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[GUIDE] Smartphone Service for just $30/month

10th May 2012, 05:14 PM   |  #1  
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Inspired significantly by the fabulous [INFO][GSM] Own Your Cell Service ..with Prepaid and the Galaxy Nexus thread, here's what I do to spend only $30 per month on my wireless service without busting through my minute allotment. I post this here in a separate thread as I have been asked by several folks for more information about my current set up, and it's not always easy to find my answers in that gigantic thread.

Unfortunately, the majority of these services are specific to the US, so if you're outside those borders I'm afraid you're on your own.

Be sure to check the FAQ if you have a question not answered in this post!

Overview.
My set up relies heavily upon Google Voice for call forwarding, texting, voicemail, and VoIP calls via (Talkatone, GrooveIP, or (lately) SipDroid+PBXes.org) when connected to Wifi. I use T-Mobile's $30 Monthly 4G plan with 100 minutes, unlimited texts, and 5GB of data at "4G" speeds. I make use of a few highly-customized Tasker profiles to automatically enable Airplane Mode when I'm connected to one of my preferred Wifi Access Points; this conserves battery and forces incoming calls to ring my VoIP softphone.

Some things you should know about this set up (and prepaid in general):

+ It's cheap! Full smartphone service (with a guaranteed 5GB of high-speed data) for only $30 per month.

+ Freedom from the contract model! You have no commitment to your carrier. You could hop carriers every month if you wanted to.

+ No surprise fees! What you pay up front is what your service costs per month. There won't be any surprises or overage charges.


- No roaming on prepaid. If you are outside your carrier's coverage area, you have no service. Under some circumstances you may be able to make voice calls while roaming, but I don't think it's a guarantee. Much better to plan on not having it. You will never have data roaming while on prepaid.

- No freebies. 100 minutes means 100 minutes. You get no free nights and weekends or free mobile-to-mobile calls. If you exceed your monthly allotment of minutes, you can't make calls. Keep an extra balance on your account so that you can make calls beyond 100 minutes at $0.10 per minute.

- No priority customer service. You still get service (and really, my customer service on T-Mobile prepaid has been better than what I got on AT&T postpaid), but it will likely be an outsourced call center rather than one in the US.

- No extra features. Most prepaid plans don't allow fun features like conditional call forwarding, which is what Google Voice uses to intercept your voicemail. You can get around this, but it won't be pretty.

- No MMS with Google Voice. Google Voice doesn't currently support multimedia messages; use email instead.


This really is a great option, but it's not for everyone. Understanding the limitations up front will help prevent you from feeling disappointed later.

Still with me? Then let's dive in. Again, this is just my set up. Feel free to adapt it to suit your own needs.

Get a GSM Galaxy Nexus (whatever the current Nexus phone may be).

Get one direct from Google for only ~$349 - with no contracts or hidden fees. This is a fantastic deal on an amazing phone, and its pentaband radio will allow it to be used on ANY GSM carrier - you no longer have to choose whether you want to be stuck on AT&T's 3G frequencies or T-Mobile's 3G frequencies. This makes the next step even easier.

And while $349 up front may sound like a lot of money, keep in mind that you can save up to $50 per month by moving to a prepaid plan (I am!); you could make up the cost of the phone in just 8 months! So, really, you could buy the newest Nexus device each year without putting yourself in a hole - pretty tempting, eh?

There are, of course, other fantastic Android phones out there, but the list of pentaband-capable phones is tragically much smaller. If you'd like, you can view the other options of this category here, where I have created a filtered search on gsmarena.com for phones running the Android OS and with "HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100" bands available.

Ditch the contract.

Quit overpaying for your wireless service with a carrier who forces you to be loyal. Get a prepaid plan. I've been on T-Mobile's $30/mo 100 minute / Unlimited Text / Unlimited (to 5GB) Data plan since February and I love it. No usage fees, no surcharges, no unknowns. You pay up front, and that's all you spend for a month. And if you decide after a month that the plan you chose isn't quite right, you are free to change to a different plan - or even a different carrier - with very little effort. THAT, my friends, is the beauty of an unlocked pentaband GSM phone.

If you decide to go with this $30 T-Mobile Prepaid thing, there are a few things you should be aware of. Firstly, it is a web-only exclusive. You can't go into a T-Mobile store and sign up on this plan. It's also for new activations only. You're on prepaid, so nothing's to stop you from just activating it as a new line (that's actually what I did after using the $70 plan for a month), just be aware that if you're an existing T-Mobile customer you may not be able to keep your number in order to qualify for this plan. Still with me? Then purchase the SIM Card and Activation Kit directly from T-Mobile for (currently) $.99 with free shipping. You need both the card and the activation kit.

scoobdude suggested www.PrepaidReviews.com as a great resource for researching and selecting the right prepaid provider. I highly recommend you check it out to see what's best for you.

