Author Topic: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies  (Read 10968 times)

redeyedtreefr0g

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The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« on: January 24, 2013, 12:16:12 PM »
I'm sorry, but I just don't understand. I've started trying to read the superpage thread, but it gets very technical very fast. I am completely NOT a tech-savvy individual, but my husband pays a LOT for phone service and I found out recently how much. I do NOT like that number at all. I wondered if someone could break down the entire concept of being able to give the proverbial finger to large cell phone companies into very dummy-friendly terms and explanations.

Here's what we have-
5 phones! My husband, me, and his mom. In order to keep his mom supplied with a phone we have to have one for husband's brother so she won't give hers to him. We also happen to still have an extra line from swamp-internet aircard days. It keeps being eligible for an upgrade at the exact time my husband breaks a phone, so it's stayed somehow. Now we've rescued my twin sister from no-contact hell by giving her that line and one of our spare phones. So 5, and 5 to stay, it seems. My phone is a Samsung Replenish.

I know I use my phone mostly for texting. I never got into using a phone to talk to people, and when texting got popular, it just seemed more natural to me to use it instead. Voice calls are there too, but not as often. I occasionally like to use my phone to get directions. I like to listen to music on it during my bike commute and so I recently discovered Pandora, but I could just as well upload more songs and figure out how to create a playlist I guess. I sometimes check email. I like to check the weather. Lately, though, I've noticed that I do that at home pretty obsessively now, so I haven't looked at my phone for that in a long time. Let's see, pictures are a phone thing if I want to send them immediately via message to my parents or something. Otherwise I carry a camera and upload photos later to my blog or Facebook using the computer. I use the calculator sometimes, and the calendar feature- which is Google's.

I do not check Facebook or generally browse online using my phone- I find it to be really freaking annoying to try and go online on such a tiny thing without a proper keyboard and mouse.

SO.

Assuming everyone else with our phones do the same things I do- how in the world do you change from $XXX a month giant money-sucking cell phone monstrosity into a frugal MMM-type deal?
I've heard Skype, Google Voice, and other things mentioned, but I've never used these. I've tried to research Google Voice, but I can find nothing that really tells me exactly what it does and how, or how to work it.... did I mention that I'm a complete tech-noob?

About all I know so far is that instead of Sprint, I want a MVNO, which is a Mobile Network Virtual Operator, which is a company that uses Sprint's network, and I pay them instead of Sprint directly. I also have heard it mentioned that keeping my current phone is a possibility.


Please educate the dummy. I'll continue to try to make sense to the other threads on this topic in the meantime.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 12:23:51 PM by redeyedtreefr0g »

James

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2013, 12:30:03 PM »
Who is your cell phone company and how much are you paying currently?  How much sway do you hold over what kind of mobile phone service do you have?  If you suggested something that required some significant changes with significant savings would it be supported?

Jack

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2013, 12:31:04 PM »
In order to keep his mom supplied with a phone we have to have one for husband's brother so she won't give hers to him.

[Insert facepalm here]

If your mother in law values her phone -- that you're paying for -- so damn little that she keeps trying to give it away, maybe it's time to cut her off!

Assuming everyone else with our phones do the same things I do- how in the world do you change from $XXX a month giant money-sucking cell phone monstrosity into a frugal MMM-type deal?
I've heard Skype, Google Voice, and other things mentioned, but I've never used these. I've tried to research Google Voice, but I can find nothing that really tells me exactly what it does and how, or how to work it.... did I mention that I'm a complete tech-noob?

Google Voice does a bunch of things:

- It forwards calls to other phones (e.g. you can set it up so that when people call your Google Voice number it rings your cellphone and your landline)

- It has fancy "visual" voicemail

- It has cheap international rates

- It lets you make calls from your computer

- With third-party software, you you can use it to make VoIP calls from your cellphone, paid for by your data plan instead of your voice plan (or free if connected via WiFi). This is the relatively complicated part.

