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Posts Tagged ‘myrepublic

A cheap phone plan has hidden costs.

I have two phone accounts for my family that are under a special MyRepublic phone plan. I could pay for three accounts and they would still cost less than one low end plan with a competitor.

So what is not to love?

Phantom international SMS charges by MyRepublic.

Over the last few months, I noticed that some bills had mysterious international SMS charges. When I inquired, I received a link to a newly minted FAQ. It looks like I was not the only one worried about phantom SMS charges.

It turns out that activations of iCloud or iMessage incur international SMS charges because these are sent to UK servers. Since one might have more than one device, this can add up.

The new FAQ does not provide advice on how to avoid this charge. Apparently, a service provider does not have to be helpful by providing that service. So I searched online.

A few minutes of searching revealed two things: 1) This problem was more common than I thought (customers the world over railing against their telcos), and 2) the solution might be right under our thumbs.

Hot Cancel instead of OK.

When prompted to activate, tap on Cancel instead of OK. Apparently the service will still be activated. I must remember to try this the next time this invariably happens.

Here is some background information:

I received a surprise email from MyRepublic on 16 May 2018 that it was offering mobile plans as Singapore’s latest telco. I put in my order for the Uno plan on ($8 per month) on 19 May.

I received the SIM card by courier on 6 June. That was a two-week wait from order to receipt. It is not a good sign for a new entry to be so slow to respond to demand.

Delivery notes
However, I experienced the best courier service I have encountered so far. I received SMS notification a few hours before delivery. The URL in the message provided a wealth of information, e.g., what the courier’s name was, what he looked like, how to contact him, and his progress. The courier called when he was in the neighbourhood and was polite throughout.

Courier for MyRepublic SIM card.

MyRepublic does not have a brick-and-motar store for its mobile offerings, so its only human face is its choice of courier. It made a great choice.

I have actually stopped supporting a few electronic and mobile accessory brands because the couriers were so rude or impatient. I know that they are not the product company, but I believe you are also a function of the company you keep.

Setting up the SIM
The physical installation was straightforward — pop out the old SIM and insert the new one.

MyRepublic provided TWO printed copies of the same instructions. One was a fold out that was with the usual credit card-sized SIM package. The other was a postcard-sized card with exactly the same information.

MyRepublic SIM card APN instructions.

Perhaps they were thinking of users with failing eyesight. But they were also wasting resources. The clientele they are targetting are likely savvy enough to just need APN information and online instructions. Speaking of which…

A few minutes after inserting the new SIM, I received two SMS: One was to a website to set up a phone profile while connected to wifi and the other was just plain text on how to set the APN.

MyRepublic SMS for set up new SIM card.

Neither was ideal.

If I was not already on an active Internet connection, I could not use the website to automate the process. Both also did not inform me that I needed to remove the previous telco’s profile and replace it with the new profile.

The SMS and printed instructions were essentially the same, the exception being the case of the letters used — MyRepublic vs myrepublic. This was disconcerting given how the case matters in some services.

I actually followed the printed instructions first because there was a delay in the SMS. After setting the APN, restarting my phone, and switching off wifi access, I tested the 4G connection.

I saw full bars on screen, but was unable to access a simple website. I launched Pokémon Go and it could not log in and start.

The SMS arrived just as I was about to get frustrated and the new profile did the trick. However, I noticed that my choice of VPN could not work. I restarted the phone one more time and this time I could get the VPN to automatically connect.

MyRepublic app
I had installed the MyRepublic app on the phone before I received the SIM. Once I had a data connection, I launched the app.

However, I got stuck at the very first screen because I had no “log in” information. I was not required to create an account at the point of signing up nor did the system have my records.

I checked my confirmation email and my password manager to be sure that I did not have an account. Assuming that the account was tied to the email I provided MyRepublic, I tapped on the link to retrieve a password, but got this error message instead.

MyRepublic App makes no sense.

My order was complete. I asked for a new SIM and it was delivered. Must the first month elapse and payment happen before an order is complete?