Use Google Voice.

If you don't have a Voice account, sign up at voice.google.com. If you do have a Voice account, sign in at voice.google.com. Voice gives you a single phone number that can ring any number of other phones, as well as free text messaging, voicemail transcripts, and a number of other slick features. Once you have your Google Voice number, give that one out to all your friends and family. That one phone number will follow you as you hop carriers, get new devices, or even move to a different area. You'll never need to change your number again (unless you want to), and this makes the carrier-assigned phone number completely irrelevant. I wouldn't recognize my phone's "real" number if I saw it, and that's perfectly okay.

You're really much better off here in the long-run if you can go all-in with Google Voice. Trying to embrace both your carrier number and your GV number will only end in frustration - particularly on prepaid. If you haven't been using Google Voice and you don't want to force your friends and family to learn a new phone number for you, look into the possibility of porting your current carrier number to Google Voice. You can learn more about this option here.

Set up Google Voice.

You'll need to follow the steps in Google Voice to add a new forwarding number (the number associated with your new wireless plan). Go ahead and tick the checkboxes to forward calls both to your Google Chat (this is the VoIP backend used for making calls from within Gmail; we'll use it later for VoIP calls on your phone!), your new prepaid phone number, and any other phone numbers you might want to use with Google Voice. If you don't see the Google Chat option, try making a call from Gmail in your web browser to initiate that voice interface. This would also be a good time to go ahead and install the Google Voice app. You'll use this app for text messaging via Google Voice, configuring your phone to use Google Voice for all outgoing calls, and viewing your voicemail transcripts. When you get to the part about setting up voicemail, though, skip it - most prepaid carriers don't allow for "conditional call forwarding", which is what Google would use to intercept missed calls. Read on for how to get around this...

Disable carrier voicemail.
Skip this step if you don't intend to go all-in with Google Voice.

Because T-Mobile Prepaid doesn't support the conditional call forwarding that would normally be used to replace your carrier's voicemail with Google Voice voicemail, GV will not be able to intercept calls made to your carrier number. Without any additional configuration, calls made to your Google Voice number will fall back to the GV voicemail after a specific amount of time - call it the number of seconds required for 5 rings. This can get messy if your carrier voicemail kicks in before that time has elapsed - callers will hear the first part of your carrier's voicemail prompt, and then GV will take over. You may end up with parts of voicemails left in multiple places. To avoid this unpleasantness, you can get T-Mobile to disable the voicemail service for your line.

You'll have to call T-Mobile support for this (dial 611 from your mobile phone), and ask them (politely) to please disable the voicemail service on your line. They'll probably confirm with you about fifteen times that this means people won't be able to leave you voicemails, just keep confirming that is what you want. You're not going to hand out your carrier-provided phone number anyway, are you? No, you're not.

Once your carrier's voicemail service is disabled, unanswered calls to your Google Voice number will be sent to Google Voice voicemail (and optionally transcribed for you) after the caller hears five rings. Rejecting/ignoring calls will have the same behavior - the caller will hear five rings, followed by your Google Voice voicemail prompt. The added upside to this is that the caller won't have any idea that his call is being rejected - they'll just think you didn't answer.

Disabling your carrier voicemail means that any unanswered calls to your carrier number (the one associated with your SIM card) will never go to voicemail - they will only ring indefinitely. Only disable your carrier voicemail if you intend to fully rely upon Google Voice, and don't intend to receive any calls on your carrier number. If you want to use both numbers, you should probably leave your carrier voicemail enabled and let your callers deal with the messiness that can occur. Make your choice.

You're now up and running with cheaper prepaid smartphone service and Google Voice. You can stop here if you want; what follows is completely optional - and can actually get quite complicated. If, however, you're (1) technically adept, (2) not afraid of a challenge, and (3) either have poor cellular reception where you live/work or need many more than the allotted minutes and are okay with the inherent drawbacks and unreliability of VoIP service, you can read on to learn more:

Set up VoIP.
 


