Author Topic: Ancient Cell Phone Died, Reviewed Daley's Guide - Asking for help.  (Read 1582 times)

GreenM

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Long time lurker here, hoping to get some help on an issue that just came up.

The phone company had told us that our service will be discontinued in Dec 2016 due to it no longer being supported (we need at least a 3G ??). So, I was going to research and replace our phones/service, but wasnít in a dire rushÖ until my ancient cell phone died yesterday.

Iíve reviewed the Intro and Cell Phone Provider sections of I.P. Daleyís Comm & Tech Son of the Superguide. To be honest, a lot of it is over my head. Iím not stupid, but on this topic I will say Iím very ignorant. I know I could research it more and come to a reasonable (maybe not the best) decision, but that will take me a several days and Iím in a bind now because I donít have working phone. It isnít that I need to be calling anyone to chat Ö ;-)  Itís that on our small rural farm I always carry my phone with me for safety reasons (when Iím working & not visible from the road or other farms, i.e. if an accident or medical emergency happens). Also, it is the only way a couple of elder relatives can contact me and Iím their main support person if they need help.

If you have the time and inclination, I welcome any comments or suggestions.

Our Current Set Up:
Two Samsung Flip Phone(s), so old no cameras, old style texting.
Service: AT&T pay-as-you-go, 10 cents a minute. I know Ė outrageous price Ö except we use probably only two hours a month between us.

Just for Background:
Landline is 911 calls only, cell phones for normal communications.
Internet service via phone landline. I canceled landline phone because it was just so expensive. But we use the Internet for research, some skyping, e-mail, and Netflix.
There is no cable service in our area. Iím not particularly interested in getting a dish for any entertainment value.

Needs
Reliable Ďworkhorseí phone, easy carry in a small pocket
Decent voice/audio quality to have conversations with elders
98% of use will be voice.
Don't need many hours ... really we spend limited time on the phone.
Limited need for texting.
No need for Internet service on mobile.
A low end camera might be nice, but not absolute necessity.
I donít want to waste money, but cost is not the overriding factor.
Our rural area is locally called Ďriver hillsí and reception can be difficult. Iíve found the AT&T service on our current phones to be very good in this respect, but I don't mind trying others.
Donít need a lot of customer support once we get up. We donít have extensive contact lists to transfer and can easily re-enter them if needed.

When I say Iím ignorant on the topic, I mean it.  Donít be afraid to be very specific in your advice or comments. You will not offend me.   :-)   We can buy on Amazon, ebay or where ever. There is an AT&T store ~45 minutes from us Ė thatís doable too if that is the best path. On the other hand, I understand and accept that you are a well meaning stranger and any advice I accept is my own responsibility and I will live and work with the consequences of my purchasing decisions.

I appreciate your time and help. I hope to get my new phone working in a couple of days. Then weíll do the spouse phone later (or same time,  Ö except I hesitate to be with NO working phones during transition. For example, spouse is off-property today so I have no phone access today.)

Once again, Thanks so much!

daverobev

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Re: Ancient Cell Phone Died, Reviewed Daley's Guide - Asking for help.
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2016, 11:48:13 AM »
Can you keep the current *plan* while getting a newer *phone*?

Nokias historically have been solid phones. They run Windows now, which is a bit different, but honestly the hardware is decent. There are regular deals on Nokia phones - AT&T ones in fact - on the microsoft store, and on amazon - eg http://smile.amazon.com/Nokia-Lumia-640-Annual-Contract/dp/B012CKVZ18/ref=sr_1_8?s=wireless&ie=UTF8&qid=1458841663&sr=1-8&keywords=nokia+lumia

Khaetra

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Re: Ancient Cell Phone Died, Reviewed Daley's Guide - Asking for help.
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2016, 11:54:22 AM »
If all you need is a cheap, no-frills phone then I would suggest the same one my son uses:

http://www.amazon.com/ZTE-Z222-Go-Phone-AT/dp/B00EKSS7SU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1458841911&sr=8-2&keywords=at%26t+go+phone

Daley

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Re: Ancient Cell Phone Died, Reviewed Daley's Guide - Asking for help.
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2016, 01:37:43 PM »
GreenM, the thing to remember about the forum-based guide is that it's quite truncated when compared against the unabridged guide, which tends to answer more questions, provides links to various terms and topics, and even covers hardware shopping for services. Unfortunately due to the limitations of the forum software here, it's just simply impossible to include it all here and still leave it coherent.

Also, for what it's worth, there's also a stickied comments thread for the guide here, and I'm less prone to miss these sorts of questions on the forum if they're there. Subject lines help a lot, which is why I noticed yours, but it's still no guarantee these days given how fast the forums are moving.

Regarding your needs specifically, it's obvious that there's room for improvement, but we need to address the phone first, and explain the notification you received.

The Service Discontinuation Message & What it Means for You

We'll start with the current phones. You didn't mention what the model number was on these handsets, but I suspect they date to 2008 or earlier in age, which means they're 2G GSM handsets. AT&T is twilighting their 2G GSM network at the end of this year, and anyone that doesn't have a 3G GSM handset or newer (including 4G LTE) for use with an AT&T SIM will lose service. Clearly, this impacts all AT&T network users, whether you're on AT&T postpaid, GoPhone, Cricket, or any AT&T based MVNO.

