Singapore's newest telco, Circles.Life, seemed to have just fallen from the sky out of nowhere, and I got the chance to attend their event yesterday. Among their attractive offerings, here's the best part:
They're offering UNLIMITED DATA on Whatsapp, for free!
This includes all messages, photos, videos, voice-recordings sent and voice calls made through Whatsapp. No kidding.
I had to verify the offer myself with the folks behind Circles.Life because I could hardly believe it myself.
If you ask me, this feature is truly a game-changer. Not only has Circles.Life built innovative data-centric plans that gives you the power of flexibility in what you pay for each month, they've come up with an actual solution to one of the most common problems Singaporeans face - Whatsapp eats up a LOT of our data every month.
I mean, just take a look at my Whatsapp data consumption for the last 4 months alone:
With Circles.Life plans, any data consumed by Whatsapp will NOT be charged as part of your monthly data quotient. You can reserve it all for your other Internet-browsing activities, other apps, or social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter.
So how does Circles.Life work?
Simply put, they are a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that rides on M1's existing infrastructure in Singapore to offer consumers a new 4G mobile experience targeted at us data-savvy consumers. In other words, that describes a large proportion of Millennials, Gen Y and a smaller fraction of tech-savvy Gen X users.
When I met founder Rameez Ansar at the event, he talked about how their motivation came from personal experience and observing how consumers were mostly locked down by too-long mobile contracts, free SMSes that no one gives a hoot for, data that is barely enough, extra fees for essentials like caller-ID, and even long waiting times with customer service officers.
Not the cheapest plan in the market, but possibly the cheapest for a heavy-data user.
Their base plan starts at $28 per month, which comes with 3 GB of data and 100 minutes of talktime. What I love about their plans is how transparent they are - something I don't quite appreciate with our current telcos. If I sign up for a $42.90 plan with Singtel, I expect to pay that amount when the monthly bill comes, but that NEVER happens. Instead, I get billed for exceeding my data / talktime and $5.35 for caller-ID (which I view as essential to stop all the annoying telemarketing calls and what-not). Sometimes exorbitant roaming fees in certain months as well when I travel.
Not enough data? You can add-on via their app as you use through the month, in bundles of 100MB, 250MB, 500MB or 1GB. No more worrying about having to pay excess data charges whether you exceed by a few MB or more.
I've previously done a price comparison here among the existing mobile plans in March when they announced add-on data options. However, since Circles.Life doesn't come with a contract, it might be more accurate to compare it against line-only plans below:
|Source: The Straits Times|
The longer you stay on their service, the more data you get as a loyalty bonus. You can also accumulate more bonus data by referring a friend to the network, up to a maximum of 4GB of bonus data. As an early-bird promo, Circles.Life is offering a 2GB bonus data every month if you sign up in May.
So if you maximize that bonus data offering, you'll essentially be getting 7 GB + 100 minutes talktime for just $28 / month, still on their base plan.
I could upgrade this to 200 minutes and pay only $32 a month, still significantly cheaper than what I've been paying on my current plan for the last few months. Here's my bills:
Insane? Yepppp. The main culprit? Excess data, of course. I use WiFi in office and at home, but even so, it is almost impossible for me to stay within 2GB a month when my apps consume so much data.
How do I change my plan?
When I first switched my telco a few years back, the last straw was due to their horrendous customer service. There was once where they took FIVE HOURS to get back to me, when I needed my coverage problem to be solved within the 4 hours of layover I had in Singapore before flying off again.
For those of us who do not have the luxury of time to go down to a retail store and wait in line,, it's equally frustrating to have to wait on the line for ages before you finally reach a customer service officer whom you can speak to about making a change to your plan.
On Circles.Life, you can customize and change your plan anytime you want on their CirclesCare app. This covers tracking your usage statistics and costs, adding data or talktime, or even talking directly to the support team over live chat or Whatsapp for other issues.
It has been a long time since a new telco has launched in Singapore, to the extent where consumers are beginning to question whether the incumbents are becoming complacent, even over-charging consumers for our mobile plans.
You might recall the glorious days when we still had 12 GB of data every month, which was eventually replaced with 2 GB standard plans. Back then, the telcos reasoned that "Singapore operators may have to review current pricing plans and consider introducing usage-based data pricing, to ensure that network quality for customers remains optimal".
So when MyRepublic announced that they were bidding for the rights to become Singapore's fourth telco (look at that URL!) and promising unlimited data for consumers, everyone naturally got excited.
But as of yesterday, Circles.Life just beat MyRepublic to that claim, announcing that there's a new telco in town. Don't mix them up though - unlike MyRepublic who are building their own infrastructure, Circles.Life doesn't have any of their own; they lease the network from M1 instead.
Here's a look into what you can expect to pay on Circles.Life. I quite like the flexibility, since there are indeed some months where my data and talktime usage are higher than others.
Still hesitant whether to sign up? If you're still waiting for MyRepublic to launch before deciding, you can still try Circles.Life out first, since no contract means you're free to jump ship whenever you like. (The only catch is that you lose all your loyalty and bonus data once you stop your monthly plans, and will have to start from ground zero again if you return later.)
You can sign up at http://circles.life - there's a waiting list though!
But for the rest of us, rest assured that an upcoming telco price war is imminent. Let the battle of the telcos begin.
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