Product Review Tangents

Verizon Wireless–4G LTE Technology / Sales Disconnection–Very Frustrating

Posted on December 8, 2010. Filed under: Product Review Tangents |

By: Brenton Blawat

Thinking about transitioning your 3G service to Verizon Wireless’s 4G LTE bandwagon? Read the article below! It could save you a lot of money.

On December 5th, 2010, Verizon Wireless officially offered 4G LTE services for their customers. This new IP based technology, is noted to offer 10 times the speed from the 3G technology and be the most advanced 4G network yet. With new devices in the store to prove the speed, and truly a noticeable difference in the speeds, it would make any techy guy curious to upgrade to this new technology. Both devices released by Verizon Wireless run around $99.00 online and $149.00 with $50.00 mail-in rebate in the store. The cost is not significant enough to be afraid of and sparked my interest enough to purchase a device.

I had been using a Novatel Wireless USB760 3G device for VPN into my office and listening to Pandora. It did everything I needed including hosting Citrix sessions to DOORS (Dynamic Object-Oriented Requirements), submitting code changes to Rational Clear Case, and Remote Desktop Connections, all with VERY little lag. For businesses purposes, the 3G device works just fine in good coverage. I especially appreciated Verizon Wireless’s (almost) seamless network and traveling between the states, I almost never have an issue with coverage. I have been (and still very much am) a very happy customer with Verizon Wireless.

Since I recently moved to a place located in Eden Prairie, MN, and started work in Minneapolis, MN, it became an immediate no brainer to switch to the 4G service. That way I would completely avoid having to wait for Qwest or Comcast to deliver a cable modem to setup my new place with internet. I could really capitalize on my use of my broadband card since I barely hit the limit every month with the 3G services. After all, I was in the market for broadband service for my new place, and FiOS was not available in this market. I found my way into purchasing a Pantech UML 290 featuring Verizon’s 4G service. Through a bit of upgrading of my account, and keeping my 5GB data plan for $59.99, I became a proud father of the 4G device and services.

The second I got home, I whipped out the card, ignoring the “big red warning on the box”  (telling me to install the updated VZ Access Manager) and plugged in into my laptop to find a frustrating point. The Pantech UML 290, does not include in the driver updates on the device like my Novatel Wireless Device did. In the past, I would just plug the Novatel device into a computer and there was a sector on the Novatel device that had a version of the VZ Access Manager. With the Pantech device I had to install it from a CD; I can’t imagine if were to lose this CD. I’d say I’m most disappointed because the VZ Access Manager did not receive and update to have these drivers included by default, therefore, I had to install the updated software on two of my laptops and my workstation — I am NOT a fan of this.

After getting past the 2 minute installation – not that much of a pain point – I immediately logged into my NetFlix account and browsed for movies to test video streaming capabilities. This had been a pain point of my 3G card where steaming video could be challenging. Looking to unpack stuff and watch a movie I settled on the Bourne Identity and hit play. The video quality was great and there were absolutely NO hiccups with the service. To test the buffering, I decided to pause the video, fast forward it and resume play. Within a second or two, the video started to play again. From there I let the 119minute video play to the credits. After the Bourne Identity, I went on Hulu and found my guilty pleasure of Hells Kitchen, a 45 minute video stream. Again, a flawless stream. From that point, I was extremely excited to brag to all my co-workers about the new 4G toy that I got, certain all of them would transition their services over.

Where The Dollars Don’t Make Sense

Curious to see what type of bandwidth I was using streaming the video from NetFlix and Hulu, I took a look at my data usage keeping in mind, I already used 600MB of bandwidth. This is about where Verizon Wireless lost my interest to continue the 4G services.

 

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In their “Your Guide” booklet shown above, the video streaming is rated at 260MB/hour standard definition (Bourne Identity is not available in HD streaming on NetFlix / and I can’t imagine Hells Kitchen is streamed in HD to a standard user). Since I was watching movies for about 164 minutes, or 2.73 hours, according to Verizon’s specifications, I would have racked up 780 MB of data usage. Instead, I found that my 600MB use that I already used got bumped up to 2,300MB. This means that 2.73 hours of video cost me 1700 MB which is a rate of 622.7MB/HR!!! Verizon Wireless missed their estimated use by almost 3 times their printed data rate.

