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Updated: AT&T Blocking Facetime Over Cellular on the New GoPhone Unlimited Plan


It looks like AT&T new GoPhone Unlimited plan is even worse than we originally thought. It was apparent from the start that the new plan was badly crippled with data speeds limited to 3 mbps up and down at all times. Video streaming is further limited to 1.5 mbps. Tethering and hotspot are not allowed and customers who use more than 22 GB of data in a month are subject to having their data speeds even further reduced whenever the network is congested.

To add insult to injury, multiple users who switched to the new plan are reporting on HowardForums and on AT&T's own  AT&T Community user forum that they are no longer able to use Apple's Facetime video chat service over cellular data.

When users try to use Facetime over cellular they are greeted by the message shown in the image above or to the right. The www.att.com/personalhotspots webpage mentioned in the message says nothing about Facetime. GoPhone customer service representatives at 611 are clueless as to why Facetime is not working and are unable to enable it.

It's not clear if the FaceTime block is intentional or a glitch. The plans terms of service say nothing about Facetime being blocked. No one from AT&T has responded to the complaints on AT&T's forum. Only Facetime seems to be blocked,  I haven't seen any reports of issues with other video chat services such as WhatsApp, Skype or Google's Duo or Hangouts. Blocking one video chat service while allowing others is a clear network neutrality violation, but under the FCC's new management net neutrality is dead and carriers are free to block anything they want.

While all of AT&T's competitors have limitations on their so-called unlimited data plans, the GoPhone unlimited plan by far the most limited in terms of data speeds. It's also one of the most expensive and the only one where Facetime is blocked. Here's how AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobiles unlimited plans compare:

Price Brand Operator Speed Deprioritized After Limitations
$50, no taxes MetroPCS T-Mobile full except video limited to 480p 30 GB no hotspot
$50 + taxes of up to 19% Boost Mobile Sprint full except video limited to 480p, audio to 500 mbps, gaming to 2 mbps 23 GB hotspot throttled after 8 GB
$60, no taxes MetroPCS T-Mobile full30 GB hotspot throttled after 8 GB
$60 , no taxes Cricket AT&T 8 mbps 22 GB no hotspot
$65 + taxes of up to 19% GoPhone AT&T 3 mbps except video limited to 480p 22 GB no hotspot, no Facetime
$70 + taxes of up to 19% Boost Mobile Sprint full except video limited to 1080p, audio to 1.5 mbps, gaming to 8 mbps 23 GB hotspot throttled after 8 GB

As you can see AT&T's own Cricket unlimited plan costs offers faster data, doesn't block Facetime and costs at least $5/month less. The cost savings are greater in most locations because Cricket pays all your taxes, even sales tax, and GoPhone doesn't.

Crippling of the GoPhone unlimited plan seems to be a reversal of AT&T's usual prepaid pricing strategy where Cricket is the "value" brand that costs less and GoPhone is the "premium" brand that has faster data and other perks like no extra cost hotspot and a small amount of off-network roaming. Throttling data speeds, even when the network is lightly loaded. and blocking an app that's built in to every iPhone and used by millions on your premium priced prepaid service makes no sense.

Update 3/18: AT&T has told that FierceWireless that FaceTime not working on the unlimited plan is a technical "glitch".  AT&T says that they have fixed for customers who have contacted them and are working on fixing it for all users.

Sources HowardForums, AT&T Community. Image: imgur

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67 comments:

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  1. Not this crap again...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Get Duo. Unlike FaceTime, it will work on the majority of phones people have. Not just one brand. A great idea regardless of this Gophone issue.

    Problem solved... until they block Duo!

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    Replies
    1. Duo=Google product.

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    2. That doesn't matter. Duo will run on most of the many brands, 99.6% of new smartphones (and the majority of the installed base).

      FaceTime runs on just one brand that has just 18% of devices.

      https://www.google.com/amp/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2017/2/16/14634656/android-ios-market-share-blackberry-2016

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    3. Even setting concerns re:Google's business model aside, Google is notorious for starting projects and abandoning them, and it's clearer in no other arena than messaging apps:

      Google Talk
      Google Voice
      Google+
      Google Hangouts
      Messenger
      Allo
      Duo

      And there may be more to come: http://www.androidpolice.com/2015/12/22/wsj-google-is-building-another-messaging-service-with-chatbots-and-blackjack-and-hookers/

      I'm no fan of Apple's stranglehold over and implementation of messaging (whether intentional, aloof, arrogant, poorly planned or whatever it is,) or even an iDevice user, but it's much simpler and not so schizophrenic as Google's "options." Depending on which Android device you may have, you may have to download any to all of the above apps, whereas on iDevices, Messages and FaceTime are just...there.

