Author Topic: Need (Want) a Cell Phone  (Read 2628 times)

APowers

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Need (Want) a Cell Phone
« on: January 16, 2015, 02:23:02 PM »
After reading the Superguide (much props to I.P. Daley), and after asking around in my (mainly rural) area about different networks and reception, and after figuring out what MVNO I want to switch to (P'Tel), I can't figure out what phone I need.

I thought I had it figured out-- just pick up an unlocked GSM phone. But then I went to scrounge a good deal on one, and I learned just enough more to thoroughly confuse me.

Platinum Tel uses T-Mobile's network, right? This is my understanding from the Superguide.

When I looked at all the options for phones, all of a sudden I have too many choices:

US GSM vs Global GSM?
SIM card?
What brand? Model?

I did some vague research on the GSM issue, and I feel like I don't understand it well enough to even know how to answer my questions. Apparently T-Mobile uses different transmission frequencies than other telecom networks? And will any/all GSM phones work for P'Tel, or MUST I get a US GSM phone, lest my phone be useless here in the states? And how do I find a phone that fits whatever criteria this is?

I vaguely know what a SIM card does, but I buy that from P'Tel, right? It's a chip that tells my phone to "talk" to P'Tel/T-Mobile, rather than any other network/operator, right?

Regarding the actual phone itself, here's what I want to do:

I want to replace my tracfone that I use while delivering pizza. I want to have a real-time fuel economy gauge. I've budgeted a max of about $60-65, which I figure should buy a good-condition older version top-quality phone.....I just have no idea what the actual best phones/brands/models are. I have no need for a top-of-the-line-brand-newnewnew gizmo, but I would like it to be easy to use, and not clunky.

-Make/receive calls (10-15 minutes/month)
-Make/receive texts (1-2/month)
-Use Torque app to read OBDII data via bluetooth ELM unit.
-Use video/music streaming services (via wi-fi).
-Not have it be glitchy.

Daley

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Re: Need (Want) a Cell Phone
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2015, 04:51:03 PM »
Platinum Tel uses T-Mobile's network, right? This is my understanding from the Superguide.

Correct.

Quote
When I looked at all the options for phones, all of a sudden I have too many choices:

US GSM vs Global GSM?
SIM card?
What brand? Model?

I did some vague research on the GSM issue, and I feel like I don't understand it well enough to even know how to answer my questions. Apparently T-Mobile uses different transmission frequencies than other telecom networks? And will any/all GSM phones work for P'Tel, or MUST I get a US GSM phone, lest my phone be useless here in the states? And how do I find a phone that fits whatever criteria this is?

US GSM is used by both AT&T and T-Mobile: 850/1900MHz, this is what the Americas use. Global GSM is 900/1800MHz, this is what the rest of the world uses. What complicates the T-Mobile situation is their additional 3G HSPA+ bands at 1700/2100MHz which requires a pentaband (or T-Mobile branded) handset. Although you can use an AT&T or standard US GSM handset with T-Mobile with minimal issue, some areas (not many) you won't have quite as high speed data access as you might otherwise due to spectrum usage, but there has been some 1900MHz UMTS/HSPA+ refarming with T-Mo in most metro areas. LTE complicates things further, but we won't talk about that. The long short is that any GSM 850/1900 3G UMTS/HSPA handset should be fine, with or without the additional T-Mobile bands. Don't even worry about the additional T-Mobile bands unless a constant need for high speed data is necessary.

A great tool for finding a good selection of handsets that fit your criteria is always GSMArena's Phone Finder.

We'll get to the SIM card in a moment.

Quote
I vaguely know what a SIM card does, but I buy that from P'Tel, right? It's a chip that tells my phone to "talk" to P'Tel/T-Mobile, rather than any other network/operator, right?

The SIM card is what enables GSM network access with the phone and identifies you. As the service is tied to the SIM card, you can place it in any compatible GSM handset and take your service with you. SIM card size isn't too big a deal as P'tel sells a SIM card that can be used either in 2FF or 3FF (mini or micro SIM) devices. You're not likely to see a 4FF nano SIM device in the sub-$100 market, new or used.

Quote
I want to replace my tracfone that I use while delivering pizza. I want to have a real-time fuel economy gauge. I've budgeted a max of about $60-65, which I figure should buy a good-condition older version top-quality phone.....I just have no idea what the actual best phones/brands/models are. I have no need for a top-of-the-line-brand-newnewnew gizmo, but I would like it to be easy to use, and not clunky.

-Make/receive calls (10-15 minutes/month)
-Make/receive texts (1-2/month)
-Use Torque app to read OBDII data via bluetooth ELM unit.
-Use video/music streaming services (via wi-fi).
-Not have it be glitchy.

