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Phone Magic September 4, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.

I hate my WinCE phone, an HTC Wizard from about 2006 or so.  It’s old, slow and parts on it are broken (little useful bits like the phone earpiece, the charging port and headphone jack.  You know, things that make it a telephone and not an electronic brick); it has only 2GB of storage (although that was a great deal in 2006); and WinCE is no longer being supported by Microsoft, which has probably upset developers a lot more than me.  It only had tepid support in any case, which is why phone makers are currently reluctant to build Windows Phone 8 hardware except Nokia, which is now partly owned by Microsoft.  Another thing I strongly dislike is my AT&T plan, which is based on bad assumptons by me of how much my family talks and costs more than twice what I think it is worth.  I should have fixed this as soon as the plan expired, but shopping for phones and phone plans is a swampful of alligators.  And Burmese pythons.  And confusing as hell.
One thing I do like about my WinCE phone is that I have all the tools I will ever need to write little apps for it, which I have done (to my satisfaction, at least). In the sidebar you will find a category for them; see what I mean by simple?
So, my happiness in PhoneLand now has three requirements: low-cost data/voice/text plan, robust hardware and the ability to write little apps if ones I need do not become available.  I thought about the iPhone (because the wife and kids like them, and they have lots of apps that look pretty cool on TV), but the minimum requirements for writing apps is learning Objective C on a Mac, which I do not own.  $1100 for a learning platform is out of the question, over and above the iPhone cost which isn’t cheap either.  So, this pretty much leaves me with an Android phone, but whose?
It turns out that there are only a few multiband phones [allowing the owner to change phone companies without buying a new phone] around, presumeably because the people committed to buying them in quantity are the same phone companies that would like to lock their customers in at high rates for very long times.  I have already been down that road, so no thank you.  Besides, buying a contract data plan from ANY carrier is a big money-losing proposition, as I have discovered.  Also, the latest version of the Android OS is usually not part of a phone company’s priorities–they need to keep costs low, and don’t want to support lots of different OSes.  Can’t blame them.
I ended up getting a Google Galaxy Nexus, a multi-band GSM phone with the latest Android operating system on it (actually, it OTA updated itself the second day I had it…close enough).  The Nexus is multiband so I can switch from AT&T to T-Mobile and back depending on who has the lowest cost, best coverage or whatever.  It’s now my choice.
It seems that T-Mobile offers a $30 per month pre-paid plan with 100 minutes of conversation and unlimited (slow) data and texting.  I bought it at Walmart, which is where you get this plan, not through T-Mobile’s website or stores.  You can also buy a $0.99 SIM card through the website, but I forget what that gets you, as I went with the prepaid thingie I already mentioned.  AT&T offers something similar, although I think it’s $50 per month for unlimited talk, text and data.  Not much of a saving for me, and I don’t talk all that much, so there.  Nyah.
Anyway, it’s a predictable amount of cash per month, so I’m OK with it…now to see if I can get AT&T to give up my previous telephone number, and T-mobile to take it.
EXCITING UPDATE:  yeah, I got it. Now I can resume being unhappy about ATT service, pricing and the annoying Bluetooth interference when handing off between towers.

In a related note, my stepdaughter is starting engineering school and OMG the books are heavy, filling a backpack and a side back.  Together the books weigh about half her weight..she’s getting a tablet as soon as I can manage it.  Must be a ten-inch tablet, because the illustrations need to be clear.  I will be reporting on the state of tableture soon enough for you, my (few) loyal readers.


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