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T-Mobile continues to slide, fires 900

Poor T-Mobile. The company hasn’t managed to change its status as the industry’s neglected step-child. Recent news shows the mobile carrier is laying off 900 people in a second round of cuts following 10 consecutive quarters of contract user losses. And that’s while competitors like Sprint have been adding users to their customer rolls. Apparently loads of people are fleeing the cold congfines of T-Mobile and heading to what they consider to be warmer, more hospitable climes.

Says the Wall Street Journal piece above, T-Mobile, with around 36,000 employees, announced it would cut 1,900 jobs and close seven call centers to help preserve funds for a $4 billion network upgrade to a high-speed mobile broadband.

Sounds like the chiefs are betting that the upgrade will stave off further losses and make them more attractive to mobile users. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Regardless, consumers should remember that no matter their choice of carrier, they can add dollars to their budget and maintain high quality communications by buying lightly used cell phones. T-Mobile may save itself or it may not, but used cell phones and their expert refurbishers are here to stay.


Consumers might soon be paying more for handsets

We soon may see rising prices for cell phones, says the Wall Street Journal, since wireless  carriers are working to change the terms of smart phone deals that have benefited phone manufacturers like Apple. The result would be consumers paying more for devices like the iPhone.

From the WSJ piece: “Carriers in the U.S. have been raising monthly rates and charging higher fees when customers upgrade to new phones. In Europe, embattled carriers are taking more aggressive measures: Spain’s two leading wireless companies are refusing to subsidize devices for new customers.”

This could hit consumers especially hard since  most upgrade their devices every two years. It’s plausible some will react by lengthening that period, but others might consider upgrading to a new-to-them device that’s still newer than their current phone. If so, this new development could be a boon to retailers who refurbish and sell used cell phones. Then again, if the American economy continues its slow but steady supposed recovery, maybe folks will pony up more cash for brand new phones. OF course, that would worsen the already substantial problem of cell phones piling up in landfills. Hopefully, people will wise up and realize that lightly used phones can do nearly exactly as much as brand new ones.

AT&T’s network capacity is strained

AT&T’s networks have become more efficient than they used to be (remember the chaos that ensued when the first few generations of iPhones came out and the network was over-burdened in large cities?), meaning it delivers more bandwidth over the same infrastructure and spectrum.

Even so, as Bloomberg Businessweek points out, they’ve sold so many large data plans to so many consumers that now that people are starting to use the entire allotment of data they’re paying for, the infrastructure is approaching the max-out limit. If you’re unhappy with the network, maybe it’s time to jump ship to Verizon and get used cell phones to offset the cost of breaking the contract.

From the Businessweek story:

AT&T’s first-quarter earnings show that new smartphone customers aren’t the ones straining its data networks. Rather, AT&T’s chickens have come home to roost. Customers are finally starting to consume the big buckets of data AT&T is selling them, taking their fair share of network capacity while not paying more for the privilege. Consequently AT&T is seeing a massive increase in data traffic without a corresponding jump in data revenue.

During AT&T’s Tuesday earnings call, Mobility Chief Executive Ralph de la Vega revealed that AT&T had added a net total of 10 million new smartphones over the past year. The devices now account for nearly 60 percent of its postpaid subscriber base. De la Vega also revealed that AT&T’s wireless data revenue is tracking about $24 billion per year, growing at a steady rate of more than 20 percent per year.

But AT&T has pointed out before that data traffic on its mobile networks is actually doubling each year. So that means a 100 percent annual increase in mobile gigabytes shipped is being driven by a mere 32 percent increase in smartphones. What’s more, AT&T is collecting only a few billion dollars more in revenue to handle that deluge of new data.


Used cell phones for price comparisons

The number of people using their mobile phones to compare product prices while shopping is soaring. A new report shows half of smart phone and tablet users utilize the practice to wield greater control over the purchase process. The most mobilized of shoppers, the Mediapost story on the GfC report says, “are leveraging their device at every key stage of the purchase process, from research to peer recommendations, value-seeking to the purchase itself.”

Additionally, 44 percent of users are looking for coupons on their devices and 17 percent have already purchased a product via mobile platforms. Of course most are also “liking” certain products or services on Facebook and other social networks, too. GfK coins this “extreme shopping” and says it’s all about the desire for control. Indeed, subjects said they feel “more in control than ever before” of the shopping experience, because these devices help them choose the best products, shop more efficiently and find a broader range of information sources.