About all I know so far is that instead of Sprint, I want a MVNO, which is a Mobile Network Virtual Operator, which is a company that uses Sprint's network, and I pay them instead of Sprint directly. I also have heard it mentioned that keeping my current phone is a possibility.

There are MVNOs that piggyback on AT&T or Verizon's network as well, not just Sprint's.

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2013, 12:50:05 PM »
We use Sprint, and let me check the bank... bill payments are around $250 each month.

I don't hold a lot of sway, but the key phrasing you used is significant changes with SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS. I think that should be enough reason to switch things up a bit. We could use that saved money to pay down credit cards faster and get out of debt.

The problem with my mom-in-law is that she doesn't value the phone. My husband values being able to contact her anytime anywhere to talk with her. She is not fully mentally capable, although its a social phobia-type thing rather than retardation. Her boyfriend has a phone, but he keeps it with him usually because he travels to work while she stays home. We'd like her to be able to call 911 if she needs to (although I understand that strictly speaking, any cell phone can do that without paying for service).
The same way we want her to be able to call for help if needed, is the way she feels about my husband's loser brother. So when he goes off into the wilderness randomly to "find himself" or whatever, she's given him the phone before so he could call for help or a ride home.

I suppose we could cut her off, but it's not an option that would likely to be entertained, since obviously my hubby has been willing to pay for it so far.

How exactly does Google Voice work? What do I have to do to say, get a call on my cell phone? We don't have house phones, only cellular. Can I text with it? I think my twin was getting texts, but she never could tell who they were from, if I recall? I don't think she uses it anymore.

Scottma

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2013, 12:54:25 PM »
Since you have Sprint phones it looks like Ting could save you some money:

https://ting.com/

You can move a Sprint phone to Ting pretty easily I think, depending on the model, and you only pay for what you use (according to their different tiers). I'm with T-mobile for the next month, when my contract expires, then I'm jetting for Ting myself.

norvilion

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2013, 12:57:43 PM »
One other advantage to Ting at the moment is that for the month of February you don't have to worry about early-temination fees associated with breaking the contract from your old provider

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2013, 01:08:52 PM »
Well THAT is certainly appealing, although if I understand it right, we still have to pay the ending fees, we just won't have to pay Ting until the equivalent credit runs out. We are not Mustachians- I doubt we can pull that kind of cash together for 5 lines.

It sounds like with a prepaid option like Ting, each line is paid separately based on what they use. Do prepaid minutes expire? I don't see how we could easily keep up to date with each individual line.

Jack

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2013, 01:10:26 PM »
How exactly does Google Voice work? What do I have to do to say, get a call on my cell phone? We don't have house phones, only cellular. Can I text with it? I think my twin was getting texts, but she never could tell who they were from, if I recall? I don't think she uses it anymore.

To get a call on your cellphone via Google Voice, you log into your account on the website (voice.google.com), go to settings->phones->add another phone, type in the phone number and click "save." Then when people call the Google Voice number, your cellphone rings and you answer it as normal.

To make a call from your Google Voice number (but still using voice plan minutes, not VoIP data), you do one of two things:
  • If you have an Android smartphone, you install the Google Voice app. It makes Google Voice calls seamlessly by replacing the default dialer app.
  • If you have a regular phone, you call your own Google Voice number, press 2, dial the number you want to call, then press #.

To make or receive texts via Google Voice on an Android smartphone, you use the Google Voice app instead of the Messaging app.

Daley

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2013, 01:26:06 PM »
TreeFrog? Scottma and Norvilion pretty well nailed it.

If you're with Sprint now and are happy with the service, and happy with the handsets, and you're feeling overwhelmed with options and just want something straight forward and simple... Ting. Just Ting. It's not prepaid even, it's postpaid like Sprint... just like you're used to.

