About the Cost Difference Between Telus and a Virgin/Line 2 Combo

I performed some simple cost analyses to evaluate the potential savings I might experience if I ditched Telus and went to a combination Virgin mobile data and Line2 app solution.

Here’s the premise. I purchase two services from Telus that they combine into one bill: voice/text and data. What if I split those services between two separate providers: Line2 for voice/text and Virgin for data?

I normally use just under 5 GB of data every month, so that was my starting point. Here’s a how what I pay now would compare to the alternative I’m exploring.

Subscribe to 5, use 5

The scenario in this table is that you subscribe to a plan with Telus that includes up to 5 GB of data, and use just under 5 GB of data.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
5 GB plan, use 5 GB $45.00 $45.00
Totals $120.00 $60.00

Right off the bat, the Line2/Virgin option is 50% of the cost of the Telus option, but just because the voice/text service is so much cheaper with Line 2. Data costs are equivalent.

If you project that out over 2 years, it’s a total cost of $2880 with Telus, and $1440 with the Line2/Virgin option. That’s $1440 you can do something else with every year.

Subscribe to 5, use 2

There things begin to change is if you use less data than you’re subscribed to. Telus won’t cut you a break. If you manage to stay under 2 GB of data use in a month, though, your costs will actually go down with Virgin.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
5 GB plan, use 2 GB $45.00 $30.00
Totals $120.00 $45.00

That’s a huge cost saving if you can manage to keep your data use down. What if you generally use less than 2 GB of data, though?

Subscribe to 2, use 2

This scenario explores a subscription to Telus that includes 2 GB of data and involves full use of that data in a month.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
2 GB plan, use 2 GB $30.00 $30.00
Totals $105.00 $45.00

It’s not a remarkable cost saving with Telus. You’ll still save more than 50% with the Line2/Virgin combo.

When you’re trying to save money by reducing the amount of data in your fixed-data plan though, you accept a tremendous risk: what happens when you go over that data limit?

Subscribe to 2, use 5

This is everyone’s nightmare scenario. For whatever reason you don’t manage your data appropriately and since Canadian mobile companies won’t auto-cap your use, you get hammered for all that extra data.

In this scenario, you subscribe to a 2 GB data plan, but you use 5 GB.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
2 GB plan, use 5 GB $180.00 $45.00
Totals $205.00 $60.00

Holy crap, what happened there? Telus is disproportionately punitive with its mobile data over-use charges. Whereas Virgin charges $10 per GB for over-use (still a very expensive fee), Telus charges a whopping $50 per GB for over-use.

So in this scenario where you would have expected a bill totalling $105 from Telus, you would have instead received a swift kick in the pants totalling $205. That’s an astonishing $150 in data over-use penalties.

The lesson in this last scenario: fixed data tiers, as most of us have with carriers like Telus, are dangerous. Flexible, pay-per-use plans like the one Virgin offers for its tablet users, are more transparent and provide a greater degree of clarity in terms of expected fees.

Wait: do we even need phone numbers?

That’s the obvious question to ask at this point. Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Apple – every major technology company now offers free global voice and video communication services. So why do we still cling to the phone?

Why do we even bother with the antiquated notion that some people, in some parts of the world, can phone us at a particular number for an uncertain and unclear sum of money when they can instead FaceTime us for free.

If you need to make a phone call, Facebook, Google and a slew of other free apps will let you directly call telephone numbers for free.

Sure, phone numbers offer a certain degree of standardization. But letting someone know they can reach you on FaceTime versus by calling 555-867-1111 isn’t really any less convenient.

This is the question I’m wrestling with right now for my son: he never uses the telephone capability of his iPhone and I’m paying over $60 a month to Telus for it. It doesn’t make sense. He would be fine with just data and no phone number at all.

Come to think of it, so might I. Moving over to pure data, no phone, on my iPhone might just be the right solution.

About mobile data costs in Canada

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 5.20.50 PM

I’m analyzing data costs across mobile telecommunications carriers in Canada, following up on a post I wrote almost 2 years ago, “About Hacking Your Phone Bill to Save a Ton of Money“. I’m planning on buying myself out of my Telus contract when the iPhone X comes out, not getting a carrier voice plan, instead going pure VOIP on that device.

