Wednesday, 19 October 2011
What if I told you that you could now have Google voice working with an iPhone’s native phone and messaging apps -- much like you can with Android -- and that you don’t have to jailbreak or install the Google Voice iOS app to do it? Yep. Read on!
Last week I ordered an iPhone 4S from Sprint. That’s my carrier since I left AT&T well over a year ago, and I’ve been a Android user on Sprint since I made the move. But before that I was an avid iPhone owner, happy with the phone and reluctant to drop it. But AT&T woes finally forced my move. Now, for the record I like Android. One of the great benefits of an Android phone for me over the past year has been the fact that the Google Voice service can be built right in, native to the phone. For those not familiar, Google Voice (lots of info is available here) is a service that gives you “one phone number for life.” You give that one phone number to people, and that numbers is used to ring all your phones – cell phones, home phones, work phones, whatever – in whatever manner and schedule you choose. If you switch providers and get a new cell number or home or work number, no worries. Just update your Google Voice account with your new or additional numbers, and you main GV number that you give out to everyone will ring the new ones, presto zappo bango. Google Voice also provides text messaging services and voice mail, accessible on a mobile phone via mobile web or a smartphone apps, as well as through a web browser on your laptop or desktop computer.
For quite some time an iPhone app has been available that one can install on the phone, which allows you to place calls, send text messages and get voicemail from your Google Voice account. But you have to do all of those things in the Google Voice app. So, it’s a little clunky – think of it as an extra, non-default phone dialer and text messaging app that sits alongside and kind of duplicates the purpose of your iPhone’s native dialing and messaging apps. In other words, to use Google Voice on the iPhone with the app, you have to use your iPhone differently.
But – thanks to Sprint and the fact that they now have the iPhone 4/4S in their inventory – we no longer need to use the Google Voice iPhone app and can get practically full functionality, using the apps that are native to the iPhone.
Earlier this year, Sprint and Google announced they were joining forces (loosely) and providing the ability to integrate your Sprint wireless account with Google Voice in a manner that would allow you either to use your existing GV number as your mobile number, or alternatively to use your existing Sprint phone number as your Google Voice number. When you set the service up that way, Google Voice becomes your voice mail system and you get all the messaging and calling benefits of Google Voice, too. And, it works with all Sprint-branded mobile phones, not just Android – which is a real differentiator vs. the other wireless carriers.
The beauty of it all: You can set up Google Voice integrated with your Sprint account to both send and receive phone calls and text messages from the native iPhone app interfaces, without the need to jailbreak your phone to install third party apps/hacks, and without the need to install the Google Voice iOS app. People you call or send a text message to will see your Google Voice number in caller ID or as the message sender. Voice mail access works a little differently, but we’ll cover that in a bit.
For discussion purposes to try simplify things, I’m going to refer to this integrated-Google-Voice-Sprint-Account customer experience as “Sprint Integration” for the remainder of this post.
It’s also probably worth pointing out that there are a couple of practical limitations (which are in no way related to the iPhone) that some people run into when setting up their Sprint Integration.
- First of all, if you have a Sprint calling plan that is business-liable (as opposed to a personal phone account), the integration is not supported or enabled. Some individual Sprint customers own their own phones and pay their own bills, but because they got an employer’s corporate discount or similar situation their account is actually flagged as a business account. That should be pretty simple to fix in most cases with a call to Sprint customer service. But just know that actual business accounts are not eligible.
- In addition, if you’ve set up phone call or SMS blocking or filtering through Sprint, you won’t be able to integrate your line with Google Voice until you disable those features in your Sprint account -- but note that Google Voice can usually enable you to do effectively the same thing.
So, how do I make this work?
It’s actually pretty simple. I won’t go into every single detail here, but I will cover the basics. I’m going to assume you can set up a Google Voice account, and if you need more information use the links above to learn everything you need to know.
Okay. First of all, there are a few things you need to make this work:
- An iPhone 4 or 4S provided by Sprint (no, this process can’t and won’t work with an AT&T or Verizon iPhone).
