Tesco Mobile announces commitment to fixed contract charges

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Tesco Mobile announces commitment to fixed contract charges as competitors reap £217m* of customers’ money in hidden tariff increases

Today, Tesco Mobile has announced a promise to fix customers’ contract tariff costs.

Its Tariff Promise is a commitment never to raise its customers’ core tariff prices mid-contract, the first move of its kind amongst network providers in the UK.

This makes it the only provider to pledge that the tariff price a customer signs-up to at the start of a contract, will be the same price they pay for the entire contract term at no additional cost to the customer.

Tesco Mobile has never raised its Pay-Monthly tariff costs mid-contract and is dedicated to continuing this.

Recent research has revealed that 70% of consumers who have taken out a mobile contract did not know networks could increase prices during the contract period.

The Tesco Mobile research* found additional unknown tariff costs were a major bug bear for customers.

One in four (25%) cite rising tariff prices mid-contract as a major irritant, with slow mobile internet (27%) and complicated tariffs (26%) also being grounds for frustration.

And with network providers raising tariff costs by a median of 81p a month, Tesco Mobile estimates that in one year alone, UK consumers have spent around £217 million extra on their phone bills.

Simon Groves, Chief Marketing Officer of Tesco Mobile said: “We believe it’s only fair to stick to the contract that we make with our customers, and see no reason to change the core tariff price that a customer has signed up to. We’ve never put our Pay-Monthly tariff prices up mid-contract and this Tariff Promise demonstrates our continued commitment to our customers. Being open and honest with them is incredibly important to us and we’re proud to be setting an example of best in class mobile service.”

*Research was conducted by Vision Critical on a sample of 1,000 consumers on behalf of Tesco Mobile, February 2013

Wildlife Mobile offers free calls with Earth Hour promotion

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Wildlife Mobile is giving away 60 free call minutes to every customer who signs up for a SIM-only tariff before the end of March, as part of a time-limited promotion to mark Earth Hour.

Under the terms of the World Wildlife Federation’s mobile network’s offer, all customers who sign on the dotted line for a pay as you go or pay monthly tariff before the end of the month qualify for the free minutes to UK landlines and mobiles.

Billed as the only network where “every conversation equals conservation”, Wildlife Mobile’s BIG IDEA is to operate with less profit than commercially minded carriers, with the surplus money from call charges directed to conservation projects.

The mobile provider aims to hit two million minutes of calls by the end of the year, with pay as you go tariffs starting at 5p per minute, plus double call credit with every top-up. Opt for pay monthly and you’re looking at tariffs priced from £9.50 per month.

Scheduled for March 23rd, Earth Hour will see eco-minded sorts turn off the lights in their homes for an hour at 8.30pm in a gesture of support for a move towards cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

 

 


 
 

Samsung Galaxy S4 eye-tracking smartphone unveiled

peoples-phone-samsung-galaxy-s4

Samsung has launched a smartphone which allows users to control its 5in (12.5cm) screen using only their eyes. The Galaxy S4 follows on from last year’s S3, a product that sold over 40 million units worldwide.

At a lavish, Broadway-themed event in New York, the company also demonstrated the phone’s ability to take two different pictures at once. Analysts widely regard Samsung to be the biggest challenger to Apple’s dominance of mobile products. The Galaxy S4 will be rolled out globally at the end of April. Following the launch, shares in Samsung fell 1.7% in early trade in Seoul on Friday amid worries the market for phone upgrades was “flattening out”. The company’s head of mobile communications, JK Shin said 327 mobile operators in 155 countries will carry the handset.

The device will be made available in two colours, white and black. In the UK, Vodafone, Three, Orange, T-Mobile and EE have all announced plans to offer the device on their networks.

