I have been using my cell phone more and more for conference calls and I got sick of upping my minutes with Verizon each month.  After the news about Straight Talk offering the iPhone at low monthly fees I began investigating that.  I have a 4S that works just fine, but it seemed like with Straight Talk I would need to buy from them to use Verizon, the BYOD would require an AT&T version (although the 4S is GSM and CDMA apparently the GSM is restricted on the Verizon/Sprint versions to prevent being used on AT&T).

My research brought me to Page Plus.  Unlike Straight Talk which offers unlimited* data, Page Plus offers unlimited talk and text with 2 GB of data for $55/month…more than Straight Talk, but cheaper than buying a new phone.  Some online posts talk about flashing the ROM or paying some third party an activation fee.  I went directly to Page Plus and ported my number and entered the identifying number from my phone.  I took a risk and did this over GoGo during a flight, but luckily when I landed my phone worked just fine and my plan went from $101 for 900 minutes, 500 texts and 2 GB data to unlimited talk and text with 2 GB data for $55.  I did have to pay an early termination fee with Verizon, but the difference between my old plan and the new plan has a break-even point of 4 months.  My company would provide me with a basic phone.  I choose to only use 1 phone and so I accept a cell phone allowance to cover basic service.

I have noticed no difference in service between Verizon and Page Plus and I have been with them for 3 months now.  My reception is still the same and my speed tests are comparable.  I haven’t had to deal with Page Plus customer service, but I never had to deal with Verizon either.  I even managed to check and I was “roaming” in Canada which is something Virgin Mobile would never do.  I have not attempted to make a call or text in Canada since I try to avoid those fees.  The Page Plus site says it would be $0.60/minute for voice and $0.25/text.  That is cheaper than Verizon’s $0.69/minute when not purchased as part of an international plan, but messages would be the domestic text rate.

It seems like everyone I know is on some family plan and this may not make sense for them, but for anyone else out there on an individual plan there are finally options to break free from contract carriers and have a phone worth using.  Depending on which carrier you prefer, you can choose prepaid, no-contract carriers on Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile and if you don’t have a phone for that carrier eBay may have a compatible device.

1. Audible – although due to Apple’s regulations they can’t technically sell audiobooks in the app (which is really annoying) I’m a fan of Audible (and maybe one of the few people without an affiliate link).  I am in a couple book clubs back home and it is nice to listen to an audiobook during a long flight.  I can only listen to music for so long before I skip every song, but audiobooks are good for a few hours.  Audible subscriptions also come with a daily subscription to the Wall Street Journal.  I must admit I have few problems going to sleep thanks to that.  I could go from Pacific time to Eastern time and be out like a light thanks to the Audible version of the WSJ.

2. Fly Delta – since I’ve been flying Delta 2/3 of my flights this year, and since US Airways still does not have an iPhone app I have been using my Delta app quite a bit.  I like the online boarding passes and sky club locations.  If I land at a different gate in Atlanta than normal I pull it up and quickly know which Sky Club is closest.  The upgrade list rarely works when I’m at the airport and I valet so I don’t use the parking feature.  Since I’m more of a segment person than miles I wish it would show my MQS so I could use the app to show off, but oh well.

3. Kayak Pro ($0.99) – I had been using TripIt for the longest time, but they gimped their free product so I moved to PageOnce’s Trip Tracker, but that still wasn’t nearly as easy to use as Kayak Pro.  I have my travel agent copy trips@kayak.com on all of my itineraries and I am good to go. Also, Kayak sends me an email with where I’m landing and where I’m departing for layovers.  My flights have been running early (knock on wood) so I’ve been getting the email after already getting to the Sky Club or connecting gate.  Otherwise it’s the first email I read upon landing so I know if I have time to take a diversion or if I need to go straight from A to B.

4. Podcasts – One of my issues with the iPhone for the longest time was the need to sync podcasts with the computer or use a third party application (which defeats the purpose of the extensive and easy to navigate itunes library).  Navigation doesn’t very intuitive in the app in my opinion, but I’m happy to have something downloading my Freakonomics Radio, Grammar Girl, and PointsHoarder podcasts for me.  I had used Stitcher Radio for a bit, but I’m happy with the current release of Podcasts.

5. Google Maps – I don’t bother with my Garmin too much anymore.  Google Maps can quickly pull up hotels from my calendar appointments and get me on my way…no need to wait forever for the GPS to lock in.

 

I bought a Mophie Juice Pack Air from the Best Buy Express in MSP one trip in December when I forgot my iPhone charger.  I really like it because it uses a MicroUSB to charge which meant I was able to borrow chargers from my friends with Android phones and it also has no problem charging from the USB in my car stereo even though my phone will not.

We’re not even in April yet, I’ve maybe taken the thing on 5 trips and the Micro USB had broken off and is just rattling around in the case.  Apparently this is a known issue from previous versions as well because a simple google search turned up this video from the iPhone 3GS:

(NOTE: don’t actually open it because you can’t fix it!)

I like the form factor of a wrap around case and I like the Micro USB charging because that gives me 2 options to charge and I usually have a Micro USB cord for other reasons anyway, but sounds like this case has issues.

 

 

I know I’ve talked about getting an iPhone for a while, but I finally did go to the Apple Store last week and I picked up a 4S on Verizon.