      Delete
    4. One man's app that is "just there" is another man's bloatware.

      After all, it takes about 20 second to load an app... ONCE.

      Delete
    5. "One man's app that is "just there" is another man's bloatware."

      Note that I said any to all, which implies that some of these Google messaging apps may also come pre-installed on Android devices. Would you call them bloatware as well?

      What about the native/system messaging (SMS) apps, which Messages on iOS is? Native calendars, clocks, calculators, tasks, notes--are these all bloatware too, then?

      "After all, it takes about 20 second to load an app... ONCE."

      That is if you find the right one for you right away. Otherwise you're going down the list, installing (and uninstalling) away.

      Delete
    6. Duo is just Duo. It's a video calling/conferencing app. As much as you might want to discuss a different matter such as messaging apps, the fact remains that Duo is a much better video calling app, as it works on just about everything *including iPhones*.

      You can tell someone to install Duo to use to talk to you. The vast majority of the time, they will be able to. While only some.... a small minority... will be able to use FaceTime.

      Delete
  3. Lol most prepaid users thought at&t was like the rolls Royce of cellular, even their standards aren't being met with these new plans.

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    Replies
    1. The luxury version costs $90/month plus taxes and fees.

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  4. Would a VPN bypass this?

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    Replies
    1. Good question. But wouldn't that introduce additional latency, especially if you go with a free option?

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    2. I believe that Apple lets carriers block Facetime at the handset level, just like they can block hotspot. So unless your iPhone is jailbroken I don't think a VPN would help.

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  5. It's kind of a play right out of the Sprint playbook.

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  6. With the 3 mbps cap and video/FaceTime limitations you can basically call this an unltd 3G data plan.

    And what's up with the "1020p" HD video limit and HD video being an added feature?

    Idk what's going on, wireless industry is a mess now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "1020" seems to be a typo, but I asked this same question last week. If they're limiting video to 1080p, what are they excluding--4K?

      Also, Dennis, the Boost $70 plan's audio speed cap should read 1.5 mbps, not gbps

      Delete
    2. How are they limiting video to 1080p? I mean wouldn't a 1080p and 1440p video stream at similar mbps?

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    3. Typos corrected, thanks. Boost says maximum video resolution is 1080p so U take that to mean no WUXGA, 2K or 4K.

      Delete
    4. "How are they limiting video to 1080p? I mean wouldn't a 1080p and 1440p video stream at similar mbps?"

      Well, I know how T-Mobile was forcing video down to 480p: by throttling speeds to 1.5mbps, which was apparently enough to guarantee that video quality. So maybe there is a corresponding threshold for 1080p that Sprint has figured out. B

      ut it makes no sense to me, given the low number of devices that stream >1080p right now, how indiscernible it can be on mobile screens, and that 1080p in itself can be a heavy enough network burden (as TMO would've had us believe.)

      Delete
  7. Verizon is the winner of this game. Is non braded metro pcs phone bypass hotspot block for $50 unlimited ?

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    Replies
    1. Verizon can't win any prepaid game if they don't play. No Vzw unlimited HS prepaid plan. Postpaid costs $80/month plus taxes and fees.

      You have to find a phone that MetroPCS can't recognize to block hotspot. Or just pay the extra $10 for the better $60 plan.

      Delete
    2. Verizon is playing prepaid, and have the best option out there.

      Delete
  8. Dennis, I don't see anything in the terms and conditions of MetroPCS limiting streaming to 1020p video. As a matter of fact, I don't see any limits at all save for the deprioritization threshold at 30GB.

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    Replies
    1. You're right, you can opt out of Data Maximizer which is 480p. I've updated the table.

      Delete
  9. Isn't there a $50 Cricket UDP?

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    Replies
    1. No, that's MetroPCS and Boost. Cricket's $50 plan has 8 GB.

      Delete
  10. @Dennis
    I believe you made a mistake in your table above. Cricket's unlimited plan doesn't limit video streaming to 480p unless you want them to. The table should also mention (in my opinion) that the plan costs $55 with autopay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Didn't Cricket recently introduce a $45 with autopay UDP?

      Delete
    2. I've updated the table to reflect the fact 480p (Stream More) can be turned off.

      Cricket's UDP is $60, $55 with autopay.

      Delete
    3. Someone in the forums did recently mention a Cricket autopsy plan.

      Delete
    4. Not ready yet.

      Delete
  11. AT&T must be trying to push people onto Cricket.

    Problem is, Cricket's a poverty tier shithole with poor customer service.

    They still sucker you in with port-in deals, but nowadays they don't even add your ported number to their voicemail system.

    Between that and random outages, you'd be better off just hopping over to Metro.

    Don't even get me started on the terrible Tracfone-tier customer service that either can't do anything to fix your problems, or will outright hang up on you when you want to cancel your service.