When I tried to create a new account to use the app, I was redirected to the mobile sign up site to get a new SIM plan, not to get an online account to use the app.

I resorted to using a desktop browser, Chrome, to try to get a MyRepublic account. The closest thing to creating this account was to “sign up for MyRepublic Support”. I got stuck in a loop of providing details, clicking on the sign up button, getting a blank page, and refreshing the page only to be invited to sign up again.

All this simply meant that I could not use the app to check the details of my account or monitor data use.

This was disappointing given my experience using Maxis Hotlink in Malaysia two years ago. The installation, set up, and app use were practically flawless. The SIM was recognised immediately and the app account was tied to the phone number. I did not have to wait unnecessarily or jump through hoops.

Some thoughts
The gap between order and delivery for a SIM is too long when you consider how you can walk into a store at peak traffic and walk out an hour or two later with a new SIM.

The technical setting up, while not complicated, is not as smooth as could be. The Malaysian telco I mentioned could get users to do this easily and seamlessly in 2016, so what is holding us back?

All this reminds me of how many organisations tend to repeat the mistakes already made by others instead of learning from them, avoiding those mistakes, and making good and new mistakes. The old and unnecessary mistakes burden would-be customers and this creates mistrust.

One key approach to avoiding such mistakes and problems is user-centredness: What would a user need and do? How might you facilitate that and get out of the way? It is not just about efficiency; it is also about effectiveness. It is not just about reeling people in with low-cost; it is also about creating a relationship with your users.

My anecdote illustrates how this is not a good start for Singapore’s latest telco. But this was just Day 1. I will need to test the robustness of the data access as well as MyRepublic’s promise to keep the data flowing even past one’s allotted plan.

Update (13 Jun 2018)
Almost a week later, I received an email with my username and password for the MyRepublic app.

MyRepublic app account information.

I was pleasantly surprised on Wednesday to receive an email invitation to get an early bird plan with Singapore’s latest telco.

I had all but forgotten about MyRepublic’s bid to be a telco. Another entity, TPG, even beat it to be Singapore’s fourth telco. I left my contact information to be part of a MyRepublic trial about two years ago and that seed just bore “promo codes” fruit.

At the moment, the new telco has just two plans at bracket extremes:

MyRepublic's two initial plans.

I presume that when they launch, the blanks in between will be filled with plans Dos, Tres, Cuatro, etc.

The cheap Uno plan caught my eye and raised an eyebrow. What was “boundless data”? Apparently this is throttled data access for low-bandwidth tasks after I exceed my quota. MyRepublic promises that I will still be able to “surf the web, check email, use Google Maps, chat, make WhatsApp calls — even stream music”. I will have to see if that is actually true.

Before I signed up, I read the online information and FAQs. What I could not find information on was:

  • Did it charge for “extras” like caller ID?
  • Would I be able to port an existing mobile number over?
  • How long would the process of signing up and getting the SIM in my phone take exactly?

The only way to get answers was to use a promo code to get to the sign up pages.

After I selected a plan, the next page was a confirmation of my selection plus options for data add-ons.

One of MyRepublic's sign up pages.

I then provided personal and contact information. I had to upload scans of my NRIC to confirm my identify.

Finally I was given the option to port a post-paid mobile number over or to select a new one. I also found out at this stage that caller ID was included.

I completed the online sign-up last night and have scheduled a delivery in about 2.5 weeks. It is a shame that MyRepublic does not have SIM stores or kiosks like it has for its broadband service. If it did, I might sign up and get a SIM in 2.5 hours instead of weeks.

That said, the confirmation process was automated and quick. It took all of a minute after I submitted the online form to receive an email confirmation.

Observation: What incumbent telcos charge for as frills, e.g., caller ID, are given as defaults by the new telco. MyRepublic also seems to recognise that always-on data is the norm, not the exception. I also look forward to using an app to manage the mobile plan.

Note: I have not been approached or paid by MyRepublic to write this. I plan on trying the new service out for a low cost of $8 and will use it largely for gaming and messaging data. The real test of the service is yet to come!

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