Using a VoIP option to make and receive calls using data can help stretch your 100-minute allotment. There are two main apps that most people use for VoIP with their Google account (there are other options if you want to use another dedicated/real SIP provider, but using the Google Chat interface is by far the easiest): GrooveIP ($4.99) and Talkatone (free). I prefer the GrooveIP application, as its integration with the stock dialer is superb, the application seems to be more reliable, and it can be easily configured to work over either wifi and 3G/4G or just over wifi. There is also a free version available which sacrifices native dialer integration, calls over mobile data, proximity sensor support, and the ability to change the default Google Chat sign-in status message. The drawback to GrooveIP is that it is limited to using the only voice-encoding codec that Google Chat has available, which may introduce some stuttering over a slow network. Talkatone uses its own proxy server to handle the connection to your phone, which allows for more efficient codecs. The app isn't as polished as GrooveIP but it may help to eliminate stuttering and other issues when used over a poor connection. Whichever app you decide to use, I recommend that you look through the settings and choose the option to only use the app for handling calls when connected to wifi.

UPDATE:
I've recently come upon yet another easy-to-configure option, and one that seems to be working (for me) even better than either GrooveIP or Talkatone: SipDroid (free!) in combination with its native support for a Google Voice trunk via PBXes.org. Once launched, SipDroid presents an option at the bottom of the screen to use "New PBX linked to my Google Voice". Select that option, enter your account details (or, better yet, use an application-specific password - your Google account is configured for two-step authentication, right?), and you automatically get a PBXes.org account created (with the same login credentials) and configured in SipDroid. (If you're using an application-specific password, you should be sure to write it down for now - you'll need it to log in and configure your account at PBXes.org the first time. I'd suggest you then change the password on your PBXes account to make it easier to log in later.) That's it - you can now make and receive free VoIP calls using Google Voice via the SipDroid application. Configure SipDroid to only work over Wifi (Menu > Settings > SIP Account > Check "Use WLAN", uncheck all others) and to be the preferred call handler (Menu > Settings > Call Options > Sipdroid, when available) and it will seamlessly integrate with the stock dialer to intercept outgoing call intents.

This SipDroid+PBXes option has offered me the greatest combination of reliability, sound quality, and battery performance of any other VoIP options I've tried - AND it is still fairly easy to set up. jgrinst1 pointed out that PBXes.org gives free account users 2000 minutes to play with each month. If you need more, you really shouldn't be on the T-Mobile 100 minute plan

Important Notes about PBXes.org: User bigdoug2005 has pointed out that using PBXes.org as described here effectively intercepts all incoming calls to your GoogleTalk interface, which means that your computer will never receive any incoming calls. This should only be an issue if you often receive calls directly via GoogleTalk/GmailChat on your computer; it will not have any impact on placing calls from your computer. Additionally, it has been mentioned that incoming calls only ring the PBXes line for 15 seconds before showing as a missed call - even while the caller still hears ringing. I'm not aware of any fix for this. These issues aren't deal-breakers for me, so I will continue to use PBXes (for the reasons mentioned above). You've been warned!

I've placed a quick overview comparison of these three primary VoIP options in the FAQ post


Automatically toggle Airplane Mode when connected to wifi.
 

This is getting into a bit more advanced stuff. Feel free to skip this section if you don't feel up for it - you can still use your cheap prepaid phone service without issue. The following just automates some of the tasks for you.

Important Note for Android 4.2+: With the release of Android 4.2, Google changed how applications are able to access Android's Airplane Mode setting - that is, they can't. AutoAP (which as of now hasn't been updated since January 2012) WILL NOT work for this purpose. Tasker can still be used, but you will have to incorporate the free SecureSettings plugin to manage Airplane Mode. Install the plugin, launch the application and follow the steps to install the Helper, and then replace all following references to "Net -> Airplane Mode" with "Plugin -> Secure Settings -> Configuration (edit) -> Helper Action -> Airplane Mode". The same goes for the Airplane Radios setting.

If this whole Tasker thing seems to complicated for you...
Don't worry! There's another option that seems to do the same job without all the hassle. martonikaj spotted a free app in the Play Store called AutoAP which seems to accomplish the same thing. I haven't used it, but it seems to be much easier to configure. I still recommend the Tasker approach since you can use Tasker to automate so many more features and settings on your phone in addition to just this prepaid setup (I also use it for automatically overclocking when I fire up a game, and underclocking the rest of the time), but AutoAP is a great alternative if you're really only interested in automating this one setting.


Using an application like Tasker , you can automatically put your phone into Airplane Mode whenever you have a working Wifi connection - without disabling that wifi interface. This has two main advantages. First, it prevents your phone from ringing twice each time you receive a call - otherwise, your phone would receive the call both via the VoIP application and the native Phone application. Not a biggie, but it is kind of annoying. Second, enabling just the Wifi interface will stretch your battery life significantly if you spend the majority of your day within range of a Wifi network.

And now things get fun (and complicated). From the Tasker Profiles screen, tap the "+" button to create a new profile. Name it something useful, like "GVoice Airplane Toggle," and when prompted for the Context (the thing that will trigger this profile) select State --> Net --> Wifi Connected. Tap the checkmark icon at the bottom of the Wifi Connected window to save this Context.