- A Sprint plan that is not a corporate/business plan. Family plans are fine, as long as they are not a business-liable plan.
- No call or text blocking/filtering configured in your Sprint account.
- A Google Voice account (they’re free) that has a phone number already assigned (in other words, not just the GMail-based “Google Voice Lite” thing – upgrade if necessary).
- About 15 to 30 minutes of free time.
To start, once you have logged into your Google Voice account, you’ll need to go to the Settings menu (by clicking the gear icon on the GV screen, over in the upper right area). Then navigate to the “Phones” section of the Google Voice settings. Here you’ll see any forwarding phones you’ve already set up in Google Voice.
A side note: If you already have another Sprint phone line set up in Google Voice with Sprint integration enabled, you cannot set up a second Sprint-integrated line on the same GV account. That’s not really documented anywhere, so I found this out the hard way since my Android phone was already fully integrated before I got my iPhone. So, when I added the iPhone to my Google Voice account I wasn’t even given the option to enable the Sprint integration. What this means is that if you already have one Sprint phone integrated, you’ll either need to disable the Sprint integration on that line or use a different Google Voice account to set up your new Sprint number on. I had troubles deactivating the Sprint integration on my Android phone, so had to search down help from both Sprint and Google so it could be manually deprovisioned. Hopefully you won’t run into that problem - but let me know if you do and I will try to point you in the right direction…
If the Sprint number you want to integrate has not already been added to your configured phones in Google Voice, you’ll need to do that now: At the bottom of the list of configured calling devices (phones, GMail chat, etc.) is a link you can click to “Add another phone.” Follow the simple instructions, enter the codes it promts you to use, and in a minute or three you’ll have your Sprint mobile phone number set up and working in Google Voice is basic mode. You’re not completely done yet, but you’re close. For now, make a call from another phone to your Google Voice number and validate that your newly-added phone rings, just to verify everything is working properly. Remember: Test often, and at each step. It’s a good habit to get into when it comes to “mashing up” multiple computer/technology systems.
Next, take a look at the entry for your iPhone in the GV Phones list (in Settings). You should find a Sprint logo on the screen, next to the nickname you gave your iPhone phone, as well as a link that says “Check eligibility for Sprint integration.” Click on that link.
You’ll need to choose between the two available options: Do you 1) want your Sprint mobile number to become your new Google Voice number, or do you 2) want to replace your Sprint mobile number with your GV number? If everyone has and knows your Sprint phone number, then you can choose option one, so you don’t have to distribute a new phone number to everyone. But, if you’ve already given your Google Voice number out to people who need to reach you, you’ll choose option two like I did. The net effect of that choice in the end will be that when you place calls and send messages from your Sprint phone, the recipient of the call or text message will see your Google Voice number in Caller ID and on the text message. And that’s really the point.
So -- Make the choice appropriate for your situation, then wait patiently for several seconds while the Google Voice communicates in the background with Sprint. Before you know it both companies’ systems will be provisioned to handle your calls all mash-up-cyborg-app style. If successful, you will see a message that tells you:
Your Sprint number, (000) 000-0000 is now integrated with Google Voice.
Calls and text sent from this phone will display your Google Voice number.
Your Sprint voicemail has been replaced with Google voicemail.
International calls from this phone will be placed through Google Voice.
Now you’ll probably want to set up a voice mail greeting in Google Voice if you don’t already have one (or just use the generic default if you prefer (yuck)).
Your next step should be to place a phone call to a number that’s not attached to a Google Voice account (like a friend’s cell phone) and verify that the caller ID shows the correct number.
Next, make sure “Receive text messages on this phone” is checked in the Google Voice setting for your line, and then send a text message to a non-GV phone to make sure it’s sent using the correct number.
Note: It’s actually important to use non-Google-Voice phones for these test calls and text messages, since GV can recognize when one GV enabled phone is communicating with another GV number, and will sometimes try to be “helpful” and modify the normal process of displaying Caller ID data.
If the proper phone number is displayed on calls and text messages sent from the iPhone native Phone and Messages apps, and if your iPhone rings when someone calls your Google Voice number, you’re all set!
