Smartone-Vodafone Still Doesn’t Understand [Updated]

After I published the Open Letter to Smartone-Vodafone in April, I thought Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) finally understands the needs of its subscribers when they released the new tariff plans for the iPad in July.

When the dust is finally settled I finds out SMV still doesn’t understand what subscriber needs.

SMV restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans; plans that SMV believes iPad or iPhone 4 users should be using. Even though SMV now have large quantities of micro-SIM cards. SMV sales representatives say their back-office system explicitly restricts activations of certain tariff plans for micro-SIM and others with min-SIM.

Aside from the SIM type restrictions the tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices that SMV believes the tariff plans should be used with.

Just to compete with other Hong Kong mobile carriers SMV follows with its own pre-paid no contract roaming tariff plans, but these plans are restricted to Internet browsing and Email access.

Why is SMV still trying to dictate how we use the tariff plans we subscribe to? I can understand having these restrictions on limited tariff plans or if micro-SIM supplies are very low. For unlimited local data there should not be either of the above restrictions.

Speaking of “unlimited data…”, in many of the tariff plans designed for the iOS device, SMV explicitly restricts these so call “unlimited data” to Internet browsing and checking emails, and do not include traffic from apps on the iOS device. Do they know that majority of the people who uses the iPad spend majority of their times within Internet enabled apps rather than the browser (Mobile Safari) or email app (Mail)? So a warning to subscribers, you need to read the small print and choose the plans that is most suitable to your usage of the iPad or iPhone.

Of all the carriers in Hong Kong I thought SMV was the only one that is open minded enough to “think different” (think outside the box) but from these actions they appear not.

[Updated: August 18, 13:20]
As suggested by the reader, Art, I will clarify a few of the points in my post.

When I say, “restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans…” I am referring to SMV not allowing certain tariff plans to be issued with a micro-SIM. These plans are the Mobile Broadband: Power 3, Power 8 and Power 28, subscribers are not allow to request the issue of micro-SIM cards with these plans.

When I say, “tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices…”, SMV is preventing the HKD198 iPad plan from being used on any other device other than the iPad.

11 Comments

  1. You may be correct. I welcome feedbacks from all readers.

    The only exception is abusive or insulting language, which I will moderate or delete.

  2. Vinko, looks like this is one of Smartones staff is writing on your blog;P

    That deep knowledge is either someone who uses are more than likely one that works for them.

  3. The tariff plan restrictions are done at the exchange. In some cases the plans cannot be subscribe to without the serial number of the designated device (ie. iPhone 4 or iPad).When I wrote the other post regarding the X-Power not available in the iPad plans that’s because the HKD198 plan is called “Tablet MIcro-SIM Data Plan”. Originally the tariff plans that are called “iPad Plans” are the HKD98/day, HKD168/30 days, and Tag-on plans.

  4. Regarding your first point, the “ALL SMV data plans” is not exactly correct either. From SMV’s website, I could only find that small print for the, perhaps aptly named, “internet browsing plans”. http://www.smartone-vodafone.com/jsp/mobile/prices/monthly_plans/english/internetplans.jsp . I cannot find the same small print for the iPad/iPhone/Power3-7-28 plans. I am currently under the $238 plans. I use various data intensive apps daily and I haven’t had a single surcharge due to the small print for it since I signed up for the plan more than a year ago.

    My “guess” is that the small print exists mostly to safeguard their networks, in conjunction with the fairplay policy, from abuses. I DID expressly check with SMV employees before I signed on the IOM plan that I would not be charged for apps data under this plan. If they relegated on that statement and charged me, I could warn/sue them that they have made negligent/fraudulent misrepresentations to me before contract, which would entitle me to cancel the contract and claim for damages.

    AS for apps restriction, I have only encountered problems from Apple’s end (no 3G download for apps/podcasts over 20MB), what apps have you run into problem with on SMV’s 3G network?

    So, in short, on one hand, the small print only exists for the “Internet Browsing Plans”, and on the other, the small print is never enforced. So the non-browsing/av download data limit is really not much a limit in reality, is it?

    Regarding your second point, I am aware the $238/$298 plan comes with X-Power (I myself enjoy it occasionally). My point was in regard to your other post where it seemed to claim that X-Power is not available at all on iPad plans, which is not correct. It’s there, just on the $198 plan and not available as a tag-on surchrage for the other iPad plans.

    And about your other point in the other post, what’s the definition of “restrict”? Is it a contractural, technical, or policy restriction? I dont’ remember seeing in my tag-on micro-sim contract that I must only use it with the iPad. Is it technical? Have you tried using the micro-sim + adaptor with other iPhones/mobiles? Perhaps the technical restriction lies only with the MiFI (have u tested this?). If it is neither contractural nor tecnical, then it’s just policy, as in their PR/sales must say it’s not allowed/supported… which doesn’t really amount to much in terms of real restriction.

    First google search finds this:

    http://hijinksinc.com/2010/05/14/using-a-micro-sim-in-an-iphone-3g/

    Perhaps worth a read. My first gut-reaction is that SMV doesn’t really have any way of knowing (or even if they do know, wouldn’t implement the sort of system checking/block for all user agents IDs) whether the micro-sim is being used on a non-iPad.

  5. Thanks for your comments.

    No, all of SMV’s tariff plans are restricted to the devices the respective plans are designed for. For example you cannot take the micro-SIM from the HKD198 Tablet Plan for the iPad, put it inside a mini-SIM adaptor and use it in a MiFi (aka “Pocket WiFi” from 3HK or PCCW).

