Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don't get the iFlexi plan!

SingTel's iFlexi plans seem to be designed to extract the maximum amount of money from iPhone users.

They offer great (theoretical) downloads speeds of 3.6Mbps, but only offer up to 3GB of data per month. If you do get these speeds, you'll be tempted to watch videos on YouTube all day, thus guaranteeing that you'll bust your 3GB limit quickly (3GB a month works out to 102.4MB a day). Once you've busted past that limit, you'll be paying per kb after that. (It costs S$0.001 per 2KB or 52 cents per MB.)

SingTel's Broadband on Mobile plans offer much, much more capacity. If you get the BBOM 1000 or 2000 plan, you get 50BG of data, though with a slower download speed of 1Mbps and 2Mbps respectively. So SingTel's BBOM offers 17 times more traffic than the iFlexi plans, an extremely big difference.

Since I use about 900 outgoing minutes a month, I figured out that the most cost-effective plan for me would be the iTwo Plus combined with BBOM 1000 (Total cost $105.35). The nearest iFlexi plan would be the iFlexi Plus. Here's a side-by-side comparison:

iTwo Plus + BBOM 1000                            iFlexi Plus
- $105.35 ($82.93 + $22.42) a mth               - $95 a mth
- 700 min outgoing calls                              - 500 min outgoing calls
- 500 SMSes                                                 - 500 SMSes
- 1 Mbps d/l speed                                       - 3.6 Mbps d/l speed
- 50 GB a mth                                              - 2 GB a mth

For $10 more a month, I get 200 more minutes of outgoing calls, 48 GB more data each month, though I get slower speeds. The difference is enormous, especially given that YouTube is pretty watchable even on my 1Mbps plan.

Seems worth it to me. Fortunately, I had a great person doing my service plan who actually gave me this option. The sales rep who handled my wife's account did not give her any options outside the iFlexi plan.

We'll see in a month if my calculations are right. Frankly, the entire process of figuring out your optimal mobile phone plan system is extremely complicated. These plans seem designed to obscure your real costs (you don't say!) And SingTel is hardly the only culprit. M1 is just as bad. Looking at my M1 bill, I couldn't even figure out how many outgoing minutes a month I was using.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Improving your mobile Internet experience

If you've been having trouble connecting to the Internet on your iPhone in Singapore, it might be because your iPhone is trying to use Wireless@SG, and ironically, this is preventing you from going online.

The iPhone prefers to use WiFi instead of 3G for data connections, regardless of the strength of the WiFi signal. Whenever it can latch onto an open or authorised WiFi network, it does. Because Wireless@SG appears to be an open network, your iPhone will always connect to it. However, unless you log on via Safari first, you can't actually use Wireless@SG. This creates a situation where your iPhone thinks you have Internet access via Wi-Fi when in fact, you don't.

To force the iPhone to use 3G instead of Wi-Fi, go to Settings/Wi-Fi/ then disable Wi-Fi. This forces the iPhone to only use the 3G (or Edge) network for data.

Why wouldn't you use the free Wireless@SG account for your iPhone? Well, in my case, I only have one Wireless@SG account and I have to use it for my laptop. You can't have the same account in use by more than one device simultaneously, I've discovered. When my MacBook is using Wireless@SG, I have to use 3G for the iPhone's data connectivity.

Wireless@SG also tends to kick you off the network (at least, it does for me) and you have to log-on again repeatedly. A minor annoyance on the laptop, not so minor on the iPhone with its much more limited keyboard.

Of course, relying on the (paying) 3G network rather than a free Wi-Fi network has other obvious implications....