Monday, February 06, 2006

STi Mobile: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This post has been a long time in coming but first let me tell you the good:

STi now has Walkie Talkie service! It's 49 cents a day and available on the Samsung a820. Problem is, it is supposedly limited to STi only as of right now; so maybe no ReadyLink to Sprint yet. Also the phone is $130, plus a $50 card. A $100 rebate will probably come, along with its being available at so you only have to get a $10 card with it, and that at a discount. Anyway, it's the cheapest walkie choice on prepaid, with a nice new phone.

Now for the bad, and there's lots of it. I'll start sotly, then work up to the huge points.

First of all, though STi now gives you free international calling to some countries with all plans, the list has shrunk to 15 countries or so. For the rest the rates range from reasonable to highway robbery. That's sad.

Second, there are no more rebates for the STi phones sold online. If you want a rebate, prepare for using 100 minutes a month for three months, thus sort of nullifying much of your rebate money because of all the airtime you have to buy. Anyway, now all STi phones are overpriced. I'm not paying $150 for an LG 225, $100 for an LG 5225 (or even %85 if paymecell still works on CheapPhoneCards) or $130 for the Samsung a820, PLUS a $50 card if I want the 225 (which CheapPhoneCards has ceased selling,a t least for now) or the a820, even if it has really cheap walkie talkie, web access, picture messaging or just plain old voice minutes!

Third, and this is HUGE: STi now has a STUPID, UNANNOUNCED, SLIMY LITTLE DAILY FEE! Yes, I feel that strongly about it. They didn't tell anyone it was coming. It just happened...for 10 cents a day the only added benefit for 10\12 users like myself is that you get free international calling to 15 countries. I don't know any phone numbers over there.

The other STI plan now has less distinction than it ocne had from the 10\12 plan. It used to have a flat rate (18 cents) per minute that included free long distance to a HUGE amount of countries. No more. It gets the same short list of freebies. But not only that, its rate structure has totally changed, rendering it a very much hybrid plan only good for people who use a ton of minutes per month, at least by prepaid standards. Yes, it's 7.9 cents a minute (applause) but with a 39 cent fee EVERY SINGLE DAY (just like the 10 cent fee on the other plan). BOOOOOO! Yes ladies and gentlemen, that's $11.70 per 30-day month just to keep your phone ready to make a phone call. Of course if you're used to Virgin Mobile this isn't so bad; 3 minutes a day on this plan is about even with Minute2Minute. But Virgin Mobile has a $25 color flip phone with external caller ID. STi's phone is now $85 or more. No good.

I remember about a year ago when I passed STi off because of its $1.95 monthly fee. This was back in the good ole days when the free phone (only 30 days of active service were required) was an LG 1200. Bleh I know. Granted, the plan didn't even have text messaging, or international calling for that matter, but now the minimum is $3 a month, or if you want a hybrid $11.70. Granted, for some people it's still OK but for myself, who use the phone between 50 and 100 minutes a month, the 10 cent fee drastically increases the price per minute, making some other carrier more economical. And I'll find that carrier, and quickly, unless STi gets that 10 cent fee off their plan.

I have a hunch the fee had something to do with STi's having to pay Sprint huge gobs of money to be the second prepaid carrier (the first prepaid MVNO) with walkie talkie service. But I'm not pitying them; a mandatory daily fe is absolutely negative when it comes to keeping customers.

In this vein I offer my LG 225 cameraphone for $60 shipped, with car and home chargers and a case, plus maybe some airtime, as soon as my rebate check comes in. If you can't get a good prepaid deal elsewhere STi may be the cheapest you can get, or you may really really want web and picture messaging, though it will, in sum total, cost you $12 a month or so. Also I'm selling my friend's LG 5225 for him, at $50 with the same accessories plus a data cable. It's available now.

Needless to say I'm really sad to see STi go this way but the way they added the daily fee leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I'm already paying them 29 cents for web and picture messaging I know but I don't want a 33% fee increase for no gain on my part, especially when they don't tell me about it. When their rates subside again I'll go back but not until then.

As an aside, I trned off web and picture messaging a day or two after the daily fee-for-nothing started. PLSPictures, I found, allows 30 days for you to download every single one of your uploaded cameraphone photos as one big zipfile before they delete them off of their system. Just so everyone knows. Oh, and by the way, the 225's photos look very good on a computer screen as long as you weren't moving the phone too much when you took the picture. Of course, you probably saw that already with my previously posted pictures.

In short, bye bye STi as soon as I get my rebate. I'll say hello when they kill the daily fee on one of their plans and put rebates back on their phones (or at least make them less expensive). Until then I'm scouting the world for the greatest prepaid carrier that has local numbers in my area (T-Mobile sadly doesn't), keeping a near-zero-balance Boost Mobile phone for the local number, walkie and GPS and a T-Mobile To Go phone for other stuff. Which reminds me, my i285 and Nokia 5165 are both waiting for buyers. Email me...

No comments: