Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't Depend on Just 1 Phone

Several friends and contacts have told us they have disconnected their land line. Many of them did it as part of cutting costs. Each of them mentioned how surprisingly high the taxes are on wired phone lines. The next complaint is how expensive even the most basic phone service is from the local telco.

In The Unwired Home, we recommend keeping your land line at the most basic service level, but for some, even that expense is not worth it. The average basic line costs about $20. If people are avoiding that monthly amount, it make me wonder how many of the broadband alternatives that are priced from $9 to $25 are even in consideration. We all have a wireless phone already, so there's no need for anything else, is there?

We believe you should have some kind of backup in a cellular-only home. It could be a $10 per year T-Mobile Prepaid phone, Magic Jack, or even Skype. You are now depending on just one phone. Do you always know where yours is? We also noticed many 'cord-cutters' have relatively old phones. What happens when it breaks, and it will. Murphy's Law says that's when you'll have some kind of personal problem. Don't rely on just one phone. Ask the baby-sitter to bring her battery charger. Murphy lives here, ya know.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Straight Talk Adds GSM

For those of us who like the Straight Talk all-you-can-eat wireless service, it now comes in 2 flavors: CDMA and GSM. The CDMA version uses the huge Verizon Wireless network, and coming soon, a GSM version that will use AT&T. According to AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel, AT&T will support Straight Talk which is currently available at Wal-Mart stores or Online. GSM phones have been historically cheaper.

At $45 a month, Straight Talk is one of the leaders in Unlimited cellular service, with a full package of Voice, Text, Data and 411 access. While coverage is much more extensive with the Verizon CDMA version, there are a few areas where there is no Verizon coverage. There is also those of us who would rather use a GSM phone.

For consumers it could be a good deal. This makes Straight Talk more like TracFone, the 'parent' of Straight Talk, where both GSM and CDMA phones are available. The co-owned NET10 only offers GSM phones which mostly, but not exclusively, use the AT&T network. TracFone and NET10 both have more coverage than Straight Talk. Also, NET10 also offers an Unlimited package but at a higher price than Straight Talk. Compare all the Unlimited offers at the Mountain Wireless Unlimited Page. Decisions...decisions.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Going Totally Wireless

The Center for Disease Control is the agency tracking the latest data of how many households no longer have a wired phone. Their data is delayed by several months, but even with that dated information, they report over 24% of America's households have no land line. There are a good number of you who would like to 'cut the cord' but don't quite have the courage, or the info necessary to take the plunge.

Take heart. We have a complete "How-To" to go completely wireless, at The Unwired Instead of being an oddity, you'll be part of a fast-growing part of mainstream communications users. For those of us who still want a wired phone line, in some cases, it has become the secondary line for the family. Formerly the home land line was the sacred connection to the family, but now, it's the wireless line that we take personally. Who cares who knows the land line number? We can ignore it...or eliminate it.

If you'd like to be selective about the calls you take on that old wired appliance, unfortunately, the local phone companies charge a high price for Caller ID, which, on top of their overpriced land line, gives us an additional economic incentive to unhook the wire.

BTW, the first communications company that suggested we drop our land line to control costs was the local wireline company! Of course they suggested replacing it with their own bundle of broadband or wireless phone deals. So Hell hasn't frozen over, they're just re-arranging the furniture.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Alltel Back Door Voice Mail Numbers

With the acquisition of Alltel by Verizon Wireless, AT&T and ATN, we have been expecting the Alltel Back Door Voice Mail Numbers to be deactivated. Indeed some have, but we can't find a relationship between acquisitions and location.

In some places the access is now using the Verizon Voice Mail platform and others are unidentified. We haven't tried to see if these still-working numbers may now give access to nearby Verizon Wireless numbers. We logged a loss of about a dozen Alltel numbers. Some of the markets still working could be those switching to AT&T, so their future is still clouded.

Many Alltel customers used these numbers with their "My Circle" plan to make free calls to voice mail. We'll assume there are still many changes to come in this area. Fortunately, free calls to voice mail just isn't the big deal it used to be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Tools to Make Cheaper Calls

As I was driving across the Southwest last week, I saw the signals on my collection of prepaid phones come and go. If I wanted to use a prepaid phone exclusively, which is certainly a possibility, I would want a different prepaid phone active in different locations. By using Google Voice (and similar call-directing services), I could program a different phone to work in different locations, and the incoming caller would still call the same number.

Extending that thought, I could also program a daily schedule that forwards calls to one phone, say, during business hours and another in off-peak hours, and incoming callers won't know the difference. No, I really don't want to carry more than 1 phone, but while traveling along the New Mexico-Texas border, my AT&T GoPhone had absolutely no signal, but T-Mobile prepaid worked just fine. Many Texas rest areas have free wi-fi, so I pulled over and re-programmed my incoming number to forward calls to the T-Mobile phone, and I was back in business. This also helps me on our frequent visits to Mexico.

A simpler option is to just Call Forward calls from your normal phone to the cheaper phone, but the online services can be adjusted even when you don't have a signal from the orginal carrier. Since you're using minutes on the original phone, your advantage is only realized if you have no signal on the main phone, or you would be incurring roaming charges.

Oh, my kid, who doesn't have a wireless phone, used that rest area wi-fi to Text a few messages on his iPod phone needed. Yes, that iPod could be one more tool as well, but I can't get him to stop playing Sonic Hedgehog II long enough to make a call.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wireless Tip That Saved the Day

We take quite a bit of time and effort to research the most helpful Wireless Tips & Tricks. We feel they offer helpful info not available elsewhere. One of those tips saved the day on our most recent road trip. Yes, we forgot our battery chargers!

Tip #9 shares that the most forgotten item in hotels & motels is phone battery charges. Not only did our motel have several to choose from, they offered them to us to keep. We offered to just borrow the charger until our return leg, but they just wanted to clear their shelves.

I realize a new charger might have been acquired at a drug store or Wal-Mart, but I'm sure you know what a hassle it is to find a store and make the exit from the highway in time. Even bigger is the thought of buying yet another charger when you know you have 3 or 4 sitting at home.

Maybe we'll leave this newest charger at a motel to "pay it forward", maybe to you!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Giving T-Mobile a Bigger Nod

After several weeks on the road, we have returned with an even greater respect for T-Mobile. Also, we realize how much farther AT&T has to go. Most of our trips are across the Southwest where some carriers still have significant coverage holes.

With more Alltel sites now displaying "Verizon Wireless", we begin to realize just how much Verizon has acquired. It also makes us a bit squeamish knowing that in all those places where T-Mobile phones just show "Roaming" is a GSM signal being supplied from a newly-converted Verizon cell site. At the same time, we notice that T-Mobile seems to preparing for these former Alltel GSM sites to go away. There are lots more new T-Mobile sites along our travels in AZ, NM and TX.

What we don't see are any new AT&T sites. We will assume all of AT&T cell site efforts`are going to converting Alltel sites, and there are still quite a few areas without them. So we adjusted our Reviews to show AT&T suffering from the lack of their own coverage in the West, and continued dependence on roaming partners. T-Mobile roams, too, but a comparison of each carrier's prepaid coverage shows a distinct advantage of T-Mobile's native plus roaming capabilities.

The Alltel sites that will be added to AT&T's inventory over the next year will improve that situation, but there may also be a loss of GSM roaming for both carriers as Verizon Wireless ends GSM coverage at the end of their Alltel GSM roaming agreements. But what if? What if Verizon decides to make GSM roaming available for the foreseeable future? There may also be peace between Middle Eastern countries, dogs & cats, and tastes great/less filling. There's always hope.