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Why I switched away from Wind Mobile

Amazing priced service couldn’t overcome what were slow and unreliable connections.

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Wind Mobile Switch:

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Last summer, I went to see two of my favourite bands of all time – Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails – at the Molson Ampitheatre here in Toronto. My friends and I grew up with these bands, so we reflexively bought the sort of tickets we also had grown up with – the cheapest available, which is all we could afford when we were in our teens and twenties. In this case, the seats were on the Amphitheatre’s sprawling lawn.

In many cases, watching a show from the lawn can be enjoyable. You can spread out, you aren’t constrained into a tight seat and you can move around. Getting to the bathroom – an important thing when you’re drinking beer – is also easier.

But there’s also a big potential downside, aside from the fact that you’re far from the stage – you’re also at the mercy of the weather. Sure enough, it dumped on us the whole show. Rather than the sublime experience I was expecting and hoping for, it turned into a miserable situation. My friends and I went home soggy and disappointed, rather than excited and elated.

I was angry at myself for cheaping out. I’m at a stage in life now where I have a decent income and can afford the occasional luxury, so there really was no reason why I had to self-ruin what would have otherwise been an amazing concert.

I vowed that if I was ever going to see a favourite entertainer again, whether it was a band or comedian or whatever, I would happily pay for a premium ticket. It wouldn’t be just to avoid getting rained on, but also because I feel like I deserve a better experience – and I can afford it.

The same line of thinking led me to again switch cellphone providers this past weekend. A few months ago, I wrote about how I had switched to Wind Mobile, away from one of Canada’s Big Three providers. I’d tested Wind’s network for a month and found it was slower, but decent enough to make the switch. Wind was and is way cheaper than its competitors, which made the decision easier, although not a slam-dunk.

A few more months of using the service, however, was akin to getting rained on at a concert. The initial reservations I had against switching to Wind manifested and mounted into frequent frustration. Over the past few weeks I’d come to realize that I could afford better and I wasn’t going to deny myself any longer.

Price is the appeal

Wind’s biggest appeal is its lower price, and tied to that is the greater network usage afforded to users. As I wrote back in May, I was getting unlimited nationwide calling and texting and four gigabtyes of data for $35 a month, which would cost nearly triple on one of the Big Three’s “discount” brands.

The extra allotment led me to use my phone in data-gobbling ways I’d previously avoided. I got into music streaming services and I’d watch the occasional video. Sure, email and web pages loaded more slowly, but I thought that might actually make me a more patient person.

It didn’t turn out that way. For each new use the extra data turned me onto, there were two or three existing activities I had to give up on thanks to network slowness or non-responsiveness.

One example saw me at an Indigo bookstore, where I’d discovered a new Lego set that I was considering buying. I jumped onto my phone to check the price of the set in the Lego store at a nearby mall. When the website refused to load, I drove over to physically check, only to discover that the price was the same. That took about 20 minutes.

I suppose I could have called instead, but for some reason I didn’t think of it at the time. I realized that I had taken for granted the act of looking things up online. Nevertheless, Wind’s non-responsiveness cost me precious time.

Then there was the time when I was at a bar, telling a friend about how CNN had mistaken a gay pride banner for an ISIS flag. I tried to load up the story and photo, but no luck. I watched the status wheel at the top of my iPhone turn and turn eternally. So much for that conversation.

I’d worried about how Wind’s network would hold up indoors during my initial test in the spring. The AWS frequency Wind runs on is notoriously bad the deeper into buildings you get. I didn’t have many problems in that first month, but they did mount over a longer period.

One other smartphone use I gave up on: Siri. I don’t use Apple’s assistant much, but it had been my go-to function for the occasional voice-dictated text message to my wife while driving. Not so with Wind – I simply could never get it to work while on the move. I had to stick to sending those texts before getting on the road, and then responding until I was stationary again.

Speaking of family members, several reported repeated problems with getting in touch, which confirmed my suspicions that I was missing some calls. When they did come through, the quality was often rough, to the point where I’d sometimes phone the caller back on my landline (yup, I still have one of those).

All told, I lost faith in my phone, both in business and personal cases. I took to carrying a second device equipped with a Big Three SIM card as a backup (I’m usually reviewing one or two new phones at any given time as part of my job). Eventually, the backup became the primary.

It was with a heavy heart that I crawled back into a Big Three store and signed up for a two-gigabyte plan at $65 a month, or half the data at nearly double the price.

