Author Topic: cell phone / smartphone advice  (Read 7264 times)

Miss Stachio

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cell phone / smartphone advice
« on: December 16, 2012, 03:33:37 PM »
My backpack was stolen while I was traveling last week and I lost my wallet, 5 year old dumb phone, a 4 year old ipod touch and a bunch of other stuff that won't fetch money but was worth a lot to me.  It was a good lesson in learning how to let go of possessions.

I'm now looking for a new cell phone but after a couple days of research, I am completely overloaded with information.  I had been using my dumb phone on Verizon (on a shared family plan) in conjunction with my ipod touch and that worked quite well for me.  I'm thinking of getting a smartphone so I can have calling/navigating/music in one device instead of two.  The only other gadget I have is a laptop so there wouldn't be much duplicating.

I've been looking at unlocked phones so I can use one of the prepaid cell services that have been covered here on the forums before (such as in I.P. Daley's Superguide) but the unlocked ones being sold seem very expensive and the internets indicate that sometimes they may not be really unlocked.  I may end up just buying another dumb phone and an ipod off CL but I figured I would reach out the MMM forum for advice first - are there specific makes of phones that you would recommend?  Any tips on buying used unlocked smartphones?  Thanks!

Kriegsspiel

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2012, 04:48:14 PM »
My German-bought iPhone 3 didn't work with the Airvoice Wireless SIM card, so I would say buy American whatever you decide.

Daley

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2012, 04:49:54 PM »
My response is going to vary depending on provider and budget. Since most CDMA carriers outside of Ting and PagePlus don't really do BYOD, I'll stick with GSM recommendations.

The great advantage to smartphones is the flexibility in what you can do with them given the software selection that you can install on the things, and their ability to competently access the internet. As such, they're great tools for keeping communications costs low and having the flexibility to be the digital equivalent of a Leatherman multitool, but they also can prove to be too much of a temptation for some folks and quickly morph into more of a distraction than a tool. If you've been reading the forms for a while, you've likely already seen how some of our fellow mustachians still have trouble short circuiting their adaptation to the omnipresent internet in order to kick the mobile data habit. If you think this might happen with you, consider alternatives. Anyway... recommendations!

A good older model Android phone to consider would be the LG Optimus One refurbished off Amazon or something... should go for between $75-125. Left stock, the phone's a pretty solid basic smartphone (even if it's old) but won't win any high performance ratings, but with some hacking and tweaking takes well to CyanogenMod if you're into that sort of thing. Probably suit your needs relatively well.

Next up the GSM smartphone chain would be the HTC Nexus One for between $130-190 refurbished and unlocked. This is the first of the official flagship Google phones, and is also well supported by CyanogenMod even if Google EOL'd the upgrade path at 2.3.6 (Gingerbread).

Final on the Android list would be the Samsung Nexus S, which is still receiving official OS upgrades from Google and runs used/refurbed in really good condition between $150-250.

If you're into the whole Apple scene, the iPhone 3GS is still receiving iOS updates (though will likely hit EOL with Apple soon enough), and an unlocked and refurbed unit can be had for around $140-240 depending.

In general, you can't go wrong with any of the Android smartphones that are official Google Nexus phones or can "officially" support CyanogenMod, but checking out online reviews of the hardware is always beneficial, as things like the speaker, microphone, screen and reception are more hardware limitations than software. I won't bother recommending much more expensive as that starts hitting anti-mustachian territory for most folks, and given you've been living on a feature phone all this time, probably wouldn't benefit you any.

Of course, the prices are just estimates of average going on Amazon and Ebay for quality refurbs. You may or may not be able to get cheaper off CL or elsewhere through private party, but then you have the issue of a possible hot device on the IMEI blacklist or an abused phone or an assortment of other unknowns. Personally, I'd be comfortable going that route, but I also know what to look for. YMMV. If time == money, sometimes it's just easier spending the extra if you're sold on a specific make and model to get the refurb from a reputable reseller.

If you'd rather keep going with a dumbphone and iPod Touch or $30 MP3 player that takes SD cards and a $90 offline GPS or, or, or... that's not a terrible idea either. Frequently, and especially on the lower end, all-in-one devices are mediocre at best at nearly all their tasks. If you want to do a basic dumbphone, the Samsung B2100 is a ruggedized and nigh indestructible candybar form factor feature phone that you can pick up unlocked for under $80 brand new. Extra bonus? It's got decent MP3 playback functionality and supports Micro SD cards up to 8GB.

Hope that gets you started.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2012, 04:52:23 PM by I.P. Daley »

Miss Stachio

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2012, 06:34:30 PM »
Thanks for the recommendations!  Very helpful.