Handset Shopping, Recommendations & Availability

As for your current situation, it's clear that you need to stick with a basic, rugged feature phones. You'll get better battery life, better reliability, better tolerance to less desirable environmental conditions, you get the idea. It'll be cheaper, too. Regarding features, clearly you'll need to use 3G GSM (UMTS/WCDMA 2/5 or 850/1900MHz band) handsets if you intend to stick with AT&T coverage moving forward, and I see no reason for you not to given your situation.

It sounds like you've had reasonable luck with clamshell (flip) phones in the past, and if it works for you, stick with it. Candybar handsets can frequently be more rugged under most situations (solid, no moving parts), but depending on how dusty the environment is and how scratched up plastic can get, not having the screen protected can cause longer term problems. On that subject, you mentioned the possibility of a camera. It's pretty common issue on even the cheapest of feature phones these days, but they always leave the lens exposed, and it tends to get scratched up if not well protected. I bring this up given your apparent usage pattern and the possibility of sticking with a clamshell to protect against scratching. If scratching has been an issue with the plastics on the old phones over the years, don't expect the ability to take anything but foggy pictures with a newer phone in the longer term.

When shopping for a replacement phone, it's usually wise to stick with what's worked for you. I suspect you've used these Samsung clamshells for at least eight years (if not longer) by this point, so it might not hurt to keep doing so. Nothing against Nokia feature phones (when/if you can still find them) as they're great, too, but there might be a better chance of UI familiarity and muscle memory carry-over by sticking with the same manufacturer. With this in mind, it becomes a bit easier to narrow a list down, which makes using tools like PhoneScoop's search tool easier to use. Samsung. 3G GSM handsets. Flip/clamshell. Congratulations, you now have ten options to look for and price!

The Samsung Rugby series handsets are some of the tougher, but there's a high demand for the things in the used market, so they tend to fetch a premium. On that list, one of the most current and prolific is the Samsung A157, as lots of AT&T branded GoPhones have been sold of that model, and a lot of AT&T MVNOs who sell handsets usually have this phone in stock as well for around the $15-25 mark. Unfortuately, they're not currently being sold new through GoPhone brick and mortar locations. So, this addresses an ideal, but not a quick fix.

Before going further, a note on GoPhones: even carrier locked, GoPhones can technically work with any AT&T MVNOs without carrier unlocking, but data and MMS can't be changed on them. The legal requirements to unlock them are six months of service on a GoPhone account, and technically the prices when sold are "subsidized". Long story short, you can use the phones elsewhere out of the package, but not without violating some ethical and legal barriers in doing so.

Currently, GoPhone is only selling the ZTE Z222 handset, which Khaetra mentioned, and they sell for $15 new down at Walmart - though they appear to be on clearance and will eventually be replaced with the LG B470, which AT&T is selling for $50 currently on their website (not many outfits are making feature phones anymore, sadly - and some of the best ones that are still trying to innovate aren't producing 3G handsets *coughBLUcough*). I'm personally not a big fan of ZTE's firmware and build quality, but if it works for you, fantastic! If you plan on sticking with GoPhone for a bit longer and want to carrier unlock or use a stop-gap until you can better optimize (or even if you like it), this might be an easy and quick fix that can be resolved with a trip down to a local dollar store or Walmart today and just pulling your old SIM card and stuffing it in the new handset. Just be sure to save your contact list to your SIM card in your old phone first so you don't have to manually transfer contacts and can just import the contacts from the SIM card on the new one.

For a good overview on potentially shopping for used handsets, this post covers it fairly well.

That should cover you on hardware.

Future Plan Optimization

I know you're only using about two hours of talk time each month between the two lines, but there's a couple points worth mentioning. 1) You're grandfathered in on a much older PAYGO plan, and AT&T's newer PAYGO plans are $2/day unlimited talk and text or an even more outrageous 25Ę/minute and 20Ę/SMS. 2) If you transfer service and your phone line to a new SIM card with AT&T GoPhone, you will lose your current rates - this is why I highly recommend you migrate your old SIM cards if at all possible on the short term end. However, if the phone is thoroughly trashed, SIM included... you should know what's in store for you if you transfer service to a new handset and SIM card from them. Staying put can potentially get real expensive, real fast.

As an alternative and knowing what you're currently paying, there's the opportunity to potentially halve your monthly costs by switching to H2O Wireless. Same AT&T network coverage, but only 5Ę/minute/SMS and 10Ę/MMS. Minimum $10 refill good for 90 days, balance rollover, and a discount option for auto-refill. $3 will basically buy you an hour of talk time, which is coincidentally around the same minimum aggregate monthly cost to keep the account alive. With that in mind, it wouldn't hurt to bank a month or two of standard level usage as overkill up front to buffer in case of unexpected heavy usage at any point... so maybe start out with a $20 credit and then switch over to the $10 refills. Their customer service quality isn't as good as Airvoice, but Airvoice's PAYGO rates aren't near as good unless you're using their $10/month plan... and that'd be overkill for you. I might also add that H2O isn't selling any flip phones currently, and their feature phone selection is all ZTE and Alcatel. You'd probably be better served shopping used/refurb and carrier unlocked for a phone more in line with known good expectations, such as with the Samsungs above or possibly a Nokia 6350.

