Phones are expensive. Not only are we paying for limited data plans, but we’re paying for voice and messaging on top of it, even if we don’t actually call anyone on our phones that much. And then there’s the long-term contracts on top of that. Well, what if it were possible to ditch voice and messaging service and going data-only, using apps to provide those services instead at a much lower cost? Well, it is. There are some hoops to jump through, but for those willing to do it, lower prices and more freedom lie on the other side.
Choose your device carefully.
For the iOS user looking to go data-only, the obvious choice may be the iPod touch, especially the 5th generation model coming in October. While the A5 processor is a year old, it should be able to run many games and applications capably for a couple of years. And of course, it’s $299 versus at least a couple hundred more for an unlocked iPhone 4S of similar capability, not to mention $350 less than an unlocked iPhone 5. However, there’s no integrated phone calling so that means no emergency calls, as any phone can call 911 even if it doesn’t have active service. Having an actual phone is just safer, as VOIP services do not have 911 access at this time. As well, with no speaker on top, there’s no holding the iPod touch to your ear to make a call, so have a headset handy or be prepared to talk on speakerphone frequently. Thus, while going with the iPod touch may save some money, it loses a lot as well. Choose wisely.
Of course, if having phone capability at a low price is a necessity, then I’m going to suggest something rather blasphemous for an iOS site: go Android. The Galaxy Nexus from Google and Samsung goes for $349 unlocked, runs the latest version of Android, and is an actual phone. There’s always someone selling a recent Android phone on eBay or Craigslist for a fair price as well, and Android phones as a generality are fairly easy to hack and unlock. Stone me if you will, but hey – Jelly Bean is impressively smooth, it’s got a great feature set, and the apps market is improving every day. And if you make the switch, then you can check out our great content at Android Rundown as well.
Find a way to get mobile data.
Just because you do not have a phone plan doesn’t mean that you have to go without data on the go. There are several ways to do this. A 4G/LTE-capable iPad is a great choice, and it may come with Hotspot options depending on the carrier. However, it may be awkward to always bring along an iPad when going out to a bar or walking around the city at night. After all, if you can’t upload pictures of your food and drink to Instagram, what’s the point of going out, anyway? The carriers all offer their own hotspots with LTE capability, but are pricey without commitments and come with data tiers. Still, they’re cheaper than phone plans with similar data limits.
Clear is what I use, and it’s a particularly sweet deal. Their service costs $49.99 per month, their hotspot costs $24.99 right now, and there’s no contract. The recently-launched Voyager hotspot is tiny, and lasts for over 6 hours on its battery. It fits nimbly into a small pants pocket, which is something many of the hotspots from the carriers can’t say. Depending on connection strength, the data sits around 3-5 Mpbs in real-world tests with sub-1 Mpbs upload rates. However, the latency is acceptable with Game Center multiplayer games I’ve tried, and the data is unlimited with no caveats that I’ve found. I’ve streamed hours and hours of MLB.tv games on it, used OnLive Desktop, and made VoIP calls with it. It’s actually not bad for a primary internet connection in a pinch, either. Clear uses Sprint’s WiMAX network, which does not have the best coverage and there’s no 3G fallback, but the unlimited data with quality mobile performance is hard to pass up.
NetZero offers the same WiMAX service with similar hardware as Clear, but with options including free limited data. Going wifi-only is a choice too, considering how many places offer it now. Of course, the drawback there is that where there’s no wifi, there’s no way to get on the internet. For those with unlocked phones who want some kind of traditional-yet-limited phone service plan as a fallback, T-Mobile offers a plan where by paying $3 on the day you use it, you can get up to 200 MB of data at 4G speeds with unlimited calling and messaging. This is great for the iPhone 4S, which T-Mobile will soon support at full 4G (HSDPA) speed.