    The point is, GoPhone's 6GB plan is the only worthwhile prepaid offering AT&T has left.

    It's not much of a consolation, though.

    With Cricket being trash and MVNO's getting deprioritized to the point of dropped signals, it's only a matter of time before AT&T truly joins Sprint in the trash bin.

    They just need to take one more step into the dumpster...unless T-Mobile just pushes them in by doubling the data on their own $40 plan.

    If that happens, we'll only have two real carriers left to choose from, with the rest reconstructing the meme that prepaid is for poor people.

    In fact, as long as this prepaid decay continues, I wouldn't be surprised if eventually we all wound up back on postpaid again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Between that and random outages, you'd be better off just hopping over to Metro."

      Not if you want to use the phone: METROPCS coverage is still lousy compared to Cricket.

      Delete
    2. ... Yeah, in half of the US, MetroPCS data is on a permanent "outage".

      Delete
    3. @ Anon. 4:46PM:

      Concerning Cricket: Must respectfully disagree with your conclusions. Cricket,like all pre-paids, is targeted at people who want to save money, and is less of a "poverty-tier shithole" than any other MVNO (especially Tracfone, which IS exceptionally bad).

      Cricket CS is steadily improving and, besides, their website is a stream-lined pleasure to use.

      Our multi-line account has had just 1 outage for 4 hours in the middle of the night in the last 2 years for which they credited our account.

      So,
      1) excellent coverage
      2) best prices of any carrier, especially if you use a 5 member multi-line acct. (and no taxes).
      3) smooth website, backed up by steadily improving CS.
      4) stability of a Network owned MVNO.

      Use a credit card, stick it on autopay, and 'Set-and-Forget'.

      Delete
    4. John, thanks for putting some sense to the peevish trollish views that sometimes show here.

      "Cricket,like all pre-paids, is targeted at people who want to save money, and is less of a "poverty-tier shithole" than any other MVNO (especially Tracfone, which IS exceptionally bad)."

      I get Cricket because I don't want to pay $80 or $90 or something for AT&T or Verizon, and I want to use a lot of data. I also happen to leave my house, so that leaves anything TMO or Sprint based.... swiss cheese or no chees coverage... "out of the question".

      Would anyone really call the niche I am seeking, whatever it is, "poverty tier" ? (I see a troll in the back of the room angrily getting to his feet)

      "Cricket CS is steadily improving and, besides, their website is a stream-lined pleasure to use."

      I had a terrible time with Cricket CS when I first joined back at the end of 2014. There was a huge crush of new customers, and they couldn't handle it. Within a few months after that, however, the wait times got much better. As did the knowledge and professional skills of the CS staff. Now, I can't fault them for anything at all. The only "Cricket CS is bad" you will get now comes from occasional anecdotes (of which there are as many for MatroPCS) and phone carrier fan boys who make up stuff about "enemy" carriers.

      You are right, John...

      Delete
    5. About poverty-tier shithole customer service. I've been a customer of one of the biggest cable companies in the country for about 20 years and it's consistently been the worst customer service experience I've had to deal with. A quick Google search shows I'm not the only one with that opinion. This despite the fact that I pay over $200/month for four of their services. Cricket isn't the best carrier around but they aren't the cheapest either. And they are owned and operated by one of the biggest and most profitable telecom companies in the country. Cricket may not be postpaid, which doesn't always provide the best customer service either, but like any other carrier who's plans start at $30/month, they are far from poverty-tier. Bad customer service is just a fact of life these days. Pure TalkUSA offers cheaper plans, is owned by a much smaller company and yet manages to have better customer service than both AT&T and my cable company. Which of those would you call poverty-tier?

      Delete
    6. The "poverty tier" smear might be based on stereotypes that anyone who doesn't have coverage on the T-Mobile network is like Jed Clampett's family but without the oil.

      Despite the fact that a large proportion of America's cities and towns lack "usual" T-Mobile coverage (the data network minus Band 12) and this includes countless places rich people live, work, and travel.

      To people who make such arguments .. invariable smearing farmers, using words like "ghetto" (often a racist smear on those using "wrong" carriers in big cities) and "poverty"... this is less a discussion of actual carrier merits than it is some sort of status thing or a chance to vent supposed "class based" bigotry.

      Delete
    7. "Poverty tier shithole"

      Just another operator along the dumb pipe...

      Delete
    8. "What's wrong with band 12?"

      Assuming you can even find a phone that uses it...

      http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php/1894768-Really-slow-data-in-Band-12-only-areas

      One of countless such accounts. Band 12 has notoriety no other bands has.

      It seems like a cheap trick T-Mobile tries to use to pretend it runs with the big dogs... but don't look look closely, that magenta pooch is just a cocker spaniel wearing a cheap St Bernard mask.


