Last week, the CEO of Comcast said that 70% of all mobile data traffic occurs over WiFi networks. Echoing his sentiment that we’re living in a WiFi world, the CFO of Cablevision was quoted stating that “Cablevision customers save about $30 per month on their cell phone bills by being able to access data over the Cablevision WiFi network.” At SocialSign.in, we’re working to make WiFi more accessible in all the places people spend their time, so we love hearing other people talk about the sustainability and size of this channel for connectivity. Rather than speculate on how possible it is to really save that much money each month by using WiFi instead of a data plan, we decided to find out for ourselves.
On Friday, September 19th, our marketing manager (and early adopter) got his brand new 64 GB space grey iPhone 6…with the cheapest data plan available on Verizon, limiting him to 250MB of data per month. Since you can’t get an iPhone without a data plan, he settled for the smallest one possible.
The challenge? To use SocialSign.in network locations and other free public WiFi around New York for 28 days without going over his measly, monthly allowance of 250MB of data. For the next 28 days, Sean (@freidlin on Twitter) will log his trials, triumphs and tribulations on this blog and his Twitter account, using the #NoDataNoProblem hashtag.
Subscribe to our blog and follow his mission to test the viability of life with the newest, fastest, WiFi friendly smartphone on the most limited, affordable, bare bones data plan on the market.
Day 1: Monday, September 22
Before getting the new iPhone 6 with iOS8 on Friday, I was stuck with an old iPhone 3 (don’t ask) for a few months, so I spent the weekend adjusting to my new, kinda gigantic and awesome device by loading it with my favorite apps and music. In doing so, I also learned that my home WiFi network doesn’t exactly reach my favorite lounge chair in the backyard…to the tune of 43% of my 250MB. This may be harder than I thought, but hey, everything has a learning curve right?
When I got into work this morning at 1407 Broadway I immediately connected my new device to the Techstars Guest WiFi Network using SocialSign.in and my Facebook account. By doing that, my phone will automatically recognize the network and reconnect me to the WiFi every morning when I get to the office. It will also connect me at all the other venues and businesses we work with around the city, which will definitely come in handy during this experiment. So far, #NoDataNoProblem.
At noon I went for lunch at Kobeyaki and was going to check my email but their WiFi network was locked, so I waited to consume more data while waiting to consume my chicken bowl with brown rice…which was delicious.
*UPDATE* 5:30 PM
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) September 22, 2014
Day 2: Tuesday, September 23
Between my commute home last night and back to work this morning, I’ve quickly learned that LIRR WiFi isn’t something I can expect to take advantage of during this experiment. With a little research, I was able to discover that they’ve been working on a solution since last year and that their new fleet of trains, rolling out in the next few months, will be WiFi enabled. Good to know for the future, but for the time being it looks like the two hours I spend on the train each day will now be reserved for catching up on my summer reading list.
I’ll be in the office connected to the WiFi until I head to the Barclays Center tonight for a Black Keys concert. Our previous research indicates I should have WiFi, which is backed up by their website, so hopefully I’ll be able to upload some pics and videos without making a dent in my data plan.
*UPDATE* 12:43 PM
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) September 23, 2014
Day 3: Wednesday, September 24
The WiFi at Barclay Center worked really well last night. Anyone who uses WiFi on iOS often knows those brief seconds of uncertainty between seeing the spinning wheel and check mark affirming connectivity. Thankfully I was able to connect quickly once I got into the venue and stayed connected for the entire show.
The concert itself was awesome and I ended up posting some videos to Instagram and tweeting a bit as a result.
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) September 24, 2014
The @BarclaysCenter twitter account uploaded some live pictures from a bit closer to the stage too.
— Barclays Center (@barclayscenter) September 24, 2014
Day 5: Friday, September 26
After 4 full days of the #NoDataNoProblem challenge, I am averaging around 4.75% of data per day on my plan, the equivalent of 11.87MB. At this rate I’ll exceed my 250MB limit before October 19th, but I’m learning some helpful tips and tricks for data conservation that I think will help me pull through in the end.
