Apple Tablets

AT&T drops bombshell on America, makes Rogers and Bell iPad data plans seem like greatest deals ever

You should head on over to Engadget for all the details, but if you want the abridged version, here it is: AT&T is stopping the awesome $29.99 unlimited data iPad plan Steve Jobs heralded at the iPad unveiling and replacing it with a new $25 for 2GB of data package. Current subscribers get to keep the old plan, but everyone else gets the shaft. The move now makes Rogers and Bell, who offer 5GB of data for $35 in this country, seem like veritable deals.

The move, which comes just one month after the iPad 3G’s American launch, is being spun by AT&T as “making mobile internet affordable to more people.” This PR line is complete nonsense. Anyone who has been using an iPad knows that it eats up data, and this move pretty much acknowledges that AT&T completely underestimated iPad data consumption.

Let’s hope this shocking development at AT$T AT&T does not give Canada’s wireless CEOs any crazy ideas. By the way, my take on the iPad data plans offered by Bell, Rogers, & Telus is here.

Apple Tablets

Bell, Rogers, & Telus: Who has the best iPad data plan?

Telus finally got into the iPad 3G data game yesterday. I was initially intrigued, but in true Canadian fashion, Telus has found a way to make the plan brutal for consumers.

At first, it seemed as if Telus was shaking things up. 500MB for $20 is a much better deal than Rogers and Bell’s 250MB for $15, primarily because you can use up 250MB in a couple of hours of YouTube action on the iPad. But the devil is in the details. After you’ve used your 500MB with Telus, overage fees begin at five cents per megabyte. There is a cap as to how much you can pay, $50. When I heard this, I thought “This is a great deal, $50 for unlimited 3G internet in Canada,” but upon further inspection, you’ll find that  Telus caps usage at 5GB, giving it no advantage over Bell or Rogers.

Since it takes just another 600MB (1.1GB total) to reach $50, you’ll be at the Telus price cap very quickly. With Telus, you’ll reach $35 after only 800MB of total data. For the same $35, you’d get 5GB with Rogers or Bell. You’re paying $15 more than you would with Rogers or Bell for the same amount of data.

Surfing on the iPad is not at all like surfing on the iPhone. You’ll more often than not get the full version of websites, so browsing will eat into your data plans much quicker than they ever did on the iPhone. And because the iPad is so much faster than an iPhone, you’re loading more pages in the same amount of time.

Taking all of this into consideration, depending on what kind of user you are, you’ve got only one choice.

For people who won’t be using 3G often, and if you are good at keeping track of your data usage, Telus’ 500MB for $20 is a better deal than Rogers or Bell’s $15 offering. Telus says they will eventually come out with an iPad app to monitor your usage, so hang in there.

For heavy 3G data users, only the Bell and Rogers 5GB for $35 plans offer any value. Use 1.1GB of data with Telus and you’re at $50!

One other note: Telus charges a $35 activation fee, but gives you a month of free data. So you break even there.

Of course, if you’re a jailbroken iPhone, Android, or even Palm Pre phone owner, the best plan is to use a WiFi tethering app, like MyWi on jailbroken iPhones, to share your data plan between devices. And since you’re tethering over WiFi, there’s no need for you to buy the 3G version of the iPad, which costs $130 more. But if you like to be all legit, follow my advice above.

Customer Service

[UPDATED] Alert: Rogers confusing Montreal with Montebello, charging customers long distance

Rogers, meet Google Maps.

[UPDATE MAY 10, 2010: Just got off the phone with Rogers after receiving my new eBill, complete with another $20+ in fictitious long distance charges stemming from calls I apparently made in Montebello. I escalated the matter to management. I told them about the hits this blog is getting from people typing “Rogers Montreal Montebello” in Google as proof that this is a serious problem. They reimbursed the charges, again, but told me the issue has continued into the next billing cycle.

If this is happening to you, please post your comment below. I’m getting hits now on an almost daily basis from people with this issue.]

