Choosing a cell phone carrier in the US can be a nightmare. Plans and packages vary from network to network, and you often have to deal with that tiresome two-year contract. Even as we applaud T-Mobile for going the way of the "uncarrier," it too falls trap to inflexible plans; you still have to pay a minimum of $50 for minutes and data you might not use. Going prepaid is certainly an option for those who need less, but even then expiring minutes and unexpected fees can be an issue.
Zact, which launches today, aims to change all that. Touting itself as the industry's "first smart mobile provider," Zact takes an entirely different tact to cell phone service, offering the consumer total control over voice, text and data plans, even across multiple devices. There's no minimum service, customers are allowed to change their plans on the fly, and there's even a handy parental control mode that lets concerned caretakers set curfews and app restrictions on their kid's phones. How does it do all that? Join us after the break where we outline what Zact is, and how it could change the way carriers work.
Born out of Redwood City, Zact is the brainchild of Greg Raleigh, who has a number of achievements in the wireless industry such as the invention of the core technology in LTE handsets and the development of the 802.11 ac/n wireless standard. In 2009, he started ItsOn, a cloud-based service platform designed to let OEMs and mobile operators offer greater plan flexibility for their customers. Zact, however, is the company's first ever direct-to-consumer effort to utilize said platform. The cloud-based software communicates with a pre-loaded app on all of Zact's devices; it's a tiny APK the company sends out to manufacturers to build directly into the phone's OS.
The result is a highly flexible choose-your-own-plan model that lets customers dial down exactly how many minutes, text and data they need via a user-friendly app. If you go over your allotment, the phone will notify you to increase it. But perhaps the best part about Zact is that it has a "Never Overpay Guarantee," which means if you don't use all of your plan, you won't be charged for it. For example, if you sign up for a 500 text plan, but only end up sending 20 messages that month, Zact will only charge you for the 20, reminding you that you should probably choose a lower tier next time around to best suit your needs.
Further, Zact allows you to access specialized plans for those with specific needs. For example, if you only need the phone for texting and data, you can do that. Or if you only ever use it for email and Facebook, you can pay for individual data just for specific apps; the ItsOn software is smart enough to figure that out. "People don't want to think about megabytes," he said. "But they know what apps they use, and which they don't."
Because of this flexibility, all Zact plans are shareable across multiple devices -- you can assign yourself more minutes than your children, for example. As was mentioned earlier, parental mode lets you remotely control your child's phones, allowing them use of certain phone functions during different times of day via curfews and app restrictions.
Right now, Zact is riding on top of the Sprint network. However, Raleigh was careful to note that it's not a Mobile Virtual Network Operator like Virgin Mobile or Boost. "We don't repackage the infrastructure, billing or services," he said. "What we offer is the cloud and the device client."
However, end customers might not notice the difference, as Zact currently only offers two relatively low-end devices: the LG Viper 4G LTE and the LG Optimus Elite, both of which need to be purchased at their full price -- $499 and $199 respectively. You can pre-order them starting today, though they'll only start shipping in June. We were assured that the library of supported devices will expand, though it's worth noting that the ItsOn software is only compatible with Android. While we can't say if Zact will be successful, especially considering its very limited device offerings, we have to say we're impressed by its sheer flexibility. To find out more about the service, check out the demo video above, or just head on over to the source to see if Zact is egg-zactly what you need.
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Zact Debuts Industry's First Smart Mobile Service
'Never Overpay Guarantee' on Voice, Text, and Data
Includes Adjustable Plans From Device, True Sharing, Data-by-the-App, and Built-In Parental Controls
May 13, 2013, Redwood City, CA – Zact, the industry's first smart mobile service provider, made its debut today giving people a whole new level of freedom, control, and flexibility over their voice, text and data services. Zact started out with a simple premise: In today's world of innovative smartphones, exciting apps, and fast data connection speeds - people want wireless service that is flexible, adjustable and gives them exactly what they need. People are often frustrated by expensive one-size-fits-all plans and mobile phone subsidies that lock them into two-year contracts. People don't want to waste money on overage penalties or forfeiture of unused minutes or data. Also, people want to affordably share their minutes and data among more devices added to their account.