What about voice mail?
The only thing that won’t work natively in the iPhone apps in this configuration is visual voice mail. Since the iPhone’s visual voice mail app doesn’t recognize Google Voice from the voice message perspective, you have a couple choices here:
- Configure Google Voice in your browser to email you link to any voice mails (on the Voicemail & Text tab in Settings), and/or
- Check the box in the list for your integrated phone (on the Phones tab in Settings) to enable Google Voice send you a text message when a new voice mail is received
This integration works – as I started to explain earlier – with any “Sprint branded” phone. That doesn’t mean phones that have a Sprint logo painted on them, but rather refers to phones provided under contract by Sprint that operate on the Sprint CDMA network (not Nextel, nor the other carriers that piggyback on Sprint’s network). And, just to be clear one last time, Sprint is the only current service option for native integration of Google voice on an iPhone as described here. So, if you have AT&T or Verizon, sorry pal… No native app integration for you, at least not yet. You’ll just have to use the Google Voice iOS app, which you can download free from the Apple App Store.
And honestly -- If you’re thinking about getting an iPhone 4 or 4S and are leaning toward Verizon or AT&T – stop and consider this:
- Sprint’s mobile service costs less than both Verizon’s and AT&T’s
- Sprint’s plan actually allows unlimited data usage, while Verizon’s is capped – as is AT&T’s
- When Sprint customers roam, it’s free of charge – and it’s on Verizon’s network (!)
- Dropped calls? Not in my experience, which is a far cry from what I dealt with on AT&T…
- Did I mention Sprint’s service costs less?
So – lower cost, you get to use the other guy’s network for free when needed, and no data caps. Sure, download speeds *might* be marginally slower here and there (and even that’s a debatable point), but there’s one more benefit you should know about: Sprint lets you sign up, get the phone and service, and try it our for 14 days. If you don’t like it, cancel your service and return the phone in good and complete condition where you bought it, and you’ll walk away with a refund for the price of the device and any early termination fee you paid. You will pay for the service you used and probably for the activation fee as well (unless you cancel service within the first 3 days), but nothing more.
If I sound like a Sprint commercial, trust me - I’m not. I’m just a customer that likes my wireless provider – and for what it’s worth, I’m a pretty darn picky customer.
Got questions about the Sprint iPhone integration with Google Voice? Post them in the comments and where it makes sense, I’ll update this post with details I may have missed. And be sure to share your iPhone integration success stories as well!
Friday, 07 October 2011
Can I cancel my current Sprint account/plan and get a new iPhone 4S?
There's this new iPhone coming out - the iPhone 4S. Maybe you heard about it? Pretty nice device, really. I had iPhones exclusively for a few years from the time Apple came out with them - the original model and then the 3G. I never took the 3GS leap.
But a year and a half ago I fired AT&T out of frustration over continued poor service and moved over to Sprint. That meant I had to give up my iPhone, since AT&T was still the exclusive iPhone carrier. It also meant I never picked up an iPhone 4 model, other than the few times I made a call from a friend's phone. Instead I moved to an Android device, the Evo 4G (which I like, by the way).
Now, let me say up front that I'm not sure if I really want to make a change back to the iPhone right now. The Android phone actually works pretty well for me, as far as the OS and phone itself are concerned. Frankly, I rarely use the 4G capability of the Evo, mostly because of the limited and often spotty 4G WiMax service. But when it works, it works pretty well. Since I made the move away from AT&T a year and a half ago, Verizon - and starting next week Sprint - have added the iPhone to their lineups. I miss some of the capabilities and features I used to get with the iPhone, especially when it comes to app integration between the Macbook, iPad and the iPhone for my aviation-related apps, which get a lot of use between the iPad and Mac these days.
