At first sight they appear to be a wonderful option. They offer unlimited data plans with pricing tiers based upon the speed they can offer. I recently had my data suspended due to using too much data. The plan that I recently experienced my issues with is shown below.
This plan includes the following for $40:
Unlimited Phone Calls (Local & Long Distance)
Unlimited Texting (Domestic and International)
Unlimited Internet with first 250MB at up to 4G Speeds* (The 250 MB of 4G Data was added during my use of the service)
Direct Dial 411 Info
International Long Distance Options
Their fine print on the 4G Data (that allotment was added during my use of the service, that’s the only change that was made to it) warns that your phone must be HSPA+ compatible and that the 4G service is only available in certain locations.
That’s understandable, you can only use the service where it’s available. Their plan is very generous for only $40 and it does not include in data overages since the data is unlimited. Somehow I used too much and I’m going to go into detail about the entirely confusing issue with that now.
That first message appeared on November 12 at 2:46 PM, all times are Eastern.
I contacted Simple via their support email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. The initial message was just a flat, auto-reply that was vague on the violation. I assumed it to be tethering since it would be very easy to believe that I’m tethering. I use a Motorola Photon 4G Android phone that I very often dock into a Lapdock accessory.
The lapdock accessory allows for the internals of the phone to power the empty Netbook shell that is essentially just an 11″ screen, keyboard, touchpad and two usb 2.0 ports. Before I modified my phone earlier this week (again), it would launch into an environment called Ubuntop – a modified version of Webtop that is essentially a full version of Ubuntu. All being powered by the dualcore Tegra 2 chip in my phone that runs at 1.4 Ghz with 1 GB of ram and 48 GB’s (16 internal, 32 via SD card) of storage.
Since my phone actually is the machine it isn’t tethering. I’m not sharing my internet connection with another device, I’m merely using my device in a different form. The only difference between my set-up and running Ubuntu natively on my device while connecting it to a tv and keyboard is that my setup is portable.
I asked Simple Mobile about my particular use case before signing up for service, they refused to give me an answer until 3 months after signing up. They refused to comment on my use case, would only post their tethering policy until after my data was disconnected for a different reason.
“Your data is in jeopardy of being temporarily suspended due to unusually high or burdensome use upon our network. This is in compliance with our terms and conditions which you have automatically have agreed to upon activation, some reasons for being suspend are tethering, constant streaming and heavy content downloading. These actions can lead to capacity level issues and network degradation; please follow the link below to read the terms and conditions:
I literally laughed out loud at this moment. Want to know why? Take a look at the picture below, it shows my data usage up to November 14. Note that this isn’t a measurement from my end, it’s Simple’s measurement from their end as given via their account manager on their site.
That’s right, on day 26 of a 30 day plan I had used only 2.6 GB’s of data. Every 1,024 MB’s equal 1 GB. That means that I used 2 GB’s and 603 MB’s of data over 26 days. The daily average would have been 101.96 MB’s a day. To place that in perspective, 1 minute of 480p Youtube footage would consume 10 MB’s. Every minute of Google Play Music streaming would consume 2.4 MB’s, meaning that if the average song is 4 minutes in length I’ll consume 9.6 MB’s of data. That means that I used too much data with usage habits that are equivalent to watching 10 minutes of Youtube everyday or listening to half an albums worth of music.
Maybe I’m wrong here, let’s take a closer look at their statement.
[excerpt]”Your data is in jeopardy of being temporarily suspended due to unusually high or burdensome use upon our network.[/excerpt]
They have that clause there because data on the network that they use must comply with whatever rules T-Mobile gave them. Why would T-Mobile matter in this situation? Simple Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), an entity that doesn’t own its’ own cellular towers so it leases use of T-Mobiles to provide service. The upside to using an MVNO is that their plans can often be more aggressive in pricing and offer very consumer friendly business models. The downside to MVNO’s are that you usually have no roaming capabilities because your service is solely limited to one of the Big 4 Network providers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile). That means that you’ll lose service when you’re in an area that one of those providers do not have direct coverage in.
So maybe I blew through all 2.6 GB’s of data with their blazing fast 4g?! Nope. Remember, my phone is a Motorola Photon 4G. It uses a quadband modem that operates on the following frequencies and Networks: WiMAX 2.5 GHz, CDMA 800/1900 MHz (EV-DO Rev. A), GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS/WCDMA 850/1900/2100 MHz (HSPA+ at 14.4 Mbit/s).
