A Carrier-Free Life

As a user of a phone service provider, I expect some standards of decency from them so that my $130 monthly payment is warranted:

  • Good service in most places I visit daily
  • Simple, clear billing
  • Freedom to readily change plan as needed
  • Good customer service
  • Deftly handle international travel
  • Easy portability of my phone number if they fail me on any of the above points

Here are some issues I currently have:

  • This month, I got a ~$200 phone bill and I couldn’t figure out why. After a lot of messing around on their site (could not find number to call and my messages into their ‘Can we help?’ chat box stayed in queue for too long), I found I was charged $48.86 for a 14 minute international phone call to New Zealand.
  • I have a second phone tied to my plan. I cannot figure out how to close that account. I can suspend service (but billing doesn’t stop!) via their website. I can ‘turn data usage off’ (but billing doesn’t stop!) via their website. I’m billed a $15 ‘access charge’ per device but…I own the phones, I pay the bills–why am I being charged .
  • I’m often on Wi-Fi, I don’t use $100 of data or calls and text. Of my 15GB allotted on my plan, I use ~6GB on average. Pay-as-you-go is not an option on ATT’s ‘Change my plan’ feature.
  • I cannot find how to port my number out or ready my number to be ported out. I can ‘unlock’ my number–which is funny, because my number should be unlocked already–I’m not on a phone payment service with them or any sort of committed contract. I followed the three pages of questions to confirm that I want to ‘unlock’ my device–clicked through on the confirmation email–and now I have to wait two business days to hear of their decision.
  • The website is slow and its interface feels like it was designed by Millie Brown (hat tip Rob Spectre). I’m continually clicking into dead ends.
  • I have a free ‘pay-per-use’ term enabled for international travel. It does not let me know the rates, just that it will charge me but I’m assuming the charges are less than what they will be if I hadn’t gone into my account to enable ‘pay-per-use.’ But that’s unclear. What is clear is this: I won’t know how much I f’d up by enabling data so I could call my Paris AirBnB to let them know I was stuck in traffic while in France until my next bill arrives.
We really have to stop giving these people our money.

How it should work:

  • Twilio has listed two different rates for international calling to New Zealand: $0.0215/minute or $0.065/minute. Twilio’s price difference is based on the cost of the provider you as the user are calling. Sure, I wouldn’t know which rate I hit upon until my bill arrives–but at 99.5% cheaper than my ATT rate–I’m satisfied.
  • My phone plan should act like *my* phone plan. I can end service on a phone simply with one click. I can add a new line with one click. I can cancel my service entirely with one click. I can text my phone service support. I can call my phone service support.
  • I can receive text messages notifying me each time I hit a GB because the standard should be pay-as-you-go data. Flat rates for data are a great way for phone companies to make money–phone companies do nothing to notify users who are consistently under their limit. As consumers, we need to be smarter about this.
  • Provided that I’ve paid for their service, I should be able to easily take my service elsewhere. No contract should mean no arduous ‘unlocking’ of the device. Phone companies touting ‘no contract’ use other methods to hold you hostage to them by making the porting process murky and requiring users to go through unnecessary steps and waiting periods.
  • There are smart people who design phone service provider websites. I just don’t think they’re honest people. Confusing, slow interfaces mislead customers and they’re aware of it.
  • When I travel internationally, my phone knows. In the situation highlighted above, it would offer me a French number to use while in Paris. From there, any uptick in pricing should be clearly communicated and truthfully, avoided–your phone plan should work abroad at the same rates as at home. Google Fi does it, now we need a fix for iPhones.

Here’s what we’re doing to fix this with Listen:

  • I’m porting my number from ATT to Listen. This means I’m routing all my calls and texts through Twilio–which is great because we get access to an add-on which has better spam defense than my iPhone’s Phone app.
  • Also through Listen, I can take action on texts (like set a reminder) and create auto-responses (such as, while I’m on that flight to France) and enable settings like “only allow notifications from favorite contacts”–so while I’m on my Parisian vacation, my phone is less of a distraction. We don’t need more inboxes and we don’t need more notifications. Our attention spans are tapped out. Listen lets you control how you communicate–instead of your phone lighting up for anyone who enters your number into the ‘send’ field.
  • I’m using the new Twilio Wireless. This allows me to pay as I go for data at the clearly defined rate for high volume. Their current pricing would make my current bill ~$90/month, saving me $40+ in a pay-as-you-go scenario. For once, ‘no hidden charges’ actually means ‘no hidden charges’ wso if I’m mindful about my data usage, I can save even more.

If anyone is interested in trying this out with us as we test a new frontier of a carrier-less life, here’s what we promise you:

  • Billing will be clear. It will be pay-as-you-go. You will be able to leave at any time. We will have a simple payment process and simple terms.
  • You will get help when you need it in whichever way you chose to reach out to our company.
  • Porting your number in and out will be as simple as we can make it in light of the wait times / archaic processes handed down from other companies.
  • When you travel internationally, it will be handled deftly and without extra charges.

We want to help you cut off your carrier. We’re getting together a pilot program now. Are you interested? Text or call me at 323.391.4265 or email me leto@uselisten.com