Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

Cellular Carriers and Plans

In this day and age you have a choice of a fair number of cellular carriers… actually there aren’t that many carriers in any one geographic area, but there are quite a few resellers.

Nation wide the big cellular carriers are:

  • Verizon (CDMA)
  • AT&T (GSM)
  • Sprint (CDMA)
  • T-Mobile

Regionally there are a number of others:

  • AllTel

And of course there are a number of resellers:

  • MetroPCS (limited areas, unlimited plans, resells Sprint)
  • Boost (pre-pay, resells Verizon)
  • TracPhone (pre-pay, resells Sprint)
  • Virgin Mobile (pre-pay, resells Sprint)

And a new kid on the block:

  • Helios (I believe they actually resell Sprint, but I’m not sure)

The question is always which carrier and plan is best for me?

That’s a difficult decision, let me illustrate some things to consider by characterizing the service I have and why…

I have an AllTel PDA phone (Motorola Q) because AllTel offers a very competative price on PDA service, unlimitd nights and weekends (nights start at 7pm), free in-network service (important because most of my relatives have AllTel service), and provides lots of free features (unlimited text, unlimited data, ability to tether to my laptop, no charge for roaming — you do tend to roam on Sprint, but do roam on Verizon and other carriers when there’s no AllTel or Sprint service).  And AllTel provides “MyCircle”, which is a group of number (on any network or land lines), the plan I have provides for 10 numbers.

Essentially, this service saves me a great deal of money by making most of my calls airtime free because of the nights-and-weekends, in-network, and designated airtime free numbers.

 

In addition I also have a Verizon cell phone because I have so many friends nationwide that have Verizon numbers (it saves them airtime charges, and allows me to carry an account that has a very low number of minutes).  Verizon, though, charges for just about every additional feature — so the plan always ends up costing more than you expect.  Of course I also get a 19% discount on my services (because of a Corporate Discount program I was able to take advantage of).

 

My point in going into the above, is there’s a lot of details you need to consider other than just the number of minutes… who do you call, when do you call — are there any special features that you can take advantage or — are there enhanced services you need or want — do you travel…

My advice would be “profile” how, when, and how much you use your current service, then look at all the carriers and figure out what service would cost.

For instance, if you rarely travel and don’t want to have a landline you might find that MetroPCS gives you the absolute lowest cost service…

Whereas, if you only use your cell phone very rarely, you might find that one of the pre-paid plans give you the absolute lowest cost service (the major carriers also offer pre-pay; but selecting a pre-paid plan requires you understand minute expire and charges, and most pre-pay providers offer more than one pre-pay option).

Lastly, remember that there are taxes charged to your cell phone based on where you specify your billing address and primary useage area.  Many pre-pay providers don’t charge extra for the taxes (they obviously build it into their billing model)… but other carries do.

There’s no way you’re going to avoid the federal taxes on your phone; but your cellular company might be charging you a number portability fee (consider that when comparing carriers), and the location you base your service and billing address greatly effect the local taxes (for instance, the City/County of San Francisco access an $8.00 cell phone tax per line).  You’ll often find you can save a substantial amount of money by using an alternate service / billing address.

 

Let me know if there are any glaring omissions or mistakes!

Originally posted 2008-05-12 12:53:27.

Hello – Hello – Hello

In this day when it seems that most cellular communication companies are trying to bend you over and extort the maximum amount of money possible with complicated plans that likely don’t match your usage habits, there are two independent carries that just might be coming to help you.

MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless both offer reasonable cost flat rate, unlimited, voice – message – data plans.  Both carries allow you to bring existing (compatible) CDMA handsets to their network (you can pay them to unlock the phone, or you can generally do it yourself).

The catch?

Both companies have limited service areas at the moment, but both are actively expanding.

You really have to look over their plans to understand what’s offered. Both have roaming capabilities, but the cost structure is quite different (and if you travel frequently outside their service areas you might find services from another carrier are less expensive).  Both also have data services; MetroPCS never jumped on the 3G data bandwagon (they really never sold devices targeted at that market), but has started an aggressive 4G rollout in major metropolitan areas; Cricket Wireless does have 3G data services (no roaming data services currently available) but have no firm plans to move to 4G until equipment prices are more competitive.

Aside from MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless you might also look into MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator — basically they purchase and resell bandwidth from one or more wireless carriers).  Operators like Virgin Mobile (reselling Sprint in the US) or Straight Talk (reselling Verizon in the US) along with a number of smaller and regional MVNOs might fit your needs better.  Most of those (except the GSM carriers) don’t accommodate handsets they don’t sell you, but that’s an every changing landscape.