To solve this problem, Zact was created. With Zact, consumers get a smart mobile service powered by technology from Zact's parent company, ItsOn, which has a cloud-based software platform for delivering unprecedented levels of freedom and flexibility. Consumers are able to create their own unique mix of talk, text and data, and can even forgo buying a data plan altogether to instead buy an app-specific data plan for maximum savings. Zact was created to give people what they want and solve pain points, especially as people add more devices or family members to their account. Zact delivers the following:
• Customize your amount of voice, text and data right from your device, and adjust it any time
• 'Never Overpay Guarantee' with automatic credit back to a plan that would have saved you money if a bigger plan was unnecessarily purchased
• True sharing that lets you allocate a custom plan of any size to as many devices as you wish
• Remote parental control on kids phones to set curfews, apps and contact restrictions
• Access to specialized plans including app-specific plans, one-time top-ups and international long distance
Easily and Quickly Adjust
With Zact, you can easily and quickly adjust your plan right from your device. If you need more talk, text, or data, Zact will let you know and with two taps you'll be able to get more of what you need with no penalties. You will never be charged without your explicit consent so there are never overages or surprises.
Never Overpay Guarantee
And, you never have to worry about overpaying because with Zact you automatically get money credited back to your account on the plan increment that would have fit you best. This means no need to worry about paying for too much voice, text or data because you will always end up with the plan level that is exactly right based on your actual usage.
There is no need to buy a big expensive sharing plan. Any plan is sharable with Zact. There is no limit to the number of Zact-enabled devices you can add to your account. Once added, you have the option to easily allocate and customize the amount of voice, text and data you assign for each person or device on your account. Outside of a nominal $4.99 monthly maintenance charge per each device, there are no additional fees for sharing and no need for separate amounts of voice, text and data per device.
With Zact, parents can easily set parental controls. Control features include the ability to set curfew, block access to browsers, restrict apps and contacts. Now there's no more worry about late night texting, too much video game playing, or having to confiscate a child's device. The controls to limit a child's access can be directly managed from the parent's Zact device, which means it's like having a remote control of your kids' device.
Zact will also allow customers to buy one-off specialized plans. Need a international long distance plan? Or rather skip a data plan, and have individual data just for specific apps at a low price? Zact gives you specialized plans right on your device, so you can be selective and buy only what you need.
Today, the average spend per person in the U.S. on wireless services is $93 per month, according to Nielsen Research – which also states the average person uses 644 voice minutes per month, sends and receives 764 texts per month. In addition the average person in the U.S. utilizes approximately 500 MB of data per month. With Zact, the cost of service that would suit the average person would be approximately $31 per month, with is 3X less than what people typically pay. Even after purchasing an unsubsidized device from Zact, the average smartphone user can still expect to save as much as $1,275 over a two-year period. Families sharing a plan can expect to save even more.
"Our goal is to give mobile consumers freedom, flexibility and control of their wireless service right from their device. With Zact, no contract is just the beginning – you can create your own unique plan and share it with anyone," said Greg Raleigh, founder and CEO of ItsOn, parent company of Zact. "You get exactly what you want, and you never have to pay more than you need due to our Never Overpay Guarantee. It's the ultimate unplan."
Zact is initially available for pre-order on the LG Viper 4g LTE and LG Optimus Elite Android based smartphones. The phones are unsubsidized and priced at $399 and $199 respectively. The Zact service is available in the U.S. and runs on the Sprint Nationwide Network with 4G/LTE coverage where available and free domestic roaming. Go to Zact.com web site for more information or to place a pre-order beginning May 13, 2013. Devices with Zact service are expected to ship in June 2013.
ItsOn was formed by world leading pioneers in the wireless field to fundamentally change how mobile services are delivered and consumed. ItsOn created the Smart Services™ revolution four years ago with a cloud-based software solution to help mobile service providers enhance their network by enabling more flexible and dynamic service delivery options. ItsOn introduced its direct to consumer service, Zact, to create the industry's first smart wireless service with direct control and flexibility right on the device. The company is privately-held and headquartered in Redwood City, and is funded by Andreessen Horowitz, Ag Investors, SV Angel, Verizon, Vodafone, and Best Buy. For more information, please visit www.itsoninc.com.