Why such a difference from my 3G? Well, video sites such as Hulu, NetFlix, and YouTube have new bandwidth specific buffering technologies. In essence, if you have a slow connection, it will lower the quality of the video you see. This equates to a lower bandwidth requirement. So technically, the documentation is correct for 3G broadband cards. Likewise, for 4G Broadband Cards that can support higher bandwidth rates, the requirement will be greater. This also applies to audio streaming sites such as Pandora. The audio quality gets lowered and increased depending on what type of connection you have.

Warning! DO NOT WATCH VIDEO ON THE 4G NETWORK!! (until data plans change)

For any user that unchecked viewing the data usage, and would watch at least 2.73 hours of TV a night, they would reach their daily limit of 5GB in 3 days and 10GB in 6 days. Now, for 10GB customers that continue at that data usage rate for the whole month (lets say its February) for 28 days, they would use 47.6GB of data. The overage per GB / month rate is $10/GB, the unsuspecting Verizon Wireless Customer will rack up $380 access overage charges in addition to their $80.00 plan. One month of minor video use on the plan will run $460.00 for a month! I can’t even imagine if I were to fall asleep one night streaming Hulu or watching the notoriously long Lord of the Rings Video series, and 8 hours later have all my data plan used. It would cost more than 90% of the hotels I’ve been in for a night. Ouch.

This is a major oversight by the Verizon Wireless sales and marketing team. It goes in line of the age old saying of what Intel “Give-ith”, Microsoft “Take-ith”. Giving your customers more through-put will promote higher data utilization. I would personally be willing to pay $120/month for unlimited data usage on a 4G network with the ability to go to use the 3G markets where 4G is not supported (all the Verizon Wireless Cards are backwards compatible with 3G). It is, however, not the case, and I wrote this article to gain support from my community to ask Verizon Wireless to bump up their data usage.

The Final Verdict of 4G LTE

The Verizon Wireless 4G LTE service is amazing in both Eden Prairie, MN and Minneapolis, MN. When streaming video, the video buffer was almost immediately full and browsing from site to site was equally as impressive. This completely destroys the 3G technologies and the 4G LTE want-to-be companies like Sprint and US Cellular. I want to be clear that I LOVE the new Verizon Wireless 4G technology and what it has to offer, but I strongly dislike the 4G pricing structure. I see Verizon Wireless as the Mercedes and BMW of the cellular networks, and I am willing to pay for every feature as long as it provides value and isn’t insanely priced. I currently pay $249.00/ month in smart phone, and broadband charges. I’m having a really difficult time justifying the benefit of 4G over a DSL / Cable / FiOS network with its pricing structure and how much I am paying right now. I am a premium home user.

Why not stick with the 4G device? Well the problem is, you don’t get real time data usage notifications. You only get notified at the beginning of the data session of what your usage is. This means that if you are in a heavy data session, like getting carried away on YouTube, watching clips like Charlie Bite me, you might get a surprise in the mail at months end. Likewise if you’re a technician downloading an ISO, like to download music on iTunes, or need to restore your iTunes downloads; all data intensive items that would go quickly and would just as quickly take your money.

Final Verdict – After using the device for less than 24 hours and a $35.00 “restocking” fee, I am back to my 3G Novatell Wireless Card. While I may be out $35.00, it could have been much, much more than that! Qwest internet installation has been scheduled and I am back posting blog articles using my Verizon Wireless Novatel 3G device.

I strongly encourage comments.

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Blackberry Touch / Storm Review: Still no iPhone

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: Product Review Tangents |

By:Brenton Blawat

black berryStorm

After a huge media ramp up and a Verizon demo on Thursday, November 20, 2008, there again has much left to be desired.

