In the Lab

Switching from AT&T to T-Mobile

So, the switch is on.  We’ve switched from AT&T to T-Mobile.  Switching from AT&T to T-Mobile was really fairly easy.

If you’ve been away from the planet over the last couple of weeks, you may have missed the fact that T-Mobile is on the hunt and looking to poach customers from other US wireless networks.  And they’re paying to do it.  Is it all hype?  A bit, maybe.  But it’s certainly gathered the attention of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and others.  So in our early days with T-Mobile, we’re putting the new network “in the lab” to test out and see if we made the right move.  

Why the switch?
While we’ve never been enamored with AT&T after six years, they certainly weren’t the worst wireless carrier.  But then what wireless carrier is great?  We lump cell phone carriers into the same bucket as most airlines.  Making money while nickel and diming customers is first, customer service is a distant second.  But the new T-Mobile offer was really too good to pass up.  They pay the early termination fee from AT&T and we were able to get new iPhones.  They took our old iPhones in trade and gave us more than Gazelle or other trade in sites.

What we disliked about AT&T
Well there’s the main things:

  1. Two Year Contracts
  2. Charge for every little add-on even under unlimited plans (texting, out of country use, data overages)
  3. Mediocre customer service at best
  4. 4G LTE service that worked occasionally (and yes, we’re in a large metro area)
  5. The wouldn’t unlock the SIM card on the phone until our two year agreement was up

Again, was AT&T the worst carrier we ever had? No.  Was the coverage pretty bad?  No, not since about 4 years ago when they finally did network upgrades.  It’s what they didn’t do to keep us as customers.  Same high rates.  No additional services.  No appreciation for being a customer.  

What we liked about T-Mobile

The Plan – Plan for plan, it’s $20 cheaper a month over AT&T’s Share Plan.  And no commitments.  It’s month-to-month.

International Data – OK, sure its only 2G data when roaming internationally, but 2G data is better than paying an arm and a leg for data period.  Plus, if high-speed data is that important, we can buy high speed data just like on the other wireless carriers.  We don’t use a ton of data overseas, but we occasionally do need to look something up while we’re out and about or get a live map of the area we’re in.  At least now, we can do that without incurring fees. And after 60 days of being a customer in good standing, they’ll unlock the SIM slot.

International calling and texting from outside the US –  With T-Mobile, texting is free.  And for voice calls, we’ll only pay 20 cents a minute, vs the $1.99 a minute or more we’d pay on AT&T.  And that was only if we paid an additional $5 a month, to get a better rate.  Do we use our phone for voice calls out of the country?  Not usually.  But occasionally we check in with home base, so doing that for about 80% less, is nice.  

Upgradability of the phones – Sure AT&T has Next!  In fact, under pressure from the T-Mobile offer, AT&T just changed their Next offer today so that you can upgrade now, vs waiting six months.  And yes, AT&T is free, where T-Mobile charges $10 a month.  But, with T-Mobile, you do actually get insurance in that cost, with AT&T it’s a no.

Customer Service – We’ve been very impressed with the customer service so far at T-Mobile.  They’ve called us a few times, to see how things are going, to see if we’ve had any issues and if we’ve had any problems turning in our AT&T phones.  We’ve called customer service ourselves once to change our caller ID and add a corporate discount and both were done quickly and efficiently.  No hassle.

Coverage – The coverage here in Denver is slightly better with T-Mobile than AT&T, but we expect that to be negligible.  After doing some research on coverage done by third parties, there really didn’t seem to be a big difference for either carrier.  Based upon comments and blogs on T-Mobile coverage in general in the mountains surrounding Denver, we do expect T-Mobile’s coverage to be a bit more spotty.

AT&T Post Switch
In fairness to AT&T before we made the switch, we called AT&T customer service to see if they would lower our bill, provide unlimited data in our plan, as well as add international roaming at the same rate as T-Mobile and give us free international data.  Of course, the answer was NO.  But of course, once we terminated our contracts and tweeted that to the twitter verse, AT&T came a twittering to get us to reconsider.  They would “work with us” to try to find a good compromise.  As far as I’m concerned, you had your chance.  We asked before switching.  You said no.  Didn’t you believe us, AT&T?  Why is our business more important now that we have switched? What’s changed?  You couldn’t offer something up before the switch while we were still your customer?

All in all we’ll see how T-Mobile stacks up and report back in a few weeks.  We’ll be taking the phone to Europe to test out how the data works, is the data speed good enough when traveling overseas and how is the coverage quality both here and there.  Stay tuned for an update soon.


keen bryce waterproof shoes

Keen Waterproof Shoes – Bryce

Over the next few weeks we’re going to put the Bryce version of Keen waterproof shoes to the test.  

Over the past years, we’ve been in love with the Ecco GTX waterproof shoes.  Their starting to wear a bit, so after having good luck with Keen products in the past, we decided to take the plunge and see if they’ll be able to live up to their lineage.  For their first outing, we’ll be breaking them in here in snowy Colorado.  Since we’re in that snow a bit, melt a bit time of year, it should be the perfect test to see if these shoes really do keep our feet dry and warm.  Not to be content with just putting them to the test at home, we’re going to pack them up and take them to Zermatt, Switzerland.  Will they travel well?  Can they handle the rocky terrain of the alps?  Will they be comfortable as everyday shoes out on the town?  We’ll know soon.

Check back with us in early February, when we’ll post our full report.

[box type=”warning” align=”aligncenter” ]Our review is complete. You can find the final review here.[/box]


Dark Energy Reservoir Image

Dark Energy Reservoir

There’s nothing more that’s a pain in the a**, than having your tablet or phone run out of juice.  And of course, it always happens at the most inconvenient time.  After a long flight.  After running around all day.  Ugh.  Let’s face it.  No matter what kind of phone or tablet you have, the “advertised battery life” is never very close to what it is in actual daily use.

When we ran across the Dark Energy Reservoir late last year, we thought this could be the answer to our problems.  We had looked at portable phone and device chargers before, but they were too bulky or heavy to add to a backpack or carry around all day.  The Dark Energy Reservoir intrigued us with it’s light weight and extremely small footprint.  Plus, it can charge up to two devices more than once without needing to be recharged.  Too good to be true?  Well, that’s why we have it “in the lab” for testing to see if it lives up to it’s claims.

So, the initial skinny.  

We ordered a Dark Energy Reservoir right before Christmas in black.  We found a deal for $110 vs the suggested retail price of $129.

It really is light weight.  It seems a bit lighter than an iPhone and about the same form factor.  It’s actually around 6″ X 3″ X 1″.  It comes with a nifty microfiber pouch, a charger and a USB cable.  It has two USB ports on the end, which can be used to charge up to two devices at one time.  Spec wise, what is amazing is it’s charge capacity of 8000 mhz.  That’s more capability than almost any other, especially in this small size of charger.

In the next two weeks, we’ll put it to the test.  We’re taking it on a one week journey to Europe.  We’ll see how long it lasts on a single charge, charging out two iPhone 5s and two iPad 2s.  But that’s not all, we’re also going to put it to the climate test.  We’ll take it out skiing for 4 days and see if that affects how long it will stay charged.  So stay tuned.  In early February, we’ll report back.

In the mean time, you can read a few other reviews about the Dark Energy Reservoir as well.  From PCMag, Business Insider  and GloboTraks.  Also, you can watch this video from Dark Energy for more info about the reservoir.

 [box type=”warning” align=”aligncenter” ]Our testing of the Dark Energy Reservoir is complete. You can read the final review here.[/box]