The first real challenge will be this weekend. I’ll be keeping track of all the places I visit and will definitely remember whether or not they offer free, easy guest WiFi access or not.
Day 8: Monday, September 29 (WEEKEND RECAP)
Well, I made it through my first weekend of this challenge relatively unscathed. On Friday night I planned on going home after work but ended up at Sidebar until 1AM. In case you didn’t know, I consider Sidebar one of NYC’s best sports bars, and their free WiFi is just one of the reasons for that classification. By the time I took the train home, my phone was dead and my primary goal was staying awake so I didn’t miss my switch at Jamaica.
Would I have liked to sleep until 1PM on Saturday and relax all afternoon? Yes. Is that what happened? Obviously not.
With my cousin in town from LA, we decided to check out the DUMBO Arts Festival in Brooklyn with my parents. The festival is the “single largest free art event in New York City” according to their website, which is surprising. While it was quite fun, even more surprising than its size was the lack of free public WiFi in the area. With so many outdoor exhibits and unique, shareable, photo-worthy things happening, it would have been a great time to have it. That’s why I couldn’t share awesome picture like these until right now!
After a few hours soaking up the uncharacteristically fantastic weather and exhibits, I ended up using part of my data plan to find out the closest subway on Google Maps. By the time I got into Manhattan, my first stop was back at the office to recharge my phone, connect to a WiFi network and regroup.
From there, I met some friends at the AMC Kips Bay theater to see a late afternoon showing of “The Guest” (which was excellent). The only problem? I have a MoviePass membership, which offers unlimited showings for a flat monthly fee. The theater didn’t have any free guest WiFi (ironic), which prevented me from checking into my screening on the app and getting my ticket without taking a data hit. That marked the second (and last) time on Saturday I needed to use my data plan. But it was worth it, because seriously, the movie was great. The rest of the weekend was painless. Sunday Brunch at Maialino came with a side of free WiFi access, and so did a brief stop to Urban Outfitters later that day.
As of this post, I have used 71% of my 250MB of monthly data. We’ll see where things go from here.
Day 10: Wednesday, October 1
Yesterday, I spent the whole day at the Bohemian National Hall for the OnDeck Sports & Technology Conference, presented by SeatGeek and WGT Media. The guest WiFi network in the building was locked, but once I asked a staff member for the password I was set for the day. I took and uploaded dozens of pictures to Instagram, WordPress and Twitter while also live-blogging the entire event without using any of my data plan.
I also met the CEO/Owner of the Boston Celtics, which was a nice added bonus.
When I got home late last night, I checked my email and saw something form Verizon Wireless, effectively titled “Take control of your data usage”. Concerned that I had accidentally exceeded my 250MB, I opened the email, only to find this.
Day 15: Monday, October 6 (WEEKEND RECAP)
It’s been a while since my last update. The past few days have been very busy at the office, which is always an exciting feeling. Thursday was the birthday of our product lead, Joe, so the team celebrated at night with a few rounds at The Ainsworth. They offer free WiFi with SocialSign.in, so I was able to immediately connect once I walked through the door and hardly missed a beat without connectivity during the ten minute walk there from our office at 1407 Broadway.
After the Thursday Night Football blowout came to a close, I headed to Penn Station and dove back into Zero to One on the train. My Friday night and Saturday were relatively uneventful in terms of socializing because of Yom Kippur, so my primary concern was keeping myself distracted from how hungry I was. On Sunday I went back into Manhattan and started my day by seeing Gone Girl. With my experience the prior weekend using MoviePass in the Kips Bay Theater without WiFi and taking a data hit, I figured out a crafty alternate solution. The check-in feature of the app works within 100 yards of the theater, so I went to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street on 33rd street and 2nd avenue, used their free WiFi to check-in and picked up an iced coffee while I was there.
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) October 5, 2014
That little trick will come in handy for future movies too, so I’m glad it worked as well as I hoped. After the movie (see it immediately) I went to Berry Park in Williamsburg to watch football for the day. They offered free WiFi but it was a locked, password protected network, so I had to inconvenience the bartender for access… which is still better than using my data plan.
