (at least in the early days) should be avoided. An example of the pains, I was using the GPS to drive to a new golf course and started to received a call. BOOM the phone froze. Now I’m forced to get off at the next exit, restart the phone, and then get back on track. Hardware-wise I had to get the phone replaced under warranty twice. After the warranty period ended the charging port broke. Instead of paying $60 to fix the port, I went with a separate battery and charger for about $25 and would switch/charge batteries nightly [having an extra battery was pretty handy]. Not to mention slow screen response, bad call quality, <sigh>..
When the Verizon contract ended I was again in search of a new phone…
Ting Mobile Review
Shortly after getting married, Cindy and I went into consolidation mode. Finances, furniture [hers], car [mine], etc. Included in that list was leaving the phone plans we had with our respective families. One of my friends was on Ting and recommended I look into it. My first reaction was it sounded too good to be true compared to traditional cell phone plans. However, digging in, it actually looked legit.
Ting is a wireless service provider launched in 2012 by Tucows and rides on Sprint’s Network (similar to Boost and Virgin). Trying to keep things simple, they have separate tiers for the number of devices, voice minutes, text messages, and data. Based on your usage, you are placed in a tier and you pay that tier’s rate. Ting also provides a grace amount so you’re not dinged for just barely crossing into the next tier.
If you have multiple devices on your account they share the same pool. For example if you have 4 users and each used 300 MB of data, then your data tier would be for the total data used across all users (1200 MB data in this case).
Doing some quick calculations showed that we’d save money for sure, potentially a lot of money. We decided that I should try it out first and then Cindy could join if we liked it. To keep this experiment cost-effective, the plan was to get a cheap phone off eBay to try the service [I only needed a pager right?].
The Phones and Setup
Ting offers new devices for purchase from their shop or the ability to bring most Sprint phones (called Bring-Your-Own-Device or BYOD). If you’re interested in bringing your own device you should check their site or talk to Support just to confirm it’s compatible.
For our test I bought a LG Optimus S on eBay for under $35 shipped. I went onto Ting’s site, entered in the ID of the phone, and was able to sign-up and activate the phone all online. I was pleasantly surprised at the overall flawless setup experience [As a programmer sometimes I’m skeptical when things work correctly the first time].
The Try-Ting-Experiment lasted a few months and went well so we both decided to take the plunge with new devices.
Since Ting doesn’t put you on a contract they don’t subsidize the cost of the phone. If you buy a new phone through them you are paying the full price of the phone. Cindy ended up getting the Samsung Galaxy S4 ($651.13) and I got the Samsung Galaxy S2 ($274.22) [Yep, I was behind the technological curve but couldn’t justify the cost at that time based on my usage].
It didn’t take long to get the phones and Cindy was able to get hers activated onto my account without an issue. However with mine we ran into an issue since I had to deactivate my existing phone (LG) and active the new phone (Samsung). At the time I could deactivate online but couldn’t transfer a number online. Without knowing this I went ahead and deactivated my old phone and excitedly tried to activate my new phone and failed miserably. It being a Saturday, Ting didn’t offer weekend phone support. Admittedly I was a bit disappointed. As a Hail Mary, I sent them an email asking if they’d be able to do anything. Surprisingly, they responded within an hour, and I was using my phone that night!
If you skipped over our wireless journey you might not know what our phone usage pattern is.
Cindy is on her phone constantly–playing games, social networking, taking pictures, navigating, or actually talking to people. Aside from when she is doing real work (presentations, writing documents), her phone is her primary device.
I’m pretty much the opposite. My most used devices are laptops and tablets. My phone is used primarily for a phone, texts, and social alerts [Again, possibly hammered home by my early ineffective experiences with smartphones]. At work I keep the phone around and when I get an alert I normally just check it on my laptop. Consuming content and typing is so much easier for me on the laptop with a full keyboard and larger screen. That said, in recent days I’ve being using much more of the “smart” in the phone and have actually been thinking a phablet phone might be perfect to use during my commute on the train. [I’ll make a power-user out of myself yet!]
So based on our usage Ting was perfect. I had access to all my needs and wasn’t over-charged for things I’d never take full advantage of.
Ting has a very nice dashboard which shows current usage. You can drill-down by user or category.