Through a series of role-playing scenes, the South Korean firm demonstrated the phone’s key features. Much was made of the device’s ability to be controlled without touching it. Using “Smart pause”, the user can pause a video by looking away from the screen. Additionally, the “Smart Scroll” software analyses the user’s eyes and wrist to scroll through emails and other content. “The debut of nifty eye motion-sensitive controls to allow users to pause video and scroll through pages using eye movements alone is smart,” said telecoms expert Ernest Doku from uSwitch.com. “For commuters crammed in trains – or just those who love a bit of futuristic tech that makes their lives easier – this novel feature will really help the Galaxy S4 to stand out.” However, Charles Golvin from Forrester Research worried the swathes of new features may alienate some customers. “The larger question is how much of this stuff can people actually use,” he told the BBC.

“There’s no question that there’s a lot of powerful technology and innovative features – but whether people will care about them or use them I’m not sure. “Including an image of yourself in a picture that you’re taking for someone else – yes, I think that’s a bit gimmicky. “But on the video side, for a live chat where it’s compositing you and your image to show both you and what you’re seeing – that’s not a gimmick.”

In another scene, depicting a backpacker in Shanghai, the phone was shown to translate English text into Chinese speech – before translating Chinese speech back into English text. The dual camera function takes pictures using both rear and front cameras

The dual camera feature makes use of the device’s front and rear cameras simultaneously, blending the pictures together to make sure the picture taker is not “left out”. The rear has a 13 megapixel camera, while the user-facing camera captures pictures at 2 megapixels.

The phone weighs 130g, and is 7.9mm thick – making it slightly lighter and thinner than the S3. The device uses Samsung’s HD AMOLED technology, giving the S4’s screen – which is marginally bigger than the S3’s – a resolution of 441 pixels-per-inch.

As predicted by several industry experts before the event, most of the presentation focused on the phone’s software rather than hardware. As well as the “touchless” technology, the company also introduced the Samsung Hub – a multimedia storage facility that can be shared across multiple Samsung devices.

 

BT iconic red kiosk set to sail the high seas

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BT today saw the navy rise to a challenge as working navy ship HMS Westminster took delivery of an iconic red kiosk

High winds at the start of the week in Portsmouth made it impossible for the kiosk to be loaded aboard the frigate before she set sail to London.

However this did not deter the crew from ensuring the payphone could take pride of place aboard the deck today (Friday March 15).

The kiosk was brought aboard after making its way along The Thames on a barge and then being hoisted aboard, in front of a fascinated crowd.

The red payphone will now be in prime position whenever the ship is in port, both in the UK and around the world.

The much-loved K6 kiosk will assume duties when it joins the navy, becoming an integral part of the internal communications of the frigate and will be used as the Quartermaster’s telephone when HMS Westminster is docked.

The official handover took place as the ship was moored on the River Thames alongside HMS Belfast in London. The famous HMS Belfast celebrated her 75th birthday today (March 15th) and the HMS Westminster and the crew joined her to take part in the celebrations.

BT Payphones CEO Steven Hughes said: “It’s fantastic to see our red kiosk joining the ranks of the navy and I think it already looks very much at home.

“HMS Westminster travels the globe representing the UK and helps support people who find themselves in dire emergencies. We are really delighted to provide a kiosk that can be used by the crew when they are docked.

“Our red kiosks really capture the public’s imagination and many have been adopted around the UK and used in unusual ways, but being aboard a working navy ship is going to take some beating.”

Lt Cdr Mickey Rooney, HMS Westminster, said: “We couldn’t be prouder to be carrying an icon of the country’s high streets as we protect the UK’s interests worldwide. Following two years of counter piracy and anti terrorist patrols spanning from the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean to the Atlantic we will be embarking on the next chapter of our adventure in the summer which will see us return East of Suez.

“Carrying the phone box to each and every nation we hope will bring the very visual reassurance that Britain is on hand and inevitably all will be well.”

 

 

Organisation launches to help combat 4G interference

peoples-phone-freeview-4gThe organisation set up to help households experiencing interference from 4G signals has launched. Called at800, it has been given £180m by the UK’s mobile operators to ensure that next-generation services do not cause interference with TV services. Ofcom has estimated that up to 900,000 homes could experience interference with their TV signal.