After 15 days, I’ve used 78% of my 250MB, but if you exclude the 43% I had already used before starting this experiment, it’s really only 35%, the equivalent of 87.5MB of data. That’s 5.8MB per day.
I’ll try to figure out how much data I’ve offloaded onto WiFi networks if possible. Because it’s definitely a ton.
Day 19: Friday, October 10
Last night I went to Madison Square Garden to see Aziz Ansari perform live, along with 12,000 other people. I had never seen a comedian perform such a large venue before and he certainly did a great job at filling the world’s most famous arena with laughs. I was able to connect to the MSG free guest WiFi network from the moment I walked into the front doors, all the way up to my seats in section 210. Here’s what the login experience looks like:
I didn’t check my phone too often during the show because Aziz was absolutely hilarious and actually encourages his audience NOT to use their phones while he’s on stage. He even poses for pictures that people can snap before starting his set, just to get it out of the way and make everyone happy. Having access to the free WiFi was particularly helpful for checking the LIRR train times as things wrapped up so I knew which train to take, so it definitely came in handy.
After 19 days, I have just eclipsed the 200MB mark on my data plan. I’ve used 80% of my total and have 9 days remaining. Tomorrow, I’ll be participating in SocialSign.in’s first ever WiFi Crawl. We’re calling it the #WiFiWeekend. If you don’t have any plans you should join us, but follow along on social media regardless because i’ll be uploading all day without any data restrictions.
Day 22: Monday, October 13 (WEEKEND RECAP)
After leaving work Friday night I was craving something gluttonous and delicious for dinner. The first place that came to mind was Empire Biscuit, located on Avenue A and 12th Street. The fried chicken biscuit sandwich hit the spot, and it was an added (unexpected) bonus that they offered free WiFi to go with it.
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) October 10, 2014
After that I went to the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 to see Whiplash, using the free WiFi at Cosi across the street to access my MoviePass app and get the ticket. The movie was the best I’ve seen all year, and even if you aren’t a big music fan I think you’ll enjoy it. On the train ride home afterwards I put a serious dent into Zero To One, then got a good nights rest in preparation for the SocialSign.in WiFi Weekend crawl around NYC taking place on Saturday.
I managed to spend my entire Saturday connected to SocialSign.in WiFi network locations around Manhattan. When you combine that with a low key Sunday at home, it leaves me with 15% of my data left for the remaining 7 days. That’s only 39MB.
Day 23: Tuesday, October 14
This morning I finished Zero To One on the train ride to work. I must say, it was much more satisfying than the stream of Instagram photos and Facebook updates I would normally occupy my time with. I strongly suggest you read the book, but if you don’t want to, or simply don’t have the time, I made a list of my 16 favorite quotes/lines from Peter Thiel’s new book.
1. Technology is miraculous because it allows us to do more with less, ratcheting up our fundamental capabilities to a higher level. Other animals are instinctively driven to build things like dams and honeycombs, but we are the only ones that can invent new things and better ways of making them.
(Page 2, Preface)
2. Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future.
(Page 10, The Challenge of the Future)
3. A South Korean firm wired us $5 million without first negotiation a deal or signing any documents. When I tried to return the money, they wouldn’t tell me where to send it.
(Page 18, Part Like It’s 1999)
4. Google makes so much money that it’s now worth three times more than every U.S. airline combined.
(Page 24, All Happy Companies Are Different)
5. In the real world outside economic theory, every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something other cannot. Monopoly is therefore not a pathology or an exception. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.
(Page 34, All Happy Companies Are Different)
6. All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past.
(Page 37, The Ideology of Competition)
7. In January 2013, Apples’ market capitalization was $500 billion, while Google and Microsoft combined were worth $467 billion. Just three years before, Microsoft and Google were each more valuable than Apple. War is costly business.
(Page 39, The Ideology of Competition)
8. Every monopoly is unique, but they usually share some combination of the following characteristics: proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding.