I’m looking for where the best value is on mobile data-only plans with Canadian carriers.  Here are my key findings:

  • Telus is mid-priced up to the 5 GB level, then gets ridiculous with its $50/GB over-use penalties.
  • Public Mobile is surprisingly expensive.
  • Ice Wireless is the cheapest but the quality of that company’s internet service is so poor I would recommend against using it.
  • Virgin Mobile is the best value and has relatively low cost. As a current customer I can vouch for the high quality of the internet service and their data costs are almost equivalent to Ice Wireless.

In closing, I’d recommend Virgin Mobile for data-only mobile purposes. For example, it’s the best option for ditching a mobile phone line and moving over to a VOIP option.

Side note: Why isn’t Bell on here? Because Bell is pure evil (“Bell Calls for CRTC-Backed Website Blocking System and Complete Criminalization of Copyright in NAFTA“) and I won’t consider them for conscientious reasons.

(Yes, I know Virgin is a subsidiary of the Evil Bell. But so is Northwestel. I’m already using one of the devil’s little brothers, why not use another?)

About how Ice Wireless is the discount carrier of the northern internet

In the world of airlines, there are top-tier operators, like the luxurious-but-accident-prone Air Canada, and discount carriers, like Newleaf, where prices are low but so is service.

Ice Wireless could definitely be considered northern Canada’s discount internet provider. Their services are cheaper, though not by much. Service, however, is definitely on the low side compared to competitors.

Put simply, Ice’s internet speeds simply aren’t up to contemporary standards. I subscribe to their home internet service just for the cheap data, so I can avoid paying overuse penalties to the North’s incumbent provider every month. However, I couldn’t use Ice as a core service right now. The service is simply too slow and laggy.

Worse, though, Ice’s customer service is abysmal. I’ve been leaving voicemails and emails with them all week that simply go unanswered. (I’m trying to figure out how to set up an online account with them so I can check my data use. There’s no obvious way to do it – another big problem with their service.)

What’s perhaps most painful, though, is that Ice could become a premier northern internet service provider with a few adjustments to their technical infrastructure.

Apparently their system has already been upgraded to provide super-fast 4G speeds, but they just haven’t turned it on yet for customers.

And the “lag” I mentioned in my last post could easily be corrected with a minor routing adjustment that would make data travel more efficiently over their network, another quick way to improve speeds.

For some reason, Ice has been promising the make these adjustments for months, but is choosing not to do so.

The absurdly bad customer service, well, that’s probably a whole other ball of wax.

Where Newleaf couldn’t become a luxury airline overnight with a free quick technical tweaks, Ice could easily launch itself into the top-tier of northern internet providers overnight.

The company chooses to delay these improvements, however. It’s unclear why.

About My Experience with Home Internet from Ice Wireless

Ice Wireless recently began offering home internet service in Whitehorse. Their service is competitively priced and represents respectable competition for the North’s historic incumbent.

I’ve had a home internet modem from Ice for the past week or so, and I’ve managed to get a feel for the quality of the service. It’s decent, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. 

The speed in general is good. I measure, on average, about 11 to 12 Mbps download speeds and between 3 and 5 Mbps uploads. Those speeds may seem low, but for general purpose internet access, they’re adequate.

The main problem with Ice’s service is that it feels “laggy.” This is because of the service’s “latency,” or “ping rate,” which runs at an embarrassingly high 190 to 270 milliseconds.

The high latency can make internet services feel unresponsive. When you initially request a web page over an Ice connection, there is generally a long delay, often of several seconds, before the page loads. When you watch YouTube or Netflix videos, the caching time before they play is much longer than normal, often over 10 seconds. Whatever you’re doing over an Ice connection, there is generally a pause, or a sense of delay, before it gets started.

Once the data begins to flow, pages load quickly and videos play at acceptable resolution. Because of the high latency, though, getting things started can be frustrating.

For comparison’s sake, my cable internet service with Northwestel has a latency rate of just 10 to 13 milliseconds. My mobile data service from Telus also beats out Ice, running between 140 and 180 milliseconds. Still high, but almost imperceptible. (Interesting side note: Telus’ mobile internet service is tops in overall data speed, consistently measuring a blazing 36 Mbps download and 14 upload. My cable service seems to be capped at about 25 Mbps download and 6 upload.)

I’m hoping latency is something that Ice is working on and that they have plans to improve this aspect of the service in the very near future. The current state is unfortunate because, while their speeds are very good and their data prices are competitive, the high latency makes the service feel slower than it really is, so the overall experience with it can be frustrating. 