Just got off a 31-minute phone call with Rogers customer service after getting charged $22 for long distance phone calls. Apparently, there is a billing glitch where calls made in Montreal are being charged as if there were made in Montebello, Quebec, a quaint little town near the Ontario border 90 minutes from the big city. The only reason I found out about it is by looking through the detailed list of my calls after seeing my monthly charge was too high. Amazingly, some of my calls made throughout the month were being charged as if I made them from that wonderful town. Sometimes there was as little as four minutes between calls I made in Montreal and supposedly made in Montebello! See below:

Montreal to Montebello in four minutes. I don't drive that fast.

So if you notice your Rogers bill is too high, double-check every single charge, and make sure it isn’t continuing into the current billing cycle, as it did with me. Obviously, Rogers isn’t going around crediting people if they don’t take the time to call. On the positive side, at least they’re not Bell.


Samsung Omnia II: Full review

Where oh where do I begin? I’ve been wondering if I should let you know what I think of the Samsung Omnia II right off the bat or if I should slowly build my case over the course of this post. Since I can’t make up my mind, I’ll do both. In short, it is a very bad phone. Here’s why.


Finding decent HD options in Montreal not an easy task

Looking for simple pricing and easy to understand HD programming options from Canada’s Cable and Satellite providers? Good luck. After living the last few months with my all-u-can-download high-speed internet and a $20 antenna that picks up HD feeds of CBS, NBC and PBS from south of the border, I decided to take a look at my options for getting some more HDTV. Being in Montreal, my options are limited: Bell, Videotron, and Shaw Direct (née StarChoice), a company that seemingly doesn’t even advertise in Quebec anymore.

I really couldn’t care less about SD channels. Once you go HD, it hurts your eyes when you watch them. So I called all of my Montreal options up directly, and told them what I wanted: A package which gets me as much HD content as possible, at a reasonable price, and I couldn’t care less about SD channels. Here’s a rundown of what I was offered:

What’s amazing about Videotron is that despite going out of their way to serve English customers, (Their terrific english website lists a contact phone number that puts you through directly to an English-speaking customer service rep) they continue to provide the most paltry offering of English HD content possible. The wonderful CSR – who I won’t name so I don’t get her fired! – was very frank. She told me she gets tons of calls about this, that Videotron is trying to negotiate deals to provide more HD offerings, and that if I wanted HD programming, Videotron wasn’t the right choice for me – at least right now. Videotron offers just 35 HD channels, many of them French specialty channels whose programming consists mainly of upconverted SD crap and dubbed episodes of House. And since I spent the last three years with Videotron, I’ve seen first hand how slowly they’ve added HD channels. So I didn’t bother asking for pricing, it’s just not an option. I should also note that Videotron’s channel grid is a complete mess. Channels are ordered in a completely non-sensical manner, a holdover from Videotron’s traditional analog cable past. Videotron is certainly a great option for Quebeckers who don’t mind a limited HD selection and want to bundle services like internet and home phone – it’s just not the right choice for HD fanatics.

Moving on to the company that is somewhat under the radar, Shaw Direct. Shaw boasts that they have the nation’s largest selection of free HD channels, but costs do seem to add up quickly when trying to create a package. If you’re focused on getting as many HD channels as possible, you’ll need to pony up an extra $4.99 for the HD Extra pack, $2.99 for TSN and Rogers Sportsnet, and $3.99 to get RDS/RIS (read: Habs games). Add those extra costs to the seemingly decent $54.99 Digital Favourites package and you’re looking at over $75 after tax. Upgrade to a more expensive Platinum Choice plan and you’re going to spend a Robert Borden ($100) a month.

In their defence, Shaw allows you to add another satellite and receiver (for your country home, RV, or Florida winter pad) for a one-time fee of $99, doesn’t charge to suspend your subscription for up to six months, and requires no contract. I just wish they offered clearer, more concise options when it comes to HD programming.

Where do I start with Bell TV. I’ve told you about my experiences with the company. I’ve shown you detailed accounts from whistleblowers in the company that highlight all of their anti-consumer practices. So it goes without saying that it would take a lot to convince me to sign a service contract. Having said that, I still called Bell, just to see how they were screwing their customer this time what they were offering. It pains me to say it, but Bell offers the simplest HD plans, conveniently called HD Basic ($13), HD Essentials($49), HD Extra($70), and HD Max ($85). Be warned though, in typical Bell fashion, the company is raising monthly rates by $2-4 as of January 1st. As well, Bell wants to get you into a two-year contract, although if you’re willing to pay $99 for installation, you can avoid that.