TheDude

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2012, 07:12:35 PM »
I greatly respect I.P.  Daley but I disagree with his statement about Page Plus.  Other than 4g phones and Verizon prepaid phones you can activate just about any Verizon phone on Page Plus. They don't support those phone but thats also true of a byod on airvoice. I have two HTC Incredibles on Page Plus right now. We use their 1200min 3000texts 250mb for 29.99 plan.  My wife's phone just broke so I think we may get an Iphone 4. They can be had for 150 on ebay or Craigslist right now. Definitely not the cheapest plan but I like the amount of minutes and data for the $30.

Daley

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2012, 07:36:41 PM »
I greatly respect I.P.  Daley but I disagree with his statement about Page Plus.  Other than 4g phones and Verizon prepaid phones you can activate just about any Verizon phone on Page Plus. They don't support those phone but thats also true of a byod on airvoice. I have two HTC Incredibles on Page Plus right now. We use their 1200min 3000texts 250mb for 29.99 plan.  My wife's phone just broke so I think we may get an Iphone 4. They can be had for 150 on ebay or Craigslist right now. Definitely not the cheapest plan but I like the amount of minutes and data for the $30.

Dude, reread that second sentence. I namechecked P+ and Ting as the only CDMA carriers doing any sort of BYOD currently.

I'll admit, I come down hard on them in regard to BYOD, but no less so than I do for Ting as they're both equally restrictive because of the parent carriers. With CDMA, any BYOD is better than none, but still not true BYOD. That said, you forgot to mention Blackberry in the PagePlus forbidden list. ;)

Hamster

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2012, 08:15:29 PM »
.I have two HTC Incredibles on Page Plus right now. We use their 1200min 3000texts 250mb for 29.99 plan. 
My wife and I both have the same phone as you. She is finally off contract last month, so I would like to switch, but Verizon is by far the most reliable carrier around here, and reliable phone connections are important for both of our jobs. How has the Page Plus service been for you? Any problems with connections vs directly contracting with Verizon? Also, do you know if rooting your phone once on PagePlus is a problem? I'd like to get rid of the Verizon bloatware and see if cyanogenmod fixes some of the phones' memory quirks...

My backup plan would be switch to a GSM phone and try an ATT based MVNO.... I like the idea one nexus 4, but will probably go used/refurb GSM phone if I do leave Verizon.

Thanks! Anyone else's advice is welcome, too.

TheDude

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2012, 08:24:58 PM »
I.P, I am sorry. You are correct I did in fact read that sentence incorrect. I don't count black berries because no one uses them :) or at least they shouldn't.

Hamster, If you look PP website they should show the coverage. They buy min from V. Thats why you can activate a V phone on PP. The coverage is the same as the V Prepaid covers (a little different than the postpaid service). The only place I have had problem is in Sioux Center, IA. Its really close to the line so I didst totally expect to get coverage there. I think the $30 dollar plan really its the sweet spot. Its not a ton of data but its enough if you pay attention and use wifi when you can.

AlexK

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2012, 10:49:00 PM »
I bought a Virgin Mobile HTC One V from Virgin Mobile for $50 (on black Friday). It runs Android 4 and works great for mp3, web, email, etc. You can get one on on ebay for <$100.

Unlimited data, text, and 300 min is $35/mo. I've been buying $60 Virgin Mobile credits on ebay for $42 so the effective rate is $26/mo. Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network which is one of the best where I live. I am extremely happy with the phone and service and very very happy it is less than 1/2 what I was paying before on Sprint.

mindaugas

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 07:40:48 AM »
My wife and I switched to Ting a couple months ago and bought refurbished LG Optimus S (Optimus One). They aren't particularly fast but will run Spotify, play MP3s, and are easily upgraded with a cheap micro-sd card. The only problem is the internal storage is low so you have to be careful about apps you can't move over to the sd card. Using Google voice and turning off mobile data my wife and I were able to get our bill down to $30 including taxes. (protip: Make your google map offline and u don't need data on the go.)

I paid $78 a piece for the Optimuses when we bought them. With the recent BYOD I was able to bring my HTC Evo 4G (left over from our old provider Sprint) and there is a significant difference in performance.

I can't recommend Ting enough, their customer service is awesome, their prices are insanely low, and they bill and operate like a standard contract cell provider.

big country

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2012, 12:51:24 PM »
My wife and I also switched to Ting just over a month ago.  I'm VERY pleased their coverage and their service.  I had to buy new phones, but the savings for us (very light users) will outwiegh the cost.  We were paying $155/mo with verizon and the bill we just got from ting was $54 for a month of usage.  I'd highly recommend Ting as well.  One of the phones they sent me was DOA and they took care of me and I could call and talk to a real person (with only a slight canadian accent!)

If you really want to stay with verizon though, I have a lightly used iPhone 4s (16GB) on verizon for sale.  PM me if interested.