So, I decided to check and see what I'd have to shell out, should I decide I wanted to move to a new iPhone 4S on my Sprint account. The problem I foresaw was that I'm about six months away from the end of my current two-year contract. So, when logging into sprint.com the system told me I'd have to pay full price to order a new iPhone 4s today. Of course, it also informed me I could wait 176 days for upgrade eligibility, and then get $150 off the full price. The rather alarming full prices are:
- 16GB iPhone 4S $649.99
- 32GB iPhone 4S $749.99
- 64GB iphone 4S $849.99
- 8GB iPhone 4 original $549.99
So, I can pay full price now or $499 for a 16GB model in 6 months (more for the larger models). I would guess (but am not certain) that at that time I might be able to also sign a new 2-year contract with Sprint and get an additional $200 off, which would theoretically put me at $299 for the 16GB model with a fresh two-year Sprint contract lock-up. Or is the $150-off-list- price deal dependent on a 2-year deal as well? I will have to ask about that. Either way, I'm at least $100 more than the prices announced the other day (which require a contract)
Next I checked with Verizon, thinking maybe I could just cancel my Sprint service and go over there right away to get the subsidized price with a new two-year contract and not have to wait. Their prices were much more reasonable - and less than I'd pay at Sprint even if I waited for six more months and took the deal I already mentioned. Verizon's new account prices are: $99.00 for the original iPhone 4 and $199/$299$/399 for the new 4S models (also the same prices Sprint offer's it's new customers)
I don't really want to cancel my Sprint service: I get (truly) unlimited data and messaging on Sprint - and you don't get that on the other carriers (there tends to be a 2GB limit). I have a family plan, which allows me to share minutes between two lines, free evenings and weekend, free calls to any mobile phone, and more. Plus their service has been great for me, and when I roam it's free and it's on Verizon's network. I basically get the best of both worlds network-wise. Oh, and the monthly price is right, too. I like Sprint.
Out of curiosity, I logged back into my sprint.com account for another look, and decided to see what it would cost to add an additional line to my existing Sprint family plan and get a new iPhone that way. Maybe that would be cheaper? Ahh, what do you know - The site showed I could do just that and get the same two-year-commitment pricing as Verizon offered. Now we were getting somewhere!
But I don't need or want two phones or two numbers. So finally I called Sprint and asked the helpful support rep what would happen if I *added* a new number and additional line of service to my existing family plan account (a third line costs $19.99 a month if I add it and share the pool of minutes I'm already paying for). My real question was this: Could I then immediately cancel my original number/phone/service from the family plan?
"Sure you can do that," he said. I'ld have to pay a $90 early termination fee balance for the existing line (it's prorated from the original $200 fee (which Sprint recently increased to $350)), and they'd move my existing Sprint number to the new iPhone, too if I wanted. The Sprint rep even put me on hold and took the time to verify with management that was okay to do. Oh, and if I want they'll purchase the used Evo 4G through their buy-back program and credit me $87 for it - which would pretty much negate the $90 early termination fee. Alternatively I could sell the Evo 4G to someone else if I wanted. Either way, it's not a bad deal. And the $19.99 a month fee for the third line would go away as soon as I cancelled the original line, too.
So, based on what the Sprint rep told me it's doable - and fairly reasonable. They recover their costs through the balance of the early termination fee, and get a subscriber locked in for an additional two years (and the early-termination fee for the new phone would be $350.00). If I want, I can get an iPhone 4S without having to pay $650-$850 for the privilege. Sometimes all you have to do is ask the right questions.
Not sure yet if I'll actually decide to get an iPhone 4S. I'd have to think carefully about what I'd lose in the process, app-wise.
One big red flag is that I use Google Voice exclusively for calling and text messages, and it's all Frankenstein-style-built-in on Android natively via the Google Voice app. Not so much on iPhone. Update: I picked up a Sprint iPhone and was able to pretty much fully integrate Google Voice without having to use the Google Voice app, full information here.
So that's one important trade-off to consider, along with the change Sprint made on September 9th: They now charge a $350 termination fee (the same as Verizon and AT&T) that's pro-rated depending on the number of months left on a subscriber's contract. But regardless, it's good to know that if one wants to make the move, it appears there's a reasonable way to do it.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
I’ve been a Google Voice (and before that GrandCentral) user for a few years now. It’s a terrific service that provides One Phone Number to Rule Them All, so to speak. You can associate multiple different phone accounts (land, mobile, satellite, whatever suits you) with one Google Voice number and can change them at any time. So, anyone can dial or send text messages to your Google Voice number, and you control which phones ring and when, and where your text messages go.
