Since writing this post, it appears that AT&T has disabled the USSD service reminder messages for Medianet prepaid data packages. Icing on the cake: they also opened the 3G faucet. Considering these significant improvements to the value proposition of GoPhone, we’re down to 3 reasons.
One can only surmise that executives schemed these crippling aspects to AT&T’s GoPhone prepaid offerings to exploit every inducement towards a “postpaid” (ie. 2 year contract) plan.
I’ve been trying to equip unlocked Nokia devices with prepaid data accounts for benevolent design research purposes integral to my work at Parsons on mobile media design work for grant funded projects.
- Relentless balance reminders. Even with a $20 100MB package for a month’s worth of data access, you are barraged with irritating and intrusive balance reminder service messages, after every single use. You’ll need to click to dismiss the message after every text message and every data connection, and certainly when data intensive apps are running in the background, such as Google Maps with Latitude. These USSD messages, apparently, cannot be disabled by a customer service representative. Clearly, they are an intentional annoyance disguised as a customer service to coerce you into a 2 year contract, or flee to a competitor.
Update ISSUE RESOLVED
- No 3G data support. Online chatter can be found espousing the merits of enjoying pre-paid 3G data, but the phone company was listening. These comments remain mythical and historical musings, as GoPhone data only supports 2G (EDGE GPRS only), as of this writing, no matter how much you’d be willing to pay. Again, they’ll be happy to convert your account to a “postpaid” commitment in order to subscribe to 3G data.
Update ISSUE RESOLVED
- No unlimited data offering. The same online whispers that spoiled the party on 3G prepaid data probably cued AT&T to cap its data offering to 1MB and 100MB denominations. Of course, this never implied tethering, although many forumistas falsely claim that prepay is the ultimate loophole.
- No visual voicemail on iPhone. At least without doing naughty things like jailbreaking, it is reported that visual voicemail is not supported on a pre-pay GoPhone plan and SIM in an iPhone. To not have visual voicemail on an iPhone is like having a PBJ without the first ingredient. Apparently, the executives responsible for upholding the 2 year contract conspiracy agree.
- No international roaming (beyond Mexico). Although the prepaid target market is clearly revealed by this sales policy, it dissolves the possibility of being able to keep a prepaid globetrotter number and bounce around the Earth’s sublime GSM network based on the à la carte reality of travel — it’s occasional and ad-hoc, not a feature to add to a monthly plan.
Research suggests that T-Mobile is the better choice for prepaid services in the United States. At the minimum, they do not employ the dealbreaker balance reminders, which is enough reason for me to expend my remaining balance and get a new number from the local German provider of mobile telephony. Those Europeans sure know a thing or two about running a mobile phone infrastructure. But there are so many reasons why telecom (and law enforcement, for that matter) will always keep prepaid mobile telephony a stinky deal.