Also, This is my first post on MMM.  I found the blog about 2 months ago and I cannot get enough of this forum and the blog.  We were already "mustachian" for the most part and didn't even know it.  I'll make an introduction post soon enough when I get all the details in a row :P  Though I guess this could be my intro post.  Hi everyone!

Miss Stachio

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 08:59:24 PM »
Yay, my nice friend had a Samsung feature phone that she wasn't using and donated to me so I'll have a phone to use while I figure out if I want a smartphone or not.  It's on ATT so I may port my number to airvoice to give it a try.  Our verizon family plan is currently costing ~$90/mo for talk only with pay per text and no data so there's definitely room for improvement. 

(protip: Make your google map offline and u don't need data on the go.)
Oh wow, I didn't realize you could download maps to use offline.  That would be very handy.

The VirginMobile plan also sounds pretty good for going the smartphone route.

Also - Hi big country.  I just started wandering on this site recently as well and was happy to find the mustachian community.  Ting looks good but sadly the coverage is poor in my area.

Thanks again for all the suggestions!

Hamster

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2012, 12:20:23 AM »

(protip: Make your google map offline and u don't need data on the go.)
Oh wow, I didn't realize you could download maps to use offline.  That would be very handy.

Assuming this hasn't changed in the last couple of months, that's mostly true. You can download and cache the map data and use it offline. Tracing your GPS location on the cached map doesn't use data. But if you want to get driving directions, you have to briefly have a data connection at the time you first request the driving directions. After it determines the route, you don't need a data connection anymore as long as you don't change destinations or veer off route outside your cached area.

I found that  bit annoying when I was travelling in Canada (from U.S.) in August as I didn't want to pay for international data roaming.

Daley

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2012, 02:27:59 AM »
The VirginMobile plan also sounds pretty good for going the smartphone route.
...
Ting looks good but sadly the coverage is poor in my area.

If Ting coverage is questionable for your area, I can guarantee Virgin's gonna be even worse. Both are Sprint MVNOs using the same towers, the only difference being Ting lets you roam on Verizon.

Assuming this hasn't changed in the last couple of months, that's mostly true. You can download and cache the map data and use it offline. Tracing your GPS location on the cached map doesn't use data. But if you want to get driving directions, you have to briefly have a data connection at the time you first request the driving directions. After it determines the route, you don't need a data connection anymore as long as you don't change destinations or veer off route outside your cached area.

I found that  bit annoying when I was travelling in Canada (from U.S.) in August as I didn't want to pay for international data roaming.

This is why I typically recommend fully offline navigation applications like Sygic.

big country

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2012, 06:43:12 AM »
The VirginMobile plan also sounds pretty good for going the smartphone route.
...
Ting looks good but sadly the coverage is poor in my area.

If Ting coverage is questionable for your area, I can guarantee Virgin's gonna be even worse. Both are Sprint MVNOs using the same towers, the only difference being Ting lets you roam on Verizon.

I can attest to this.  I live in the middle of no where in West Virginia.  I do not have Sprint service at my house but Ting will let me roam texts and talking onto the very poor verizon service at the my house.  Once I get onto the State Route heading to town I pick up sprint service and all is well.  Of all the MVNOs I like Ting the best.  They're the cheapest (for low usage) and they will let me roam voice and texts (They will not let me roam mobile data though)

nawhite

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2012, 03:24:52 PM »
Big fan of Republic Wireless (http://republicwireless.com/). $20 / month for unlimited everything (talk/text/web). They ask you to have home wifi so they can route some of your calls over wifi instead of cell but the cell coverage works fine when you're away from wifi.

I've been using it for about a month and have to say, given that I need texts and web, $20/month is the right price to pay.

Daley

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Re: cell phone / smartphone advice
« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2012, 04:45:37 PM »
Big fan of Republic Wireless (http://republicwireless.com/). $20 / month for unlimited everything (talk/text/web). They ask you to have home wifi so they can route some of your calls over wifi instead of cell but the cell coverage works fine when you're away from wifi.

I've been using it for about a month and have to say, given that I need texts and web, $20/month is the right price to pay.

I see you're a big fan of Republic Wireless. (No offense implied, but you are starting to read like a Republic Wireless spambot the past couple days.) Republic has been covered in depth already, and although I'm glad you're enjoying it and it works for your needs, there's a lot of caveats for the price that most people should be aware of before jumping in. With a little work and technical savvy, it can also be replicated with the same quality issues for equal or less money using any cheap prepaid MVNO, any decent Android phone, and a Google Voice or VOIPo account.

Also, as Sprint coverage is weak in OP's area, Republic is a bit of a non-starter for her situation anyway as it's a Sprint MVNO.

Appreciate the enthusiasm, and I personally am rooting for Republic to succeed as well, but they're still a bit rough around the edges to just blanket recommend to everyone.