Is It Time to get rid of your Limited Cell Phone Data Plan?

These days it has become extremely difficult to find a Cell Phone company that is not offering an unlimited data plan. Each plan is loaded with all kinds of caveats. For example, Verizon guarantees full-speed 4G LTE for the first 22GB of data each billing period. T-Mobile offers free text and data to its customers who travel in certain international countries. With all this happening around us, why then would anyone still have a limited data plan?
If you are thinking about looking into an unlimited plan, here are two links that can get you started:
https://gizmodo.com/which-unlimited-data-plan-is-the-best-1792476535
https://www.whistleout.com/CellPhones/Guides/The-Best-Unlimited-Data-Plans-Around
If you happen to be one of what I call “Legacy” customers who still has limited data plan, the folks at CNET.com have come up with seven ideas that can help some (especially) IPhone users reduce their data usage.
First, recognize the data consuming apps on your phone and restrict use when not needed.
1. Restrict iTunes and App Store downloads
You can prevent iTunes and the App Store from downloading music, movies, apps, and so on when you are away from a Wi-Fi signal. To do so, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store and toggle off Use Cellular Data. Tap this to prevent iTunes from using your cellular data for automatic downloads.
2. Disable background app refresh. IOS apps can update in the background, grabbing new content as they sit idle so they can show you the latest news when you return to them. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh in order to turn this setting off completely. You can also go the a la carte route from the list and choose which apps update in the background. Pick and choose the apps that may use data in the background of your phone, or turn them all off.
3. Find out which apps are using the most data
Go to Settings > Cellular and you can see how much data you’ve used in the current billing period and below that you’ll see a list of your apps. Under each app’s name is the amount of data it has used for the current billing period. You can toggle off any app that you think is eating more than its fair share.
4. Disable Wi-Fi Assist, This may be eating more cellular data than you would like
Wi-Fi Assist is a great feature where your iPhone hands off a weak Wi-Fi signal to your cellular network to prevent pages from loading slowly (or not at all) as it clings to the last remnants of a Wi-Fi signal. If you sit on the edge of a Wi-Fi network at work, say, then your cellular network may be assisting more than you’d like and running up data charges.
5. Download music, don’t stream
Streaming music or podcasts for long stretches when you are away from Wi-Fi can quickly add to your data usage. Most music and podcast apps (like Spotify, and Apple Music) let you restrict streaming to Wi-Fi only, which will then force you into the habit of downloading playlists or podcasts before playing them instead of streaming them over cellular data. Let’s look at Apple Music and Apple’s Podcasts apps as examples.
For Apple Music, go to Settings > Music. In the Streaming & Downloads section, you’ll see two settings if the first one is enabled. The first, Use Cellular Data, lets you disable streaming via a cellular connection entirely. If that’s too drastic a measure for you, then you can leave that setting enabled and turn off High Quality on Cellular to stream songs at a lower bitrate when you aren’t on Wi-Fi.
For the Podcasts app, go to Settings > Podcasts and turn off Cellular Data. You can also enable “Only -Download on Wi-Fi” to prevent podcast downloads from adding to your data usage.
6. Fetch mail less frequently
Check to see how frequently your email account is set to fetch new mail — the less frequently it fetches mail, the less data (and battery) you’ll use. Go to Settings > Mail > Accounts > Fetch New Data. First, make sure Push is turned off if you want to save data and don’t need new emails pushed to you constantly. Next, see what the schedule is for Fetch at the bottom of the screen. If you choose manually, then the Mail app will check for new email only when you open the app. Changing your Fetch schedule will not only save data, it may also save your phone’s battery life.
7. Use Safari’s Reading List
You can queue up articles while you’re using Wi-Fi to read later when you’re on a cellular connection or out of range completely. When you add a page to Safari’s Reading List, Safari downloads it for offline viewing. To add an article to the Reading List, tap the Share button at the center of the bottom navigation bar and then tap Add to Reading List. If you use iCloud, then it will share your Reading List with your other iOS devices, but you can stop it from sharing via a cellular connection by going to Settings > Safari and scrolling down to the bottom and toggling off Use Cellular Data for the Reading List feature.
Let me add an eight way to save data – become really familiar with the services offered (free) by Facebook, Google and other up-starters in the tech industry. They own apps like Messenger, Imo, WhatsApp, etc. that can help save on your phone bill. Also, note that most at home internet/cable providers i.e. Verizon and Xfinity now offer hotspots with free unlimited connections to their customers at locations away from home.

New Smart Phones: Why is the Excitement Gone?

Only a few years ago many of us (yes, I did it once) lined up outside the front door of an Apple store waiting for an opportunity to purchase the latest Apple smart phone. Although Samsung phones were not released with the same fanfare, android enthusiasts could hardly wait to get their hands on the latest version of the Samsung Galaxy. Today the “noise” has quieted a bit, and there are hardly any lines at the Apple store. In fact, I barely remember the release date of the IPhone 7 and people are simply not talking about these devices anymore.
Why are people not talking anymore, probably because there is very little for one to get excited about today regarding the new smart Phones? Quartz – a digitally native news outlet, established 2012, for business people functioning in the new technology driven global economy provided the chart below comparing the latest version of smart phones with the best mobile technology.