T-Mobile uses 1700 MHz/2100 MHz UMTS AWS and 1900 Mhz GSM. Specifically let’s look at what Simple Mobile offers – 1700 Mhz AWS (for both 3G and 4G). My phone can’t use 1700 Mhz AWS, in fact I’m always on 2G EDGE Speeds because of this. Below is an excerpt from Simple Mobile’s FAQ.
Phones with 1700 AWS band work on our 3G network. This includes many of the most popular phones available.
I knowingly selected Simple knowing that I would be receiving slow service. M previous carrier was Sprint, their 3G service maxed out at 1.5 Mbps in my area with most speeds at home and in transit ranging from 20 Kbps to 120 Kbps. Sprint’s lovely price was $79.99 a month plus tax, Simple looked like a great option since most of my data is used for reading, email, syncing social apps and posting to this website. Want to know what their EDGE speeds are like? Look Below!
This is what I receive while I’m at home when the connection hasn’t disappeared:
This is the norm for bus riding:
As you can see, I’m essentially dealing with mobile dial-up service willingly. My data usage is between 2-4 GB’s a month which rules out Straight Talk since they drop people for using more than 2 GB’s of data in a month. The fastest speed that I’ve ever used on their service was a 262 Kbps connection. My phone has in the most recent weeks detected 3G and HSPA+ 4G networks (which makes me believe that T-Mobile is expanding coverage in the area on another band) but I can’t use it since Simple can’t offer it to me. Whenever my phone picks it up I lose all data service. I’ll return to this point later.
Simple Mobile is upset that I used 2.6 GB’s of data at a rate that is double that of dial-up speed on a plan that gives me 3G service while I’m technically restricted to 2G service. I fail to see how I could have possibly impacted their network negatively. Oooh, I’m sucking up data too slowly, my slowness and small amount of traffic is making me a customer that should be negligible on their network. My fault for using data too slowly and choosing to use Simple.
My plan has unlimited data but somehow I’ve crossed some limit that has never once been made obvious to me. In much of my communication with the company I never once received any concrete info about their hidden limit. It’s straight up bs to call it unlimited but have a limit that you won’t share. I pointed this out in many more friendly words with a stern pushing of how confused I am with how they’re treating me and I’m told that it’s all a mistake. The next day my data service is suspended.
I received such a mixed message from them. First I’m at risk of losing data service, then it’s definite, then it’s at risk and finally it’s all a big mistake. Those texts come straight from Simple and correspond to how our email exchanges were responding. It seemed like everything was going to be fine until 3pm November 15th. At that point I lost all data service after being told that it was all a “mistake” and that nothing would happen.
They haven’t responded to me since that point so I complained to the FCC about them. I attached a copy of every email, a copy of all of the account information made available from the Simple Mobile site, screen shots of the text messages and speed tests and information about the account ongoing issue. I don’t know what I’m going to achieve by this, probably nothing, but I do hope that my $40 are the most expensive $40 that Simple Mobile has ever earned.
I already had three friends that use MetroPCS and other carriers that were going to switch to Simple since I’d been a customer of theirs for a few months without any issues. They’ve decided not to join, that’s $130 per month that they’ll never receive now (2x $40 plans, 1x $50 plan). I was planning to upgrade to the $50 plan and just pop the sim into a new Nexus device partway through the plan. That won’t be happening now.
I’m hoping that I can help people to avoid the lack of transparency behind the data usage model at Simple. Either they’re not telling the truth about their “unlimited” data or they are mismanaged. Both would be good reasons to avoid them. I highly doubt that my usage was capable of any type of harm, their “unlimited data” claim is false advertising.Unlike others, I’m not complaining about being cut off after turning my phone into a terrestrial modem replacement. I believe that I’ve used the service fairly and was treated poorly.
I will never use Simple Mobile again and I hope for the sake of your own sanity that none of you do either. I will be switching to T-Mobile and using their $30 a month Unlimited plan via their Monthly 4G service. It gives true unlimited data and texting but only 100 minutes of voice. I’ve used about 400 minutes this month but only 30 minutes of it was necessary, the rest was just sitting on a phone listening to a person speak about a bunch of nothing. I had no minutes excuse to hide behind but now I will! If my need ever truly increases in the voice department then I ‘ll just upgrade to T-Mobile’s highest prepaid plan and be done with it.
I truly do believe that they offer the best plans with data in the US now and that their HSPA+ implementation is a better choice than LTE from any carrier in the country right now. The speeds are great, the battery life of HSPA+ devices are superior to that of LTE, LTE is more easily disrupted and it’s a technology that doesn’t allow for simple cross-carrier compatibility. HSPA+ is the best choice available right now if you can get decent coverage in your area.