Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

Air Time Free

If you have a flat rate cellular voice plan, you may not be interested in this article; but for most of us who simply don’t have cost effective options for flat rate plans this might help cut down on cellular bills.

Most cellular telephone companies off the ability to add one or more telephone numbers to your cell plan that will not be charged air time for inbound or outbound calls.  It goes by various names, A-List, Friends & Family, My Favs, My Circle, etc.

Unfortunately, all of them limit the number of telephone numbers you can designate as air time free to a fairly modest number.

But… by using Google Voice, you might find that one air time free number is really all you need to greatly reduce your monthly cellular expenses.

You can go to Google and read a fair amount about Google Voice, they’re adding new features all the time so I won’t even try and cover all of them; just a few that might be of help to you (by the way, the “Call Me” widget on my web site uses Google Voice, and it’s no cost to the caller or me).

So how exactly can you use Google Voice — or really what will be covered in this post is how I use Google Voice.

First, I setup a Google Voice account a few months ago, mainly to be able to give out a telephone number that I wouldn’t be bothered answering when I didn’t want to, and still be able to get voice mail (at my convenience).  Mainly I wanted to do this because I’m going to disconnect my home phone (AT&T offers “naked” DSL here, and since all my home phone does is provide telemarketers with a number to call I really don’t see a reason to ever answer it).

The Google Voice line worked great for receiving messages; I got them in my email inbox, and more times than not the voice to text transcription wasn’t very useful, but I could just click the link and listen to the message as well.

Second, I added my Google Voice number to my Verizon “Friend’s & Family” (what AllTel used to call “My Circle”) so that it would be air time free.  Partially because there would be times when I wanted to actually route my Google Voice number to a phone so I could answer it (say when I was expecting a call), but mostly so that I could use Google Voice for outbound calls to people who were not going to be air time free.

So to use Google Voice for air time free outbound calling you need to log onto the Google Voice web site (there’s a mobile version of it as well, so if you have an unlimited data plan you don’t even need to be near a computer to make use of it) and simply instruct it to make a call.  What happens is Google Voice calls you, then calls the number you instruct it to call and conferences you together.

To make all this air time free, you need to setup Google Voice to present you Google Voice call on inbound calls (that’s the number you specified as air time free with your cellular provider).  This, unfortunately, means that you don’t know who’s calling, but there are some Google Voice features that help there too (I’ll let you go through all the features yourself).

For outbound calls you could setup Google Voice to present your actual telephone number, but it makes more sense to have your Google Voice number presented (especially for toll free calls, remember that they always get your telephone number).

Now you might not care whether or not you get charged air time for a quick call to your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, but when you’re going to be on the line with customer service for half an hour (or more) you might want to think about the extra step of using Google Voice.

Now let me make it perfectly clear.  I don’t trust Google with my personal and confidential information, so I would never have any sensitive data go through a Google Voice call; but hey, when it’s something like a customer service call people I don’t really trust with my information already have it.

You can request an invite to Google Voice, it’ll probably take ten days to two weeks before you get it.  I’d recommend setting up a Google Mail account as well (you can forward the message from the Google Mail account or you can directly access the Google Mail account with POP3/IMAP4) to go along with Google Voice.  In fact, even if you don’t expect to use Google Voice much, I’d say go ahead and setup an account now.

Also, Google Voice will be adding VoIP (SIP) service (they purchased Gizmo5) soon.

Originally posted 2010-02-10 01:00:49.

LTE Android

We now know about the first round of LTE/4G Android handsets from the big players…

Motorola will supply Verizon with the Droid Bionic and the Droid X 2; and will supply AT&T with the Atrix (which doesn’t get Droid branding).  Of these phones, the Atrix is by far the winner; apparently Verizon chose to have the handset neutered on their network.

HTC will supply Verizon with the Thunderbold, but Verizon delayed the release — rumor has it in order to prevent iPhone 4 adopters from potentially returning their handsets during their “no worries” return period for what may well be a far superior phone.

Samsung will supply Verizon with the SCH-i502, and not many details about that; and MetroPCS with the Indulge (already available).

LG will supply MetroPCS with the Optimus M (already available), and a similar phone for Verizon.

The really interesting thing about all of this is that none of these phones are slated to ship with Android 2.3.x (Gingerbread) — they’ll all ship with Android 2.2 (Froyo); and there are rumors that we might see 2.4 (Ice-cream sandwich) rather than 2.3 as the next update.

Google has confirmed that 2.4 will be merge of Honeycomb 3.0 (designed for tablets) with Gingerbread 2.3 (designed for phones).

Word is to expect the next version of Android in April… so we should be sorting out the rumors in the next few weeks.

NOTE1:  Keep in mind that handsets for Verizon and MetroPCS are CDMA/LTE; and those for AT&T are GSM/LTE… it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities to see a CDMA/GSM/LTE worldphone soon.

