Drops speeds to 2G as of today, down from 4G, but doesn't lower prices.
Last week, I received a letter (yes on paper) from T-Mobile, my wireless carrier, saying that some devices on my account would drop data rates from 4G to 2G. On June 27, as announced, the two iPhone 4S phones on my account no longer run at 4G Speeds. The "4G" indicator has been replaced by the letter "E" indicating my data is now running at 2G speeds.
T-Mobile claims that it's no longer supporting the U1900 cellular band and becuase my phones apparently don't support compatible bands, my speed has dropped. Of course, T-Mobile is trying to turn this into a marketing ploy by offering upgraded phones at reduced prices.
I've been paying for 4G speeds and now suddenly, my speed is down to 2G (speed test came in a 80 kbps). Do you think they'd offer the option of staying with 2G at a lower monthly rate? Of course not.
That's the problem will communication companies, be they wired, wireless, or cable. They won't give me what I want: fewer services for less money. Cable TV providers are the worst offenders. They deliver dozens of channels I'll never watch and don’t want to pay for, but there's no option. Clearly, the technology is there to lets you select only those channels you want delivered. Do they offer that? Never.
So, now I'm forced to replace two perfectly working iPhones because my carrier won't support them a particular slice of the spectrum. Yes, this happens. My first cell phone was an analog phone and when AT&T went digital, I had to get a new phone. The third phone on the plan, my daughter's iPhone 5S, is not affected.
Truth be told, we've offered our daughter a new phone for her graduation. She could use one with more than 16 GB of memory before she's off to college. So, maybe we'll have to get her a new phone and I'll use her iPhone 5S to replace my 8 GB iPhone 4S, then get my wife a new phone, maybe a 32 GB iPhone 6SE. That may be a problem, you see, I finally convinced her to give up her third Samsung SGH-i927. She refused for several years because the Samsung phone had a slide-out mechanical keyboard. I was tired of supporting it. They tended to lose charge after a few hours. She was carrying three power banks to get through the day. The iPhone 6SE is the same size as an iPhone 5, but the iPhone 4S fits nicely where she likes to keep it, but the longer case might not.
All of this makes me wonder if we really need more speed. 5G promises 1 Gbps data rates, but I can't imagine needing that much, nor paying for it. Indeed, my iPhone 6 work phone has LTE capability, but I keep it turned off because LTE cuts battery life. 4G is fast enough for me, but I can no longer get that on the two iPhone 4S models. Thus, they'll be reduced to becoming backups or perhaps I'll use one without a SIM card as a music player with Wi-Fi. I don’'t keep music on my phones because I don't want to use battery power for that.
Yes I know that technology marches on, but it seems a shame to lose two working phones, especially because the carrier won't support the data rate anymore. What's your experience with technology upgrades? Do you find ways to keep your old technology running long after it should be replaced?
—Martin Rowe covers test and measurement for EE Times and EDN. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org