Forget about Google Voice (this will likely be too complicated for you to implement), Kik (for now), the whole nine... just Ting. Sit down with the bill to find out to calculate out exactly how many minutes, texts, and megabytes are being used by everyone each month on average and add 'em together. If you can bring over all five handsets, you're looking at a base price of $30, plus whatever tiers of each level of service you need. Let's hypothetically say you guys actually use just shy of 3000 minutes, 6000 texts and 3GB of data: that's $156 a month plus taxes. If most of you are already on smartphones and a fair share of those texts are between the family members on this account, maybe install Kik on the phones to message each other with instead of using text messaging to considerably reduce your texting amount without really increasing your data usage. Beyond that, don't worry about it... you're making it more complicated than you need to.

Just add up the usage numbers (all numbers, including nights and weekend minutes and in network stuff), find the appropriate usage levels with Ting's calculator to find out what your average bill will look like, be prepared to buy out any remaining contracts with Sprint, and switch to Ting on February 1st. The only thing to remember is that if the numbers show that someone's abusing the service, make them pay for their share or keep an eye on usage and if they start getting inappropriately heavy, cut them off from that service for a while through the account controls as this won't be an infinite amount plan.

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2013, 01:41:20 PM »
[To make a call from your Google Voice number (but still using voice plan minutes...

What's the point if I'm still using voice plan minutes? I suppose having a local number is nice, I guess.

Ting. Just Ting. It's not prepaid even, it's postpaid like Sprint... just like you're used to.
...Beyond that, don't worry about it... you're making it more complicated than you need to.

That seems easy enough...
Yes, most of my texts are to my husband and twin, both of whom are one of the 5. The other highest are to my mom and dad, and beyond that its much more scattered.


Ack, and the alarm just went off for work (oh yeah, that's the other main function of my phone- it's a kick-butt alarm clock!).
Have to drive the kids home, I'll be back around 6pm!
« Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 01:44:58 PM by redeyedtreefr0g »

Daley

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2013, 02:11:45 PM »
Ting. Just Ting. It's not prepaid even, it's postpaid like Sprint... just like you're used to.
...Beyond that, don't worry about it... you're making it more complicated than you need to.

That seems easy enough...
Yes, most of my texts are to my husband and twin, both of whom are one of the 5. The other highest are to my mom and dad, and beyond that its much more scattered.

First thing I'd recommend is if you're going to do Ting, do some ground work with research with them. Start with Ting's Help and Support as you know what handsets are officially supported for BYOD, what devices you can get help with bringing over that aren't on the official list (which should be easy with stock Android handsets). Call and talk with them, find out what will be involved before doing it, find out which handsets might be easier to just replace over port... their support and sales teams are great, talk with them and ask questions before switching to ease any concerns and help make the process smooth and trouble free. I do think of all the various options, Ting is definitely going to be the best solution for your situation from an ease of transition to reduced cost without impacting the level of service you're used to.

Fortunately as I briefly mentioned before, with their new dashboard, you can set up notices and restrictions on usage per line... so you can keep track of people's usage (for payback if you want) or restriction to prevent abuse of your generosity and help keep usage low.

As far as best practices for keeping usage low?

-Don't succumb to hedonic adaptation with data services and streaming media.
     To keep data costs low, don't use stuff like Pandora, Netflix and online GPS services, and utilize WiFi every chance you get if you want/need a data connection.
-To keep texting costs low, use text replacement apps like Kik and Nimbuzz to replace SMS with your heaviest messaged friends.
     Straight data costs for text will always be cheaper than paying per 155 character message. Install the app on both ends to avoid using SMS usage.
-To keep calling and all costs low, just don't use your cell phone to communicate with people unless you need to.
     If you're at home and need to call someone, bring back the home phone line using your broadband connection and a VoIP service like VOIPo, NetTalk, Voip.ms, CallCentric or Future Nine.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 02:13:30 PM by I.P. Daley »

Jack

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2013, 03:07:31 PM »
[To make a call from your Google Voice number (but still using voice plan minutes...

What's the point if I'm still using voice plan minutes? I suppose having a local number is nice, I guess.