I hope Wind’s network continues to improve because the company is the best shot many Canadians have at seeing their monthly bills come down from being the highest in the world. A truly competitive Wind – with a fast, robust network – would force the Big Three to lower their prices.

As it stands, I don’t find Wind serves my purposes. The low prices are there for individuals who can’t afford otherwise – say, twenty-somethings stuck out on the lawns of the Molson Ampitheatre – but I need service that I can rely on, even if it does cost more.

Wind has done a good job in significantly boosting its spectrum holdings this year and is promising to upgrade its network to the faster fourth-generation LTE standard soon. I’ll happily give the company another try when that happens, but for now I’ve decided to come out of the figurative rain, as expensive a proposition as that may be.

25 Comments on Why I switched away from Wind Mobile

  1. Heavy heart indeed, Peter. I never had 4G with my previous iPhone, so I’m having an easier time, perhaps, living in the in the cheap seats of 3G, but yes, Wind is inferior to the Big 3’s service. I’m going to stick with them for the rest of the year and see what’s what. That said, I remember you posting about how you get all miserly with your data and surfing towards the end of the month as you guard your data usage. Though you’ve resolved to live like an adult, do you think you can shake those instincts? And if I may ask, which provider did you end up reluctantly signing up with?

    • Yes indeed, I went with the flanker brand named for a dog, mainly because they’re throwing in free Spotify for two years. ; ) Up until the spring I was on a 1 GB plan and was rubbing up against it frequently. I think I should be okay on 2 GB for now – I certainly wouldn’t have hit Wind’s 4 GB any time soon. Here’s hoping.

    • I think the whole thing’s a scam. They’re all in it together, CEOs at the top owning both all companies (parent corporations), giving a bad experience to get people to happily take it up the ass with higher prices after being frustrated. Such is corporate welfare.

  2. Geoff Thompson // August 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm // Reply

    Your article is bang on. Wind is a little kid playing with the big boys or at least trying. Business people can’t rely on wind.People that move around much can’t use wind. Wind is no cheaper then the big 3 if you ever travel out of wind areas. It costs money for a good service its just to bad people don’t understand that. You can have 50 a month all in plans but what you give up is significant. 6 months with wind I went crawling back to telus for a service that is 100x better then winds. No more texts notifying me I have a voicemail because my phone didn’t ring. No more watching my screen waiting for things to load. No more cursing when my phone says wind away when I’m in zone. Wind maybe a viable option one day but they are 5 -7 years from that. Unless your a kid sitting in your neighborhood thats in a wind zone with WiFi nearby.

  3. They didn t just go around erecting towers right from the start. You do realize that all carriers in urban areas mount antenna sites on buildings rather than standalone towers, right?

  4. Peter, this and your other article on wind or great Reids. I also live in a Tobico and have been fretting about whether to switch to wind. Having traveled around the world and researched after I know we are getting killed by the big three here. You’re disgusting pigs to be honest. However like you I can afford the good seats I don’t want to have to deal with a rainshower! I desperately wish wind well as I feel they are the only reason our rates have dropped at all. I support the group open media, I try to let people know what the world is pain compared to us. But I need a reliable service. 95% of the reviews have been horrific regarding customer service.

    Your article has made me decide to stay with flannel and try and extract the best deal I can. I’ll buy my phone a ride also which means no terms. I look forward to reading more. I desperately hope wind succeeds and that we see a Vodafone, Telefonica, T-Mobile etc. enter our market.

  5. I heard from my friend recently via her father-in-law who works for MTS in Winnipeg that MTS is being crushed by the Big 3’s undercutting tactics. Competition is great, but it sounds like the Big 3 are eager to knock them out of the race. Worth investigating…?

  6. Great article. I too have had the big debate about switching. My husband is on wind and I often just go strait to his voicemail, that can be really frustrating when I need to get in touch. I’m glad you mentioned the retention department and not mentioning wind. I was planning to call tomorow so that’s some good advice. I think after reading your article I can stick with my original plan and stay with fido. Thank you cheers

  7. I’m totally new to the Smartphone world, the world of usage, roaming etc.
    I have just bought a new unlocked iPhone 5s and as yet I haven’t gone with a carrier so these articles and comments are really interesting and valuable. I wanted something I could use for 3 months during the winter in Fl, so reading online reviews of Roam and Wind makes me a bit nervous. I just don’t know enough about it all.
    I got my wife on another corporate plan with Telus…..iPhone 6s phone inc+ unlimited talk/text+ 6Gb data for $75 tax inc. and for a flat rate of $10/mo. unlimited texting in the US.
    Historically we’ve just relied on Skype and cheap TracPhones while in Florida.
    Any other suggestions would be welcomed.