  6. I’ve got a good solution to the HK$128 plan for the iPad, I wonder if this can be used with other devices if a micro-SIM -> normal-SIM adapter is used. Also if you get a micro-SIM cutter, you can convert existing or other data plans for use with your iPhone.

    I’m currently using the Pocket WiFi from PCCW to allow my iPad and iPhone connectivity to the Internet. It’s an unlimited package for existing PCCW Broadband customers.

  7. Art, thank you for your contribution. I appreciate your comments.

    You are correct that the roaming data plan are restricted for the iPad but I am not referring to only the iPad plans here.

    All SMV data plans no matter if it is “unlimited data” or not comes with the following small print.

    The data usage applies to mobile phone use only and charges cover local usage only and handset APN setting must be “SmarTone-Vodafone”. The data usage includes Internet browsing, watching videos on the Internet, file upload/download, VoIP and instant messaging. Additional data usage charge (if applicable) is $10/5MB, usage is rounded up to the nearest 5MB, and maximum charge is $298 per month.

    $0.06/KB for data access from PC using mobile phone as a modem(tethering). (Not applicable to $298 SIM subscription offer.) Standard roaming data charges apply when roaming.

    Although so far I have not found an app whose traffic incurs additional data charges, I do know there are apps that encounters fail connections when used on SMV network, but not via WiFi.

    As for X-Power the HKD198 tariff plan is not the only one that comes with the X-Power features. Everyone who has the HKD238 or HKD298 tariff plans also enjoys the X-Power features for free.

  8. Have you thoroughly done your research on this? You are way off the mark in claiming the unlimited data is restricted to browsing and emails only. That restriction only applies to the roaming bit, not the local data usage.Playing devil’s advocate, I can imagine why they would restrict roaming data to browsers/email only. The data bandwidth required for those usages are conceivably lower than apps (think audio/video streaming app, heavy usage games).On the micro-sim front, it would be appreciated if you could be a bit more clearer about what specific plans allows for the tag-on micro-sim plan and what are not. I am currently using the $238 “Internet Browsing Plan” which does allow for the tag-on micro-sim using the $128 unlimited data plan. I also find your previous post about iPad plans to be a bit misleading as you claimed that the iPad micro-sims plan do not include X-Power. While it is true that most of the plans currently offered doesn’t include X-Power, they do have a $198 per month plan that DOES include X-Power. If you are not a currently subscriber, the $198 plan is only $30 more expensive than the $168 plan with the equivalent features set (unlimited data/free wifi) while giving you X-Power and the option of the unlimited internet browsing while roaming (which is clearly stated and by no means misleading). I personally think it is unfair that I cannot pay $30 on top of my $128 plan to get X-Power but that’s not exactly the complaint you had stated. You have done a decent job on this site with the local HK tech news and you certainly have a fair amount of people following you. I think that’s why it’s all the more important you should be more certain of the things you report/write on here. It would be unfortunate if people form opinions or make decisions based on any misinformation.

  9. Have you thoroughly done your research on this? You are way off the mark in claiming the unlimited data is restricted to browsing and emails only. That restriction only applies to the roaming bit, not the local data usage.

    Playing devil’s advocate, I can imagine why they would restrict roaming data to browsers/email only. The data bandwidth required for those usages are conceivably lower than apps (think audio/video streaming app, heavy usage games).

    On the micro-sim front, it would be appreciated if you could be a bit more clearer about what specific plans allows for the tag-on micro-sim plan and what are not. I am currently using the $238 “Internet Browsing Plan” which does allow for the tag-on micro-sim using the $128 unlimited data plan.

    I also find your previous post about iPad plans to be a bit misleading as you claimed that the iPad micro-sims plan do not include X-Power. While it is true that most of the plans currently offered doesn’t include X-Power, they do have a $198 per month plan that DOES include X-Power. If you are not a currently subscriber, the $198 plan is only $30 more expensive than the $168 plan with the equivalent features set (unlimited data/free wifi) while giving you X-Power and the option of the unlimited internet browsing while roaming (which is clearly stated and by no means misleading). I personally think it is unfair that I cannot pay $30 on top of my $128 plan to get X-Power but that’s not exactly the complaint you had stated.

    You have done a decent job on this site with the local HK tech news and you certainly have a fair amount of people following you. I think that’s why it’s all the more important you should be more certain of the things you report/write on here. It would be unfortunate if people form opinions or make decisions based on any misinformation.

    1. Art, thank you for your contribution. I appreciate your comments.

      You are correct that the roaming data plan are restricted for the iPad but I am not referring to only the iPad plans here.

      All SMV data plans no matter if it is “unlimited data” or not comes with the following small print.

      The data usage applies to mobile phone use only and charges cover local usage only and handset APN setting must be “SmarTone-Vodafone”. The data usage includes Internet browsing, watching videos on the Internet, file upload/download, VoIP and instant messaging. Additional data usage charge (if applicable) is $10/5MB, usage is rounded up to the nearest 5MB, and maximum charge is $298 per month.

      $0.06/KB for data access from PC using mobile phone as a modem(tethering). (Not applicable to $298 SIM subscription offer.) Standard roaming data charges apply when roaming.

      Although so far I have not found an app whose traffic incurs additional data charges, I do know there are apps that encounters fail connections when used on SMV network, but not via WiFi.

      As for X-Power the HKD198 tariff plan is not the only one that comes with the X-Power features. Everyone who has the HKD238 or HKD298 tariff plans also enjoys the X-Power features for free.

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