About Crazy @Evernote Pricing

I like Evernote and I use it constantly. I was using it today, in fact when – BOOM! – in the middle of a meeting, without any warning, a notice came up in my iPhone app that blocked my access to my notes and said my subscription has just ended. Like, literally, that very second, right in the middle of that very meeting.

I couldn’t do anything with Evernote until I renewed my subscription.

Okay, but, excuse me, Evernote? I’m kind of in a meeting right now…? Can I finish taking notes and deal with this later, please? Apparently not.

After the meeting I go back to my desk. I open Evernote on my Mac. BOOM! Another “renew now or else” notice pops up. That was kind of expected. But, hey, waitaminnit… the subscription fee is different. On the iPhone they wanted $70. On the Mac they want $50.

This is disconcerting. Enough that I want to sort out the discrepancy. But I’m working. I decide to deal with it later. (Plus, I think I have an unused code in the back of an old Evernote Moleskine at home that’ll get me a few free months…)

Back home, I find the Moleskine with the code, log in to the Evernote web site to try and use it and – BOOM – hammered again with that renewal notification. But, hey, there’s another different number on this renewal notice: $58.

I know I need to renew Evernote. Heck, I want to renew Evernote. Right now I just want to give them money and get on with my life. But I’m confused. This doesn’t make sense.

I hate giving money to companies that confuse and frustrate me.

There are three different rates I’ve seen for the same Premium service.

  • Evernote app on iPhone: $70
  • Evernote app on Mac: $50
  • Evernote web site: $58

Evernote Premium Price Quandary

Which do I choose?

You’re thinking, duh: the cheapest one. But here’s the catch: I’m in Canada. So if that $50 subscription is in US dollars, that’s like a million dollars Canadian. Okay, not quite that much. But it’s a full $70, the same as the highest price.

So the new, added question is: what currency are these fees being charged in?

I could make some assumptions. Like, because iPhone apps have to charge fees through the App Store, and my account is with the Canadian App Store, that’s $70 Canadian.

And it might be that the subscription fees identified in the Mac app and Evernote web site are US dollars, right? (In which case, anyway, shouldn’t the rates in the Mac app and the web site be the same?)

Or maybe Evernote directly charges its customers in their local currency?

I don’t know. It’s all very confusing.

I tried getting in touch with Evernote today for an answer but they were incommunicado.

In the meantime, until I am empowered with the knowledge that will clear up this clusterfuck of a pricing dilemma, the Evernote apps are blocking my access to my notes. Which totally sucks.

About the Best Digital Journaling App

Day One 2 is good. But Awesome Note is better.

I’ll tell you why.

Day One

Bloom released a major new version of Day One for Mac and iOS last week. And it’s a beautiful thing. But it’s a very expensive beautiful thing: $56 for the Mac app and $14 for the iOS app (after the introductory 50% off sale ends next week). That’s a total of $70 for full-on cross-platform journaling. Very, very not cheap.

Day One is a capable enough journaling app. You can post text entries to your journal, and you can attach multiple photos to an entry. Day One will automatically tag your entries with your location and the weather. You know, the basics.

I like Day One. It’s well designed and covers all the basics of journaling. But its feature set is relatively limited, and its design is uninspired and rather blasé.

My major problem with this new version, though, is that Bloom went for a proprietary solution to sync your data between its iOS and Mac apps. So you’re storing your valuable, personal journal data in a closed ecosystem. It’s relatively difficult to get your data out of it and you can only ever use Day One to look at it. You are entirely dependent on this little American company called Bloom to maintain and safeguard your valuable, private journal data. If Bloom bites it, or if you decide to move away from iOS or Mac… not pretty.

Awesome Note

It’s worth stating at the outset that Awesome Note is not designed specifically to be a journaling app. But that’s one of the things it does, and it does really, really well. Awesome Note can easily match Day One, feature for feature (and more, actually), at a fraction of the price. Awesome Note costs just $8: $4 for the iPad app and $4 for the iPhone app (you buy them separately). Chump change.

Like Day One, Awesome Note is also beautifully designed and easy to use. I prefer the Awesome Note interface to Day One.

There isn’t a version of Awesome Note for Mac, but that’s okay. Because instead of a proprietary sync solution, Awesome Note can use Evernote to store and sync notes in the cloud. So on your Mac (or Windows computer, for that matter) you can just use the excellent Evernote client.