The problem affects only Freeview users, which operates close to the 800MHz frequency 4G services will use. According to Freeview, around 20 million households watch TV via its platform. Of these about half have it as their sole TV service.

On Monday at800 will begin live trials in the West Midland, temporarily activating 4G masts in Cradley Heath and Rowley Regis, to gauge exactly how many households are affected and how. A website and contact centre will also go live – the number is 0333 31 31 800.

Residents and business are being asked to report the extent to which Freeview services are disrupted.

Full commercial 4G launches are expected in the summer. The organisation plans to produce maps of households most likely to be affected and inform them via post of the things they can do to mitigate the problem. It estimates that the majority of homes will be able to solve any interference issues by fitting a filter, which it will supply free of charge. For vulnerable people, an engineer will visit the home to fit it.

The filter will normally plug into the aerial lead between the TV and the antenna, blocking the 4G frequencies. For those for whom that solution does not work, an engineer will be sent out to see if they need to change their cabling or aerial. For a few, it may be necessary to move onto a different platform, such as satellite or cable.

Simon Beresford-Wylie, at800 chief executive, said of the process: “We are hoping for the best and planning for the worst.”

Other countries, where 4G services have already gone live, have had few issues. In Germany where 10% of the population watches digital terrestrial TV, less than 10 cases of interference have been reported. Sweden also has had very few reported problems.

 

 

Texting is as dangerous as being well over drink-drive limit

peoples-phone-texting-whilst-driving-dangerWriting text messages while driving is as dangerous as being considerably above the legal drink-drive limit, researchers have found.

An international inquiry concluded that sending messages on a mobile phone leads to “significant risks”. Researchers found it was as dangerous as being a quarter over the legal drink-drive limit. The study, published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal, also found that having deep, thoughtful conversations while using a hands-free mobile phone was a danger.
In contrast, simple discussions may not carry significant driving risks, according to scientists from the University of Barcelona and several Australian institutes.
“Our results suggest that the use of hands-free devices could also put drivers at risk,” said Dr Sumie Leung Shuk Man, co-author of the study. “Although they should be allowed, they require more research to determine how they should be regulated.”

In their study, the scientists compared the effects of mobile phone use while driving with the effects of alcohol. In Australia, 12 healthy volunteers, all students who held a driving licence, completed a series of driving tasks on two separate days, a week apart. Driving performance was assessed by time within a target speed range. The study looked at speeding, braking reaction time, speed deviation and lane changing.
Habitual drinkers and those who had never drunk alcohol before the test were not allowed to participate. One day, the group members used a mobile phone, while they performed a “simulated driving task” under four conditions. These included no phone usage, talking naturally with a hands-free device, holding a demanding conversation over a hands-free phone and text messaging. The two different conversation levels were the equivalent to a “natural conversation”, in which the subject and scientist spoke about an interesting subject “as a way of passing the time”. A dialogue with more specific and demanding questions included queries such as: “Can you describe the car journey from your work to your house?”
On the other day, the volunteers drank alcohol to reach three different blood alcohol concentration levels: 0.04, equivalent to 40 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood and half the legal limit in Britain; 0.07; and 0.10. Some of them drank no alcohol. Using a driving simulator, volunteers had to keep their position in the left lane at a speed of almost 40mph (60kmh) and 50mph (80kmh), braking every time a lorry appeared. Headphones and a microphone were used to simulate the effect of a hands-free phone. The results showed that road skills declined by an equal amount among volunteers 25 per cent above the legal drink limit and those who used their phone for text messages.
When using hands-free phones during “simple” conversations, it was similar to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.04. If more attention was required, the reading “shot up” to the blood alcohol equivalent of 0.07. When the volunteers answered text messages, the rate stood at the equivalent of 0.1. The legal driving limit in Britain is 0.08 or 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
“The findings … suggest that very simple conversations on a mobile phone may not represent a significant driving risk compared with legally permissible blood alcohol levels,” said Dr Shuk Man, of the University of Barcelona. “Cognitively demanding, hands-free conversation and particularly texting represent significant risks.” The Australian institutes of Wollongong University, Victoria University, Swinburne University of Technology and The Institute for Breathing and Sleep were also involved in the study.