Obviously, comparison shopping, via app, your friend’s recommendation on Facebook and coupon-searching is all possible on any smart phone, whether it’s new, used, or refurbished. For those shoppers who have been coupon clipping for decades and envy their smart phone owning fellow customers, this might actually be the thing that actually drives them to finally cave and buy a new phone. Since they’re already so bargain-focused, they’d likely be happy to know they can find a perfectly high-functioning phone at a shop that carries used cell phones. That way, they can get a deal on a new phone in order to get more deals. And who can beat that?

Social networking on smart phones outpaces gaming

We’ve noticed that the people who spent years mocking “gamers” have now succumbed to games’ online cousins: social networking. Even our Aunt Ada, never a fan of anything electronic, can’t wait to get home to check out what’s happening on Facebook, and once she gets the app on her iPhone, watch out! Who knows if she’ll even be able to drive without checking her Wall (ah, the terms that have become part of our dialogue lexicon, from tweet to friending to Wall).

Seems the numbers show there are lots of Aunt Adas burning minutes on their mobile devices these days. Says a piece in, “Since the dawn of the smartphone, games have dominated consumers’ mobile minutes. In the past year, however, new research shows that social networking has risen to rival gaming on a per-minute basis.”

The proof? Flurry compared the average time smart phone users spent across app categories between the first quarter of 2011 and 2012, and found that gaming dropped by 4% — down to 24 minutes per day — while social networking increased by 60% — up to 24 minutes per day. Peter Farago, the firm’s VP of marketing, told the site, “We take the rise in social networking apps as a signal of maturation for the platform — As game demand may be hitting its saturation point, consumers are also discovering other apps, namely social networking.”

For those of us who peddle phones, this is good news. Because the more popular social networking becomes on smart phones, the more smart phones people will want. And, those of us who happen to sell used cell phones can offer a the Aunt Adas of the world a great deal – a smart phone that’s been lightly used and is Just as adept at calls and apps as a brand new iPhone – at half the price.

We can count on seeing continuing growth based on the current trends. Flurry found huge growth in year-over-year social networking app usage. Time spent increased by 60 percent, and the total time spent on smart phone apps among consumers  went from 68 to 77 minutes, a jump of 13 percent.

Learning requires play, and digital apps are following the data

Along with happiness research, another growing field seems to be the science of play. According to experts, children – and even adults – often learn more readily when what they’re doing is more like play than work. Enter a new generation of digital gadgets designed to help kids learn as they play. At the recent and aptly-named Sand Box Summit, held at MIT, the conference united educators and technologists aiming to reach youn g folks ranging from toddlerhood to 20s “and equip them with skills for the digital lifestyle of the 21st century.”

The effort included an array of online games and educational content, as well as toys that provide offline activities in tandem with online apps. Now that infants are so close to technology with the advent of ever-present smart phones and tablets, apps and games are becoming second nature to them. And older children are becoming active on social media at earlier ages.

Examples? Calloway Digital Arts now has apps for Apple’s iOS device that feature digital storybooks with games designed for children’s development. The company’sThomas the Tank Engine stories include have puzzles and coloring e-books.

The conference, and the industry at-large, is focused on developing new ways to fuse sophisticated learning such as reading and information processing and art, with digital play. So whether your kids are using smart phones, used cell phones or your iPad, you can make sure to have educational tools on-hand in addition to the usual Angry Birds-type stuff.

Wireless industry breaks recycling record

On a recent night, a group of friends gathered at a mountain house and celebrated the last weekend of ski season. They were drinking copious amounts of beer, and someone mentioned the necessity of recycling the bottles. Someone else said, “Whatever – I recycle more every day than you guys do in a month.” Far from describing an alarming alcohol addiction that causes him to recycle hundreds of bottles per day, he was referring to his occupation as a dealer of used cell phones. And he was right. Says here, the The Consumer Electronics Association reports that  recycling in the wireless industry surged last year, jumping 53 percent and busting records.

The accomplishment – aimed at reducing the enormous amount of plastic and toxic chemicals that, as part of trashed phones, is constantly piling up in landfills – was the result of the eCycling Leadership Initiative, according to CEA, which says the industry recycled 460 million pounds last year, compared to 300 million pounds the year before:

“In the first year of the eCycling Leadership Initiative, our industry has made significant progress toward its goals due to the hard work of our member companies,” Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of CEA, said as part of the announcement. “We continue to push for a national solution to eCycling that will eliminate the costly and confusing patchwork of state regulations.”

