I'm hoping you or other forum members can help direct me to what my family needs.
2) Hooboy, US Cellular! *sigh* This'll be fun.
You'll begin to understand why I typed this as you continue on.
3) Does your wife's business involve moving around large gobs of data or being away from WiFi most of the time? If no to both points, I'm setting a goal bar for her at around 250-750MB.
4) So, what's your ZIP code? (You can PM me that for privacy reasons, if you prefer.) Are you by chance with USCC because they have the best coverage for your region? If USCC is the alpha dog in your region and there isn't good coverage from the big four (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint), we may already be hitting a bit of a wall if data access is a necessity. These sorts of areas are rare
, but not impossible
... so it's probably best to set expectations early on a possible SOL situation if I don't know where you live.
Regarding network coverage if you want to do the research yourself, check crowd-sourced maps with Root Metrics
, and CellReception.com
for overall reported coverage in your area in addition to the official network coverage maps. All maps and statistics lie, but you can make a good guess between them and the official coverage maps when combined with cell tower placement.
5) Only one of these phones might be able to go elsewhere without any problems, the iPhone. Here's the USCC device unlocking policy
. You'll note, they claim the 5c is already carrier unlocked and that they can also carrier unlock the S4, but headline that list with the following statement:
It is important for consumers to know that an unlocked device is not an assurance that such device will;
- operate on any other carrier's network due to technical differences between carriers networks (for example, U.S. Cellular operates a CDMA network while some carriers operate GSM networks which are incompatible)
- or, if it does operate on another network, perform all of the functions that it performed on the U.S. Cellular network
- be accepted by any carrier for use on their network even if the device is compatible with that network to some degree.
An unofficial FAQ from a third party USCC support forum
has the following to say on carrier unlocking these particular USCC handsets:
Can I carrier "unlock" my U.S. Cellular phone?
Yes, but it depends on how you define "unlock", for instance CDMA only phones are locked with a simple 6 digit code of all zeros that will allow you to reprogram or "flash" it to another CDMA network.
If you have a non-iPhone 4G LTE device released before April 2015, it can only be unlocked to work with other CDMA/LTE networks, it will NOT work with GSM/W-CDMA(UMTS)/HSPA+ networks. Most Samsung and LG 4G LTE smartphones released on USCC will work with T-Mobile, but only with LTE. You must also be in a VoLTE enabled area and have a VoLTE capable device to make calls with a unlocked USCC device.
Why can't I use GSM on my non-iPhone 4G LTE USCC device?
Non-iPhone 4G LTE devices released before April 2015 are not certified by the FCC to operate on GSM, thus federal regulations require non-certified bands to be permanently disabled. Most USCC devices such as the S4 and Mega don't even have GSM hardware, it's been completely stripped off the phone. You may be able to activate your unlocked USCC device on a GSM network that supports VoLTE, but this is not guaranteed.
I have an iPhone from U.S. Cellular, does it come pre-unlocked like the Verizon model?
Partially, all iPhones from U.S. Cellular are already unlocked for use outside with GSM networks outside of the United States, but are locked to U.S. Cellular within in the United States and must be unlocked in order to activate on another network within the United States.
How do I use my U.S. Cellular iPhone with another network in the United States?
You will either need to call customer service or visit a U.S. Cellular store to have your iPhone unlocked, the rep will fill out a work-order request with the iPhone's IMEI number and will send it off to be unlocked. This process takes around a day to complete.
So, technically no to the S4 for GSM service, even though technically the hardware specs say it should be able to; and yes to the 5c for GSM service, but you still have to actually carrier unlock despite what USCC's official carrier unlock FAQ says. Theoretically
you might be able to take them to activate on a Sprint or (more likely) Verizon MVNO (that is, assuming either network has sufficient native coverage for your area), but it's a bit of a hot mess and I can't promise squat. YMMV. I'm still going to encourage you to contact these CDMA LTE MVNOs (Ting CDMA
[Sprint + Verizon/USCC voice/SMS roaming], Selectel
[Verizon + Sprint/USCC voice/SMS roaming]) to double check and confirm the ability to activate (or not) after
carrier unlocking (which you can only do after you complete the contract
later this year) before ditching the S4, however.
Like I said, it's a bit of a hot mess. It may look feasibly great on paper and you want
it to work, but it's mostly a trainwreck waiting to happen.
6) This is a bit more involved, and you're getting close on understanding, but not entirely. There's a couple methods that can be used, but I would, under general principle, leave Google Voice out - especially
if you need reliability on contacting due to business needs. Especially in the case of business needs, PAY FOR WHAT YOU NEED.
If you need reliable hybrid UMA/GAN calling support (which is all GoogleFi is, but only with expensive Nexus branded flagship Android handsets using a T-Mobile primary network with Sprint LTE roaming), use and pay for a carrier and phone that properly
offers it. Republic unfortunately isn't
that solution. However, Ting GSM and T-Mobile do offer these services with select handsets
including certain Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones, but not with an iPhone. It's also important to note that using WiFi with UMA/GAN calling will still count and be billed as used minutes with the carrier. It's not like data as you're still using their
network to connect calls and texts.
One thing to remember is that call forwarding from the carrier to a VoIP number is still going to cost you incoming minutes
with the mobile carrier plus the additional
incoming minute cost (if any) of the VoIP provider. It doesn't matter if you're using it to give you coverage in an area where mobile service is usually spotty by using WiFi fallback to call out and receive. It's just how it works.
If you're doing it just to save money but need to keep reliability, the only place you'll be able to easily cut costs doing your own hybrid VoIP setup are mostly through outbound
calling with a VoIP provider that permits you to set and change outbound Caller ID (LocalPhone, VOIP.ms, CallCentric) and use it over WiFi and maybe
4G data (depending on data versus minute costs 1MB = 2 minutes of talk time roughly - don't forget to also include the cost per minute of the outbound VoIP call). I know others here have done VoIP calling over 3G networks, but I don't recommend it due to the much higher latency which can impact call quality and clarity.
Now, if you're going to ignore all this advice and still want to plow ahead with as cheap of service as possible doing a hybrid setup like Republic does, port your number to Google Voice and use this cheapskate guide I wrote up
, but I don't recommend using it for some of the same reasons I don't recommend Republic.
Again, if you need proper
UMA/GAN WiFi calling support, get a supported handset and either go Ting GSM or T-Mobile. If you're just trying to keep costs low without impacting reliability, either use a home VoIP phone or only rely on VoIP with CallerID set to your mobile number for outbound calls if you're near a WiFi connection. If you're just being cheap, knock yourself out with the afore linked TruLocalPhone Magic post for cheapskates using Google Voice for your primary number combined with Truphone SIM and staying glued to WiFi, but of your existing handsets, it'll really only work with the iPhone for reasons covered in point five.
Hope this helps clear up a few points. Get back with me on a location and I'll help if need be, and if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.Edit:
Forgot to embed a link to the Team US Cellular FAQ up above. Sorry about that.