  • If you have a landline, then using Google Voice helps you save money because you can answer using it even when people call your "cell phone" (i.e., Google Voice) number
  • It lets you send text messages that count as data instead of text, without the person on the other end having to install a text replacement app like I.P. Daley mentioned
  • It's an intermediate step that lets people start contacting you via your new Google Voice number while you're still trying to get the VoIP part working
  • It still has other ancillary benefits, some of which I mentioned previously (fancy voicemail, cheap international calls, automatic call screening, call recording, etc.)

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2013, 07:38:07 PM »
I had to look up Hedonistic Adaptation, and an MMM article was the second Google result :) I do notice that when I succeed at doing something frugal, like NOT buying that chocolate I really want, I feel very happy. I love creating things (although, sewing isn't exactly a frugal endeavor). I like riding my bike, even if I initially don't want to go.

I signed up for Google Voice, since I could do that now rather than waiting. I'm confused again.


Quote
Sprint users can now seamlessly integrate Google Voice on their mobile phone.

Option 1: Replace your Google Voice number with your Sprint number
Calls made from Google Voice and Gmail will display your Sprint number. Your Google Voice number will remain on your account for 90 days.
Enable with my Sprint Number

Option 2: Replace your Sprint number with your Google Voice number
Calls made from your Sprint handset will display your Google Voice number.
Enable with my Google Voice number

Both options will replace your Sprint voicemail with Google voicemail. Any voicemail messages currently on your Sprint phone will be deleted.
International calls from your Sprint handset will be placed through Google Voice.

After 90 days do I lose the Google #? If I choose the Google # and people call my Sprint #, my phone still works like normal, right?
I thought I'd be able to use both for a while, not have to choose.
It seemed like my twin was responding to both, but she did complain about not knowing who was sending texts, or maybe which number was sending/receiving them? I don't recall, I'll have to ask her.

For some reason- the Google Voice # is already easy to remember.

Daley

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2013, 09:37:34 PM »
You won't lose the Google Voice number, but after migrating to Ting, you will lose some of the integration.

And yes, GV just forwards to another number. If they call your cell phone instead of your GV number, it'll just ring the cell phone.

I'm not a huge fan of GV for text replacement as there's been delivery reliability problems in the past, as is there call quality problems... and data usage isn't the leanest for what it's doing either. If you're happy with the service like others are, go for it, but as I've said in the other thread on numerous occasions, it's one of those things I don't think is really worth the price anymore. (But isn't it a free service? Exactly.) I only use the service myself anymore for "public" or disposable phone number situations where I don't want to give out my real numbers. It's also one of those things that adds enough technical complexity to the setup if you're trying to use it to save money, that it can become a struggle for the less technical. It's why I didn't even bother bringing it up again myself after reading your original post.

Given the price of texts with Ting and the fact that it'll be a five person account, easiest solution is Kik between you, your husband and your twin if all three of you have smartphones and just keep using SMS with the rest of the world. That alone will likely put a major enough dent in the numbers to not make heroic nickel and dime text fee reductions through GV worth the effort... especially when most people don't understand the concept of Google Voice at all and just get frustrated and confused when you hand them yet another contact number.

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2013, 06:05:09 PM »
Hmm, since Ting is looking like such an attractive option, I'm inclined to agree with you that Google Voice seems pointless.

It's GOOGLE. Why did they make it so complicated and confusing? I like Google.

Anyway.

Browsing their website, Ting seems too good to be true. My phone is on the whitelist, though it's not one of the 7 officially supported devices. I pick the amounts I want, and if I go over those, they'll bump me up to the next tier for that month, and if I'm below usage, they'll bump me down and apply the difference as credit. How awesome is that??? It's also a HUGE bonus that their website says I will not have to talk to a stupid phone computer system ever when I try and contact customer service. I think I'll test that now by calling them...

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2013, 08:06:53 PM »
Well, I didn't notice they were on Eastern time, and I was trying to decipher my Sprint bill before calling.

I'm confused because Sprint doesn't break things down nicely into 3 categories of Minutes, Texts, and Data.

