Last week a corporate merger occurred that has me rethinking the services we use. AT&T purchased DirecTV, the largest satellite television provider. We've used DirecTV since 1997 and have mostly had trouble-free experience with it. I won't say we love it, but we don't hate it like we hate our AT&T cell phone service.
In the last year, the cost of DirecTV's service topped $120 for a medium-tier package with one premium channel. I watch a few things, mostly sports, but I'm not compelled to sit in front of the TV, waiting for the next episode of Kitchen Nightmares. Sure, Game of Thrones gets me for 10 nights a year, but we record it and sometimes it's Tuesday before we watch it. We're investigating our options of having an antenna and subscriptions to streaming services, joining the millions of other cord cutters.
Similarly, we still have a land line to our house that costs $60/month. The only people who call it are telemarketers, doctor's offices, and our mothers. We're within months of cutting that physical link and using only our cell phones and VOIP lines.
Which brings me to other services I'm evaluating whether to discontinue or scale back. In other cases, I'm willing to pay for services I use and enjoy.
Who's your Daddy?
I use Google's free services for email and calendar. There was a time where I thought Google could do no wrong. Seems so strange in this post-Snowden world, but 2009 was a different time. I don't have such reverence for Google in 2015. I view every product or service from Google with suspicion and rarely use anything new. I appreciate the seamless nature of gmail and Google calendar syncing with Android, but everything they do can be replaced with a little bit of effort. That day may come, but...
I won't replace one corporate overlord with another. For all that I like my MacBook Pro, Apple's services don't interest me. I don't use any of Apple's cloud services and I don't buy music or software from the App Store. Similarly with Amazon, even though we probably spend $5,000 per year with them using Amazon Prime.
Flickr - In years past, this site was an integral part of my life. Yahoo has treated Flickr so badly in the last five years with different terms of service and ways to generate revenue that they've alienated many of the talented photographers that used it. I cancelled my paid membership and moved all my photos to
Smugmug, which I am more than willing to pay $50/year to use Amazon S3, which costs me a dollar or two per month, at most.
MLB At Bat - MLB does a decent job getting games to the viewing audience, but I'm always blocked from viewing games for the 4 closest teams to me. I've bought into their streaming products several times on DirecTV and mobile, but I'm not letting the subscription renew until I can watch the Cardinals, Astros and Royals on any day I choose without resorting to a VPN.
TripIt - TripIt was a great service for years and I was happy to pay. Where TripIt was revolutionary in 2009, it's mostly a bunch of old features that don't work so well in 2015 or aren't relevant to todays' traveler. I have disabled my "Pro" subscription and will revert to a free tier later this month.
Pandora - I've used Pandora for years, but it's also old in light of new services from Spotify, Apple, Google, and even Samsung. I like the discovery features that Pandora provides, but the cost is almost double what it was 4 years ago and I'm going to let the subscription expire.
Microsoft Office 365 - I signed up for Office 365 for the family to use and to have access to outlook.com email. I didn't like outlook.com and we don't use the latest versions of Office. The unlicensed version of Office 2007 I have from an old computer still works on all our PCs just fine. The only thing I use the subscription for is my Macbook and I'm not sure it's worth $100/year to maintain.
Todoist - I've tried so many task managers. The problem with all of them is they don't keep my attention. I learn to ignore them and I forget to put the things I need to do in them, rendering them valueless. Todoist has the most pervasive support for the computers and mobile devices I use, but even then it's not enough to overcome my own failings. The price isn't high enough to make me leave it entirely though.
Paying/Willing to Pay
NewsBlur - When Google discontinued Google Reader, I had to find an alternate for reading the daily content from a couple dozen news and tech sites. I tried half a dozen different RSS tools on mobile and desktop. Some are more interested in the visual design than how they work for reading hundreds of news articles each day. I settled on NewsBlur because it works great on the desktop, my phone, and my tablet. It's not the most beautiful app, but it gives me a lot of information in a compact format and I can read the latest news easily while riding a subway or sitting on the toilet. (I know, you wanted to know that).
Github - Software developers who want to share their work with others almost exclusively use Github. It's free to use and it works well. They have a premium tier product that allows subscribers to have hidden areas. I don't particularly need these, but I like supporting a site I feel has done a good job providing a good service.
Evernote - I'm a big fan of what Evernote does for storing, indexing and retrieving relevant data. I waffle on whether I find their service useful enough to pay for it. I've paid in the past, but I'm not currently.
Dropbox - I use DropBox for sharing files and I am more than willing to pay for their service because it works well. But, they need more granularity in their pricing models. When they can give me the $40/20GB/Year tier, I will sign up. Until then, I will keep manipulating promotional deals to get storage for free.
AirDroid - AirDroid is the interface to Android that Google should've created. Accessing a phone or tablet via USB on a Macintosh with Android File Transfer is horrible, so AirDroid is a must.
Pushbullet - PushBullet is a service that most casual users won't need until they see what it does and then they realize they couldn't live without it. Technically, it's a background service that rides on the coattails of the browser. When notifications occur on a computer or mobile device, you can respond to the notification on any other device or computer. For example, my phone may be muted and in my computer bag while I'm in a meeting. If my wife sends me a text message, I can respond to the text message from my laptop without disrupting the meeting to pull out my phone. Another example is I can send a bookmark link on my work computer to my personal computer so I can read an article when I get home. Pushbullet is building services similar to AirDroid for transferring files, but AirDroid is still a better choice at this time.
Geocaching - Finally, there is Geocaching. This was the first recurring internet service that I signed up for, in 2002 or 2003. The official Geocaching app is usable, but they allow a limited number of external apps to access their API, which makes the experience better. We don't go off looking for ammo cans in the woods as often as we used to, but we still enjoy finding caches on our vacations. As the kids get older and move out, we might make Geocaching a part of our lives again. It's worth the $35/year to maintain.
October 2015 Update
I'm updating my site, so I thought I'd follow up on this post.
Since July, I've discontinued my service with DirecTV. I did this because I was paying $125 per month for the service and I wasn't happy about the AT&T merger. I bought a TiVo DVR and we're using it on a basic cable package from our local provider. Since we've been streaming so much, I put some of the savings on DirecTV into more bandwidth on our Internet service.
I've also discontinued my service with TripIt, Todoist, and MLB at Bat. I am on the fence about continuing Pandora. I renewed by subscription to Office 365 to get all the apps on my Mac as well as for Elijah to use on his college laptop.