Get a phone number, send some texts, make some calls
Since you’re ditching your phone number, you’ll probably want something that people can use to call you. Not everyone has iMessage and FaceTime, after all. For the budget-conscious (and if you’re doing this, that describes you), then Google Voice is probably the best choice. It’s very cross-platform with support for texting from web browsers, and it comes with a good iPhone/iPod touch app for texting. Note that there’s no official iPad app, Google Voice can’t receive MMS messages, and while the web supports calling through Google Talk, there’s no official way to do this. Also, some SMS services do not work with Google Voice, like Uber’s notifications.
Now, the emphasis is on ‘official’. Talkatone can log in as a Google Talk client with phone calling capability, can receive calls in the background with push notifications, and it can receive SMS notifications. Your mileage may vary on getting it working with some internet connections, though. It is free to use the basic features, with premium subscriptions available for up to $19.99 per year.
Other options for calling and texting? Textie provides free texting, and was designed in part by Loren Brichter of Tweetie fame. Skype offers texting and calling from their app as well. It’s $3/month for calling to the US and Canada, which then allows for a $30 per year Online Number that can be used for direct calling. SMS is possible, but only through Skype Credit, so get $10 of credit and use that for texting, or combine with another service like Google Voice. Still, this all works out to be about $6-$7 per month.
By doing all this, you’re kind of trying to hack the system that wants you to pay a lot of money for voice, messaging, and data. And the system loves getting your money for all that, and there will be spots where it will be frustrating. But there are just enough holes in the system that can be exploited for the savvy consumer looking to do everything over data connections. That’s what I’m trying to do, and I wish you all luck in trying to get it to work. Are you attempting the same thing? Let us know your experience in the comments below.
After a very long wait Google finally released its Google Voice app for iPhone last month. At the time the app was a true iPhone exclusive, incompatible with any other iOS devices. Now the service has been upgraded so it will work on iPod and iPad, doing everything but sending and receiving calls.
The app allows users access to all the traditional features, including free text messaging to all US numbers as well voicemail transcription for those who want to keep a log of important messages. Also, just because the iPod and iPad can’t make phone calls doesn’t mean the feature is useless, as Google has introduced a feature called Click2Call which will dial the number listed in Google Voice and then connect the call using the phone of your choice. Granted, it’s not terribly convenient but hey, it’s a feature nonetheless.
In addition to all this Google also made some general upgrades to the app itself. New features include the ability to disable text notifications when push notifications are already active, a “do not disturb” setting that sends all calls directly to voicemail and a dedicated contacts button on the dialer tab. Basically just a bunch of little improvements meant to streamline the experience and make the app that much more user-friendly.
We’re happy to see the Google Voice app spread its wings and become available on other iOS devices, but at the same time we’re not totally sure how critical this app is for non-iPhone users. While it’s a nice text-messaging and chat service, the primary function of the app is to make and receive phone calls, but that’s something the iPod and iPad simply can’t do. While this is definitely a nice app, it might also be all but unnecessary for a large percentage of consumers.
In a move that’s been a long time coming, Google has finally officially launched the Google Voice app for the iPhone. The introduction of the service provides users with a number of native Google Chat services such as:
Cheap rates for international calls
Free text messaging to U.S. numbers
Display your Google Voice number as caller ID when making calls
In addition, the service will also feature push notifications to let you know when you receive a new voicemail or text message, as well as calling via direct access numbers, which should streamline the call process.
This app is a godsend for those who can’t stand the cost associated with sending and receiving text messages, as well as folks who place a lot of international calls and are thus hit with some pretty hefty fees.
The introduction of Google Voice also signals a turning of the page in terms of relations between Apple and Google, who up until this point have been rather bitter foes. Google submitted their Voice app for approval way back in June 2009, but Apple refused to approve and release the service until now. Apple’s original stand was that Google Voice was redundant, and merely offered service the iPhone already provided. Now, after undisclosed changes and a resubmission the app has been approved.
The Google Voice app is a free download and requires only that you have an existing Google Voice account in order for it to work. If you don’t have an account yet you can always sign up for free, so it’s just one minor extra step to take along the way. The release of this app is a pretty big deal, so how many of you are excited to download and get started? Is this enough to make you change your contract with AT&T and start using Google for more of your calls?