And there’s the real benefit of Awesome Note: your data is not trapped in a closed, proprietary environment. Should BRID, the small company behind Awesome Note ever disappear and its apps die*, your data is safe in the data store of the massive, secure Evernote machine.

Anyway, beyond basic syncing, Evernote opens up Awesome Note to a world of extensibility, because Evernote can hook into almost any online service out there. Like the insanely awesome IFTTT.

Day One is ignorant of what you do on social media. And because it’s such a closed platform, you can’t push anything into it. But with Awesome Note syncing through Evernote, you can have IFTTT publish whatever you do on whatever social platform you use to an Awesome Note notebook via Evernote. And then over time, automagically, Awesome Note will build up a history of your online exploits.

There are a couple other areas where I think Awesome Note improves on Day One.

Customization

In Awesome Note, you can customize pretty much every aspect of the interface with colour, texture, and icons. With Day One, I hope you like blue and white. Because that’s all you get. Brrrr.

Integration

Awesome Note integrates with your the calendar and reminders on your iPad or iPhone. So, if you want, you can view your life activites and tasks juxtaposed against information you’ve stored in your journal. This provides a lot of personal insight.

I suppose the one major caveat to Awesome Note is that, to sync, it requires a little bit more custom configuration. You have to step outside of the app to set up an Evernote account if you don’t already have one. But I think that little bit of extra effort is worth it for the cost savings, added features, and improved interface. (All that said, Awesome Note will also sync via Apple’s iCloud, if you prefer an easier-to-set-up but more closed system.)

Day One is attracting a lot of attention these days, thanks to Apple, and I’m sure that’s resulting in a lot of sales. But if you read this, consider Awesome Note instead. I think you’ll prefer it.

* That’s a real concern, actually. At just $4 per app, you have to wonder how BRID is making any money at this. I highlighted that low cost as a benefit, but I really think Awesome Note should cost more. The total $8 price tag for both iPad and iPhone apps is simply not representative of the incredible value. If it were me, I’d doduble the price of each app. I hope BRID survives and continues to deliver new versions of Awesome Note, and I’d encourage them to increase their prices to improve the likelihood of that.

About Northwestel’s Internet Penalty Fee Reduction

Northwestel reduced the cost of its internet over-use penalty fee yesterday, to $1.50 per GB from $2 per GB. Of course, any reduction in the cost that Northwestel charges for internet service is welcome. So on behalf of internet users across northern Canada, I want to say thanks to Northwestel.

But yesterday’s reduction is not enough. Northwestel can, and should, do more to reduce the internet service costs that northern Canadians are forced to pay. We still pay much, much more than our southern compatriots.

I’ll do a quick comparison of internet service rates here in Whitehorse, Yukon, a town of about 28,000 people, and Dawson Creek, BC, a town of about 11,500 people that’s just 1,400 km away down the Alaska Highway.

At the top end of consumer packages, northerners will pay Northwestel $190 for 400 GB of monthly data. That’s 47.5¢ per GB. If you live in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, you’ll pay Shaw $123 for 800 GB of data. That’s 15.4¢ per GB.

On the low end of the package spectrum northerners will pay $42 for 10 GB of monthly data. That’s an insanely expensive rate of $4.20 per GB being charged to people who are probably the lowest wage earners in the North. You’d do better at this package level to simply ask Northwestel to charge all your data at its penalty rate.

Low income earners in Dawson Creek, by comparison, can pay Shaw $35 for 65 GB of data. That’s about 54¢ per GB, still very expensive, but about one-seventh the cost of Northwestel’s cheapest package rate.

Northwestel’s newly-reduced penalty rate of $1.50 per GB is still three times more than the fee levied on data in the company’s high end package. And its in-plan data fees at all levels are still much too expensive when compared to the rates southern Canadians pay.

Interestingly, Shaw does not punish its customers with data over-use penalties. They are permitted to exceed their monthly data limits from time to time at no extra cost.

One closing thought. You can buy a litre of gas in Dawson Creek for about 92¢ this morning. You can buy a litre of gas in Whitehorse for the same price (at the Porter Creek Super A, in case you’re wondering).

Is a virtual commodity like internet data really that much more expensive to deliver to the North than a physical commodity like gas?