We hope this trend will continue, since the lead and other toxins in non-recycled phones leak into the environment and are harmful to animals, plants and humans. Do you part by making sure that instead of throwing your old phones away, you donate or sell them to someone like our friend, who will repair and resell them.

What do you prefer: RadioShack or a panoply of used cell phone options?

If you’re one of those consumers who has yet to switch to a smart phone – perhaps you use an older generation flip phone and rarely text, much less attempt to navigate the web on a mobile device – you’re being targeted by special ads from RadioShack. Starting late last year, the retailer began running ads on the Verve Wireless network encouraging people with older devices to visit their nearest RadioShack. And, by using Verve’s highly-visible location banner, the ads alert users to the location of the RadioShack nearest them right at the same time they were viewing the ad. Clever, eh?

This is all part of a broader strategy to spur RadioShack’s mobile phone sales by targeting people whose contracts are soon to be expiring.”Forty percent of their sales comes from mobile devices,” Elizabeth Elliott, senior associate and mobile consultant at Mindshare Chicago, which handled the media buy for RadioShack, told ClickZ. “So we figured if we can communicate to a person on a mobile device knowing that device has been in the market for 18 months or more, we can assume that they may be ready to renew their phones sooner rather than later.”

While it’s not a bad marketing strategy, consumers may be better-served by instead visiting a shop that buys, refurbishes and sells used cell phones. Often, these shops have a wider variety of devices and brands at lower prices, and consumers can still select from relatively recent devices and operating systems. Those who have stuck with the old versions for so long are likely not attached to having the very latest iPhone, and since they can get most of the same functions on a lightly used one for cheaper, that may be the way to go. Besides, let’s be honest: When’s the last time you saw a wildly diverse selection of goods at RadioShack?


Prepare for spring’s Android updates with new, used cell phones

Sony just announced plans to start issuing Android 4.0 updates to its 2011 Xperia smartphones starting in mid-April, reports Scott Webster, senior editor for AndroidGuys and a blogger for CNET. The first models expected to see “Ice Cream Sandwich” are set to be the Xperia Arc SXperia Neo V, and Xperia Ray, he says, with the updates taking around four to six weeks to complete, depending on markets and carriers. In May and June, Sony plans to release Android 4.0 to the remaining models, such as the Xperia ArcXperia PlayXperia Neo, and Xperia Active.

If your Android is on the upgrade list, you can look forward to new features and maybe a few bugs to get worked out while they arrange themselves on your device. If your device is not on the list and you’re dying for the upgrades, one way to get them without spending a large sum on a brand new phone is to take advantage of refurbished cell phones. For a bit less money, you could get a fairly recent model of one of the Androids about to get hit with the new generation of updates. It just so happens that used cell phones and refurbished cell phones vendor CellularTrendzis selling a number of Xperia Plays. They range in price from $129 to $149, which is less than half of what you’d pay for a new one.

Watch out: Angry Birds to be “a permanent part of pop culture”

You know that simple, silly little game your kids won’t stop playing on Facebook or on your iPhone? The one where you use a slingshot to fling birds and destroy pigs hidden in fortresses? In spite of the fact that it seems to have been created by an incredibly stoned couch surfer, the game “has been downloaded 700 million times and is the fastest growing game on Facebook.” The company’s estimated value? Oh, just around $9 billion. But apparently that’s just the beginning.

“We want to make Angry Birds a permanent part of pop culture,” Peter Vesterbacka told Reuters, comparing the brand to Sanrio’s Hello Kitty or Nintendo’s Mario. “We’re just getting started.” Rovio is teaming up with Wal-Mart to sell its games and is planning a series of themed activity parks in Britain (They’ll apparently feature Angry Birds-inspired swings, sandpits, climbing towers, slides and outdoor arcade games).

The goal is to be an “entertainment brand,” not just a company that makes games. Not that those are doing poorly – According to a recent report by Juniper Research, the massive growth in tablets are set to push total end-user games revenues on tablets to $3.1 billion by 2014, up from $491 million in 2011. The increasing size of smart phone screens will likely aid those numbers, as well.

As games like Angry Birds become more and more popular, not just on tablets but also on smart phones, you can down on cost by buying your children used cell phones. They won’t notice any different while they’re pelting the on-screen pigs.

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