When the second Captain America: Civil War trailer showed up two months ago, the geek world’s reaction was so spectacular, even mainstream media started discussing how amazing it was. And all because it featured Spider-Man, a character fans once thought would never show up in an Avengers film due to the sticky issue of movie rights. For those of us who have watched the film, we know how much this young upstart character became one of the scene-stealers of the show.
Has Singapore’s telco industry found its own Spider-Man? Perhaps. A young, upstart digital telco called Circles.Life launched earlier this month, and their goal is to give their customers control and choices that they can’t get from the other three telcos.
So this Circles.Life is the 4th telco that we’ve been waiting for? Aww… I was hoping it would be MyRepublic!
I like MyRepublic too! And don’t worry, Circles.Life is technically not Singapore’s 4th telco. Instead, they’re what is known as a mobile virtual-network operator. This means that Circles.Life doesn’t own any of their network infrastructure, but leases it from M1.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because a similar joint venture with Virgin and Singtel was first launched in Singapore back in late 2001. Yep, that long ago. Sadly, that ill-fated attempt was way ahead of its time, and it folded after only nine months.
Wah… that sounds serious. So, how is the experience going to be different for Circles.Life?
For one thing, Circles.Life is going to focus on offering only one data-centric plan that’s fully customisable. It’s also banking on the fact that their target customers would much prefer a fully digital, seamless customer service, as opposed to the long queues and hidden costs that often plague Singaporeans with a postpaid mobile plan.
By giving customers the ability to constantly check and change their mobile plan on the go using their mobile app, Circles.Life hopes that this will avoid the bad experiences of bill shock from an unplanned excess data usage. They’re also offering free WhatsApp data usage (i.e. WhatsApp use will not count towards your data) as well as free caller ID.
Okay, that’s enough talk – what are their price plans like and how do they compare to the other telcos?
Whoa, whoa, not so fast. There’s one more thing we need to point out. While Circles.Life customers can choose their preferred mobile phone when they sign up, Circles.Life actually doesn’t offer any form of device contract. That means, if you’re with Circles.Life, you’re probably going to be paying full-price for your handset, on top of your mobile plan. With that in mind, let’s see how much each telco will charge you.
For illustration purposes, let’s consider someone who wants the new Samsung Galaxy S7 (32G) and uses about 4Gb of data a month, and uses a relatively insignificant amount of talktime and SMSes.
|Plan||Combo 4||Reg||4G 4||Base Plan|
|Data Provided||4Gb||4Gb||4Gb||3Gb + 2Gb bonus data for early bird subscribers|
|Talktime Provided||400 min, FREE incoming||300 min, FREE incoming||350 min, FREE incoming||100 min, no free incoming|
|Caller ID cost||$5.35||$5.35||$5.35||FREE|
|Handset cost||$198||$248||$149 (U.P. $299)||$998|
|Total cost after 2 years||$2,316||$1,864.40||$1,787||$1,670|
Circles.Life clearly wins this comparison, and note that it’s due to two significant factors – firstly, that they’re offering free caller ID, and that they have a 2Gb bonus data for early bird subscribers. Without that bonus data, you would have to increase your data plan by an extra $6 per Gb each month, or an extra $144 for 2 years.
Also, Circles.Life, unlike the other three telcos, does not have free incoming calls, but to mitigate that, they are offering free data for any and all WhatsApp usage. But unless everyone knows to contact you via WhatsApp, you may run the risk of exceeding the 100 talktime minutes in the base plan.
Extra talktime is added at $4 for 100 min per month, or an extra $96 for 2 years. Assuming you get extra data and talktime every month with Circles.Life, that would set you back by another $240, bringing your total cost after 2 years to $1,910.
This would make Circles.Life more expensive than M1 and Starhub.
Why are you comparing Circles.Life with the telco’s contract mobile plans and not their newly introduced SIM-only price plans?
Because Singaporeans have long relied on such plans to make their contract decisions, generally because technology has reached a point where it makes sense to trade in a phone model every two years. Telcos have also taken advantage of this and offered significant rebates to those who recontract. Circles.Life does not enjoy any of this. A SIM-only plan only makes sense if customers aren’t planning to switch phones every two years.
That said, Cirlces.Life isn’t leaving their future customers stranded either. They are planning to provide extra data to loyal customers and those who recommend Circles.Life to friends. Exactly how these rewards are obtained will only be known down the road.
So while Circles.Life is definitely an excellent choice for people who like the idea of power – that is, full control over their customisable mobile plans, it remains to be seen if most Singaporeans will be tempted to break their mobile phone habits and embrace the new telco in town.
After all, as all Spider-Man fans know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Are you planning to register with Circles.Life? Why or why not? We want to hear from you.