Automated phone menus – and how to survive them

“Please listen to the following options.” Does your heart drop at the sound of these words? If so, here are eight ways of surviving automated phone menus and the call charges that may be adding up as you listen to them.

 
“Please listen to the following options.” Does your heart drop at the sound of these words? If so, here are eight ways of surviving automated phone menus and the call charges that may be adding up as you listen to them.
  
1. Avoid the phone altogether – There are normally different ways of contacting a company. Often web chat facilities can get you through to an advisor within minutes. Consumer group Which? also recommends emailing or tweeting the company. It’s free and means you have a written record which could be useful if you have to challenge or prove something in the future.
  
2. Beware high call charges – Many businesses use phone numbers beginning 08 – some of which are free, but others can carry a charge significantly higher than the cost of local or national calls. Charges can also depend on your provider and call package. Communications regulator Ofcom wants companies to make it simpler. In the meantime, their guide to phone prefixes lists the charges you are likely to face for various calls.
 
3. Find a cheaper number – Which? provides advice on cheap alternatives to 0870 and 0845 calls often used by businesses, such as looking for a “calling from overseas” number. This will usually start +44 and is likely to be cheaper. Just replace +44 with 0.
 
Which? also recommends looking for sales-line numbers – these are often cheaper to encourage people to call – or searching for the company headquarters number. In both cases ask to be transferred to customer services. Once you get through to the right person, ask for the best way to call them next time. They might give you a direct line number which may be cheaper and faster.
 
 4. Avoid the mobile or get an app – Call charges can be much higher if you use a mobile phone. In particular “Freephone” 0800 numbers can be charged up to 40p per minute from a mobile. For smartphones there are a number of apps that can bypass the cost of 08 numbers.
 
5. Go off-peak – Calling 084 or 0870 numbers from a landline can be more expensive during the week. So phone at weekends.
 
6. Take a shortcut – Nigel Clarke’s website www.pleasepress1.com might shave some time off your call. He provide shortcuts through the automated menus of over 200 companies. As an example, if you wanted to call HMRC about a possible tax refund, you can dial the sequence 2,1,1 rather than listen through each menu option. However, you still need to wait for each menu recording to start before pressing the button.
  
7. Don’t hold – Which? recommends smart phone users download an app called ‘WeQ4u’. They say the app keeps your place in the queue and calls you back when an operator is available.
 
8. Learn to love them – Companies argue that automated menus benefit everyone as an efficient way of connecting you to the right service. “Automated responses help banks to filter large call volumes” – that’s according to the The British Bankers’ Association. “They also ensure customers are directed to the best person to answer their specific query as soon as possible.”
 
Some very small businesses use them to appear larger and more professional. In extreme cases, every menu option can take you through to the same person. Keeping quiet and ignoring every option will not get you through to someone faster.
  

 
Number Crunching – What do those prefixes mean?
 
01 and 02 numbers relate to locations in the UK so local or national rates apply
 
0800 and 0808 numbers are free but may be charged from mobiles
 
Charges for other 08 numbers vary widely
 
09 numbers are premium rate. Often used for chat lines, competitions and professional advice services.
 

Most Brits are ‘mobile-phobic’ abroad

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New research from BT reveals that 93 per cent of Brits develop “mobile-phobia’ when abroad, significantly reducing their normal mobile phone use. The reason for more than three quarters (79 per cent) is that they are afraid to use their mobile because they are worried about expensive charges or are completely in the dark about how much it will cost.

From the moment we leave the UK, our mobile habits undergo a radical transformation. Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of us go “cold turkey” and use our mobiles sparingly or not at all. A further fifth (20 per cent) do not even dare to risk it, leaving their mobiles at home when travelling abroad.

Those people who do take their phone abroad are very selective about answering calls and replying to texts. More than half (57 per cent) say they only answer calls which cannot wait until they get home and two thirds (63 per cent) only reply to important texts. Almost a quarter (23 per cent), never answer a call on their mobile when they are abroad and 18 per cent never reply to a text.