Today Google announced that they are offering a service for $20 that allows you to port your existing mobile phone number to Google Voice, which means you can start using GV without having to take on a whole new phone number. That’s a great thing when you want to avoid the hassles of getting people to start using a new number.
But there are a few things you should know before you make this move, so you can be sure it’s for you.
Google Voice supports most – but but not all – of the features you have on a typical mobile/smart-phone plan. Certainly you will be able to receive calls, get voice mail, and send/receive text messages (especially on Android with the awesome GV app).
There are, however, a few common mobile features that are not supported by Google Voice:
- Multi-media Messaging Service (MMS): If you like to send video, picture or audio messages to your friends and family, Google Voice can’t do this. I regularly have to tell people trying to send me their video or picture to send it to my email or my actual cell phone number provided by the carrier (which I don’t give out – that would defeat the whole purpose of Google Voice). So, if MMS and one number if critical for you, you should wait until GV gets around to supporting this.
- Calls to your Google Voice number are not counted as calls to a mobile number for the purpose of mobile carrier call plans. So mobile-to-mobile minutes won’t get accounted for in the same way.
- With a couple of exceptions, calls you make from phones attached to you Google Voice account will not show up on called ID as having come from your Google Voice number. The exceptions to this are when calls are initiated through the GV web app (in which case Google’s systems dial you up on your phone then connect you to the person you’re dialing) and a few of the GV mobile apps like the ones for Android and iPhone. The Android app actually builds itself into the Android OS’ dialing system and it’s truly seamless. On the iPhone you need to dial using the Google Voice app.
- For text messages to be sent to mobile phones and for them to appear as coming from your GV account phone number, they need to be sent through the GV service, too. This means using the Google Voice interface on Android OS (which you can set as your text messaging default, by the way), via the iPhone app, etc., or from the most useful Google Voice web app interface mentioned earlier. I use the web app all the time for text messaging from my computer browser. But it’s different, so you need to realize that.
- Text messages sent by applications and to/from short message codes (like Skype, your bank, etc.) don’t work.
That said, Google Voice is a terrific service that lets you have one phone number that can ring and deliver messages across several other phones. I use two Google Voice numbers – one I give out as my home phone and the other is for work calls. If I am working from my home office, both numbers cause my home phone to ring, but no one actually knows the number of my home phone – they just know the GV number that I gave them. If I move or far whatever reason change hone phone or work or cell phone numbers, I don’t have to worry about telling anyone. I just change the associated numbers in my Google Voice account. If I am on vacation somewhere across the country for a few days and want calls made to my home GV number - but only from my family members - to ring a phone number at my friend’s house, but only after 8am and before 11pm, and not during the next two hours because I want to get a nap… Google Voice can do that for me, too. It’s really quite powerful and easy to set up.
You can set schedules for different phones, and having a complete history of every call, voice mail and text message available in the browser app is really very nice. If any of the phone numbers associated with the different phones you have connected to your GV account and number should change in the future, there’s no need to tell the world. The people you know can just keep dialing your GV number, and in the background you can change that number that AT&T gave you back in the day when you got your first iPhone and point it at your new Verizon number. Hey, I’m just sayin’...
More information about porting numbers and Google Voice in general can be found at:
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Time has come for Jolly Ol' Saint Nick to pay his visits to the good little girls and boys this year. Here are a couple resources you can use with the kiddos to interact with Santa and build up some additional excitement for the Christmas event.
As always, NORAD is tracking Santa's progress throughout the Christmas delivery window. You can go with your kids to http://noradsanta.org for lots of information and links to various tracking resources. There's even a mobile version of the site (m.noradsanta.org) and a Twitter feed (twitter.com/noradsanta). Oh, and on Facebook, too at http://facebook.com/noradsanta of course. Here is the obligatory YouTube video:
But, that's not all. For those parents who might want to arrange a call from the Jolly Old Elf himself, there's an app (or two or three) for that. For those living in the Android world, here are a couple:
CALLME! Christmas - Allows you to choose a child's name and a message and receive a "phone call" (actually an app that plays the audio locally) that you can answer with your child. Lots of good options and pretty cool.