It is hard to argue that Google Voice isn’t one of the most useful web based creations since the email. Okay, maybe that is going a bit too far, but you would be hard pressed to find a bigger innovation over the last couple of years. Integrating the use of free voice mail, call dictation, and even VoIP functionality, Google has once again redefined an area of our lives that never seemed necessary at the time, but now we couldn’t live without.
For those of you who have been heavily involved in the iOS development scene, you may remember a little legal brewhaha involving Apple blocking publication of a Google developed Voice app, back in July of last year. It was a very messy situation that ended up involving the FCC having to step in, and at the end yielding nothing more than upholding Apples right to deny the app publication.
Bitter conflict that require a mediator are usually something that is hard to leave in the past, but TechCrunch has a source close to the situation reporting that not only have the proverbial fences been mended, but Apple has ALREADY approved a working version of the Google Voice app for iPhone. But if it has already been approved, why is it not already in the App Store, you ask? The story goes on to say that Google is currently holding up on the release, while they work on optimizing the software to be iOS 4.0 compatible.
If this is actually the case, I have to imagine that this will open the floodgates of applications that have denied in the past taking a second (or third, or fourth…) go at submitting to the App approval board. This is a fairly unprecedented turn of events that may provide a glimpse into the future of a more open App Store. I can only hope this is the case, because if that happens, the consumers always benefit.
It’s pretty common knowledge now that Google and Apple aren’t getting along as much as they used to. In fact, when Google’s native ‘Voice’ application, which mainly allows users of Google’s far-reaching social network to send voice-like emails to anyone with an account, was kindarejected from the App Store, the world reacted.
Just like when Google’s native Latitude app was rejected though, the firm took no time over announcing its “slap you back in the face” course of action against Apple, publicly stating its plans to bring the service to both the Apple iPhone and it’s android based devices in the near future, via the web. But with no official release date, people (including myself) started to ask when it would happen.
Today, Google have announced its Google Voice web app now works on the iPhone. Using HTML5 the web app provides a clean, crisp and user iterative native-esque experience, providing easy access and Voice functionality you’re probably all now familiar if you’re lucky enough to have a Google Voice account. The web app centers around a virtual keypad just like you see in Phone.app, and works as expected. Although, with the app being totally web based, the necessary iPhone OS pop-up confirmations are still present. With the app, you can either dial Google Access numbers, or international numbers and pay Google’s low cost rates. Need to see who’s been sending you voicemails lately? Just switch to the inbox tab. Here, just like as you would if the app were native, you’ll see a list of voicemails, as well as the ability to view or play the message in full and call or text the original sender.
Need to send a message to one of your contacts? Tap compose, and the HTML5 powered web app will bring up the necessary compose tools for you. Maybe you want to easily access certain sections of the web app directly from your iPhone’s homescreen? As you would with other sites you can add a webclip icons which lead directly to these sections the usual way, from Mobile Safari.
Finally, Google Voice on the iPhone .. even if it is a web app. Yes, I’m looking at you Apple.
TechCrunch has gotten ahold of the responses from Apple, AT&T, and Google to the FCC request for information on why the Google Voice application was rejected. The summary from Apple is that the app hasn’t been rejected and they are still studying it.
Quote from Apple response:
Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it. The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone. For example, on an iPhone, the “Phone” icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple’s mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail. Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature. In addition, the iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.
Regarding Apple’s agreement with AT&T and what role AT&T has in the approval of applications, Apple says that they alone make the final decision to approve or reject an application. But Apple goes on to say that their agreement with AT&T keeps them from approving VoIP apps and apps that violate the AT&T terms of service.
There is a provision in Apple’s agreement with AT&T that obligates Apple not to include functionality in any Apple phone that enables a customer to use AT&T’s cellular network service to originate or terminate a VoIP session without obtaining AT&T’s permission. Apple honors this obligation, in addition to respecting AT&T’s customer Terms of Service, which, for example, prohibit an AT&T customer from using AT&T’s cellular service to redirect a TV signal to an iPhone. From time to time, AT&T has expressed concerns regarding network efficiency and potential network congestion associated with certain applications, and Apple takes such concerns into consideration.