Despite this change in behaviour, the majority (58 per cent) of Brits abroad, still want to check in with friends and family back home, but most use text or email (62 per cent) instead of calling (25 per cent). Only six per cent feel comfortable using their mobile to make calls every day whilst abroad. If cost was not an issue, the number of people who would choose to call home would double, whilst the number who would text or email would fall by a third.

The recent launch of SmartTalk, a new free app by BT, means BT customers can save money on their smartphone calls abroad. By linking their smartphone to their BT home calling plan customers can take advantage of the inclusive call allowance in their calling plan. This means holidaymakers can now call home without the worry of a large bill when they get back to Britain.

The app works best over wi-fi, but will also work over any mobile data connection. It allows BT customers to make phone calls whether in the UK or abroadi, which are billed as if they were calling from their BT home phone. BT broadband customers have the added advantage of access to more than 7.5 million hotspots worldwide for free.

Pete Oliver, Commercial director of BT’s Consumer Division, said: “We know how important it is to stay in touch when you’re away from home – especially when you’re abroad. Our new SmartTalk app allows customers to take their calling plan with them, so they can continue to save money away from home. With a staggering 80 per cent of people completely in the dark or only admitting to roughly understanding international mobile charges, SmartTalk allows you to phone the UK from your smartphone without having to worry about expensive roaming charges.”

Jasmine Birtles, broadcaster, financial expert and founder of Moneymagpie.com, said: “The BT SmartTalk app is definitely a handy money-saving tool to have with you on holiday. Whether you’re travelling on a budget or you just want to make calls back to the UK without worrying about the cost, this app gives you the freedom to use your mobile wherever and whenever you wish.”

Dr Stelios Koundouros, director at Billmonitor.com, said: “Our research shows that most of calls from mobiles abroad are made back to the UK. Therefore BT SmartTalk gives customers a real benefit, enabling them to make the most of their BT calling plan when abroad.”

BT SmartTalk calls can be made to anyone, anywhere, at any time and the app supports up to five users on one calling plan. Customers will not be charged for making calls that are included as part of their home calling plan. They could even save when calling outside of their plan as BT’s standard landline rates will apply, instead of mobile rates that can often be more expensive.

The BT SmartTalk App is now available free from the App Store on iPhone or Android/Google Play or for further information visit www.bt.com/smarttalk

 

 

Checkout the latest deals on BT broadband here.

Avoid running up costly bills on iPhone, iPad and Android apps

peoples-phone-phone-appsHow to ensure that your child does not run up unexpected bills while playing games on your Apple or Android device.

A five-year-old boy has run up a £1,700 bill in just ten minutes while playing on his parents’ iPad.

Danny Kitchen asked for the passcode for the device so that he could download a game, Zombie v Ninja, from the Apple store. But after downloading the free app Danny found his way into the game’s online store and innocently ordered dozens of costly add-ons – totalling £1,710.43. His mother knew nothing about the spending until she saw a series of emails from iTunes the following day listing what he had bought.

The term “freemium” was coined to describe the practice of offering a free app that then has expensive enhancements. These “in-app purchases” might include virtual credits for buying items in the game, special abilities for game characters, additional levels not accessible in the free version of the game, or the ability to skip a level that might be challenging. Some games charge as much as £70 per purchase.

Fortunately, it’s possible to turn off in-app purchases. Here’s how to do it.

Google Android – Open the Google Play Store app and choose ‘Menu’ and then ‘Settings’. Under ‘User Controls’ you’ll find an option to ‘Set or Change PIN’. Tap this and Android will ask you for a PIN. Type your chosen PIN, tap OK and then re-enter the PIN to confirm. Then tick the box next to ‘Use PIN for purchases’. Once you’ve done that, anyone who wants to make an in-app purchase on your device will need to know the PIN. That should keep your bills secure from little fingers.