Christmas Call from Santa - This one allows you to receive up to four actual calls. In this case, any phone can be used and a real phone call comes in with a good or "don't be naughty" greeting.
And - from the BONUS department - Check out the interactive Talking Santa (free) app in the Android Market. It's a lot of fun and the kids will enjoy it.
For those without a smartphone, there's also a service on the web called Santa's Hotline that you can use to arrange calls to your child - by name - from Santa. You schedule and choose the call. Very cool.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Monday, 21 June 2010
I've recently run across a number of great resources while researching my Sprint EVO 4G phone, which runs the Android operating system and is quite tweakable.
One of the top resources I've found is called Good and EVO, a blog that answers in patient detail lots and lots of great questions. Anyone who has the device and doesn't know where to start but wants to learn about the phone and how to make it really work should read through all the articles on the site. It's very well-written and contains a wealth of information and links. Check it out at http://www.goodandevo.net/.
Another excellent - and more technical - resource is the xda-developers Android Development forum for the EVO 4G phone. Uber-geeks will rejoice in all the slang and tech jargon being slung around the walls of these rooms. Of particular interest for people getting started hacking on the EVO is "rooting" the device and installing customer ROMs (images of the operating system packages). Check out the EVO Helpful/Popular Threads topic for links to the basics, and check out the broader forum for lots and lots more. The forum can be found at http://forum.xda-developers.com/forumdisplay.php?f=653.
Other good resources to list?
Saturday, 19 June 2010
The other day I decided I'd had enough pain in my relationship with AT&T and that I was going to make a move. I looked at my various options, and landed on Sprint and the EVO 4G Android-based smart phone. I've spent a few days with the new service and device, and I thought I would write up some early thoughts and opinions.
First of all, let's get this part out of the way: I already miss using the iPhone. Now, the Android phone is cool and there are a lot of good things to say about it. But the iPhone is what I'm used to, and from size to form to OS usability to - well - fit and finish, so to speak... The iPhone is great, and hard to leave.
Sprint's mobile service
As expected, Sprint's service is a little patchier in certain spots around the Portland area than AT&T, while in other areas Sprint provide substantially better coverage. Neither carrier truly blankets the entire area effectively. At my house, located in a fairly remote and rural area about an hour northwest of the city, service by both carriers is equally spotty.
But one thing about the Sprint service that stands out over AT&T's is the call delivery stability. Calls go through, the phone rings when someone is calling, and I have yet to experience a dropped call even once. Even in areas with one or two bars of signal strength showing on the phone I can reliably place and receive calls. Try that with an iPhone on AT&T (even in strong signal strength areas) and one is bound for overall abject failure disappointment.
The EVO 4G phone
The phone is pretty darned slick, and Android is a very cool operating system. It's a tough adjustment from the iPhone to this device in some ways. But overall, color me quite impressed. The display is nice, and even though it's a little larger than I might like it is good hardware with a quality fit and finish.
Battery life is somewhat frustrating, and Sprint even hands out a half sheet of paper when you buy the phone printed with recommendations on how to configure your phone to prevent battery drain. The usual suspects apply (turn off GPS and 4G when not in use, turn down screen brightness, etc.) but I think we all recognize that they wouldn't be handing out the sheet if battery consumption wasn't an issue for customers. That said, my experience so far is that battery life is fairly reasonable if you follow the recommendations. I just wish it wasn't necessary, and I'm hopeful someone builds something like a 3000 mAh battery that will fit in the same slot as the provided 1500 mAh battery. There's a little extra room inside that back compartment, so if it's practical to build a bigger battery to fit, hopefully someone will come through. I know I'd buy it.
There are some good apps out there, but not the same quality as I can find for the iPhone in the areas I care about the most. And I am having problems with some apps crashing and force-quitting that are more than just a little frustrating.