(Page 48, Last Mover Advantage)
9. A business with a good definite plan will always be underrated in a world where people see the future as random.
(Page 80, You Are Not A Lottery Ticket)
10. Never underestimate exponential growth.
(Page 82, Follow The Money)
11. Indeed, the dozen largest tech companies were all venture-backed. Together, those 12 companies are worth more than $2 trillion, more than all other tech companies combined.
(Page 90, Follow The Money)
12. You can’t find secrets without looking for them.
(Page 101, Secrets)
13. The best place to look for secrets is where no one else is looking.
(Page 104, Secrets)
14. “Company culture” doesn’t exist apart from the company itself: no company has a culture; every company is a culture. (Page 119, The Mechanics of Mafia)
15. In Silicon Valley, nerds are skeptical of advertising, marketing, and sales because they seem superficial and irrational. But advertising matters because it works. It works on nerds, and it works on you.
(Page 127, If You Build It, Will They Come?)
16. The most valuable businesses of coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete.
(Page 141, Man and Machine)
Day 25: Thursday, October 16
On Tuesday night I went uptown to visit a friend at Columbia University and was pleasantly surprised to discover the campus had free WiFi throughout. No login screen, no password, no student ID required. On Wednesday I was able to attend the second annual Coalition For Queens Tech Bash at MoMa PS1 in Long Island City. It was a really fun, well organized event for a great cause.
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) October 15, 2014
SocialSign.in powered the WiFi inside “The Dome” at PS1, as well as outside, and a variety of top notch local food vendors attended too, serving their finest fare to the crowd. Here are some highlights from the event:
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) October 16, 2014
— Coalition for Queens (@C4QNYC) October 16, 2014
— Coalition for Queens (@C4QNYC) October 16, 2014
— Coalition for Queens (@C4QNYC) October 16, 2014
— MAKE (@make) October 16, 2014
Day 26-28: The Final Countdown
This past weekend was the final stretch of the #NoDataNoProblem challenge. As I write this post, I’m looking down at the “My Verizon” app on my iPhone 6 and this is what I see.
It’s over. A fresh start. I left the office around 8PM on Friday night and went to my old roommates apartment. The WiFi password for his locked network was comically long, but, at that point nothing was going to stop me from finishing what I started. That night, I was sitting comfortably at 87%, with 33MB of data remaining to spend at my discretion over the next 48 hours. I started a new book on the train ride home from the city (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and before I knew it, I was sleeping comfortably in my bed. I did some work in my backyard on Saturday afternoon, relishing the warmth that I knew wouldn’t last much longer. After dinner I set out to Brooklyn for what would end up being the last real challenge of this challenge. A friend from Techstars was throwing a party on his roof in Williamsburg and one of the associates from our cohort was going to play a live show with his band. I was meeting Pat, who handles the account management for SocialSign.in, near the Atlantic Terminal train station, where we would head towards Williamsburg together.
While I waited for him (subway delays in Brooklyn, what else is new?), I went to the new Shake Shack across the street from the Barclays Center and got a shake. I also used their free WiFi to schedule an Uber to take us to the party. That’s where things got tricky. The buzzer to the apartment door was broken and we couldn’t get in. I had to go on Facebook to reach out to the host, which required some data, and once we were inside I discovered something truly surprising…
At a party in an apartment…with no WiFi. I'm using data. I'm in utter shock. #NoDataNoProblem
— Sean Freidlin (@freidlin) October 19, 2014
The party was fun and the music was great…but no WiFi in an apartment is something I wasn’t expecting. I ended up posting a picture to Instagram later that night, because I couldn’t resist, and when I got home around 2AM, this was my data status.
On Sunday, October 19th, I spent my whole day watching football at home, connected to WiFi, counting the minutes until midnight. When it came, I was still at 97%, and officially won this 28 day challenge. Later this week, i’ll post a wrap-up and summary with what I learned during this 28 day stretch.
Thanks to everyone who read this along the way and to all of the businesses who offered free WiFi.
Check back as I update this post (frequently) between September 22nd-October 19th on my quest to save money on my phone bill by using WiFi everywhere I go.