You'll now be prompted to create a Task (the thing that will happen when the profile is triggered). Don't worry about naming it, but do configure it as illustrated in the following screenshot (tapping the "+" button to add a new action):


A brief description of each item:
1) HTTP Get - Net --> HTTP Get, with "Server:Port" set to "www.google.com". Essentially, this will try to load the specified page in the background. If it fails, it will return the HTTP Response Code (variable "%HTTPR") with the value "-1".

2) If %HTTPR != -1 - Task --> If. Tap the "label" icon and scroll down to select the variable name "HTTP Response Code" (or just enter "%HTTPR" into the first text box). Tap the button between the text fields to select the Operator, and choose "Maths: Isn't Equal To", and enter "-1" as the value to test for in the next text field. This conditional statement will only process the following actions if the HTTP Response Code is NOT -1; that is, only if the Internet connection is working.

3) Airplane Radios - Net --> Airplane Radios, with at least "Cell" checked. This will select which interfaces to disable when Airplane Mode is activated. I don't use Bluetooth, so I disable it as well. I do use NFC so I leave that interface enabled. Make your choices according to how you operate; the key is that "Cell" is checked and "Wifi" is not checked.

4) Variable Set - Variable --> Variable Set, where Variable Name is "%GVAM" (Google Voice Airplane Mode) and Value is 1. This is really just a placeholder which can be used to indicate that the Profile is active.

5) Airplane Mode - Net --> Airplane Mode, with "On" selected. I hope this one is pretty self-explanatory.

6) Else - Task --> Else. Now we will choose what should happen if the HTTP Response Code is -1; that is, if the Internet connection currently is not working.

7) Wait - Task --> Wait. Choose how long you want to wait between checking for Internet connectivity. Make sure that the time specified here is longer than the time specified as the "Timeout" for the "HTTP Get" operation, which defaults to 15 seconds. Tasker will essentially pause for this time before moving to the next action.

8) Goto Action Number 1 - Task --> Goto, select "Action Number" as the Type and choose Number 1. This will create a loop; if the HTTP Get action is not successful (and there is no connection to the Internet), wait the number of seconds specified in Action 6 and then try HTTP Get operation again.

9) End If - Task --> End If. This tells Tasker that our conditional operations have ended. Once you get to here, hit the green checkmark button to save your Task.

Back at the Tasker Profiles screen, you should see your GVoice Airplane Toggle profile listed. Tap the name once to expand the profile (so that you can see some of your task described on the right), long-press on the task (which starts with "HTTP Get..."), and select "Add Exit Task. This is the action that will be performed when the Context is no longer satisfied - when you are no longer connected to a Wifi network. This Task just needs two very simple actions - press the "+" button to add an action, and then choose Net --> Airplane Mode --> Set Off. Press the "+" again, choose Variable --> Variable Clear and select our %GVAM variable that we defined earlier. Clearing this gives the system an easy way to check and see if our Profile is active.



I added another Profile which will prevent the phone from automatically going into Airplane Mode if I'm currently on a call:



Context: Call Any, *
Enter Task: Tasker --> Profile Status. Name: GVoice Airplane Toggle (you can pick it by pressing the magnifying glass icon). Set: Off. Tick the "If" checkbox, and use it to test for "%GVAM isn't set".



Checking for that variable will keep Tasker from disabling the GVoice Airplane Toggle profile when you are on a call using GrooveIP, which integrates with the native dialer.

Exit Task: Tasker --> Profile Status. Name: GVoice Airplane Toggle. Set: On.

Optionally, Luxferro figured out a clean way to adjust the setup so that Airplane Mode is only toggled when you are connected to specified Wifi Access Points. I know that some public Wifi APs restrict traffic that isn't HTTP (web) traffic, so limiting the Airplane Mode toggle to networks you know will play nice with Talkatone or GrooveIP will help prevent you from missing calls.

You'll need to create a new Profile to check the currently-connected SSID against a list of known good ones. I call mine "SSID Check":
Code:
Profile: SSID Check
Context: Wifi Connected *,*,*
Enter Task:
1) Variable Clear: %SSID_M
2) Variable Split: %WIFII
3) For: Variable: %temp; Items: HomeSSID,WorkSSID,GoodSSID
4) If: %temp ~ %WIFII4
5) Variable Set: %SSID_M To 1
6) End If
7) End For
Exit Task:
1) Variable Clear: %SSID_M
Replace the Items in Step 3 with a comma-separated list of the Wifi SSIDs you want to test for. Capitalization matters!