I reckon that should give you plenty to work with. Any other questions, don't hesitate to ask!

GreenM

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Re: Ancient Cell Phone Died, Reviewed Daley's Guide - Asking for help.
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2016, 12:02:16 AM »
Thank you Daverobev and Khaetra for your input. All good ideas.
I. P. Daley .... I am in awe of your content specific knowledge and writing skills to so quickly craft an individualized reply that completely answers my question ... even questions I didn't know to ask!

After reviewing the info, for the short term, I'm going to replace just the current phone with a 3G GSM capable similar (flip-style) device and keep my current grandfathered AT&T plan. Hopefully this will allow me to consume the rest of the minutes I've already purchased (I get them in $100 batches). The spouse will keep their old 2G phone for now. Your correct in that these phones pre-date 2008 (yikes) and they've worked well for us ... Even if people do think you've crawled out from under a rock when you use them in public. I think your comment about sticking with a known UI is spot on - I just don't have the time or interest in 'learning' a new phone right now.

Your caution about the SIM card and AT&Ts new vs grandfathered plan is beyond belief .... how could you know details for such an archaic plan is beyond me. But I'm sure glad you mentioned it 'cuz $2/day minimums are a non-starter! I'm pretty sure the SIM card in the defunct phone is still intact as many of the phone's functions (including my tiny contact list) are working. It is just that I hear only static when a call is accepted and the other person is unable to hear me speaking, and then the call drops in seconds.

The ZTE Z222 is looking good.

I liked what you said in your Guide's Intro, about considering overall communications needs & optimizing from that POV vs considering just one device. I plan to spend some quality time reviewing your Comprehensive Guide to see what we want to do long term (before AT&Ts Dec. 2016 2G timeout). For example, I like your H2O Wireless for me as a way to get cheaper minutes as I do the lion's share our phone usage. But I don't have the stomach for 'unlocking' and starting from scratch just now.  Before December, maybe the spouse will inherit my new 3G capable phone & stick with the grandfathered AT&T plan while I try H2O Wireless with another new phone, so even our 'short term' ZTE Z222 phone purchase will find continued use. I'll have to review your Comprehensive Guide and consider the options.

If I have any questions I'll make sure to post them in the location you've specified.

Thank you so much for your quick and on-point post!

Daley

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Re: Ancient Cell Phone Died, Reviewed Daley's Guide - Asking for help.
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2016, 09:14:37 AM »
Thank you so much for your quick and on-point post!

*tips hat* De nada.

A few points of clarity:

1) The only way for you to keep your grandfathered plan is to physically transfer your old SIM card into a new AT&T GoPhone feature phone and make no changes to you plan. If you contact AT&T to transfer service to a new phone/SIM or to switch plans, that's when you'll be forced off your current plan to one of the more expensive PAYGO options.

2) The current prices I quoted are $2/day for "unlimited" talk and text for that 24 hour period ending at midnight[-ish in your region] where you're only charged on days you use the phone for anything or 25Ę/minute and 20Ę/SMS. Both plans effectively charge $2/MB for data, which is bonkers. GoPhone is a racket, and AT&T is clearly trying to push their prepaid users towards their more expensive and higher profit monthly plans, especially the smartphone users.

3) After nearly a decade, don't expect the UI on the Samsung flip phones to be identical, there will be some changes... but overall, it should still feel reasonably familiar. If you like the replacements (whether Samsung or otherwise) and given these phones are so cheap and you work 'em hard, maybe pick up a spare one or two as backup devices to swap out with if one breaks down the line.

4) Carrier unlocking a handset is no big deal, and is actually pretty easy to request and do if the handset qualifies to be unlocked. For GoPhones, it's technically six months of uninterrupted service on the network with the same account/SIM. If you pop one of your old SIMs into a Z222 today, you'll be able to request that AT&T unlock your handset which will let you take it to any AT&T (or even T-Mobile) MVNO somewhere around/after September 25th of this year. They'll even give you device specific instructions to do it with... so, don't be afraid to carrier unlock.

5) Speaking of, if your SIM card is good - and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be as your symptoms read like you're dealing with a damaged antenna, radio or audio chip - you could theoretically give your wife the new handset off the bat and just use her current one. That might hasten device failure and migration, though, depending on how much harder you are on handsets than she is.... but, something to consider anyway.

6) Depending on how the usage breaks down per line, in addition to H2O Wireless, I'd also recommend you look at Airvoice Wireless and PureTalk USA and price their plans for your needs as well.

7) If you want to follow up in this thread instead of the guide discussion thread, I'll catch the updates. Once I've posted in a thread, it's easier to catch updates. I'm likely to be slow to answer or miss a thread entirely if it's new.

I think that covers it.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2016, 09:19:46 AM by I.P. Daley »