    • Hi Tom – do you typically use data while you’re down there, or do you want to? I’m a big fan of Roam Mobility. They send you a SIM card that you pop in your phone, as long as it’s unlocked, and then it’s $4 a day for pretty much unlimited everything. It’s what I use while in the US.

      • Like I said, I’ve never had a Smartphone—just used TracPhones (and WiFi in our unit or McDonald’s!)
        There seems to be a lot of negative reviews of Roam on the web. But that’s not your experience?

        Also, $4/day x 3 months seems to be pretty darn expensive. I had this idea that usage with US carriers was so much cheaper than here. I just thought I’d just be able to buy a sim and hook up for 3 months at a lower rate than here at home.

        • Oh yes, sorry about that. For three months you’d definitely want a local SIM. My experience with Roam Mobility has been almost all good, with only a few hiccups. You may want to check out Ting – they’re a Canadian company that offers service in the U.S. over carrier networks there. I’ve never tried them but have heard good things.

  8. Great article. Too bad you have to switch back to one of the biggies. I switched mine from the doggy brand a few years ago to Mobilicity and after about 1 year I switched to Wind Mobile and had been with them for over 3 years now. I started with a $25/month with unlimited talk and hardly anything else to now still $30/month with unlimited talk (only province wide), unlimited text and unlimited data (max at 5G and slow down when beyond). I love doing everything on my 6 inch oversize phone. This month I blew 1Gbite on data in the first 2 days. I am used to being slow down after the 5G cap. I occasionally travel outside of the GTA area, mostly to Montreal where Videotron is the equivalent to Wind but they don’t share anything. Roaming charge is not too bad. 14cent a minute? When outside the Wind area, I try to use free wifi.

    I notice that you are using your old cell phone, Iphone 5? Over the years I have changed my phone 5 times. 3 for me and 2 for my wife. Each time I ‘up graded’ the phones, the connection actually got better. Now my wife has a Huawei (I forget the exact model) which runs on 4G. It’s awesumly fast and no drop calls. I did have another smaller Huawei G6. It also runs on 4G. It looks and feels like an iPhone. So much so that I sold it to my co-worker after using it for over 6 months. Wind unlocks the phone for $30. I sold it for $130. I paid $0 with a 2 years loyalty plan, ie. I stay with Wind for at least 2 years. Each month they take $3 to pay off the phone payment at no extra cost to me. Now that phone is paid off. Right now I have an independent make BLU Studio 6 HD (only 3G) with dual SIM slots. So far all these phones are good for us. Earlier I had another no name brand unlocked phone. It was the RIV 55. Which is really a piece of sh.. . So I suspect that your bad experience may have something with the old phone.

    So far my experience with Wind over the 3 years is still quite positive. Yes there customer service is lousy (the incident was not contract/plan related). My 3 cents of opinion.

    • I guess the location you live and work in, and your usual movement area has a lot to do with your mobile phone experience. Wind is still building up its base network. If you live and work within an area in the middle of Wind Towers, you’d be very happy with the service. That’s why most Wind subscribers I know, that live and work within central Toronto, tell me Wind Service is pretty similar, and just a bit slower, than the big 3. As you approach the downtown Toronto (or any other downtown GTA town) core, you experience more solid coverage, and the further you get, you experience less. I am sure as Wind continues to build and upgrade its network, the coverage and service will improve in the rural, and more remote areas. I just hope they don’t end up joining the big 3 price pool when they get to offer comparable service, speed and coverage. I rather like the idea of “Big 3, plus an as good only cheaper Wind”, than “The big 4”!

  9. I have yet to read your August 18 post but your May 10 was an awesome read.
    I have been contemplating on switching to Wind. I have been with Fido/Rogers since 2004 and among the lucky ones who still has city fido and 6 gig data. (paying $76.00 –> 35 for city fido, 35 for data and 6 for 3 voicemails and caller id). The only reason why i am keeping this plan is because of the 6 gig on LTE, but i found Wind offers 8 gig for $50 with unlimited nationwide calling and 1 gig of roaming data. I am so tempted to switch but i am scared just like you to get rid of a plan from one of the biggest. The speed, the coverage and customer service. Since your August 18 post, have you investigated or researched on the changes or improvements? The news about Shaw buying Wind, i am a bit optimistic that coverage will improve. But still, i am scared of letting go of a plan i currently have. I like my plan until i get this huge bill taken out of my account once every few months – either i went slightly over my data or i used roaming. I have paid $227.00 recently which included my browsing attempts in a different country, although didnt really open and just kept loading. Should i stay or should i go …lol.