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Smart Phone Comparison Chart

The point here is that mobile technology has become so advanced, and there is so much packed into each model (low end to high end), that what you purchase hardly make a difference anymore. Thus the Apple IPhone 7 looks and feel like an Apple IPhone 6 or 6S. Steve Jobs – the innovator is long gone and now all the other manufacturers are catching up. Whereas Apple might have the best camera, the average consumer hardly notice this because most smart phones now have decent, functional camera technology that makes differentiation extremely difficult.
One of the more common complaints I have heard regarding smart phones is the storage capacity. According to Quartz, the manufactures have heard this complaint loud and clear, thus this is one area where we will see significant improvements over the next few generations of smart phones.  Apple has already taken the first step to increase the storage capacity of the IPhone 7 to as much as 128GB. We might also begin to see more options to off load data to some kind of Cloud services.
It is rumored that Apple plans to release three new smart phones later this year to mark the tenth anniversary of the launch of their first smart phone in 2007. According to the Wall Street Journal (d/d 2/28/17), these will include a 7S, a 7S plus and a high end device with flexible display that include a light-emitting diode (OLED) curve screen. This screen supposed to provide brighter, more vivid colors than liquid-crystal (LCD) displays. Although this screen is being produced by Samsung, Apple will have exclusivity on this model for some time. It will be somewhat different from the OLED model now used for Samsung phones.
It is being reported also, that on the new IPhones, Apple will replace the lightening charging ports with a new USB –C port – thus standardizing the IPhone with other smart phones. According to the WSJ article, the home button will be gone – replaced by touch-sensitive areas on the phone and a “function area”. Apple will also add wireless charging capability to this high end model. Most important, it is rumored that this model will retail for $1,000.00.
Well, what does a $1,000 phone looks like and what will it do? If it is just another high end phone – good luck to Apple. However, if it is what I think it is – a lifestyle device – for the generation who does not now own a TV set or a table top radio; does not read the newspaper; prefers to watch the Super Bowl at a sports bar rather than watching it at home, and do not care for most of the technology that the 40 and 50 plus generation among us are still excited about, then it is a really good idea. I can hardly wait to see this piece of technology. Financial analysts are projecting that the release of this device will be huge in countries like China – increasing Apple stocks from present average of $140/share to a record – in the $160s.
The bottom line is this; most smart phones are really similar in design, operating system, and capabilities these days. Some of the newer models have trimmed back the number of proprietary apps and features. Others like Samsung are trying to differentiate itself with virtual reality, 360-degree photography (who cares about this?) while Google is using its virtual “Assistant”—a supercharged version of the Android’s voice assistant.  Apple’s IPhone 7 tries to stand out by offering options most people will never use – like dual-camera. Samsung recently unveiled an updated version of the Galaxy S7 (called the S8 – with the new  infinity screen), to try to make up for the market share they lost last year as a result of their exploding devices.

COMING TO A DASHBOARD NEAR YOU: The Connected Car

When you walk into an auto dealer’s showroom in 2017 you will have get use to hearing several new terms and references as applied to your car audio. Among the new terms will be the new word audiotainment.  Audiotainment focuses on making media available, discoverable, and easy to use in vehicles in ways that are consistent with what consumers are doing in other areas of their lives. When you purchase a new car in the fall of 2017, the old model of radio with two knobs, six or twelve presets and a CD player is about to be a relic of the past – replaced by an explosion of audio sources, channels and options. Already some auto dealers are hiring tech-savvy high school seniors (@$11 or $12/hr) to work as apprentices to their sales persons – just to explain the dashboard to buyers. The new dashboard will perform most of the tasks that can be done on a smart phone.
The device will allow for personalize interactions with the driver. This may include geo-targeting, instantaneous driver response and user-control time-shifting of content. The technology will enable location-based advertising, on-demand traffic and weather, on-demand digital streaming, provide opportunities for song rating, tagging and on-spot voting in addition to  immediate response to coupon offering.
The new technology (via WIFI, 4G or LTE) will also enable broadcasters to leverage data from driver interaction with social and digital media while on the move. Thus completely transforming the way radio sales people sell drive-time audience to advertisers. In essence, what we have is a fully connected dashboard computer that transforms new cars into a mobile commercial and content platform. This essentially gives the potential advertisers (or underwriters – in the case of public media) access to driving and listening data, while simultaneously providing insurance companies with access to motor vehicle data such as instantaneous speed. This will certainly impact the traditional advertising model which is currently based mostly on ratings and reach data – providing options for direct-to-consumer offerings.
Introduction to this technology dates back as far as 2007 when Ford Motors introduced SYNC in some of their high-end vehicles. This technology allowed the driver to use voice control for telephone calls and music access. It also introduced us to the SYNC AppLink. Today this technology has been integrated with that of smart-phones which together forms the backbone for Connected Vehicle.
connected-car-dashboard
AppLink include applications (apps) that provide AAA member services, expenses report tracking and the ability to search for local entertainment. When SYNC is integrated with Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto, drivers have access to maps, messaging, phone, music, smart option to lock/unlocked doors and the ability to check fuel level form both dashboard and smart devices.
Ford’s latest version of SYNC is Sync 3 and they expect it to be integrated with either CarPlay or Android Auto in most of their 2017 auto models – starting with the Ford Escape. They project that 43 million vehicles will be equipped with this technology by 2020.
In addition to the technologies described above, recently an electronic firm – Nav Tool, based in New York announced that they have developed an interface that enable Smartphone mirroring for older automobiles with navigation screen. Go to navetool.com for details.
The major players in this new arena (developers of the operating system) are the same companies that created the platforms for our cell phones – Google (android auto systems) and Apple (CarPlay). Linux provides the operating system for the new Tesla Model S – an electric car and are in negations to do the same for some European models. This has caused some level of discomfort among some radio stations owners and radio networks operators, because in addition to owning the technology, Google and Apple are also expanding their offerings in the content business. However, others (myself included) believe irrespective of who owns the platforms, channels or operating system, consumers will have more choices and they have always chosen the content that they can use and that are most relevant to their day-to-lives.
In all of history there has always been trepidation regarding introduction of new technology. The Connected Vehicle is just the latest – so let’s bring on the technology, make it easy to use and may the best content win.