Taking Delivery: It’s here but you can’t have it. 😡

Perhaps most frustrating is the release on Friday but no one except ‘new customers’ will be privileged enough to receive on Friday. Everyone else will receive a handheld via a remote warehouse. While the principle shipping from a warehouse makes sense as a corporation, those geeks which are thriving for new technology, and much like that caffeine fix that I yearn for every morning, leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when new customers can receive the latest and greatest right away and I am stuck… waiting? So much for customer loyalty.

Note: I do have to note that I have a pre-order configured for expedited delivery on Saturday. They technically couldn’t even put it into the system until tomorrow on the official release date. I for some reason feel uneasy about the pre-order being fulfilled… as they were filling these pre-order slips out left and right. I am expecting to see it on Monday or later.

 

Functionality: Neat but nothing innovative.

Touch – The touch screen is very responsive and accurate. While you scroll your finger around the screen, location of your finger is exactly where you want it to be. – Do not confuse this with the SurePress functionality. While the touch screen goes where you want it to, when pressing the screen to register the click, it would often miss the icon I was going for; frustrating.

SurePress – As mentioned by the GDGT team in their phone reviews, either you love the technology or you hate it. While 15 minutes of play time and several “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” later, I found that the keyboard is something that I can tolerate. Being that I came from a LG Chocolate, I enjoy the fact that you know you are clicking something.

QWERTY Keyboard – This is not a thumb keyboard. I have average size thumbs and I found my thumbs were some what obtrusive to the typing on their qwerty keyboard. With practice I believe I might be able to “thumb it” but for now, I’d recommend your index finger to type. No more learning curve than the iPhone, but a learning curve.

Application Launching – I was very disappointed with the speeds of the application launching. The iPhone’s powerhouse of a GPU and processing power, really puts the Blackberry to shame. This is probably the most disappointing feature of the Blackberry Touch unit. I want applications to launch like NOW. I don’t want to see 15 second app launch delays as an acceptable speed anymore. If Blackberry wants to stay competitive in the market, c’mon guys… let’s get the launch times to less than 5 seconds.

Screen Rotation Speeds – That wonderful demo they had on the TV is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The screen took a minimum of 5 seconds to rotate to the QWERTY Position and another 5 seconds back. This was again another let down. The Verizon tech stated that it’s faster with a software update but so is my car and my microwave. Put your best foot forward, I don’t want to update the software out of the box.

No WiFi – You’ve got to be kidding me! I would pay another $100 to get this feature. Market demands WiFi in their devices… Market 1 Blackberry 0.

Phone Storage – As part of the introductory release, the Blackberry Touch is including a 8gb MicroSD card with the phone (and another 1gb embedded on the device). While this doesn’t compete with the iPhone 16gb, the Blackberry is focused towards business professionals, and 8gb is a great start.

Camera – At last! Something I am happy about! I really liked the 3 megapixel camera on the phone. Even better it has an auto focus which works. The iPhone has issues taking pictures of close up items, however, the Blackberry had no issue refocusing on small lettering on a box. Camera a plus!

App Store – Limited applications, soon to grow. It seemed to me that the Blackberry App Store will provide the opportunity for innovation on the device. I am going to definitely look into the SDK for the Blackberry to develop useful applications.

Corporate Documents – The Blackberry has stronger support corporate files than the previous versions. I’m looking forward to trying out several formats, and emailing my revisions.

Corporate Email – The iPhone loses again. Blackberry is still built on the instant (push not pull) email access and truly is a perk that the iPhone cannot touch. While this feature may be nothing new, it gives the Crackberry users their fix.

Broadband – For $59.00 / month, broadband service can be added to the cell phone plan. This is the service where you tether your phone to a laptop and browse the internet. I asked about access to the internet for my laptop via Bluetooth and got a bunch of blank stares. I don’t mind tethering the phone but really? Broadband was fast, however, this 3G network wasn’t anything that blew me away – but a feature iPhone users would love to have!

The Final Verdict: ARG! But I’ll take it.

Verizon Wireless has been plagued with phones that have been good, but not great. I am looking forward to working with the Blackberry Touch / Storm to see if familiarity with the QWERTY keyboard will make accelerate my productivity. Ultimately, I bought the phone as it’s the best phone available for Verizon.

Now only if we could legally get an iPhone on a Verizon…

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