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July 17, 2006

MinuteWatcher vs. T-Mobile

by Darla Mack


In my personal opinion I think this seems to be getting a little out of hand.  First of all my concern among many others is this... you are allowing a 3rd party site to access information on your T-Mobile account by providing them with your MyT-Mobile login.  Now how safe is that?  I'm not putting down the concept of MinuteWatcher, but more so reiterating the concept of Security.  SECURITY!!!! 

Lets just say IF something were to happen... then people would be screaming for T-Mobile to either be fully responsible or share responsibility for the mishap.

MinuteWatcher has made their dispute with T-Mobile public on their website:

MinuteWatcher, the free cell phone monitoring service, announced today that they can no longer help T-Mobile customers control their cell phone usage. T-Mobile has changed conditions in their policy and taken technical measures to prevent MinuteWatcher from operating for T-Mobile members. The losers, T-Mobile’s customers, have lost a useful tool for controlling their cell phone minute consumption.

Thats not entirely true.  T-Mobile users have not lost a useful tool, maybe just another way of controlling or keeping tabs on their minute usage.  Controlling minute usage is basically not talking beyond your monthly minute means.

"Yes, a customer could send a Text Message to some number and get their current usage. And they could log in to my.t-mobile.com and click through a few pages to get to their full usage information. But who wants to do that on a regular basis?" asks Peter Stevens, co-founder of MinuteWatcher. "Is that customer-friendly?"

In my opinion Mr. Stevens... yes it is.  T-Mobile has made several resources available for its customers to control their usage.  It would take the same amount of time to login to MyT-Mobile for the info as it does to login to MinuteWatcher.  Using the shortcode #MIN# is convenient since we are in a mobile world and using more Mobile Computers instead of pc's and laptops.  Also, T-Mobile customers can access thier accounts via their mobiles by accessing My Account from the T-Zones menu.  If you are using a S60 phone turning on your call summary under Tools > Settings > Call will let you know how long your recent call was.  Using you Call Duration menu and maybe a calculator can also be helpful if you just reset the timers when your monthly bill ends.  And of course when all else fails.... a friendly call to T-Mobile can also provide the info.

All of these features are useful and available to T-Mobile users.  I firmly agree with T-Mobile's decision to block MinuteWatcher from accessing their servers (as quoted on the MW press release) and I also feel bad for the T-Mobile consumers that it has affected.  But maybe this is a wake up call to use the more safer methods that have been provided by T-Mobile.  I don't think we need Paris Hilton to teach us another lesson.

Bellevue, WA -- July 11, 2006 -- Since June 19, MinuteWatcher has been unable to contact T-Mobile’s servers. Denying access prevents MinuteWatcher from informing T-Mobile customers about their latest cell phone use patterns. No contact means no service.

    "I contacted T-Mobile and told them that I thought they shouldn‘t be blocking your service," wrote a disgruntled MinuteWatcher user. "I haven’t heard back from them."

    "I am [really angry] about T-Mobile blocking you guys!" wrote another. "MinuteWatcher can save me $200 in a month!".

    "I’ve been a subscriber for two years and find MinuteWatcher indispensable in dealing with my carrier," wrote a third.

T-Mobile now includes the following text in their Terms of Use: "With respect to your access to the http://my.t-mobile.com site, T-Mobile hereby specifically reserves the right (a) to limit the number of times you may log in to this site within a certain period of time and/or (b) to restrict your use of automated scripts, plug-ins, and/or other third-party devices to obtain information (e.g., unbilled usage data) from this site."

These conditions serve primarily to prevent T-Mobile customers from proactively managing their cell phone bills and keeping their costs down.

For each subscriber, MinuteWatcher signs on to the T-Mobile server once a day and downloads the latest usage information. These daily status updates are used to generate a user friendly user status and a billing-cycle forecast. MinuteWatcher sends out an email to its users, typically once or twice a week, so that they can stay informed, manage their usage, and save money.

"Yes, a customer could send a Text Message to some number and get their current usage. And they could log in to my.t-mobile.com and click through a few pages to get to their full usage information. But who wants to do that on a regular basis?" asks Peter Stevens, co-founder of MinuteWatcher. "Is that customer-friendly?"

MinuteWatcher estimates the usage at the end of the billing cycle and color codes the forecasts. Green means under plan and red means 20% over in minutes. Just 20% over usually corresponds to doubling the basic monthly phone bill.

No carrier provides such effective forecasts nor makes usage information this easy to get.

"Managing your usage is easy: if the forecast is tending towards red, put the phone down for a bit and let it cool off. By staying in the green, you stay in your budget," explains Stevens.

Customers benefit from staying informed about their cell phone status. 

Customers have a right to know where they stand. There are good reasons why T-Mobile should allow easy access to usage information. Customer satisfaction and empowerment are high on the list.

MinuteWatcher hopes that T-Mobile will revise its approach and allow MinuteWatcher to continue to help their customers.

"Your service is great and fills the gap for minute tracking," summarized a MinuteWatcher user/T-Mobile customer.


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Darla, you are exactly right. Paris Hilton shows what happens when you mix morons and technology... Minute Watcher just gives those morons a place to congregate.



The only reason why Tmobile can block this service is that the requests are originated from the MiniteWatcher servers. There are firefox extensions that can still provide usage information and you are allowed to log into tmobile as often as once per hour.

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The tmobile G1 has been unlocked, this will allow you to use a SIM card from any network, in any country. Hey guys FYI, T-mobile will unlock any phone for you for free if you are in good standing with the company, so don’t shell out the cash to get that iphone unlocked just call T-mobile.

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