Some other gems from Apple’s response:
Apple employs over 40 full-time app reviewers
At least 2 reviewers study each app before it’s approved
There’s a senior review board that meets weekly to review applications that raise new questions. Most likely this is where apps go when the developer gets the “unexpected extra time to review” notice.
95% of applications are approved within 14 days of being submitted.
Apple receives 8,500 new and updated app submissions every week, roughly 20% are not approved
Those last 2 points don’t really add up. If 20% of submissions are rejected every week, now do 95% get approved within 2 weeks. Perhaps Apple is saying that of the 80% that get approved, 95% of those get approved within 14 days?
AT&T’s response on the other hand pretty much completely sidesteps the question of rejection of VoIP and video applications (like SlingPlayer). They don’t explain why those applications are available on most of the other platforms in use on the AT&T network.
FCC Question: Do any devices that operate on AT&T’s network allow use of other
applications that have been rejected for the iPhone?
As discussed above, AT&T does not participate in Apple’s day-to-day consideration of
whether particular iPhone applications should or should not be rejected for use on the
iPhone, and Apple does not typically notify AT&T when particular iPhone applications
are accepted or rejected. Consequently, AT&T cannot identify all applications that have been rejected for the iPhone. As discussed above and on the AT&T Choice website,
however, AT&T customers are able to use a broad range of applications on their AT&T
customers can use Google Voice on any AT&T phone, including the iPhone, by
accessing it through their web browser. Customers can also download compatible
applications for music, social networking, photography, weather, navigation, travel,
In Google’s response to the FCC, the really interesting part, the conversation between Apple and Google about the Google Voice application is, unfortunately redacted. I’m hoping that the Freedom of Information Act will allow the release of that text at some point in the future.
Inrix Traffic lets you predict the future (but only 1 hour in advance).
Google Voice Web App Inbound
Google is reportedly working on a web version of their recently rejected Google Voice application. The app will, if the rumors are true, have all of the features of the rejected native app. Though those features are still less than what the Google Voice application can do on Android phones where it can fully integrate with the dialer for the phone.
[via Apple Insider]
First up is a new sub hunt game with an overly obvious name, Sub Hunt! This one bumps it up a couple notches with tons of power-ups for your sub. This pretty much converts the typical submarine shooter into a chaotic avoidance game. All in all, pretty good for a buck.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-08-05 :: Category: Games :: Arcade
If you live in a busy metro area, chances are you get stuck in traffic regularly. An app was released this week that hopes to help you predict when the traffic is going to be better or worse. Inrix Traffic looks like Google Maps with it’s traffic overlay the difference is the forecast button in the upper right. Hit that and you can look at how Inrix predicts traffic will be up to an hour in advance. Too bad you can only do one hour, but it’s better than nothing at all and it’s free.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-07-30 :: Category: Navigation
And finally, I’m not a big fan of soundboard apps. Typically they are either filled with either boring sound bites or unlicensed ones. But this one piqued my interest, iStooges. A fully licensed soundboard app with a bunch of sound clips from the Three Stooges. This app reminds me of so many afternoons after school watching old reruns of the Three Stooges.
Today, TechCrunch revealed that the 2 existing Google Voice apps, VoiceCentral and GV Mobile had been removed from the app store. They also heard from Google that the official Google Voice application for the iPhone had been rejected by Apple.
The apps were officially rejected due to the clause in the iPhone developer agreement that states that apps can’t duplicate the functions built into the OS. Really, a lame clause and likely just covering up something else. After all, how many hundreds of apps in the app store duplicate functionality of the built-in apps?
The rejections have been unofficially blamed on a clueless AT&T attempting to protect their fleeting business. If true, it shows a real desperate company that just doesn’t understand the need to innovate and lead rather than just fail by sticking to your quickly aging business.
But why has AT&T intervened yet again when this same app is available on Blackberry phones using the AT&T network? When will AT&T stop treating iPhone customers like second class customers?
I’m no fan of AT&T, I think very few customers are, but this just adds another log to the fire.