Apple iOS – The Restrictions menu in Apple iOS lets you control all kinds of things. You can send a password for in-app purchases or turn them off altogether. It’s possible to prevent apps being deleted or installed and control access to age-restricted content. To prevent in-app purchases in iOS, open ‘Settings’ then choose ‘General’ and ‘Restrictions’. Then tap ‘Enable Restrictions’, choose a PIN and enter it a second time to confirm. Now you can set any restrictions from the menu below. In the ‘Allowed Content’ menu, slide ‘In app purchases’ to ‘Off’.

Amazon Kindle Fire – The Kindle Fire is an Android-powered tablet but the operating system has been modified by Amazon so the process for restricting in-app purchases is a little different. Start by opening the Amazon Appstore app. Choose ‘Menu’ and then ‘Settings’. Then tap ‘Parental Controls’, choose ‘Enable Parental Controls’ and enter your Amazon password. If you’d prefer to choose a PIN, then tick the ‘Use PIN’ box.

 

O2’s Tu Go aims to challenge Skype and other Voip apps

peoples phone o2 logo

O2 has launched an app which lets users make and receive phone calls and texts via a tablet, computer or smartphone.
 
Tu Go is available for Android, Apple’s iOS devices and Windows 7 PCs but limited to “pay monthly” subscribers – so excludes corporate accounts.
 
Tu Go deducts charges from the user’s existing call minutes allowance, unlike Skype and other chat apps which involve the purchase of credit.
 
Analysts suggest this billing innovation could prove disruptive. O2’s owner Telefonica has experimented with Voip (voice over internet protocol) before with its Tu Me app which was launched in 2012 with limited success. However, the earlier program required both parties in the conversation to be using the software, while Tu Go only needs the the caller to have launched the app.
 
Tu Go has been available through Apple’s iOS store since October last year, but had previously restricted its functions to about 1,000 testers.
 
It works over wi-fi or 3G/4G data connections. The cost is the same as if the user had made a normal call through their O2 mobile. The aim is to free people from being tied to a single handset, said product manager Caroline Dundas.

 
“Customers can now take their mobile number wherever they like, even away from their mobiles,” she said.
 
Users can be logged into the service on up to five devices at once – meaning all will ring if they receive a call – including handsets using Sim cards associated with different networks and internet enabled gadgets such as iPods.
 
Ms Dundas likened the service to the way email developed. “In the early days you could only access email from the machine it was installed on but then web mail came along and that allowed you to access messages from any device,” she said. “This is opening up comms in the same way.”
 

The effort represents the telecom industry’s latest attempt to tackle competition from Skype and other third-party Voip services. These typically do not charge for app-to-app calls, but do require the user to buy credit if they want to call or send a text to a standard mobile or landline number.
 
BT already offers its own service – SmartTalk – offering its residential customers the ability to make calls on their smartphone for the same price as if they were using their landline. Orange and T-Mobile are also finishing work on their own facility which they plan to roll out later this year. But the scale of the threat was highlighted earlier this week when the chairman of China Mobile – the world’s largest telecom carrier – said his firm was now more concerned about the challenge posed by Microsoft’s Skype and Tencent’s WeChat services than it was about competition from China’s rival mobile networks.
 

“The networks are losing revenue from declining voice traffic,” Chris Green, tech analyst at Davies Murphy Group, said. “Some of it is down to services such as Skype but we are also just making fewer phone calls. So, they are all thinking of wacky new ways to get us making more calls – there is a lot more profit in voice than in data.”
 
There are already dozens of Voip apps on the market including lesser-known names such as Tango, Fring, Bria and Zerofone as well as manufacturer’s own services including BlackBerry BBM and Apple’s Facetime. But the Ovum telecoms consultancy believes Tu Go will stand out from the crowd.
 
“The application is more than just another “me too” Voip app by an operator,” said analyst Jeremy Green. “It is intrinsically linked to your existing telephone number and bill, so any charges are just deducted from your bundled call deal rather than you having to buy extra credit. It merges the best of internet telephony and old fashioned calls and and is a lesson for O2’s peers in the industry.”