Karma No More

Posted by Matt Farmer on July 02, 2017 · 3 mins read

As I write this I’m burning off the last of the data I purchased from Karma earlier this year. For reasons that are understandable they’ve decided to discontinue their Refuel plan and, instead, favor plans that charge a monthly fee or a monthly fee plus the cost of data used.

While I understand that Karma needs to stop paying for customers that are never using their devices, it still seems like the underlying problem with their data arrangement is the “Never Expires” bit. I’m confused as to why the answer to this problem wasn’t to change the “Never Expires” policy and leave the rest of the structure in place.

Perhaps I am a strange customer, but I would be willing to pay for data that expires in a certain amount of time than to accept a $3 monthly fee plus automatically incurring $10 per GB as I use data. The fact that the total cost of my data expenditure was known up front without billing me monthly was the killer feature of the Karma platform for me.

Under the current offerings there isn’t much that distinguishes Karma from the data service I can get through a cell provider. Furthermore, the resurgence of “Unlimited” data plans on many of the major cell networks and new offerings like Verizon’s Pop Data make a Karma subscription even harder to justify. If I were to use Pop Data, I can work for an entire day on my LTE connection for $24, likely have better coverage, and still have my standard LTE data pool to fall back on afterward. If I were to use Karma’s Drift program, I could easily end up using 3GB (or more) over the course of the day (Docker images can be large) and spend $30+ after the monthly subscription fee.

I wish Karma well, but I’m not sure they’ve made the right move here. As a small company in the ocean with big fish like Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile, you’ve got to distinguish yourself to win out. Karma’s old pricing structure put the service in a class of its own while the new structure just seems like a small spin on the same thing every other company in the space is doing. Furthermore, no matter what plans Karma offers, they’re never really going to replace any of the cell providers. I’ll still need to buy data from them for my phone. Karma is always an extra on top of my cell plan whereas if I need to only use a few hundred MB to do a quick errand I can easily slot that into my existing data allowance with tethering.

Perhaps they’ll still manage to find a productive, profitable niche with these new plan structures. However, based on what I know today that niche won’t include me.

Image above is used under the terms of CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. Source is here.