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Smartphones - Phil's Rambling Rants
December 15th, 2011
06:35 pm

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Smartphones
This is somewhat painful for me to admit, but I've never owned a smartphone and I don't know enough about the market to be able to make good choices.  I'm looking for advice, in the hope of being able to get something that will actually help me with my problems rather than just wasting a lot of money that I don't have to spare.

I am hoping to get something that will let me connect a computer to the Internet at home where I have lousy dialup as my only option.  I am worried about whether that's actually a viable option, but as dialup is working less and less well for me, I am becoming more and more desperate.  So I'd like to learn what I could really get, what I'd have to do to make it work, and how much it actually costs.  (Which I do know enough to understand is more than the big print in the ads wants you to think.)  I need to learn: which company is best to deal with, what phone and plan would work, does it actually work at my house, and what do I have to buy in addition to the phone and the plan to get my ancient Windows XP box to talk through it.  My big problem here is that I want this to be my primary Internet connection, not just an occasional supplement.  I'm really hoping to hear from people who have actually made this work.

If, after learning all the details, the verdict is that it's just not economically useful to use this as an Internet connection, my fallback position is that I'm looking for the cheapest option that allows me to do basic phone things (very few voice calls, but I need the option, a few dozen or a few hundred texts a month) and also lets me surf the web, take pictures, and maybe run an app or two.  Is there a prepaid option for an Android phone?  Has anyone actually used it?

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From:quasiskunk
Date:December 16th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)

This is How I Roll :)

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I have the Sprint HTC Evo 4G, which with Sprint, has unlimited everything, including texts, data and cell to cell calling. It also includes 450 min in the plan. There is no throttling or limits with the Sprint plan. Its $89 a month. I've never come close to using 100 min, much less all 450 a month. Sprint is the only one that doesn't charge for extensive usage of data; one of the reasons I have it. I average around 3.5Gig a month using my phone as my modem. Other companies limit to 2 or 3 gig without having to pay more.

You -can- tether it to your computer, but for that Sprint charges extra. However, getting a 3rd party app (like PDAnet from Junefabrics,com) for $20 (one time fee), gets you free tethering capability without rooting (hacking) the phone.

The major problem with Sprint is that service in outlying areas can be spotty, but roaming is included, so you get hooked onto whichever carrier has the best signal (mostly AT&T).

Yes, there are prepaid options. Boost mobile uses Sprint I believe, and its $40 a month I think. It is a lesser capable phone, and only good for 3G (which is all C-U has for now), but at home, I connect up at 3G anyway.

Edited at 2011-12-16 12:50 am (UTC)
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From:tigertoy
Date:December 16th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)

Re: This is How I Roll :)

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I think Sprint reaches my area. I need to get a Sprint smartphone over here to check for sure.
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From:bookofmirrors
Date:December 16th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)

Re: This is How I Roll :)

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Oh wow... I did NOT know about the PDAnet-type apps. Must totally look into that....
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From:guppiecat
Date:December 16th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
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There are two fundamental questions:

1) What is your budget?

2) How deep into the technical weeds are you willing to go?

You can certainly do what you're asking, but if you want to use your phone as a modem, you'll either have to pay more or cross the line of what you're "allowed" to do and hack your phone. Personally, I use the Sprint HTC Evo 4G, hacked so I can use it as a wireless access point. If you're careful with what you use it for, it'll be fine. If you start downloading movies and stuff, you'll likely trigger warning bells over at Sprint HQ.

Another option would be to look at a tablet, get a Bluetooth keyboard and use that as an "always connected" device that replaces you PC. The tech isn't perfect yet, but it should compare decently to dialup.
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From:tigertoy
Date:December 16th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
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1) I'm willing to commit to $100/month if I'm solidly convinced that I'm getting something that actually works to let me be functionally online.

2) This is part of what I'm looking for advice about -- direct advice about what you can actually get away with, not just what someone may have read something about on the net. I won't hack my phone based on what I read on a web site. If someone I know can walk me through it, I'd consider it.
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From:gundo
Date:December 16th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
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I'm with T-Mobile and do unlimited data and USB and wifi tethering, but I'm on some massive legacy plans that I don't think are available anymore. I've pumped some pretty high volume both ways -- the streaming at Windycon was via the phone since I didn't have time to hack the wifi solution I wanted to use.

One thing you want to do is get someone who is on the carrier you are thinking about to come out to your house and see what it's like in reality. The carrier may say 4G, but in reality it may be 2G in your location. Even though EDGE is a significant upgrade over what you're currently getting, you may not want to be paying 4G prices for 2.5 data.

I've been surprised at how much my smartphone has replaced my computer at cons...used to go to a con and try to smarm my way into free internet access in the room, and if I didn't get it used my EDGE card. These days the computer rarely even leaves the bag.
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From:shockwave77598
Date:December 16th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
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A better solution than the smart phone is looking into something called WiMax. Tethering your phone to your computer will be extremely expensive -- imagine downloading a WoW update of 5Gig over it. A WiMax usb adapter and a good data plan will be much cheaper.
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From:tigertoy
Date:December 16th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
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I don't think WiMax coverage exists here. But it would be nice to know for sure.
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