MetroPCS

Cricket Wirless

Originally posted 2010-10-04 02:00:31.

Windows Phone 7

Today Microsoft hosts and “open house” in New York and London.

Rumor has it that it’s to showcase “toys” for the holiday season, and it’s likely to feature the Windows Phone 7.

There’s no confirmations from Microsoft on much of anything relating to Windows Phone 7 (except that it’s coming); but indications are the launch in Europe will be on 21 October, and in the US it will be on 8 November.

Also, it appears that only GSM handsets will be shipping this year; CDMA handsets will not be available until next year.

HTC, Samsung, and LG have all received FCC approvals for their upcoming Windows Phone 7 handsets and ads featuring the HTC Mondiran (for AT&T) have been leaked onto the web.

Microsoft has tried for nearly two decades to capture the hand held device / smart phone market; and to this point in time they’ve allowed two relative new comers to corner that market (Apple first, then Google).

Now Microsoft ships 7, not long after 6.5 — and what they’re telling us is that no current Windows Phone handset will be updated; and no current software running on a Windows Phone will work… or more clearly, forget the investment you’ve made in hardware or software.

If you’re going to buy something that’s totally new and different, and only leverages the Windows name… why go with what most of the world has chosen — Android.


Originally posted 2010-10-11 02:00:36.

Apple – Double or Nothing?

Yesterday Apple announced another record quarter in sales.  In fact, iPhone sales doubled in Q4 2009 (a good holiday present for Apple).

Tomorrow Apples announces a new tablet computer (at least that’s the rumor of what they will announce).

Google has a lot of ground to catch up with Apple in the phone market, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple is going to just stand by and wait for them.

I guess the one thing that Apples numbers show is that there is money to be made in economic hard times if you’ve got something people want.

Originally posted 2010-01-26 01:00:44.

Goog-rola

What does $12.5 billion get you in today’s economy?

For Google, it just might get them Motorola Mobility.

For me, I’m wondering what’s going to happen to the Open Handset Alliance.

Motorola is a very large manufacturer of mobile devices (cell phones, smart phones, and tablets) — and it’s roots are over 80 years old.

Google’s CEO Larry Page stated that (at least for the time being) Google intends to run Motorola Mobility as a separate company, and that there will still be the exchange of license fees for Android, and that they will need to bid on manufacturing future Nexus phones just as every other vendor would.

Right…  I believe all that.

My gut tells me this is all subject to change (quickly) that Google will use it’s acquisition of Motorola to change the landscape of Android devices and they won’t be a separate company; while they might not be tightly integrated into Google they will be very coordinated with Google.

One has to wonder, what’s next for Google — a cellular carrier (or maybe a few)…

Originally posted 2011-08-15 10:00:59.

CyanogenMod 7.1.0

While loading customer firmware on a smartphone isn’t something new (I did that with my HTC Touch Pro and HTC Touch Pro 2 Windows mobile devices years ago) it is something that is very easy to do with Android handsets.

My Droid A855 (that’s the original Verizon Droid — and I actually have two) with it’s slow 600 MHz ARM processor has been running Gingerbread (2.3) for almost a year; and as of last night the handset I carry has been updated to the third build of Gingerbread.

Why?

Well, Android is far from a finished and polished product; and Froyo (2.2) which is officially supported on the phone lacks a number of features.

To take advantage of a custom ROM you first need to root your phone (which has other advantages besides just allowing you to install a custom ROM, but if you’re going to root — you definitely want a custom ROM).

Once you’ve rooted your device, you can choose between a number of different custom ROMs — I try and go for stability; and I’ve tried a number of different ROMs, CyanogenMod is the one I’ve settled on.

Also, if you purchased an HP Touchpad — CyanogenMod has an Alpha release of Android for you… that may make your tablet a great deal more usable.

CyanogenMod.com

Originally posted 2011-10-20 02:00:15.

Removing Pre-Installed Android Applications

First, you need to be really careful about removing pre-installed applications on your Android phone, some are necessary for it to function properly, but many of them are just bloatware and may not serve any useful purpose (also many of the pre-installed apps can be re-installed via the marketplace, and then managed as any other application).

Why do cell phone carriers / manufacturers put this bloatware on the phone — simply, MONEY — the software manufactures pay them to do so, or they will get a service fee if you use it.

If you haven’t rooted your phone; forget it… you can’t remove these applications.  Rooting some phone is very easy, but you’ll need to read up on how to do it and download the tools you need.

There are two primary simple methods for removing an application (I believe there’s also an application to do this, but I recall it not being free).

The first method is to install the Android development kit (which requires the Java development kit, not just the Java runtime).  This allows you to execute the commands from your PC (which gives you a better keyboard and display).