Using Torque pretty well restricts you to an Android device. The problem with a lot of the entry-level Android handsets is the crapware that gets foisted onto the handset in addition to base Android itself, as well as battery life. I would also recommend a device that ideally can support Android 4.0 or higher for security reasons, but there's mostly only going to be Android 2.3 in this market price segment. That said, a used Moto E can easily be had at your max budget with a little digging at Amazon, Ebay and/or Craigslist... but understand that the battery cannot be replaced by the user, though it is built well enough and the Android distro is clean enough and should easily suit your needs. Otherwise, research build quality and shop around for one of these.

That should get you mostly sorted. Any other questions, let me know.

APowers

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Re: Need (Want) a Cell Phone
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2015, 06:18:56 PM »
Thanks for the great links. I will look them over tomorrow.

Quote
When I looked at all the options for phones, all of a sudden I have too many choices:

US GSM vs Global GSM?
SIM card?
What brand? Model?

I did some vague research on the GSM issue, and I feel like I don't understand it well enough to even know how to answer my questions. Apparently T-Mobile uses different transmission frequencies than other telecom networks? And will any/all GSM phones work for P'Tel, or MUST I get a US GSM phone, lest my phone be useless here in the states? And how do I find a phone that fits whatever criteria this is?

US GSM is used by both AT&T and T-Mobile: 850/1900MHz, this is what the Americas use. Global GSM is 900/1800MHz, this is what the rest of the world uses. What complicates the T-Mobile situation is their additional 3G HSPA+ bands at 1700/2100MHz which requires a pentaband (or T-Mobile branded) handset. Although you can use an AT&T or standard US GSM handset with T-Mobile with minimal issue, some areas (not many) you won't have quite as high speed data access as you might otherwise due to spectrum usage, but there has been some 1900MHz UMTS/HSPA+ refarming with T-Mo in most metro areas. LTE complicates things further, but we won't talk about that. The long short is that any GSM 850/1900 3G UMTS/HSPA handset should be fine, with or without the additional T-Mobile bands. Don't even worry about the additional T-Mobile bands unless a constant need for high speed data is necessary.

A great tool for finding a good selection of handsets that fit your criteria is always GSMArena's Phone Finder.

It was the 1700/2100MHz band usage that was confusing me. So you're saying that T-Mobile basically just utilizes those bands to facilitate high-speed data, rather than voice service... So I won't end up being stuck in a situation where T-Mobile network is only on those bands? I certainly don't need high-speed data service.

Quote
I want to replace my tracfone that I use while delivering pizza. I want to have a real-time fuel economy gauge. I've budgeted a max of about $60-65, which I figure should buy a good-condition older version top-quality phone.....I just have no idea what the actual best phones/brands/models are. I have no need for a top-of-the-line-brand-newnewnew gizmo, but I would like it to be easy to use, and not clunky.

-Make/receive calls (10-15 minutes/month)
-Make/receive texts (1-2/month)
-Use Torque app to read OBDII data via bluetooth ELM unit.
-Use video/music streaming services (via wi-fi).
-Not have it be glitchy.

Using Torque pretty well restricts you to an Android device. The problem with a lot of the entry-level Android handsets is the crapware that gets foisted onto the handset in addition to base Android itself, as well as battery life. I would also recommend a device that ideally can support Android 4.0 or higher for security reasons, but there's mostly only going to be Android 2.3 in this market price segment. That said, a used Moto E can easily be had at your max budget with a little digging at Amazon, Ebay and/or Craigslist... but understand that the battery cannot be replaced by the user, though it is built well enough and the Android distro is clean enough and should easily suit your needs. Otherwise, research build quality and shop around for one of these.

That should get you mostly sorted. Any other questions, let me know.

We have a Moto G (yes, with Republic. I know, I know.), and I'd be happy with a second one, but it almost seems like too much phone for what I need. The screen size is about right, but I don't need fancy cameras/etc.

I'm not super set on Torque in particular-- any app that gives me a similar functionality would be fine, so an old model iPhone would also work, or a Windows phone, if there were an app. I'm not super excited about the whole Apple monolith.

APowers

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Re: Need (Want) a Cell Phone
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2015, 01:46:20 PM »
Just ordered a Moto E from Amazon. I'll report back if it doesn't work.

Daley

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Re: Need (Want) a Cell Phone
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2015, 08:04:36 PM »
Just ordered a Moto E from Amazon. I'll report back if it doesn't work.

I'll keep tabs all the same. Just let me know.

APowers

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Re: Need (Want) a Cell Phone
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2015, 12:27:12 PM »
Bought Moto e. Works flawlessly. PTel signup was seamless. SIM card was cheap and easy.

Thanks for all the advice!