I then modified my GVoice Airplane Toggle profile context to just check for "Variable Value: %SSID_M Is Set".




BONUS!
A few other tricks I use...

Get the most out of your data.

Onavo Extend is a handy free application for ICS that can help you squeeze every last bit out of your mobile data allowance. It works by creating a VPN connection to Onavo's servers that is automatically activated when you are connected to mobile data, which then compresses HTTP traffic - without noticeably impacting speed. This is similar to the way that the Opera Mini browser is able to minimize data usage, and it really works! In the past 10 days, Onavo Extend has saved me just under 900MB. Stretch that out over the monthly cycle and it can really pay off.

That said... I have seen some issues with certain web sites and web-based apps (noticeably the XDA app) when using this VPN. It's not quite a perfect solution, but may be worth trying out if you end up on a data plan with a lower cap.


Monitor your usage.

T-Mobile recently updated their My Account application, and it actually doesn't suck like it used to. It includes a handy pair of widgets too, for independently tracking your data and minutes usage at configurable intervals along with all the other handy account management functions. It's easy to use, easy to configure, and also FREE. If you're on one of T-Mobile's plans, I highly recommend you check out this app.

If you're not on T-Mobile, give Prepaid Widget a try.
Update: Give this a try even if you are on T-Mobile - it looks like they recently fixed their USSC short codes that were preventing this application from working on their network!


Save Even More on Refills

CallingMart.com sells discounted refill cards that you can use to top up your prepaid plan. You will usually save 1-3% (in addition to not paying any sales tax or other fees), and they frequently have sales where you can save even more. In theory, any of the T-Mobile refills should work, though I've only used the one listed as T-Mobile Monthly Plan. Once you purchase your refill, you will be presented with a PIN that can be entered online at your T-Mobile Account and the funds will be instantly added to your balance. You can also set up a monthly auto-payment with CallingMart.com, just like you might with your carrier.

CallingMart no longer offers discounted T-Mobile refills. Try http://www.refillmobi.net/ instead.




So there you have it, my current (and fantastic!) set up. I know it's a bit disjointed - let me know if you have any questions or need further clarification. I would like to update and modify this post to be a solid guide - let me know what I need to do to improve it!

Be sure to check the FAQ if you have a question not answered in this post!

At any rate, I hope this has been at least a little bit helpful. You can thank me if it is
Last edited by codesplice; 24th May 2013 at 03:25 PM.
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10th May 2012, 06:00 PM   |  #2  
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Awesome guide. I think i might as well signup for google voice. Did you port your existing number or did you get a new one from them?
10th May 2012, 06:31 PM   |  #3  
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Great guide, I'll be more than likely following these steps you've outlined soon once my sim activation kit finally arrives. Thanks!
10th May 2012, 06:50 PM   |  #4  
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So another drawback of GrooVe IP is that you'd have to stay signed at all times to be able to make/receive call via mobile data/wifi.

But so far, liking the call quality of this app. Definitely way better than viber.
10th May 2012, 06:54 PM   |  #5  
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Thanks for the guide! FYI - none of the images are working for me in the post.
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10th May 2012, 06:54 PM   |  #6  
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Arrow FAQ!
Frequently Asked Questions
And Frequently Given Answers

In an effort to reduce clutter (and prevent the over-exertion of a small handful of extremely helpful members), here's a collection of answers to some questions that seem to get asked repeatedly. Be sure to check here if you have a question not answered in the Original Post.
  • Comparison of VoIP Options
    Having tested out three main options (GrooveIP, Talkatone, and PBXes + SipDroid) for using the Google Chat VoIP interface to make and receive calls on your mobile device, here's what I have found to be true for my needs and usage. Note that your individual needs may change the criteria upon which each option is rated, and your local network performance may also vary the results. You should still probably try each option to see what works best for you.
    GrooveIP
    • Pros: Easy setup, good voice quality and performance over high-speed network, good integration with Android system, many configuration options
    • Cons: Poor performance with slower or less-reliable connections (due to limited codec availability) which can introduce significant stuttering, higher latency (possibly introducing lag/delay)

    Talkatone
    • Pros: Easy setup, better performance over slower networks (even 3G) due to the phone-to-Talkatone connection having more codecs options available than the GoogleTalk interface allows, low latency
    • Cons: Lower voice quality, poor/no integration with the Android system, low reliability (doesn't always reconnect automatically), limited configuration options, rude customer support