  1. I wanted to get back on Verizon because I my friends with Verizon have coverage where I need it
  2. The features I like are finally available in iOS including Multitasking, wireless syncing, copy and paste
  3. It finally dawned on me that I could just get a bluetooth keyboard so I could still have a physical keyboard
  4. iMessage is pretty cool
  5. But the main reason I at least needed a new phone was because the Intercept just pretty much didn’t work.  It would take 4-5 tries to actually unlock the phone.  I didn’t have a fancy unlock screen, just  the basic 2.2 unlock screen where you swipe from one side to the other.

Another feature which pushed me to the 4S over any previous version is something of key importance to travelers…the iPhone is dual band CDMA and GSM.  The 2 US CDMA carriers are also quite willing to unlock the microSim.  Sprint offers it unlocked from the get-go, and after 60 days Verizon should happily unlock it for me.  Apparently the unlock might still be restricted so I couldn’t use the phone on AT&T or T-Mobile, but I don’t plan on doing that anyway.

Everyone always says that the iPhone “just works.”  Well, right now my android “isn’t working.”  Some of it is probably related to the provider (Virgin Mobile) and some of it is probably related to the Samsung hardware.

My screen isn’t rotating properly.  Sometimes I have to wait more than 10 seconds for it to rotate even after sliding out the keyboard and other triggers like that.

My texts aren’t going through very well and my friend who has the same phone with Virgin Mobile also has this issue.  I’m sure my friends must think I have issues when they get 4 or 5 “What are you doing tonight?” texts from me.

If the iPhone really does “just work” then maybe I might think of migrating over to the dark side.

From Wikipedia

Fring is an application that allows video chat on Android devices and iPhone 4.  The camera on the Backflip is such that when the keyboard is open it is technically a front facing camera so Fring will work for video chat.  Fring can be used for normal talking or IMing on various IM networks with devices on other platforms as well, but it does allow video chat from an iPhone 4 to a non-iPhone.

Fring does not use voice minutes, but does use the data plan or Wifi.

On the Backflip when the application is first opened it states that video chat is disabled due to device limitations.  That is easily remedied by going into the application settings and enabling video chat.  On my end with the Backflip connected to our 3G microcell and to Wifi the video chat was horribly laggy.  While talking in the same room to someone on an iPhone 4 it would take a while to hear him on my end but it seemed like he heard me right away.  I’m not sure if it is the hardware of the Backflip or if it is Android 1.5.

Fring is a pretty bad experience on the Backflip.  Unless you are in a situation where you can use a phone but not a laptop video chat is much better on computers with webcams.  I may use Fring in a pinch during a delay at an airport, but that may be about it.

I believe Skype is coming out with a similar product.  We’ll see how that goes.

Some of my friends are avid hikers and wanted to go for a hike.  DH and I went with them to DuPont National Forest down by Brevard, NC.  It is a beautiful park with quite a few waterfalls.  To get to the good part of the water one must walk over several rocks.  I’m very clumsy so I found a rock with a good view and just stood there, but DH decided to be adventurous.  He took one wrong step and what he thought was a shallow crossing point quickly became a five foot deep section and he quickly found himself shoulder-deep in water backpack, iphone, camera, and all.

Since we had just started hiking and saving his iPhone wasn’t a priority for the rest of the group we continued hiking and it wasn’t until we got home that he really got it out in the air.  We didn’t have any rice in the house and we were so sore after hiking for 4 hours that we didn’t really want to go to the store.

I finally have the iPhone and his digital camera in bags of rice today.  I raided all my pill bottles to find some silica packets and tossed those in the bags of rice.  Any other tips that aren’t covered in other blogs?  cNET makes it sound like he’s SOL since we waited so long.

…the phone and camera were in his pockets.  His Targus backpack remarkably kept his change of clothes and fresh pair of socks dry even though it is a business backpack and not a hiking/camping one.

from Amazon

I’ve had my HTC Fuze for almost 18 months which means May 7th I’m due for a new phone at the 2 year contract rate.  I’m itching to get rid of my Fuze due to the horrible lag and lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack.  I think Windows Mobile is an OK platform, but there isn’t a lot of work going into apps for it.  It’s a pretty dead platform.

I mainly just read e-mail, update RSS feeds of podcasts, and do some light surfing on the phone.  A lot of that is due to the fact that it is tedious to do anything else.  The Twitter app I’m using doesn’t refresh.   To get foursquare to find my location I have to open Google Maps first.  Otherwise it crashes when I try to search for a location.

I want a phone that works.

Requirements:

  1. Sold by AT&T
  2. Physical keyboard
  3. real 3.5 mm headphone jack
  4. e-mail that supports OWA accounts.  My company doesn’t support smart phones so I need an OWA pull client like Seven or Emoze.
  5. touch screen

Contenders:

Photo from Infosyncworld.com

  1. I’d like a Motorola Droid, but no luck there the Motorola Backflip may be the closest thing I can get, but apparently AT&T gimped it and it doesn’t ship with the latest Android
  2. Blackberries seem to meet every requirement except touch screen.  Bold 9700
  3. not much else is there.  The others either don’t have a physical keyboard or won’t be out for several months.
  4. I could sell out and get an iPhone or convince my husband to drop his so we can get off AT&T and back to Verizon, but I think Southwest will install first class before that happens.

Anyone actually use the Backflip out there?  Any suggestions for an AT&T phone?  Should I go with the blackberry 9700?

ETA: I just learned about the Amazon wireless marketplace.  If I’m reading the AT&T website correctly I can get a Back Flip and extend my current contract for $99 or I can do the same on Amazon for $0.01.

GateGuru has launched a new application for the iPhone to act as a guide through airports.