Service and Coverage
The question we get asked the most is “How does Ting perform?”. The short answer is, “It’s Sprint”. (1/4: Ting just announced in early 2015 they will also be supporting GSM devices, most likely on the T-Mobile network. This means you have the choice of networks based on what would work best for you! We’ll keep this updated as we learn more)
Coverage inside of our home has been spotty. Literally half a block away and the signal is great. Comparing the various providers inside our home, Verizon was the best by a large margin, followed by Sprint, and then AT&T. However this is largely offset by the fact that at home we’re on Wi-Fi for data, and utilize VoIP or Google Hangouts for phone calls at home. So really the only time it affects us is if someone actually calls us.
Looking at Sprint and Verizon’s online coverage map it is a fairly accurate representation. Our home lives in a pocket of “Average” coverage for Sprint but full coverage for Verizon.
While commuting on the train (6 miles from north Chicago to downtown), data connection goes from 4G to 3G here and there but is stable enough that I’m not left wanting. Similarly while Cindy is riding shotgun service is consistent and we can usually get uninterrupted GPS directions or streaming podcasts.
While we’re out and about the service works well. With no WiFi during a recent conference in St. Louis, I was able to use my phone’s tethering to get work done without a hitch. Overall, for Chicago, I’d rate it slightly below Verizon but better than AT&T. In the end check each network’s coverage map to see if you’ll have issues before you make the switch.
Support and Warranty
Ting’s customer support has been fantastic each time I’ve had to use it. No more wading through a robo-menu. US-based support and friendly people to boot. They pick up the phone so fast that it always startles me.
Aside from the activation issue, we’ve used customer support a couple of instances:
- On the LG Optimus, I had an issue receiving SMS messages and they were able to walk me through the steps to get it resolved on the phone.
- For my Samsung Galaxy S2, the menu soft-key kept activating on its own, making the phone impossible to use. I was able to exchange the phone with Ting’s warranty. I haven’t had any issues since the exchange.
There have been a few times I’ve called just to ask questions and they’ve been friendly and helpful each time. You really get the sense they love working there and helping customers out. Our experience with customer support has been incredibly positive compared to other companies, such as AT&T.
For a lot of people, including us, we like to look at the numbers before making a decision. For our case we had two different scenarios.
The first was when I was on Ting alone. Since I wasn’t on Ting for a full 2 years, this comparison does make assumptions that I would have continued at the same usage rates and that I would have continued to use the LG Optimus. Over a 2-year period the estimated savings for this scenario would be around $790. The further the same phone is used beyond the 2-year period the gap would widen.
The second scenario was when Cindy and I combined onto 1 account. In this scenario the initial costs were much higher on Ting but around the 9th month it evened out and by the 10th month we were saving money. By the end of a 2-year period we saved around $960. Since we’ve been on Ting over 2 years this is a real-data comparison. For our eagle-eyed readers Month 2 doesn’t have a cost increase because A) we were out of the country for most of the month on our honeymoon and didn’t use our phones B) the small amount we did use was offset by a new customer credit for Cindy.
To help people do these types of calculations and see if it makes financial sense for them Ting offers a a Savings Calculator on their site.
For our needs Ting has been awesome. We can’t imagine being on a contract again and love the flexibility of the tiered plan. It truly works best for our usage and we’d highly recommend them if you’re looking for a new provider and it makes financial sense to switch. Our plan is to stick with our current phones as long as we can and will get new phones through Ting when we’re ready to upgrade.
- Tiered plan gives you no surprises. Gives you the power to throttle your usage to prevent going to the next tier.
- Fantastic customer support.
- No contract or early termination fees.
- Easy to use dashboard to see current usage and limit usage.
- Ability to bring your own devices.
- Most people will save a substantial amount of money on Ting.
- Doesn’t have the best selection of new phones, but you always have the ability to bring your own device.
- To be able to use some of the latest devices you may need to jump through some hoops. Ting’s forum is pretty active with support and other customers trying to help each other.
- Rides on the Sprint network so need to make sure Sprint works well for your area and places you frequent.
Save $25 on your device or bill!
By signing up with Ting through any of our referral links you’ll be able to save $25 off your first device, or $25 off your first month’s bill!
Disclosure: We’re using referral links to Ting which provides anyone who signs up a discount and also a small discount for us. This doesn’t influence our review. We wouldn’t be customers for over 2 years if we didn’t love Ting and didn’t think it was something others should try as well.