    PBXes.org + SipDroid
    • Pros: Solid performance and voice quality over a variety of network conditions, uses TCP connection for better reliability and lower power consumption, advanced routing options available through the PBXes.org account, good integration with Android system, SipDroid client allows a variety of configuration options specifically tailored for use with PBXes.org, automatic PBXes.org account creation
    • Cons: Slightly more complicated to set up than the other options, free account limits to 2000 minutes per month, possible that the configuration may interfere with receiving calls on your computer (if you're into that sort of thing), shorter (15 second) ring duration may lead to missed calls
    More VoIP info:
    VoIP w/ ILC codec
    VoIP on Galaxy Nexus
    Asterisk server on Amazon EC2 (my current setup)
    Video tutorial on setting up your own Asterisk server

  • On using an application other than Google Voice for texting on a Google Voice number:
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by martonikaj

    In voice.google.com settings page, you can tell it to forward SMS sent to your GV # to your carrier #. They'll then show up in your (proper) Messaging app. They get forwarded the exact same way calls do.

    The "problem" is that the messages won't be from the contact's proper #. It assigns a new # to each of the contacts. The reason for this is that the phone needs to know whether you're sending the message from your carrier # or your GV #. If you want to interact with the person via your GV #, you SMS or call the newly assigned #, which then routes through GV and they receive the SMS or call as if nothing weird happened.

    Its a hassle but can be done. Eventually you'll go through and add these newly assigned #'s to the contact as an alternate contact # and it'll be "seamless" as it can be.

    There are also apps (root req'd) that'll put SMS in your Messaging app without the random # hooplah, but not everyone is rooted or wants to rely on an app like that. Google Voice SMS Integration is the one I remember some talking about.

    I personally don't have too much of a problem with the Google Voice app. It's seamless for calls (set "use GV # for all calls" and use the native dialer), and pretty good for SMS. There are still some quirks that I wish they'd iron out, but for now its pretty good. I send probably 80% of my SMS from the browser anyway, which was one of the main reasons I chose GV.

  • Can I use X device on Y plan with Z carrier instead?
    You're free to try whatever combination you like. I've posted about my experience with a particular device on particular plan with a particular carrier - I haven't tried others. You will have more flexibility in choosing a carrier if you opt for a pentaband device like the Galaxy Nexus, so do keep this in mind. The only real device requirement for following along here is a GSM Android device which functions on T-Mobile's network. You can of course use a device intended for AT&T's network if you wish, you'll just have to make sure to choose a prepaid provider accordingly. A broader discussion of available GSM prepaid carriers can be found in this fantastic thread. I have no experience with CDMA devices or carriers so I really can't help you there.
  • General VoIP Performance Tips:
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by natesilver


    I've been using VOIP exclusively both for mobile and for landline for the past 18 months. Two very important things haven't yet been discussed in this thread.

    1. Keep-alive.

    This pretty much isn't important on wifi because a home router will usually keep the NAT entries long enough to never lose registration. However on 3/4G the cell carrier will usually cut UDP entries very quickly (my provider cuts them as early as 20 seconds. Unfortunately most VOIP providers only use UDP protocol. This means that if you are using the standard ICS VOIP client, you WILL miss some calls without even knowing that you have become unregistered.

    There is an easy solution: go with a VOIP provider that supports TCP protocol. Why? Because cell carriers keep TCP connections open much longer. Personally, I'm very happy with VOIP.ms even though they are UDP only. What i did was create a free account at Sip2Sip.info (because they support TCP and allow free internet calls). My VOIP.ms DID is then forwarded via sip uri to my free Sip2Sip account so i can always receive incoming calls while on mobile, for no extra cost than VOIP.ms alone.
    The other benefit to this is that now while using CSipSimple, you can change the TCP keep alive interval to a longer time (think 600 s), to allow the phone to be in deep sleep longer and greatly save on battery usage. IMO this if a must if you are using VOIP on a mobile connection for incoming calls.

    The other topic is latency.
    Even with a very fast wifi or mobile connection, there is noticeable latency introduced by the Android OS when using VOIP. The playback buffer seems to be unnecessarily high so there is a delay from the time the phone receives a word until it is played through the speaker. This makes for a bizarre pause during conversation, especially if two people begin to talk at the same time. Don't believe me? Try an echo test with your VOIP provider. On a good connection, you should hear yourself back essentially at the same time you speak. With stock Android, you will not experience this. There will be a delay. Add even a small bit of network latency and the problem multiplies.
    I have a solution for you if you are using CM9 or AOKP or some other twist of these ROMs.
    Install the patch from this thread:
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/show....php?t=1674836

    Then to make it even better, use CSipSimple (nightly version) with OPENSL-ES enabled as backend implementation method for audio (somewhere in advanced media settings).
    With this setup, latency is reduced to almost nothing which you can verify with another echo test, or just simply from the improved call conversation quality you will experience.

