chromebook 4g – part 1 – verizon’s 4g plan

Two years ago, I bought a Chromebook for my mother. She has been very happy with it. The 3g plan met all her needs other than getting updates for the Chromebook itself. I had predicted in 2011 that a Chromebook is good for senior citizens because:

Senior citizens who use a computer to check e-mail, view pictures of the grandkids, research vacations, maybe watch some videos on youtube and some other random surfing. People in this group do not want anything to do with taking care of their computer; they just want it to work.

This turned out to be accurate. My mother didn’t need an ISP (everything over 3g) and it was great for her not to have deal with virus scan/a firewall. Since nothing can be installed, it isn’t possible to get a virus.

The only problem was that we didn’t realize that the Chromebook pushes wouldn’t occur over 3g. My mother went to a wifi connection to patch, but it quite far behind at this point. She requested starting over with a new machine. I was thinking I would just patch when I visit, but then I saw there are now models out with built in 4g. I’ll take her old Chromebook in case I want to see what something looks like for support and she can have a 4g one.

Researching how much the 4G plan costs

I wasn’t able to determine how much the 4G plan cost before buying the Chromebook. I currently pay for the 3G plan for the old Chromebook. I was expecting the 4G plan to cost more. (It didn’t. I was pleasantly surprised.) However, this information is apparently secret. I couldn’t find it on Verizon’s website. I did find the Jetpack hotspot price, but that is expensive ($60/month for 3GB.) I also found the prepaid tablet price list which turned out to be what I wanted. I wasn’t clear if the Chromebook was considered a tablet. I even called Verizon and they couldn’t tell me the price for 4G on a Chromebook.

I did find a PCWorld article from a year ago quoting $50/month for 5GB. That’s a lot given my mother uses less than 1GB/month.  I decided to buy the 4G model and hope for the best. If the only plan was the $50 one, I’d get a separate hotspot from T-Mobile or AT&T whose prices were easier to discern.

How much the Verizon 4G plan costs

I pay $20/month (no line charge) for 1GB on 3G. I was pleasantly surprised to see that 4G will cost me the same.

The pre-paid rates for 4G are:

300MB for one day $5
1 GB/month $20
2 GB/month $30
4 GB/month $40
6 GB/month $50
10 GB/month $80

The contract “more everything” plans are:

4 GB/month $30
6 GB/month $40
8 GB/month $50
10 GB/month $60
12 GB/month $70

For “more everything”, this price includes a $10/month line charge. There’s also a $35 initial set up fee and $15/GB for overages.

It isn’t clear from the website if the $35 setup and $10 line charge apply to pre-paid. They don’t.

The rates are competitive with AT&T and T-Mobile. Who both post their rates online more clearly.

Usability issue  #1 – Getting to the activation page

After buying the Chromebook, I went to settings and clicked “Verizon Wireless”. The name of my access point is listed as “4G LTE Contract (vzwinternet). When clicking “View account”, it said “Please Come Back Later” and “The Verizon Wireless Portal will be available after you restart your device”. I got this after restarting too though.

This article says there is no 3G support, only 4G. I was worried I was mysteriously not getting 4G, which wasn’t the problem. Per the support article, I did ctrl-alt-t and “modem status”. My signal strength which was -43dbm and better than their example. I would expect my home wifi to be strong so this isn’t a surprise.

After updating to the latest Chrome OS and restarting, “mobile data” was disabled in settings instead of thinking I am on a Verizon contract. Rebooted a third time and now I see “not connected” and “Verizon wireless” as a choice instead of “disabled”. Finally, I can start signing up.

Settings > Mobile data > Verizon wireless > Activate

This time it loaded. I choose “create new account” since I want the prepaid route. And finally. I clicked “show pre-paid plans” since that is hidden by default to see these choices.

Usability issue  #2 – Timeouts

I was doing this while doing the laundry so had the page with the rates on it open a while before paying. After letting me enter all my information, I got a session expired message. It’d have been nice to get that message before entering anything. After all, that’s when my session expired.

Usability issue  #3 – Validations

Verizon didn’t like my address. I thought it was the “#” sign (for apartment number.) Nope. Must be the dash. Each attempt at this requires me to re-enter virtually all the info. It would be nice to remember some of this information and just make me re-enter the parts that actually failed validation.

Usability issue  #4 – How much does it cost.

Prior to paying, I couldn’t figure out if I was going to get charged $20 or $30 per month. The payment page says on top that there is a $10 line fee. But at the bottom, it says I’ll be billed $20 per month. I found out it was $20/month when I got the email confirmation.

What went well

Finally, it tells me that I’ll be activated in 15 minutes and to call 800-786-8419 if can’t connect. I was able to connect significantly faster than 15 minutes.

Another improvement from 2 years ago is that  I can now go on My Verizon online and see how much data is used in the plan. It used to be that you had to do this from the device itself or call.

See part 2 for which model I picked.

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