      Delete
    9. poverty-tier, ghetto remarks about cricket are like holdovers that keep clinging on from before AT&T bought out cricket. people just keep seeing cricket that way.

      Delete
    10. Band 12, which is also used by AT&T and many regional operators is supported by every current T-Mobile phone plus most current AT&T and factory unlocked phones.

      Band 12 does tend to be slower because there's less band 12 spectrum available so the channels are narrower. But Band 12 travels farther and penetrates buildings better than higher frequency bands like 2 and 4.

      Delete
    11. "What's wrong with band 12?"

      I was surprised that the list on T-Mobile's website included very few phones as having Band 12 for it.

      Delete
  12. Why AT&T act like silly? Verizon Prepaid and Sprint prepaid brands are not depriortizing prepaid customers. I am not sure about T-Mobile, but AT&T prepaid market place going to deprioritizing, I am leaving.

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    Replies
    1. I'd go to Verizon if I had to flee AT&T. Life is too short to put up with carriers on the other two networks that are much worse than AT&T.

      Delete
  13. Speaking of prepaid, Cricket just texted me about 4 new service charges starting April 23rd !

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    Replies
    1. Still not valid problem for responsible people. Just pay online and don't be a deadbeat and you will never pay a penny of Cricket "junk fees".

      Junk fees are for junk people. You have to be careless and/or irresponsible to pay them.

      Delete
    2. Spam post - the fan never bothered to look at the 8 junk fees Cricket charges. 5 of them have nothing to do with late payment.

      Delete
    3. I looked at them all.

      Delete
    4. Pay your bills. Do stuff online.

      Don't destroy your phone and expect Cricket to give you a full refund.


      There junk person, "junk fees" avoided.

      The only one they stiff you with is for changing your phone number.

      Delete
  14. Not sure the facetime blocking is being done on purpose. There are reports that there is a glitch and can be fixed by tech support on the postpaid side. On the HoFo threads, the fames about the goPhone blocking have been fanned by one person with multiple threads who does not even use goPhone or even how to use facetime or imessage as they use Android. I suspect that this is a glitch due to the turndown to 3 Mbps that will be fixed and not something done on purpose as other services are working.

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  15. Apple and ATT. Two peas in a pod.

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  16. I throw this plan in the trash.

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  17. Apple needs to talk with ATT.

    Choice is good but I don't like the sneaky way ATT is promoting a heavily restricted plan as unlimited.

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    Replies
    1. Don't like Apple, but why would they care? It isn't like this GoPhone plan is anything special, like the only UDP out there, or Apple's only carrier partner. They got bigger fish to fry.

      Delete
  18. Anonymous March 15, 2017 at 5:27 PM and Anonymous March 15, 2017 at 7:18 PM what new fees are Cricket imposing?

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    Replies
    1. I got the text. it's pretty much more fees on those too lazy to pay their bill.

      Delete
  19. Waiting for AT&T's meager backpedal on this stupidity, the 3Mbps constriction, and the zero hot spot allotment. I have heard it said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity, and I wonder if these gaffes are made in a calculated manner to this end. If this is the case, this is poor strategy and very ALIENATING. AT&T, I know you read this venue, so can you hear us now?

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  20. "can you hear us now?"

    The funny thing about that famous oldstatement by the current Sprint spokesman bashing Verizon in commercials is that the only way Sprint users can hear him in most of the US is if they are roaming....on Verizon!

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  21. If I go to a Cricket store to pay my bill on time, they will charge me a 3 dollar fee for daring to enter their premises.

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    Replies
    1. Why go to a store??? Do it online.

      Delete
    2. Going to brick-and-mortar storefronts to do wireless carrier relayed business is for fools. Do you have a data plan? If you do, then there's no excuse. Unless you are some sort of Luddite who likes to seek out the last remaining video cassette rental place and goes to that as well.

      Delete
    3. Video rental stores were a great cultural experience from a bygone era.

      They might not have been convenient or efficient, but damn were they a lot less pathetic than just visiting a kiosk or tapping away on a phone.

      If Blockbuster was still a thing, I'd be going there at least once a month.

      On the other hand, Cricket stores aren't a cultural experience nor a good deal.

      They're a crutch for know-nothings who can't learn to smartphone.

      For everyone else, there's literally no reason to ever step foot in one.

      Delete
  22. I still go to a grocery store for food and a gas station for gas and occasionally take my car to a brick and mortar shop for service. Guess I am a Luddite!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't you see the difference?

      Cone back when you tell me about a cell phone as large and heavy and as perishable/explosive as a gallon of milk or gasoline...

      Delete
  23. Samsung galaxy note 7

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