    Hope this helps some people.
    Keep the good info coming!

    Nate.

    Improve Screen-off Wifi Performance

    Even with the Wifi sleep policy set to "Never" Android likes to put the Wifi radio in a low power mode when the screen is off. This can cause an increased latency (try pinging your phone from your computer with the phone display on and then with it off - I bet the ping is slower with the screen off) which can decrease performance when using wifi for VoIP. A work around (identified by XDA user melethron in this thread is to use the free Wifi High Performance Widget (by XDA user notabenem) to keep your wifi in high performance mode even with the screen off. The recent versions even include an option to automatically enable high performance mode when the app detects an incoming or outgoing SIP call - genius! This may help if you still have stuttering on VoIP calls over wifi (it definitely seems to have helped me out) though it theoretically may cause a slightly higher battery drain. I haven't observed much of a noticeable difference in battery life.

    GrooveIP also has a setting that looks like it does the same thing - Menu > Settings > Troubleshooting > High Perf WiFi Lock.
  • Are there issues with registering DTMF tones using any of these VoIP options?
    As far as I can tell, the DTMF tones work fine with each solution I've tried - GrooveIP, Talkatone, CSipSimple+SipGate, and SipDroid+PBXes.org/GVoice. I've had no problems with any of the in-call menu's I've encountered.
  • What number will people see when I call them?
    The Google Voice app allows you to choose how outgoing calls are placed. Choose to make all calls via Google Voice and the recipient of the call will see your GV number for the caller ID. Similarly, any VoIP calls that are made using a service tied in to Google Voice will sent your Google Voice number as the Caller ID.
  • What's all this mess about porting my number?
    I encourage you to go all-in with Google Voice if you can. If you haven't been using Google Voice already, the best way to do this is to port your existing cell number into Google Voice - you will then permanently "own" this number and it can follow you for as long as you like. You then won't have to give a new phone number to your friends and family each time you decide to hop carriers or plans.

    Google has a pretty good FAQ on things you might like to know about this whole number-porting thing. Once you're decided, head to voice.google.com and sign up.

    Some items to remember - from real users just like you!
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by harveydent

    Always port before you cancel. Otherwise you run the risk of not being able to port it since you don't own it anymore.


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jaybeeunix

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rafareal

    I wonder if it would be easier to activate online with a NEW phone number then call the porting dept to port your number. I would suggest calling and asking.

    That's what I did. I used the new, "temporary" number for a few days to make sure T-Mobile service would work for me before calling to port my VZW number.

    FWIW, they told me you can call "T-Mobile Number Transfers and Porting" directly at 1-877-789-3106 M-F 8am - Midnight, Sa-Su 8am - 10pm Eastern Time.

  • Okay, I ported my number to Google Voice but now I can't send and/or receive SMS messages. What the crap?
    It may take up to 3 days for all the necessary routing to in place. If it's been less than 72 hours since you started the porting process, don't sweat it.
  • If I use a Google Voice number, why not set Google Voice to forward ONLY to Google Chat, and NOT the prepaid TMobile number? Why do I need all this other complicated stuff?
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by codesplice

    What happens if you don't have data service (or if Talkatone has randomly disconnected for no reason, as I have seen it do on occasion) ? How would you receive that call? You wouldn't.

    Receiving calls via your cellular service will always be more reliable than a VoIP service. VoIP is just nice because it is cheap or free - when you can swing it.

    I only rely on VoIP when I am on a known-reliable wifi network. When I'm out and about, I need to actually know that people will be able to reach me. Thus the reason for forwarding to both numbers, and using Tasker to manage (locally, on the device) which "number" will receive an incoming call at any given time.

  • I'm coming from a CDMA carrier. What might I not know about GSM?
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by scoobdude

    Just wanted to let every one know i got mine up and running in Austin (T-mobile $30) just now and wanted to give a few pointers on stuff i did no know coming from sprint and never having gsm.

    1) once you insert the sim you will get a voicemail alert. You have to set up your voice mail to make this go away. call is free ( I think)
    2) there are free (Again, I think) numbers for customer support, balance and all that stuff that codesplice posted one page previous. I did not know they were free ( #932# for data usage, #225# for balance and renewal date)
    3) I did not have data initially. I had to select the correct APN profile (none were selected by default) . This threw me off coming from CDMA.
    4) I also had an activation code that was invalid. called support and they had me up and running in less than 10 minutes.
    5) They gave me a cool number

    Hope that helps all the cdma guys

  • I understand Google Voice doesn't support MMS. How do you deal with that?
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by codesplice

    I don't MMS. I've got a smartphone equipped with email for any messages that need a picture to accompany them. Any MMSeses that are sent my way get silently discarded by Google Voice. Not something that really matters to me, but I do wish the senders could be notified that the messages don't actually get delivered. You could have your MMS-using contacts send such messages to your carrier number if absolutely necessary.

