Everyone in America hates their phone bill and wishes it was lower. And most everyone in America, too, likes the idea of giving a little money to charity.
Now, one startup is offering a tantalizing combination of the two: A service that, in one fell swoop, lowers the amount of money you fork over to your mobile carrier, and then donates the resultant savings to a microfinancing fund that benefits women entrepreneurs around the world.
It's an initiative called SaveLoveGive, recently launched by the mobile analytics firm Validas. SaveLoveGive offers two services in one, the second stacked on top of the first. First, Validas compares your smartphone plan to your actual usage, and spits out a suggestion for a cheaper alternative plan on your current carrier that hews more closely to your needs; and, second, it shows you how much money you would save by switching to that plan, and offers a platform to donate that money to the Seven Bar Foundation, the well-regarded non-profit that has funded microloans to women for over a decade.
The first part -- reassessing your mobile bill -- is a service that Validas has offered for almost four years now. Founded by former Verizon salesmen Tom Pepe and Todd Dunphy, Validas recently launched a web platform called VERA to help customers visualize their mobile usage more clearly (and beautifully).
Now with SaveLoveGive, Validas gives users the opportunity to feel the dual satisfaction of denying their carrier money AND being charitable.
The service is free and can be accessed on almost any computer or mobile device, so long as it is capable of running HTML-5 applications.
For now, Validas only analyzes the data of AT&T and Verizon customers, though Dunpy and Pepe told me more carriers are on their way. And just in time, too: According to an analysis by Validas, Americans wasted an eye-popping $52.8 billion on phone service in 2012 -- enough money to completely fund the cleanup and repair of the Northeast following Hurricane Sandy. Worldwide, Validas estimates that we are wasting $926 trillion on mobile phone services we never use.
(Validas actually put together a neat site called the Wireless Waste Index that visualizes the amount of money each continent overspends on wireless service per year, per the company's calculations. You can visit it here.)
Dunphy and Pepe said that they tried to make the process as simple as possible; the entire operation takes less than five minutes. On the Validas website, you enter your wireless credentials (your User ID and password for either your Verizon or AT&T account) and your most recent mobile bill is automatically fed in to the system and analyzed. If Validas finds a lower plan, it prepares an email to your carrier laying out which parts of your plan you want to switch over to, with the relevant data. You then send off the email, and a representative should (hypothetically!) get back to you about making those changes.
Validas doesn't compare your current plan to plans on other carriers; it's about saving you dough with your current provider, Pepe and Dunphy say.
While Validas has, for a few years now, let you pocket the cash from the savings it ferrets out, the philanthropic aspect is new. After you've switched your plan, the service asks if you'd like to donate the money -- though there's no imperative to do so. If you'd rather keep the money, or donate to another charity, you can -- but a partnership between Validas and Seven Bar Foundation makes it easy to give from the checkout page.
It's a feature that distinguishes Validas from competitors like Ratemizer and BillShrink.com, which also automatically pores over your mobile bill for inefficiencies. Yet there is still more that Validas needs to accomplish before it reaches its goal as the "Mint.com of mobile bills," as the company aspires to be, and can truly claim to be the king of cell phone bill analysis.
Most glaring: Validas currently only analyzes one month of cell phone bills, making its recommendations based on 30 days of usage. Because one month of usage might not be representative for your normal usage, that's a problem; you don't want to be making decisions about your monthly cell phone bill based on an uncommon month. It would be better to make that choice based on your monthly averages, which is why Ratemizer analyzes at least three months of bills in its own algorithm.
The addition of Sprint and T-Mobile -- and perhaps a cross-carrier comparison -- would certainly go a long way toward making Validas more helpful to all customers.
For now, though -- what do you have to lose? Validas is free for individuals for use, so long as you know your User ID and password for your carrier's website. You can run your bill through the Validas system here, and achieve that holy union of charity and screwing over your carrier in a single, glorious moment.