Category Archives: Mobile data

Mobile charges after Brexit

We are able to start thinking about holidays at last and for many that means heading for sunspots abroad.

One benefit of being in the EU was being able to use mobiles across the EU at no extra charge. So we could tweet from the beach for free. Now we are not part of the EU what has changed?

The networks don’t have to give you ‘free’ roaming any more but a check of the major mobile providers (EE, Vodafone, O2 and 3) suggests nothing has changed. If it does, the UK Government has said it will cap charges at £49 a month unless you agree to more. Of course how much £49 would get you is anyone’s guess!

So before venturing away pop to your phone providers site and:

  1. check the country you are going to is actually in the EU. Norway isn’t and the Canary Islands are sort of, while Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean are French overseas departments and therefore part of the EU! Luckily my provider EE gives me free roaming in all of these.
  2. look for any lower call or data allowances whilst abroad. It’s usually called ‘fair use’.
  3. lastly, as things might change, check out the roaming charges.

Internet on the hop

If you are the sort of person who misses out on a fast internet connection because you move around a lot, or can’t get fibre broadband, you do still have some choices to network your location.

The simplest is mobile broadband from your phone provider (although some have better coverage than others) which is a matchbox-sized device that uses 4G signals to give wifi connections to devices. Great for the car but usually limit the amount you can download.

If you tend to move your location a lot (say a contractor or you have a caravan) then there are two choices. One is a router that has a SIM card slot so it acts like a bigger version of the device above. This lets you create a network between devices (eg your laptop and a printer) which is great, but most are designed to use the SIM card as a backup rather than a primary connection so will still be limited to capacity by your contract.

As the second and final option, Vodafone and BT offer dedicated 4G hubs, called Gigacube and 4G homehub respectively. These are purpose-built units that give all the capabilities of a standard wifi network together with a much greater download allowance (up to unlimited).

As 5G rolls out all these options will benefit from the faster connection speeds if you want them. However, do be aware that 5G – and 4G – don’t have great (or any signal) everywhere so it might be worth checking the mobile provider’s coverage map.

The best thing about all these options are that you set up and configure the network once, then plonk it down wherever you are and it just works!

Broadband and mobile contracts

It’s frustrating when you get a great deal on your contract but find that it has gone up suddenly as the contract has ended.

OfCOM is now your best friend, They have ordered that providers must tell you when your contract is about to end. Between 40 and 10 days before the end of your contract they must send you a letter, email or text to tell you when your contract ends, the current costs and what it will cost afterwards. But most importantly, they must tell you the best deals they have on offer.

Google interpreter leaps onto mobiles

Google interpreter has been a great feature of Google’s Home voice assistants, but they need to be plugged in.

Now the service has leapt onto Android devices. If you need to talk to someone in another language. Just say ‘hey google’ and something like ‘help me speak Spanish’. Hold the phone between the two of you and start speaking. When you stop, Google translates into the other language and keeps doing that so two of you can converse.

I’ve tested it with my limited language skills and it’s pretty good. Whilst our data roaming rights around the EU continue, I can see it being really useful to lots of us.

Safer texting from Google

One danger we have these days is spoof texts from our ‘bank’ or other organisation. Help is at hand from Google who is rolling out an anti-spoofing and sender-verification feature within Android.

The idea is that businesses register with Google and your phone will check the message source to confirm that it is legitimate. If it is then you will see the business name and logo, together with a verification badge, in the message.

Not all businesses have or will register so not having verification doesn’t mean the text is a scam, but in all cases don’t give out info in response. Always go to another source to get the phone number, look up the phone number and call them back.

Economise on wifi

When we are out and about, then we often end up on restricted wifi. My mobile wifi gives me 5Gb a month but on a cruise it might be 50mb before another bill presents itself. So a massive Windows update is the last thing I need.

Luckily we can do our best to avoid these by setting the connection we are on to be a ‘metered connection’. This will make Windows only download the most vital updates.

First go to start-settings-network and internet-wifi-[the connection concerned]

Turn on ‘set as metered connection’ and this will reduce data usage.

If you have Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you can also defer updates. This will stop any updates at all until you get back to an unrestricted connection, when you can turn this off

Going abroad or just away

On my mind at the moment as I’ve just come back. What’s the best way to manage your business while away on holiday.

My first thing is to remember that I’m on holiday! There is no need to be at immediate availability or there is no mental relaxation. Time zones might be another consideration. So I let all my customers know that I’m away and how things are covered in the meantime.

But I don’t want to come back to a crisis and lose all the benefits of the time off. I’ve negotiated that I will spend up to half-an-hour a day, so I need to manage my communications.

These days, phone calls around the EU (which includes some Caribbean islands!) and a few other countries are part of your package and don’t cost a fortune. So you can leave your phone on all the time – but do you really want all those marketing calls when you are by the pool? I divert all my calls direct to voicemail and keep my phone in flight mode to minimise data charges.

I travel light with a phone and a tablet, so have my email accounts set-up on these. Then I find some free or cheap wifi (If you are on a cruise, look for where the crew are all huddled in the terminal!). Free wifi is much more prevalent and in the strangest places. These connections are most often unsecured (especially if you logon via a web page to get the internet), so Virtual Private Networks will keep you safe. So that’s emails covered.

My office and mobile voicemails come to a single account via wifi using an app on my tablet and phone. That means I don’t have to use the phone to listen to my messages and incur charges. I then respond via email or, if urgent, using something like Skype if I’m outside the EU.

So that’s how I keep tabs on things and still have a holiday. Cheers!

Contract price rises

Many of us have contracts for mobile phones or broadband that include a clause allowing for price rises. If the supplier does increase the price, they must give you 30 days notice by email or letter – so check your spam folder.

If they do not, then under Ofcom rules you are able to cancel the contract without paying a penalty. You may also cancel the contract if the rise is above inflation. And you can quit anytime if you are outside the minimum term (often two years on a mobile).

It’s always worth haggling with them on the phone, though. Find a better deal and see if they will match it.

Backup and restore SMS messages

iPhone users can stop reading here, unless you are moving to an Android phone, as it’s all saved in iCloud. If we change our Android phone or have to reset it, all of our SMS text messages and call logs can be lost. We can back them up so that we can replace them or even add them to our gmail account.
I’ve added ‘SMS backup and restore’ to my phone. It’s by Carbonite, a respected cloud backup service. It will save and restore SMS and call logs to Google drive or Dropbox on an automated schedule that you can set. It even has the decency to wait for a wifi connection to avoid using up your mobile data allowance. You can even import SMS messages from Windows Mobile and iOS phones.
An alternative is to backup and restore your messages to gmail by using ‘SMS backup+’. Make sure Gmail is set for IMAP access, setup SMS backup+ on your phone and off you go. A new folder will be created in Gmail for your messages. You may even set automatic backups and selectively restore messages.

Google Play security

Apps from the Google Play store have a reputation for possibly being malware or otherwise unhelpful. Google has now updated the Play Store with Play Protect. This scans the apps on your devices and if some don’t meet Google’s security standards Play Protect will offer to uninstall it.
All you have to do is have the latest version of the Play Store. To check, open the Play Store and tap the three lines at the top-left to access the menu. Scroll down and ‘Play Protect’ should be near the bottom. If not, tap settings and then ‘play store version’ at the bottom. This should start the update process.