  • I ordered the SIM + Activation Kit from T-Mobile but I get an error about an invalid activation code when I tried to activate. What the crap?
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by L.Stratos

    When I tried to activate my Galaxy Nexus on t-mobile.com last week, I got an error that all 3 numbers (activation code, SIM card serial, IMEI) were invalid. I bought the activation kit from there for $.99 like you did.

    After double checking all the numbers were correct I just used the browser auto fill to re-submit the same numbers, and on the third attempt it went through. I selected the "$30 Unlimited Web & Txt w/ 100 Min. Talk" plan and a new phone number... only to get redirected to a page stating "We’re sorry, we’re still working to process your activation. Please wait a few moments and then try navigating to another web page."

    After clicking back and forward a few times, that process finally went through, my new phone number showed up in about phone, and I finished up by adding "refill" money to the account. Making a test phone call worked fine... but then I noticed I had no mobile data network connection.

    At this point I didn't want to stay up any later and go through call center hell, so I powered off the phone... the next day I still had voice but no data, so I pulled the battery and the SIM card, put them back in and the phone booted up and got a HSPA connection right away.

    I've been happy with the service ever since, but it seems they need to fix a few bugs in their activation process...

    So there may still be some bugs in their activation system. Keep at it and hopefully things will work out for you. If not, give the T-Mobile Prepaid Activation folks a call at 1-877-778-2107, or just dial *611 after putting the SIM card in your phone.
  • I don't see an option in SipDroid to link to a newly-created Google Talk / Google Voice trunk. WHY??!?!
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wicozani

    I also didn't see the automatic link to PBXes.org button on Sipdroid when I first installed it, and it was because I didn't already have installed an active GV account on my phone. Make sure you have an active GV account on your phone when you first install Sipdroid, and you should see the link. I literally had to uninstall Sipdroid 4 or 5 times before I finally gained clarity on how this all works.

Last edited by codesplice; 24th May 2013 at 05:25 PM. Reason: Added additional VoIP info
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10th May 2012, 06:55 PM   |  #7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babymatteo

Awesome guide. I think i might as well signup for google voice. Did you port your existing number or did you get a new one from them?

I got a new one from them a few years ago. Slightly outside my home city, but it ends in "1337" so I had to have it

If you're able to port your number to Google Voice before moving to a prepaid set up, even better! Then you don't have to give anyone a new number. Your friends and family don't even have to know that you've changed

Quote:
Originally Posted by babymatteo

So another drawback of GrooVe IP is that you'd have to stay signed at all times to be able to make/receive call via mobile data/wifi.

But so far, liking the call quality of this app. Definitely way better than viber.

Yes, you must stay signed in to Google Chat to use either GrooveIP or Talkatone, though they also both automatically set your status to a message indicating that you are on a "voice-only" sign in and they shouldn't bother chatting with you. Folks still will; Talkatone handles incoming chat messages as texts within its app, while GrooveIP just discards those messages. Personally, I prefer them to be dropped anyway. If I feel like being available for chat, I'll stay signed in to the Google Talk app.


The alternative is to get a real SIP/VOIP provider for data calls. There's some info about this in this other excellent spinoff from the main prepaid discussion thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xur17

Thanks for the guide! FYI - none of the images are working for me in the post.

Anyone else? I was playing with sharing images from Google Drive like I have from Dropbox in the past, and I'm not really sure how it worked
Last edited by codesplice; 10th July 2012 at 03:52 PM.
10th May 2012, 06:57 PM   |  #8  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by codesplice

Anyone else? I was playing with sharing images from Google Drive like I have from Dropbox in the past, and I'm not really sure how it worked

Yeah not working for me either. I saw your post right after you posted it and it's never worked.
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10th May 2012, 07:05 PM   |  #9  
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Thanks for letting me know about Google Drive failing at linking to pictures Apparently even with the folder set to share publicly, the link to the images is only valid for a short time. So it's fine for keeping images to yourself, but it sucks hard for sharing.

Oh well, back to dropbox. Images working now?
10th May 2012, 07:11 PM   |  #10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by codesplice

Thanks for letting me know about Google Drive failing at linking to pictures Apparently even with the folder set to share publicly, the link to the images is only valid for a short time. So it's fine for keeping images to yourself, but it sucks hard for sharing.

Oh well, back to dropbox. Images working now?

Yep, the images are working for me now. Thanks!

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