NOTE2: Verizon LTE is 700Mhz (the old analog TV spectrum in the US), MetroPCS LTE as well as Leap (aka Cricket Communications) LTE is 1.7Ghz AWS (Advanced Wireless Spectrum — which is also used in Mexico) — so the handsets are not compatible unless specifically designed to support both radio frequencies.  European LTE is 2.5-2.69GHz, but there is push to clear the 700MHz spectrum for LTE there as well.

NOTE3: Sprint uses 2.5MHz WiMax technology (utilizing the Clear data network); Europe also has sectioned off 2.5MHz for WiMax.

Originally posted 2011-02-23 02:00:11.

Can you hear me now?

Verizon Wireless might have made the phrase “can you hear me now” famous, but it’s iPhone 4 users who are probably using it most right now.

Steve Jobs made a big deal in the iPhone 4 announcement about the improved reception because of the antenna that rimmed around the steel frame — what he didn’t disclose (or know) is that if you touch the rim of the phone while making a call audio drops out, or the call completely drops.

While Apple isn’t denying the problem, a company issued statement said:

Gripping the phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone.

Really?

I don’t have any problem with audio cutting out when I grip my smart phone — and I’ve never had any problem when I gripped any cell phone I’ve had (most of the phones I’ve had in the last decade have had metal cases as well — so I don’t think that’s a reasonable excuse).

Once again, the iPhone is just a toy; obviously the designers of it didn’t even bother testing the performance of using it as a phone.

Maybe Apple will get more than bad publicity on this — perhaps iPhone 4 users might file a class action law suit — after all, a cell phone you can’t hold while you use it — give me a break.

And of course, Job’s statement on the problems shows exactly what kind of company Apple is:

Well don’t do that.

Originally posted 2010-07-02 02:00:51.

For the good of the many…

BART shutdown power to cellular antennas in and around BART stations in order to prevent individuals from using social media to organize a protest.

BART said basically it weighed the rights and freedoms all American expect against the potential threat to public safety.

How many times have autocrats and dictators used a similar statement to defend their actions in the past.

Freedom has costs associated with it; and unfortunately the right to protest is a fundamental tenant of American society… suppressing that right, even if there is a perceived threat of something possibly going wrong, does harm to all of us.

Since 9/11 this country has been headed down a dangerous road — essential freedoms have been compromised, and now public entities are taking action without any judicial review that severely impact public freedoms.

I say it’s time this stops before we find that “we” didn’t win the Cold War, we simply became the enemy.


Cell Service Shutdown Raises Free Speech Questions by Carrie Johnson NPR.org

Originally posted 2011-08-16 02:00:36.

Verizon Wireless – II

To be perfectly clear I do have one phone on Verizon Wireless; it’s a converted AllTel account.

Why would I have an account with a company that I can’t in good faith recommend???

There are a number of reasons:

  • Many of the people I know used AllTel or Verizon; so there’s no airtime charges to make/receive calls to/from them.
  • Coverage on Verizon is better than any other carrier, particularly if you travel (drive) though extremely rural / undeveloped parts of the county (mountains, desert, etc).
  • The service quality on Verizon tends to be good; though I’ve found outside major cities it’s no where near as reliable.
  • The price, while higher in a head-to-head comparison, can actually work out substantially less when you consider all the possible air-time free benefits.
  • Data coverage is good, and I can dongle my laptop at no additional cost (that’s a left over from AllTel — Verizon charges extra for that service).

Personally I hate cellular companies… and consider the only good bargin to be the Sprint flat rate voice/data plan… except that it’s on the Sprint network which is probably one of the worst networks (and most unethical companies) you will find.  I would have copied the details, but the Sprint web site section on plan details is off line for maintenance (they want prospective customers to get used to how poor their service offering is I guess).

Originally posted 2009-08-09 01:00:16.

SyncMate

Fairly often I get messages from vendors who’ve read a posting I’ve made on a “similar” product to one of theirs and they suggest that I take a look at their product… and I welcome these messages.

When I got such a request from Eltima Software on SyncMate a few months ago I read their web page and thought that their product sounded like it’d be worth taking a look at — so finally this week (mostly because I was talking through the issues of device synchronization with a friend of mine) I got around to testing out the software.

First, the software comes in a free edition as well as an “expert edition” (which isn’t free) — and I’ll go over the list of features and cost later; for now my review will cover only the free version and components.

Second, SyncMate runs only on a Mac; so if you don’t have a Mac, you probably won’t be interested (and SyncMate isn’t the killer app, it won’t justify you running out and buying a Mac to synchronize your devices).

Here’s my objective: keep my contact list and calendar synchronized on my HTC TouchPro2.

