As I wrote in the earler post about having two SIM cards in one mobile, I’m under a bit of a challenge and a change to potentially going with a pre-paid approach to my mobile life. The challenge for me in doing so happens to sit with the amount of data (Internet) that I use. Between browsing and MMS, I’m fairly well entrenched into using that aspect of mobile. So, even if Truphone wasn’t my end result (which I still think that it can be), I look at this upcoming new/upcoming offering by T-Mobile and Wallmart, and now I have to really considering not just going pre-paid, but just which route that I’ll take.

Here are the details of this new offering by T-Mobile and Wallmart:

  • $30 per month, no annual contract
  • Unlimited Web, with the first 5 GB at up to 4G speeds (throttled slower after 5GB used per billing cycle)
  • Unlimited text
  • 100 minutes of talk (10 cents per minute after the first 100 minutes)
  • Only available in-store/Wallmart website or selected T-Mobile retail outlets

Now, looking at everything except my fun with voice minutes lately (my plan is 450min, I’ve been a good bit over more often than not, hence the bill issues), this really looks to be a solid plan. I can have my philosophical issues about shopping at Wallmart, but do have to admit that this is a heck of a solid plan. The sticky for this, as it would be with any plan that minimizes the voice minutes, is how do you adjust to a different paradigm of using voice?

There’s the "use Skype" method. For those friends and family members that have Skype, basically to push our communications there. Skype to Skype communications are [still] free, and so this can work. Now, for those without Skype, you’ve got to use Skype-Out minutes, another pre-paid, no-contract approach). The costs can be around 10-12 cents a minute, and so it could work as a "buffer" for the 100 voice minutes in that case. You’d just have to make sure that you have the consistent connectivity to use that data service when you are out of voice minutes on the T-Mobile/Wallmart plan (perhaps friends and family will SMS you and you decide to call back either using plan or Skype minutes).

That’s a UX snafu waiting to happen. But, plausible.

Then there’s Google Voice. Earlier this year, there was a report about being able to use Google Voice as a VoIP service on any Android device where the user has setup Google Voice – Lifehacker has a derivative method using SIPgate – and that could be something worth exploring for some folks (thinking of the 75% or so of T-Mobile folks using Android smartphones). I could see the T-Mobile/Wallmart deal exposing such a feature for some as well. Not that its bad for T-Mobile, Wallmart, or even Google, but that does put it almost blatantly out there that the idea of the Internet (IP, or Internet Protocol) is all that most would need. And the cost savings – ignoring the fact that battery life would really suck quickly on many devices – would be very attractive given the connectivity that’s offered.

That’s going to be fun, and consumers would be caught in between that snafu of industries. But, plausible too.

Which pulls me back around to my initial question – if I go with either Truphone, Simple Mobile, or even T-Mobile/Wallmart , I’ll have to reinvent how I deal with voice as it is attached to my mobile lifestyle. And while my overall costs would be about the same – I could end up with a lot less taxes on use, a lot less fuss, and much more freedom to the devices that I partake of my mobile lifestyle with.

My issues with Truphone have to do with the cost of data, MMS, and (ironically) billing. These seem that they could be solved with the T-Mobile/Wallmart offering, I just wonder what other kinds of limitations might be the case (can you bring your own mobile, are there limitations on Skype/VoIP, how is MMS handled as a part of the messaging element, or is this something else to be paid for)? If these can be addressed, I’d lose the international flexibility of Truphone (of which I’m planning on utilizing a good bit more) and multi-number approach. Its a nice problem to have – especially when there’s even companies like Simple Mobile which offer similar or better overall pre-paid approaches.

Folks reading this who aren’t in the US might be wondering why this is such a decision process that has to be processed. Things are just that different here. That kind of flexibility while wanted, just isn’t the way that this market has evolved. And as such, we end up having more fun with mobile being treated like an illness rather than an enablement to something better in life.

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