The second method is to install busy-box and terminal emulator on your phone from the market place.  This is pretty easy to use if you have a real keyboard, if you are forced to use a virtual keyboard on your phone, this might not be the best approach.  One hint here is use the settings on terminal to increase the font size, 14pt works best on my phone — you might also try a different color scheme to make the display more readable (you definitely want to be able to clearly read what you type).

Regardless of which of the above you do — you open a “terminal” to the phone and use the following commands (in bold):

  • su (elevate privileges to root)
  • mount -0 rw,remount -t rfw /dev/stl5 /system (remounts the rom as read-write)
  • cd /system/app (changes directory to the app directory)
  • rm -r / [AppName].apk (you need to type the name exactly as it appears)
  • ls [Pattern with wild cards] (you can use ls to view the app names installed)
  • mount -o ro,remount -t rfw /dev/stl5 /system (remounts the rom as read-only, though rebooting the phone is a good idea)

You might need to do an internet search to figure out the name of the directory (that’s what an apk is) that contains a particular application, and you can use mv rather than rm initially to move the application to a temporary location (much easier to recover if you make a mistake).

A little familiarity with *nix shell commands definitely is a plus; but as long as you’re careful it shouldn’t be a problem.

Originally posted 2011-01-03 02:00:08.

Verizon Wireless Features

# Features

#MIN (#646) – Check current month’s unbilled airtime usage.

#BAL (#225) – Check your current account balance.

#DATA (#3282) – Check your current monthly usage of TXT, PIX and FLIX Messaging

#PMT (#768) – Make a payment

 

* Features

*228 – Over-the-air Program / PRL (roaming) update

*611 – Customer service

*70 – Cancel Call Waiting (during call) – *71-123-345-6789

*71 – No Answer/Busy Forward – *71-123-345-6789

*72 – Always Forward – *72-123-345-6789

*73 – Cancel Forward

 

I’ll try to update this list as I find more.

Originally posted 2011-08-11 11:00:34.

iDialer (for Windows Mobile)

If you have a cellular plan that allows you to make air-time free calls to a set of designated numbers, then Google Voice might be able to save you some money by effectively giving you unlimited calling.

I’ve written up BLOG entries on how to use Google Voice to get “free” calling before; and I’ve included the caution that you might not want to use it for calls that might contain sensitive information…

Personally I find that when I need to call “customer service” (those people you speak to at a big company that don’t provide much service at all) it generally takes forever and would quickly exhaust my monthly allowance of minutes — and I personally don’t care of Google indexes the information in the call or not.

With a Smart Phone you can use the web interface to Google Voice any time you want to make calls, if you have an Android phone Google has already provided an app that allows you to use Google Voice directly from your contacts if not, there’s a number of apps you can buy or just download that achieve that.

For those who have Windows Mobile and an unlimited data plan (like me), I use iDialer (a free app) with the pre-fab configuration for Google Voice (you can configure it for other services as well — the Google Voice one just requires you download, install, and then provide your Google Voice account information).

Bottom line — it works… though I have to tell you it’s a little odd to “dial” a call and then immediately have your phone ring to complete it… but that’s how Google Voice works (in callback mode).

It’s free, it’s easy to install, and like I said it works.

http://www.supware.net/iDialer/

Originally posted 2010-04-18 02:00:45.

Smart Phones

I have a great deal of respect for what Apple’s ability to re-invent itself and market form (over function) to the masses… and I’ve underscored many times that *nix based operating systems will likely never gain critical mass until they have a cohesive environment for the user (as Apple has done with it’s Unix based OS-X).

But respect doesn’t mean I’m going to “drink the Kool-Aid” and believe everything Steve Jobs tells me.

Clearly Jobs does an exceptional job creating devices with glitter and glitch and making the gullible believe that Apple pioneered the technology and that consumers simply cannot get along without purchasing it (and purchasing a new upgrade every time a new bell or whistle is added).

The bottom line is Apple creates nothing… Apple puts a shinny new coat of paint on existing technology, brands it, markets it, and calls it their own.

Apple isn’t driven by innovation, Apple is driven by greed — almost makes you wonder what inadequacies Steve Jobs is trying to compensate for.

And certainly (as I’ve posted) the iPhone is one of Apple’s greatest charades!

Serious smart phone users wouldn’t consider an iPhone as anything more than eye candy; both Windows Mobile and Android devices are far better choices for a serious user.

The next time you walk down the street and see someone sporting an iPhone don’t laugh too loud you might give them a complex — I fear most iPhone users are like Steve Jobs, and feel a little inadequate.

Originally posted 2010-06-14 02:00:25.