Thumbnail —

  • I have a HTC TouchPro2 [unlocked] running Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Over 500 contacts (many with detailed information and a picture)
  • I have several calendar events per week (with reminders); often multiple on a single day
  • I don’t use Outlook (and never will again)
  • I currently use Microsoft MyPhone (the basic features are free, and they are barely worth that price)

Criteria —

  • Sync needs to be “easy”
  • Sync needs to be “reliable”
  • Sync should work via Bluetooth, WiFi, Internet, and/or USB
  • Sync must include all information

And they’re off…

I first tried to get everything working with Bluetooth — that was a fricking night mare; so I dropped by and just plugged in a USB cable (which installed the sync component for SyncMate on my Windows Mobile device).

After that, I just followed the prompts on the screen to setup my device in SyncMate, decide what to sync, and what direction to sync it in (which for me was just syncing my phone to my Mac, since I didn’t really have any information on my Mac), and pressing a button — and then waiting patiently.

SyncMate was able to sync 100% of the contact information and calendar information from the phone to the Mac — and I was able to view that information in the Mac’s Address Book and iCalendar programs.

But wait… I’m not done.

Eltima also provides a sync component for Windows (desktop); so I installed that on a Windows 7 machine — and after a little fumbling around I was able to push the contact synchronization information from my Mac (which I’d gotten from my phone) to Windows 7 — the system Address Book; and then backup the .contact files to my RAID5 array!

A little background —

When I upgraded to Windows 7, Microsoft advertised the Windows 7 Sync Center — a way to manage and synchronize devices; silly me, I just assumed that Microsoft would support Windows Mobile 6.5 (their flag ship mobile phone operating system) out of the box.  They didn’t — you had the run the POS Device Center software that came out with Vista — which would have been acceptable, except it only synchronizes with Outlook and that POS ain’t happening on my computers ever again.

So began my quest began.

OK, so SyncMate works; and sSyncMate will do what I want… but now let’s really “talk” about it.

One of the first things I noticed after setting up the Windows sync component was that it crashed (often)… and it was difficult to convince the SyncMate on the Mac that the PC was alive again after re-launching the sync component.

The interface for SyncMate is a little clunky… it just doesn’t have a very well though out flow; and could definitely use some human engineering to improve it.  It’s usable, but far from ergonomic.

The free version of SyncMate is extremely limited; in fact, I wouldn’t class it as much a free version as I would a teaser version.  For me, it does 99.99% of what I want — it synchronizes my contact (and handles all the fields), it synchronizes my calendar, and it will read my SMS messages (but doesn’t allow me to do anything with them except view them in the free version).

The “Expert Edition” adds a number of features that you might want; but given that it’s $39.95 for a single license (plus $11.99 for lifetime upgrades — which I would say is an absolute requirement) I think it’s priced way too high; you can review the additional features (one of which is a SMS manager, which I think it’s a little retarded that they have two SMS plugins — one that reads, one that manages — I think of the two together).

Here are the pluses to the free edition:

  • Synchronizes contacts (their feature chart notes Entourage 2008 support, but in fact they don’t do anything but give you the instructions to make Entourage use the OS-X contacts)
  • Synchronizes calendar events (again with the Entourage support — see above)
  • Provided device information (handy but not essential)
  • SMS reader
  • Internet sharing (hmm… I thought OS-X could do that by itself)

The expert editions provide these features that I think would probably be nice:

  • Backup
  • SMS manager
  • Call history
  • To Do’s
  • Autosync

And the following are enhancements they should add:

  • Stable Windows sync component
  • Android support (without using Google)
  • Windows Live Mail support
  • Windows Live Calendar support
  • Windows Live synchronization
  • Windows version

Finally, they need to rethink the pricing model.  $39.95 for the personal license is just too much; I’d think $19.95 is more in keeping, particularly since a lifetime upgrade guarantee is $11.99 extra; and the business license is $49.95 (I don’t really why there’s a difference unless the business license included the one of the “priority support plans” they offer — and of course I didn’t see a guarantee on the “priority support” — like getting you money back if they failed to resolve an issue, or answer within a specified time period.

Here’s what I think they should consider:


Personal License $19.95
Family Pack (5) $39.95
Lifetime Upgrade Guarantee $9.95


So basically I think their prices are too high (and yeah, mine above are on the low side, and certainly $24.95 and $49.95 are not unreasonable amounts, but that’s about the limit in my mind, and I think the lower price would encourage a larger user base — and probably end up being more profitable); and I think their “family pack” being 6 units rather than 5 units like Apple is retarded; and I think the lifetime upgrade should be one price… I don’t have any comments on the pricing of the priority support plans since they don’t have any details on the plans.  As to corporate licensing, they can handle that on a case-by-case basis; but they definitely need to eliminate their distinction between a personal and business license; though I have no issue with excluding business use of the family pack.