For the December bill, adding up all 5 lines, we've got:
Everything Data plan. $247.67

Anytime Minutes - 191
Any Mobile, Anytime - 879
Text - 3,056
Night & Weekend - 22
Picture Mail - 61
Sprint 3G Data - 784,364
Sprint 3G Data Roaming - 2,109


Does that mean for total minutes we used 1,092? I'm assuming nothing overlaps.
All the data used would be 786,473- but what units are those?
Texts are 3,056 sure, but where do picture messages fit into all this? It looks like Ting includes picture messages free, so I guess it might not matter.

EDIT: I figured out the Sprint bill must be giving Kilobytes, not Megabytes, and that 1MB= 1,024KB.


redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2013, 08:31:41 PM »
HOLY COW!!!!

So, I took the last 12 months of bills and plugged numbers into a very simple spreadsheet.

Now that I know that those data numbers were for kilobytes, I found out we've never used more than 1000MB, and we average 323 (what had we been doing those last 2 months??) So we can go ahead and go for the 1000MB option for $13 with little to fear- if we don't use that much maybe they'll bump us down :)

We're pretty consistent texters. Max so far is 3,056 in December, average is 1845. To be safe, we could go with the 4000 text option instead of 2000- that's $11.

And voice calls, adding them all up, come out to 1171 minutes average, and maximum was 1711 last February, which is weird. Since we're consistently just over that 1000 line, we'll go for the 2000 minutes for $35

Each line on the plan is $6, so $30 all together...

That means I can have the exact same Sprint service (pretty much, right?), with the same phones I have now, and save $150 a MONTH!
We'll have no contract, and Ting will even cover our termination fees! Surely I can convince my husband to do this. He went ahead and made us "broke" 3 days after payday to "knock down the credit cards", how could he say no to an extra $150 a month to help accomplish that?  And we wouldn't be changing anything major- everyone still has their phone and can use it too.

I'm so excited.

Surely this is too good to be true? Where is the catch?

Daley

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2013, 02:09:12 PM »
Surely this is too good to be true? Where is the catch?

The ETF payback will be in Ting credit to the account, not in cash, so any ETF fees you're hit with will still come out of pocket. There's also no guarantee that you'll get the Ting ETF credit as it's limited in total payout to $100,000 with first come first serve.

The only other drawback will be trying to dig up old Sprint handsets to transfer your current Sprint service to (and paying off any ETF in advance to clean up the ESN) so you can effectively use your current handsets on Ting at time of switch, as you can't port over both your number and your handset at the same time. There's a few ways around this, porting numbers to GV and back out, to other carriers like P'tel or Airvoice, switching handsets either with Sprint or Ting... you get the idea.

Otherwise, yeah, it should be pretty groovy otherwise.

LowER

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2013, 02:15:30 PM »
Anything similar for Verizon users?

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2013, 11:23:59 AM »
Well, I showed my husband Ting. He didn't seem impressed by the HUGE amount we'd save. (He was also annoyed that I changed the password online. I wanted to see our usage, so I downloaded a year's worth of bills to analyze numbers.) He mentioned 4G as one of two reasons why he didn't want to go for it. I think the other reason had something to do with "smartphones" and something being "off" with the price. I can't remember exactly, but it seemed stupid to me- if our smartphones work now, why can't they with Ting, since it's the SAME Sprint service?

The only issue I see is that giant looming What-If of the early termination fees. Or if our phones somehow start having crappy service if we switch- which I see as highly unlikely.

I'm bummed.


« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 11:25:37 AM by redeyedtreefr0g »

Daley

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2013, 12:14:13 PM »
He mentioned 4G as one of two reasons why he didn't want to go for it.

ZOMG! Mah innerrnuts might loose uh Gee!