The ability to customize and run widgets, etc. on the phone's "desktop" screens is super cool, and the Google Voice app builds itself into the OS in such an elegant, Borg-like manner that it just makes sense for GV people. There are a couple glitches in the app, but hopefully those get improved upon over time.
In a nutshell...
I miss the iPhone a bit. The EVO is a great phone, don't get me wrong.
I don't miss AT&T at all, at least not yet. My calls on Sprint go through the first time and they don't drop. Data connectivity is reliable and performs well. I can't say that about AT&T.
Thinking out loud about the service issues on AT&T's network...
I'm no cell phone service expert. Far from it. But one thing I've wondered over the past few days is whether the issues on the AT&T network are solely carrier problems, or if some small part of the blame might be Apple's. Is it possible the methods of connecting to and communicating on the network being implemented by Apple aren't optimal? I wonder because for the past year I've carried my iPhone with me for personal use, while at the same time carrying a Blackberry - also on AT&T's network - for business purposes. Frequently the Blackberry performs better in any given location than the iPhone. But not always. There are times when both devices just fall off the back of the truck as far as network connectivity and reliability (for both voice and data) is concerned, Yet I can say based on that year's worth of experience that when I've needed to make a call and ensure the best chance of staying connected and not getting dropped, I've used the Blackberry with noticeably greater reliability.
The amateur radio geek in me in me can think of a few possible reasons for the difference between the performance differences between my iPhone and the Blackberry in the same locations at the same time:
- They connect and communicate differently - Obviously the engineers at the different phone manufacturers don't get together in the same room and write radio code, so I suppose it's possible RIM's people are better at this than Apple's folks.
- They're using different cell towers/radios/bands/frequencies - Since these are multi-band transceivers, one has to remember that they may not be operating on the exact same infrastructure equipment at any given point in time. In that case, performance would likely be different.
- The Blackberry seems to hand-off to EDGE sooner than the iPhone, and it stays connected to the network at least a little more reliably.
At any rate, it's hard for me to know what I will think of the EVO and Sprint in another week. I have this 30-day period to decide if it's right for me, and if it doesn't work out I can decide to try something else, or even go back to AT&T if it turns out I was wrong in my decision. But that doesn't sound like something I want to do at this point.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
As I explained in my last post, I made the decision over the past few days to move away from AT&T for mobile phone service, which necessitated a change in the smart phone hardware I use since the iPhone is exclusive (for now, anyhow) to AT&T in the United States. I did some research, got some advice from people I know, read a lot of reviews, and heard out several others who contacted me with their thoughts -- and then today I took action.
After work, I left the office and started for home. It was a little after 5pm, and I thought to myself, I wonder if there’s a Sprint store nearby? I’d been looking at the HTC EVO 4G, a truly impressive Android-based smart phone that operates on the Sprint/Clear 4G network for data, as well as Sprint’s 3G mobile network.
Turns out there’s a store just a few blocks away, so I turned around and drove there. I had realistic expectations as I headed over: The HTC EVO 4G is sold out on the Sprint and HTC web sites, and is in very short supply/unavailable pretty much everywhere, so my hope was that the store would at least have a working demo unit that I could take a look at and test drive.
Turns out they had two working units on the shelf, and the *very* friendly and *very* helpful young lady at the store quickly and expertly walked me though the phone for a minute or so. I was pretty impressed with the fact that she immediately picked up on my experience and expertise level and tailored her very knowledgeable interaction to me. So if someone at Sprint reads this, please take this as a commendation for Meghan O. at your Tanasbourne Town Center store in Beaverton, Oregon. She deserves a customer service award, truly. No pressure, all information, and true passion about the phone and Sprint’s service. Compare that to my experiences in AT&T stores and there’s really no contest. In fact, the Sprint customer service experience reminds me a lot of the service experience in an Apple store, come to think of it. Hmmmm… Maybe Apple should think about that.
But I digress. It turns out they had three brand new, in-the-box EVO4G phones that people had reserved but not picked up, so they were available for the taking. Oh, I started to drool. Well, not really – but I think you know what I mean.