I would have purchased a license right away (just because I like to support reasonably well done software) had it been priced right; but at the price they want to charge, they’re going to have to fix the Windows sync component, and actually make it have a reasonable feature set…

I am going to use the free version; and I’ll consider upgrading to the “Expert Edition” when they either add features (fix features) and / or address the pricing.

Eltima Software
SyncMate

Originally posted 2010-07-08 02:00:43.

SyncMate v3

Eltima has released version 3 of SyncMate; this version includes an app for direct Android synchronization.

I’ll be doing a full review of it in the near future; but for those of you that are extremely happy you might want to consider upgrading.

If you purchased the expert edition you’ll have to pay to upgrade; if you use the free edition you won’t have to pay.  Also not you’ll have to re-establish your synchronization settings, the upgrade doesn’t migrate them.

http://mac.eltima.com/

Originally posted 2011-01-19 02:00:29.

nexus one

Today Google starts selling the nexus one Android smart phone (manufactured by HTC) direct.  The current model supports AT&T and T-Mobile GSM networks, but there will be a model for Verizon and vodafone this Spring as well.

The unlocked phone will set you back $529.00; the T-Mobile version costs only $179.00 (with contract).

Like most all HTC phones, this is a nice phone.  Well designed, and packed with all the latest features (including an OLED display).  You can check out the specs online as well as get additional information and order one if you like.

With Google selling an Android phone direct (it doesn’t appear on the HTC site) one can see that they are preparing to compete head-to-head with Apple (and Apple must be getting ready to compete head-to-head with Google since they just purchased an advertising network).

nexus one

google nexus one

Originally posted 2010-01-05 02:00:48.

Smartly Made Smart Phones

I’ve owned a Windows based smart phone for around a decade; when I first saw and played with the iPhone I thought it was interesting, but it really brought little more to the table than HTC had already done with their UI on top of Windows mobile had… with one notable exception — the app store.

I’d probably have been willing to try the iPhone except for a number of characteristics I found totally unacceptable.

  1. The iPhone was only available on AT&T (I’ll choose my carrier, thank you very much);
  2. The iPhone didn’t have a keyboard (and I mean a real keyboard, not a virtual keyboard that takes two thirds of the screen);
  3. The iPhone was a closed platform totally under the control of Apple; and
  4. The iPhone was overpriced.

Any one of these would have likely prevented me from buying an iPhone, but in total it was a no-brainer.

Then, a little over two years ago (23 September 2008); Google released a handset manufactured for them by HTC running an open source version of Linux specifically designed for use on portable devices.

That was the T-Mobile G1 running Android (aka HTC Dream)…

Today there are a large number of Android based handsets on the market — and the number grows almost daily — and we’re not limited to just a single vendor or single carrier… almost every cell phone handset manufacturer has at least one Android based handset, and every US carrier supports Android handsets.

The official release of Android is version 2.2; and while some manufacturers have not provided that updates to older handsets, the open source community has put a great deal of effort into providing custom builds of Android that bring the newer features to older handsets (including many phones originally intended to run Windows mobile).

Android is a revolution in smart phones.

Not necessarily because Google has done everything right, but because Google has leveraged many parts of the development and manufacturing communities and allowed each to do what they do best.  These contributions push Android in multiple directions simultaneously; allowing Google to use the best and most promising along with their own ideas to pave a path for Android.

Now it’s worth noting that Google didn’t do this because they’re philanthropic and just want what’s best for everyone — they did it because having control of the smart phone market (and tablet market) or at least not being locked out of it; allows them to generate a revenue stream through advertising and collecting demographics to target that advertising.

But are they any different from cellular carriers and other companies offering smart phones — not really; but they are better at doing what they do (and I don’t mean developing technology, I mean making money with advertising).

As consumers we’re not really interested in the technology under the hood; we’re only interested in what it does for us, what it costs, and the eye candy it presents.

To me, though, what we should praise in Android is that it will not be a platform that limits, but rather accommodates.

Originally posted 2010-10-09 02:00:43.

Citi Mobile SM for Cards

Citibank has rolled out a mobile banking application for many phones on most major cellular carriers.

Personally I’m not sure why we’ve gone to a model where vendors seem to believe we need all kinds of applications to do simple things that could be done through a web browser… perhaps that’s an unfortunate side-effect of the iPhone craze (or perhaps better said as crazies).

I think it’s great that banking institutions are thinking about ways to provide services to individuals who have cellular data plans, but I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t just use simple standards — after all, the point is to enable the flow of information, not to make an application that people play with like a game.

To use the Citi Mobile application, you need a supported handset on a supported carrier, and you have to sign up, download, and activate it through the Citi “My Account” web portal.

Originally posted 2009-01-28 01:00:03.