Switching from Verizon to AT&T Go Phone Prepaid on my new Nexus 5

nexus5

I’ve been a 10 year + Verizon Wireless customer,  however, I simply had enough with their stance on Nexus devices.   I purchased my Galaxy Nexus two years ago to get the real Nexus experience.  After the release was pushed back further and further the device was finally released and time after time updates came at a snails pace from Verizon.  Not only that they loaded the phone with Verizon bloatware and banned Google Wallet.   Hardly the pure Google experience Google intended for a Nexus device.  Worst of all the Galaxy Nexus itself has some several pitfalls like poor battery life.

After the Galaxy Nexus debacle I wanted to choose my next phone carefully.  The Moto X was my first candidate as it was a near pure Google experience, but I was severely underwhelmed with it from the launch.  So much so I actually went to a store to look at it before committing to purchase.  After holding the phone in my hand I was not impressed and combined with the specs I felt like I would have another dud before two years had passed.  Not to mention Verizon did not have Moto Maker at this point which is one of the bigger selling points of the phone.

Nexus 5

Shortly after I scratched the Moto X off my list Nexus 5 rumors started to really ramp up.  It was pretty well known in the community Verizon was not getting this phone, but I knew it would be true pure Google phone.  Amazingly the Nexus 5 was never actually announced.  Google just placed it on their website with no announcement.  Possibly because of the high demand for the phone.  After the official specs and initial impressions came out on launch day I knew immediately this was the phone I wanted.

Switching to AT&T Prepaid Go Phone

The real point of this post is to chronicle my process from moving from Verizon to AT&T Go Phone.  I chose the $60/m plan with unlimited talk/text and 2 gigs of data.

Why Go Phone?

First off, my area doesn’t have any T-mobile service whatsoever.  So any T-mobile option is off the table for me and unless you live near a city that is probably a common situation.  If you primarily are in a T-Mobile service area you should check out what they offer.  I chose Go Phone because I need predictable phone service and support.  Go Phone is nearly the same service level as post paid AT&T customers from my understanding.  AIO, Straight Talk, Net10, Cricket, Virgin, MetroPCS, etc are all MVNO companies that have agreements with companies like Verizon and AT&T to lease voice and data on their towers.  Understandably the data traffic with these providers have lower priority in general.   Stipulations vary but in general on these MVNO plans when you exceed your data usage your data rate is crippled to 2G speeds for the remainder of the period.  This really isn’t acceptable for me.  Go Phone is clear about their data policy and provides an avenue ($10/gig) to purchase more data.

Straight Talk is one of the options that really stands out.  For $45/m you can get unlimited/talk/text/data.  Well, not really.  If you read the fine print data is capped at 2.5 gigs/month, there are also limits on other items as well.  Additionally a quick Google search will reveal that Straight Talk has a huge customer service problem.  Generally it sounds like you will talk to outsourced foreign support (India) and this leads to a lot of frustrations with people.    What is interesting now just in the last few weeks Straight Talk has added support for AT&T LTE to their site again.  So you can purchase a 4g LTE sim now from Straight Talk.  I mentioned Straight Talk specifically because it will likely work well for a lot of people but for me I need reliable support and predictable data (with a path to buy more) so I went with Go Phone.

Activating and Porting

The sim purchase process is a little bit hidden on the Go Phone site if you don’t have one, but basically you need to go into an AT&T store and get a sim because you can’t order it on their site.  Not sure why this is, they are for sale on eBay and Amazon but make sure you are getting the latest 4G LTE sim card if you buy one.  The sim cards in store appear to be free.  Once I stopped into my AT&T store the activation process was simple.  The clerk installed a new sim card and gave me the predictable, “why are you not buying a full blown plan for this awesome phone” speech.  He scanned my IMEI number on the back of my Nexus 5 and a few minutes later I had a new number and service!   I asked about porting my number, we decided it would be best if I drove home and made sure the service worked like I expected before porting from Verizon so he gave me an extra sim if I needed it.  I was a little confused by that, but my phone worked so I left ready to go.

Porting was probably the most surprising process.  I called customer service and explained I’d like to port my number to my new Go Phone account.  They transferred me to the porting department.  The rep was really nice and asked for my account # with Verizon, pin, and phone #.  She called my new Nexus 5 then called Verizon to authorize the transfer.  In a span of about 15 minutes the port was complete without even rebooting my Nexus 5!  So there you have it, porting your number from Verizon to AT&T Go Phone can be done over the phone in real time!

 

Responsive Ecommerce and Personalized Online Product Design

logo

I’ve just put the finishing touches on a several month project and an experiment for me in responsive ecommerce design.  The site is http://letteringhq.com a vinyl lettering site where you can design your own lettering online.  My goal was to design a site that worked equally as well on phones and tablets as it did on desktops.  The real trick was making an online product designer that is usable on smaller devices.  The cornerstone of the site is being able to design your own lettering online, so that was the first thought.  When I was done I wanted to be able to walk from lettering design all the way to payment from my phone and not feel the need to “switch to desktop site” or download an app.

The State of Mobile Web

How to build a mobile site is still changing.  Perhaps it will never stop changing?  Being this is mid 2013 right at this moment the concept of how a mobile enabled site should work has changed alot since the days of Blackberry and Windows CE.  As of today most people agree you should not be pimping your app when someone lands on your site.  In fact I find it annoying and the internet agrees, so does Google.  You can now lose ranking if you redirect improperly or force your app on mobile users.  A mobile site ideally should present the same information in a better format based on the size of the screen.  This is still often poorly executed for various reasons.  Some of them relate to what Google is currently penalizing for, others relate to simply the lack of functionality in my opinion.  Often I have found myself immediately switching to the desktop site because the mobile version doesn’t have the same functionality!