I’ll save all the gory details of why this is such a cool phone for another post, since I need to get some sleep tonight. But I want to explain here why I’ve decided to engage Sprint as my probable (operative word there, see below) new service provider.
- First of all, I can get more for my money. For the same price I am paying AT&T each month for iPhone service and a data plan, I can get the same number of minutes, same unlimited messaging, free calls to any mobile phone on any carrier in the US, free nights and weekends, and – BONUS – the Sprint hot-spot coverage, where the EVO 4G acts as a wifi hot-spot for up to 8 devices to access the Internet.
- I haven’t decided this yet, but I am considering dropping the 3G data service plan from AT&T on my iPad and just using the EVO 4G to provide Internet service via the hot-spot capability (and at faster speeds, I should add). The $30 a month savings pays for the hot-spot feature. I could always sign up as needed for AT&T 3G service on an ad-hoc basis at $15 a month if I need their service for some reason.
- Sprint has a 30-day return policy, which allows you to evaluate Sprint and the hardware you choose, and return the equipment in non-damaged condition within that window for a full refund - including no charge for the service used. In effect they’re saying, “Come try us, and if you don’t like it, we will take the equipment back and make you whole again.” That’s corporate confidence, and should I find out I’m an idiot and made a bad decision (or if I decide I want to take a look at a third carrier) I have the option to get out, no questions asked. I like the try-us-on option. Good move.
- Sprint’s early termination fees are substantially lower than the competition’s newly-published penalties: At Sprint, it’s $200 max, and after you’re about 8 months into your 24-month contract, the penalty starts to drop by $10 a month until it bottoms out at $50 -- and that’s a pretty reasonable deal.
- No limits on data usage for the smart phone. AT&T and others are now capping their “unlimited” plans (and thank goodness, they’re re-labeling them in most cases to be more accurate in their descriptions).
- In the store, Meghan’s customer service skills and knowledge simply won me over. She was confident in what she was saying, quick but not rushed, covered all the bases accurately and efficiently, and answered literally every question I had with answers I wanted to hear.
I’ll add a few things about the EVO 4G phone, because they just have to be said. Keep in mind, I am a bit of an iPhone and Apple fan-boy, and I made the tough decision to leave AT&T and the iPhone not because of Apple’s hardware and software, but instead because of AT&T’s poor service and quality woes.
- This is a sharp phone. The screen is big (really big) and vibrant and it’s a solid build. It feels good in your hand.
- The camera is great, and even gives you access to detailed configuration settings like auto or manual white balance, various recording resolutions, etc.
- And that’s just the main camera. There’s also a second, front-facing camera working at VGA resolution for video chatting/conferencing or whatever you want to use it for (maybe you want to shoot your own passport pictures – it’s all up to you).
- One thing the Apple iPhone doesn’t have a native app for (which is a real shame), but Android does: The Google Voice app. I downloaded and installed the GV app in about a minute and configured it to use my Google Voice account, and now the Android phone uses my GV account – natively – to place and receive calls and text messages. It’s totally borged, all wired in tightly without the need to launch a separate app for calls or anything. You go to the regular phone and messaging apps on the phone, and they knows they’re tied directly to Google Voice. That’s huge, and it’s unique to the Android platform. If you’re a Google Voice power user, Android is *definitely* for you. Find me and ask for a demo, I’ll show you what I mean.
- The Android UI is awesome. It’s responsive, intuitive and even fun to use. I’m impressed.
- 4G data service. I happen to live in Portland, Oregon, which is one of the early cities that got WiMax/4G from the start. The network is pretty well established here and so this means a lot in my book. Fast Internet service for a flat fee and ability to share it with other devices is hot.
There’s a lot more to love about the EVO 4G phone, but I’ll save the rest for another post. Suffice it to say, I am pleasantly surprised and quite impressed with both Sprint and the new HTC phone.
More to come later. If you have an opinion, comment away and let me know!
© Copyright 2013 Greg Hughes
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
This page was rendered at Tuesday, 05 March 2013 15:03:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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