    • Without getting too technical, the big problem Wind has is that its network uses one frequency of wireless spectrum. It’s a high frequency, which means it doesn’t penetrate walls very well, and Wind doesn’t have all that much of it. The network won’t get much better without different kinds of spectrum, which neither Wind nor Shaw currently have. Until they acquire some or sign a deal to use someone else’s, I wouldn’t expect much improvement in the network quality.

  10. Hi,
    Recently, I’ve been looking up a lot of things about Wind Mobile. I’ve read your article about why you switched to Wind and after reading why you switched back to a flanker brand, I feel slightly reluctant to sign with Wind. I’m currently a high school student who consumes a fair bit of data from social networking sites, music streaming and the occasional Korean drama episode. I was attracted to Wind by their $35 plan because it seems like it’ll be a good amount of data for me, as well as the unlimited Canada-wide talk and Canada/US text. What I’m worried the most about it the quality. I was previously with a Big 3 company and my dad said that it’s too expensive, since he usually pays for my bills. I finally got a job but I don’t think that I’ll be able to keep up with the $100+/mo. plan. Because I’m so used to super fast speed of my previous plan, I’m not 100% sure if I’ll be able to have the patience to deal with the slower results. I don’t know, I now have to pay for my own cell phone plan… will sacrificing the quality be worth it?

    • Peter Nowak // March 3, 2016 at 1:39 am // Reply

      That’s the $1 million, or $100 question, isn’t it? It really comes down to what you can afford and what you’re willing to put up with. Like I said in my two posts, I ultimately found that Wind wasn’t good enough for my needs, and that I was capable of paying more. I’m not exactly willing to pay more, but that’s the unfortunate trade off. If you’re lucky enough to have a phone that works on everyone’s networks, you can at least give Wind a try for a month or two and see if it’s good enough for you. Good luck!

  11. i work at home so dont need any data. will the wind issues you describe affect me?

  12. Hi Pete! Thank you for this — this article was extremely helpful as I was considering such a switch myself. I’m curious, did you happen to be in Muskoka while you were testing Wind? If so, how was the roaming coverage up there? Wind offers the device I want for $50 on a $35/month plan, whereas my big 3 provider wants $200 upfront and $75/month for the same phone!
    Thanks very much.

  13. Gianenrico // June 5, 2016 at 4:48 am // Reply

    Hello all!
    Here in Italy wind is a strong fourth Player in the mobile market.
    Price AND Customer Care are key factors in their strategy (each of us four famiky members has 200 voice minutes, 200 SMS, 2 GB a month for just 7, 06 €/month. I usually get any oroblem solved by the Call Center within 10 minutes.
    So, of course, we like Wind.
    My question: my older daugher will spend september 2016 to january 2017 in Victoria, B. C.
    I’ dubious wether to by an “internaional traveler” pack from Wind Italy at 35 €/month (1000 minutes, 1000 SMS, 5 GB ), to get similar cost for a little less airtime by Wind Canada OR to subcribe a new SIM with another operator: coverage by Wind diesn’seem the best around Victoria.
    Any thoghts?
    Many tks,
    Gianenrico

  14. I have been with wind for 3 years. When I started it was great. Now that they are suppose to be adding towers my service sucks. I used to get great service anywhere in the house full bars except the basement which I added a cell booster and got full bars. Now I get no signsl at all at home. They lie when they say they are improving there network. My wife has a new galaxy s6 and no singnal. They tell me we are working on the system for maintenace but they lie as it has been over 6 months of maintenance. I bought a new phone thatworks with every provider including mobilicity and t mobile which are the same as wind but wind blocks this phone. Wind was an up in comibg company but no more they are downgrading thier signal strenght and coverage. Wind is no longer worth staying with ad I rarely get a good sinal anymore but the big 3 are double the price. I left them as they kept changing my service every renewal with less offered and more price. I gate to think that I might have to go back to those crooks but I have a useless service now with wind.

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