Some other options to consider:

If you are lucky enough to be able to, get a good outdoor antenna and point it south towards Mount Mansfield in Vermont. You should be able to get CBS, NBC, PBS, and FOX this way in uncompressed high-definition. ABC’s signal is apparently not strong enough to reach us. American channels are now digital-only, so you’ll need an HDTV with an ATSC tuner to receive these signals. You can also buy a converter box from the U.S. and connect that to an old tube TV if you’re super keen.

VDN also offers cable service and HD channels, but it isn’t available in many areas of Montreal. They do good business in large apartments and condos, so head to their website and punch in your postal code to see if it’s available.

Oh, and what about Look TV, the company with the funny microwave antennas? They stopped providing service on November 15. As someone who had Look TV about a decade ago until I bought my first HDTV set just over three years ago, I kinda felt sad for about 12 seconds when I learned the news. Maybe if the company had invested in HD, it would have survived.

Customer Service iPhone

Is Bell screwing up your iPhone activation?

As I’ve pointed out here and here, Bell has certainly earned its reputation of having Canada’s worst customer service. The company seems to have decided it would be more profitable to deceive drain the life out of its customers rather than make them happy.

So when a friend bought a new iPhone through Bell yesterday, I had to laugh when he told me he had to wait 24 hours for activation. 24 hours came and passed today, and his iPhone is still not fully functional. He was given a temporary number, but told not to use it by customer service. Which kinda sorta defeats the purpose of giving out a temporary number, but I digress. A search on Twitter  just now revealed another new Bell iPhone user with the same problem:

Screen shot 2009-11-05 at 9.03.43 PM

I remember getting my original grey market iPhone in 2007, my iPhone 3G in 208, and my iPhone 3GS this year, all with Rogers, and being activated within 15 minutes. Is this 24 hour+ wait normal for Bell minions customers? Or is a hiccup caused by the switch to Bell’s new HSPA+ network? Come to think of it, when I got my first cell phone, a Qualcomm QCP 2760 with Bell in the late 90s, it took forever to activate it, but it was Christmas day.

If you’ve bought a Bell or Telus iPhone, let me know how it’s going, and if you also had to wait a day for activation.

Apple iPhone Smartphones

What a Bell & Telus iPhone means

If you believe what The Globe & Mail reported earlier this evening, the iPhone is finally headed to Canada’s other two big mobile providers. This comes after the companies worked around the clock and at great cost to launch their new iPhone-capable networks a year ahead of schedule. The urgency at which both Bell and Telus moved to make this possible offers some great insight into the state of the Canadian mobile phone industry. The most important things that this news highlights:


Palm Pre drops to $149 in Canada at Future Shop

Screen shot 2009-09-25 at 12.02.06 PM

Well, well, well. Didn’t I say this would happen? Coupled with Verizon’s rumoured shunning of the Pre in the U.S., things aren’t looking too good for Palm. I’ll go on record again and say it’s still too expensive, and should be sold for the same price as the iPhone 3G – $99.


Sprint kinda sorta drops Palm Pre price to $99, Bell to follow suit? (Updated – Sprint changes its mind)

Pre Pic Salesman

UPDATE: Sprint is now saying the $100 credit promo was a mistake. I call shenanigans. The Pre’s price will drop significantly. If not now, sometime soon.

Yesterday we heard the rumors that the Palm Pre would drop to $150 in the US, and today we find out that the Pre will actually go for just $99 after several credits. Sprint will credit new customers switching from another carrier $100 over three months. This indicates a few things:

Customer Service

Confessions of a Bell TV Customer Service Rep

Earlier this week I questioned whether Bell customer service is incompetent or just part of a bigger problem at the company. Well, just two day after that, looks like we have an answer. Head on over to to read some maddening yet unsurprising confessions from a Bell customer service rep who fears they will lose their job for not falling in line with Bell’s anti-consumer behavior. Further reasons to never ever ever enter a contract with Bell.