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Iphone on a budget $15 a month for service

One of the excuses I like to trot out for failing as a fine artist is that I am a geek. Instead of drawing for an hour a day like a real artist, I will read about smartphones or computers.

I’m always trying to get the best phone for the cheapest price. For a decade I argued with Verizon and AT&T about their plans. I wanted them to let me pay for what I used, instead of a two year contract at a high rate just because I had a smartphone.

For the last two years I’ve had a Republic Wireless Moto-X. It costs $13 a month. I can upgrade to 3G data for another $13. So it’s nice and cheap. My wife and my sister’s family all have Republic and they are a fine company. They were one of the first to challenge the big wireless providers. They are a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), meaning they don’t own any cell towers. Out where I live they piggyback on the Sprint towers, with a fall back to Verizon. Service is great.

Because it looks like I may have a full time gig again next quarter, I decided to reward myself with a new iPhone. I’ve had 3 Android phones but have always wondered what an iPhone would be like. Plus, as a web developer it’s helpful to have an easy way to test on both operating systems. My wife has Android.

So I walked into the Apple store in Tacoma and bought a brand new unlocked iPhone. Republic doesn’t allow anything but their custom built Androids. With a new unlocked iPhone I could take it to any wireless provider because it has all the modern antennas…meaning GSM and CDMA.

For $9.00 Ting sent me a GSM sim card and my problems started. My brand new iPhone wouldn’t work at the house. The GSM network out here relies on T-Mobile and we live in a dead zone.

I measured my signal strength using an app and it was -140 dbm which equals a dead phone. On an iPhone,  dial *3001#12345#* to check signal strength. I called the guys at weboost and he said I was out of luck. Their $400 cell phone signal boosters top out at -108 dbm. He said that right under a cell tower you would get a signal of  -70 dbm.

I thought, no problem, I’ll do wifi calling since the GSM (T-Mobile) network was fine in town. This phone and that network doesn’t allow it. Next I tried google voice, since I still have a number dating back to my wifi phone days with an iTouch. Oops, VOIP calling is blocked. Finally I tried Skype, and that worked, but it costs money to call my wife because she doesn’t have data for a free Skype call. Or, she would have data if she would pay extra to Republic. But she insisted that my phone problems weren’t her problems, and why should she pay extra?

I couldn’t argue with that, and besides I thought there must be a way to get my iPhone to work cheaply, at the house. I went on a big quest to the big cell companies who have decent towers out there, seeing if they had finally lowered their rates. Verizon,  Sprint and AT&T are all still singing the same song. You have to pay a minimum of $40 a month for a smartphone…even if you bring your own unlocked phone-device (BYOD).

One of the reasons I went with ting is they have real people that answer the phone. Check out this video:

When I called Ting, someone answered right away and he spoke English! He said a CDMA sim might be better as that uses the Sprint network…and Sprint piggybacks on Verizon. Verizon has the only good towers out here in the sticks. Ting sent me a CDMA sim for free, second day air, to replace my GSM sim.

As soon as I swapped sim cards my new iPhone worked flawlessly with a signal strength of -89 dbm. In laymans terms that means I went from (maybe) one bar to two full bars and a working phone. I was able to easily swap-port phone numbers from the old GSM sim to the new CDMA sim using the online forms. That took about 3 hours to port.
Then I had the bright idea to port out my old number from Republic to Ting. I deleted the working Ting number and filled out the port forms online. For two days I carried both phones around, waiting for one (Android) to die, and one (iPhone) to live.
Finally I got online and found that Republic can take up to 10 days to port. I decided that was not going to work…I wasn’t married to my old phone number. As my wife said: “No one remembers numbers anymore, they just press the contact button”.
Bottom line, I have a new number, and an iPhone. My plan starts around $15 a month, depending on how much data I consume. Ting only charges you for what you use. I’ve been trying to treat my phone like a dumb phone, meaning I only use data when I have wifi.
IOS is a remarkably smooth OS. It’s fun learning how to navigate around in a new operating system. I’ve always enjoyed reading manuals. I guess I’m a geek. I do miss painting though. I’ve not painted since Christmas.