*sigh* My deepest sympathies, it still astounds me the excuses people come up with to not save money sometimes. Basically, it sounds like he's saying he doesn't want to lose the exact same Sprint 4G WiMax and LTE coverage that you already have with Sprint that Ting also has access to:

http://ting.com/coverage
https://ting.com/blog/4g-lte-and-ting/

Can you get data service when you're roaming in Verizon territory? No, but a) how often does that happen anyway, and b) is the internet urge so desperate that he can't stand the thought of losing even a minute of data service while out in rural America? Wilderness! Trees! Animals! Take in the beauty instead of staring at a little glowing rectangle.

I think the other reason had something to do with "smartphones" and something being "off" with the price. I can't remember exactly, but it seemed stupid to me- if our smartphones work now, why can't they with Ting, since it's the SAME Sprint service?

Pretty much... and the only thing off with the prices are the ones you guys are currently paying for the services you're actually receiving. Accepting those as normal instead of a ripoff skews one's perception. We're talking about an MVNO here... a company that has no physical cellular infrastructure of their own, buys all their cellular service in bulk from not one, but two major CDMA networks to resell, pays for the overhead of a support department in North America that actually answers the phone, operates as a postpaid provider without any contracts, and still turns enough of a profit off a pricing structure that shaves over $100 off your bill every month without any usage changes to make it worth their while to be in business.

Your husband wants to know what's off? How about the fact that we have to go through middle man resellers like this who are making money being middle man resellers just to actually save money with our cellular services in this country in the first place!

The only issue I see is that giant looming What-If of the early termination fees. Or if our phones somehow start having crappy service if we switch- which I see as highly unlikely.

I'm bummed.

It's easy to calculate ETFs and the ROI:

http://www.myrateplan.com/contract_termination_fees/
http://www.techmeshugana.com/tools/wirelessroi.html

If your phones suddenly get crappy service after the switch, it'll be because Sprint is having issues, or your handset is failing or has been damaged. But yes, highly unlikely.

Don't let it bum you out... it just means you have to do more research and show him enough proof that it's worth the switch. Present the math in terms simple enough for a child to understand if you have to. If he's still not willing for any reason at that point, then there's nothing left to do but wave goodbye to the money.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 12:16:09 PM by I.P. Daley »

Daley

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2013, 12:17:46 PM »
Anything similar for Verizon users?

Not really, unless you count Ting's ability to roam on the Verizon network for voice and text service. There is Page Plus, however. Check the guide for options.

redeyedtreefr0g

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2013, 01:39:55 PM »
Assuming I don't want to fart around with GoogleVoice (which I don't- I don't see the point after all that confusion), but DO manage to convince hubby to switch (I realize I'm running out of time!)- how would that swap-over process work?

Do we call Sprint, cancel service with ETFs ready to pay on January 31 and get the devices unlocked (is that how it works?)
then call Ting very early on February 1st and just start new service with them with our phones and have new local numbers?

MountainFlower

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2013, 01:52:17 PM »

... and b)No is the internet urge so desperate that he can't stand the thought of losing even a minute of data service while out in rural America? Wilderness! Trees! Animals! Take in the beauty instead of staring at a little glowing rectangle.


I truly laughed out loud.  So true.

Daley

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Re: The Cell Phone Thing for Dummies
« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2013, 02:55:26 PM »
Assuming I don't want to fart around with GoogleVoice (which I don't- I don't see the point after all that confusion), but DO manage to convince hubby to switch (I realize I'm running out of time!)- how would that swap-over process work?

Do we call Sprint, cancel service with ETFs ready to pay on January 31 and get the devices unlocked (is that how it works?)
then call Ting very early on February 1st and just start new service with them with our phones and have new local numbers?

At this point, you might be a bit too late to the ETF payout game with their queue system anyway, especially if you don't have intermediary handsets available yet for service transfer given you can't activate Sprint handsets before the ETF subsity payout (if any) or while the handset has active service. https://ting.com/etf

Call and ask for details on what'll be needed. If you've got a few old working Sprint handsets still kicking around, those would work well for intermediary handsets. It's that or use Google or a cheap MVNO to port your numbers out with first before porting the numbers back over to Ting. Yes, it will be a hair bit complicated to migrate both the numbers and the handsets at the same time.