One method of creating a mobile site it to utilize a responsive design which is one that responds to the size of the screen.  Twitter bootstrap makes this process pretty easy to accomplish without much work.  In fact Microsoft has just added bootstrap to the new Asp.net templates for Visual Studio 2013.  I opted to go this route as bootstrap already plays nice with most of the other JS libraries I was using.  What this means as far as development I will only have one set of views to manage and not a mobile code base to maintain.

In summary the web stack I settled on:

  • Twitter bootstrap with Flat UI Pro for responsive design
  • My Custom ASP.net MVC 4 Multi Tenant Ecommerce platform
  • Entity Framework 5  + MySql Db
  • Knockout.js
  • IonApi to generate the lettering preview images

 Improving Mobile Bounce Rates and Conversions

My litmus for all of this comes back to a few metrics.  Ultimately I want users to buy if they are on their phones or tablets, so increasing the conversion rate is the ultimate goal.  I most definitely don’t want the dreaded bounce, which is landing on a page then never returning.  If conversions improve on mobile I should see better bounce rates also.  I have some significant findings that show the bounce rate to be 20-30% higher when it comes to mobile phones on similar sites.  Interestingly it seems tablets generally don’t exhibit this behavior.  My thoughts are that most desktop sites are usable on tablets in general.  It is possible to inadvertently use a jquery plugin or some UI feature that doesn’t work well on a tablet, but in the last few years I have made it a point to check for touch usability.

On the opposite spectrum it never ceases to amaze me the amount of people that will struggle through a website that was designed years ago before mobile was a big consideration and somehow still manage to checkout using their phone.  Tablets I can understand, but some sites (even sites I’ve written) just don’t work well on phones.

Responsive Mobile Product Design

responsive-letteringhq

 

Easily my biggest challenge and biggest unknown is adapting a vinyl lettering design tool I’ve developed to adapt to the screen size.  In order to do this it also meant the design tool must react immediately if the screen is rotated and it cannot use any plugins that don’t work well on touch.  I had to completely re evaluate the complexity of my design tool and in some cases strip out some features that didn’t work well on mobile browsers (such as a gradient color picker).  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out though, you can give it a try on your phone or tablet and let me know what you think.  In the end no matter what device you use the design tool on you aren’t missing any features or functionality.

Responsive Mobile Checkout Process

Part two of my project was creating a mobile checkout process that didn’t suck.   The first hurdle was creating a cart view that does not appear too compacted or crowded on a phone.  I settled on presenting a totally separate shopping cart view for mobile phones because it was just too much information to cram into a horizontally formatted table.  As you can see below Bootstrap and flat UI pro combination make a nice contrasting cart experience on the phone.

shopping-cart-page

 

 

Why no registration?

I’ve created a handful of ecommerce platforms over the years and registration is yet another really easy thing to get wrong.  I’ll save the rant, but say this.  If you are going to do registration make it an optional step, put the registration form on the thank you page of your site, have a rock solid password/username reset feature, and use something like Stripe or PayPal Vault to actually make the fact they registered useful (their Credit cards are stored for later use).  Other than that you’ll find that not having registration removes a real barrier to checkout for a lot of people.

Google Wallet is doing it right

While I didn’t really like how Google Checkout worked, I do however think that the new Google Wallet really fits in well with the direction mobile e commerce is going.  Similar to Paypal Express Checkout Google Wallet will take an existing account and pass all of the information directly to the website so the customer doesn’t have to enter anything at all.  After watching the video presentation on their site it looks really slick.  I’ll be integrating this feature at some point as it truly would be useful for some point (I would use it).  Why doesn’t Apple have something like this?

Areas of Improvement

Rarely anything I do is considered “done”.  There is always room for improvement.  As far as usability I think adding Google Wallet once the site really gets on its feet will be a great convenience for Android users.  My only other direct compliant with the finished product is the speed and page load times.  There are many areas I’m going to start tackling this though!  More often than not your customers will tell you what you need to fix/add next.

 

Tagged: , , ,

It is cuil to be ironic

So I made a post a few weeks ago basically ranting about Cuil search engine and how it pretty well was a failure.  Anyway, I thought it was funny and ironic the search result that hit my blog post a few days ago.  I have attached a screen shot.  Take note of the first result, the phrase searched for, the image displayed, and the text of the result.  Be sure and read my post about cuil and proceed to get a good laugh.

cuil-sucks

Cool space images from NASA

I’m just throwing this out there for those interested in space flight.  Nasa has a great gallery called Image of the day that makes for great desktop backgrounds.  The images are current, some are less than 24 hours old if you check during a current mission.

Tagged: , , ,

New Camera Canon A560

canon-a560.jpg

I got a new camera for a trip i’m taking this summer.  It is a Canon A560.  Overall I’m very pleased with it.  I’m a big fan of the A series, I have owned an A60 for a few years now and it has been a good camera.  The 560 has been pretty much everything I expected and more.  Very easy to use and maintains the same basic control setup as the old A series.  Turns on 2x as fast as my old one, holds 2 less batteries, 3x as large screen, 2.5x the megapixel.  I look forward to using it some more!  I was particularly impressed with the macro mode. I snapped a photo of a penny just playing around and was stunned how sharp it came out. 

penny.jpg

Tagged: ,