Inexpensive Cell Service Experience

Recently I went in search of new secondary service for a work phone. And my really old iPhone was totally dead. So I figured I grab my current ‘spare’ Samsung 8+, which is wholly owned by me supposed to be completely unlocked etc, and use that.
When I tried to get the phone ‘registered’ (have to check the IMEI on sites to see if compatible and not under contract etc.) with any MVNO it was showing that it was NOT TRULY unlocked by Sprint – still had some contractual issues.
To finally get that BS cleared up was a complete exercise in determined persistence. A hassle requiring 30+ hours of chatting and numerous calls!. More on that incredible story in and upcoming post.

I was looking for an inexpensive, non contract and non big three service provider – one that would compliment my current Sprint backbone phone service – CDMA network(s). But again, without the Verizon prices. And I won’t use ATT because of their horrid service everywhere I am or have been.
I searched far and wide for and MVNO that rides on Verizon’s and Sprint’s backbone. [More on what an MVNO is here
I finally settled on Twigby after checking out compatibility and network information of all the MVNO’s I could find that met my criteria.
And … I’m now using Twigby for my work phone. (I still have Sprint for main phone because I want the priority of a top tier provider for that phone)

Twigby is an MVNO that primarily provides talk, text and data service on the Sprint network with talk and text roaming on Verizon’s network – so you should be able to call from just about anywhere in the US.

Most newer iPhones and Android phones are compatible. If you currently have Sprint, Verizon, Virgin, Boost and just about any other CDMA network provider it’ll work.
GSM only phones (read many of AT&Ts older offerings) are NOT compatible with Twigby’s service.

I’m on WiFi most of the time and don’t take many calls – my work calls are usually pretty short. And Twigby’s plans come with unlimited texts.
They also have data overage coverage will bump you up a plan notch to keep you from getting hosed with giant bill.
I chose 300 minutes and 3GB data and it’s only $19/mo for 1st 6 months, and then $24 after. And you get hotspot included.
NO contract!
A few things I had to do. First when trying hotspot – it didn’t work/load so chatted with them online and they reset my ‘network/plan’ settings and then on phone updated settings and it worked!
When checking my LTE speeds at first I was frustrated because they seemed slow (using the Ookla Speedtest app), so signed into account and checked the bandwidth settings (they can be adjusted to enable you to throttle yourself so you don’t use loads of data), changed settings to lower speed, saved then back to unlimited and BAM ripping 4G speeds.

For the past few months now I have been amazed at the service – inexpensive and it works!

If you have an unlocked phone and want to check it out go here:
When signing up, on the last page I believe, if you enter my account (Account Number: 41549 in the referral section YOU and I will each get a $20 credit!

Android App List Backup

Here is a very good app to use to install/re-install applications from phone to phone. It’s called appropriately enough, App List Backup.
It saves a list of your installed applications (Market/Play only. It does not list ‘Non-Market’ applications!) so you can re-download them from the Playstore/Market later (on the same or another device). This way apps will show up in Downloads(PlayStore) and receive updates.

The idea is NOT to physically back up your applications and their settings or to save you from re-downloading apps. For that I use Titanium Backup Pro (root required for Titanium; read my articles on rooting for more information).

This application creates a list that just let’s you VERY easily re-download one or all of your applications.
Great for sharing links of your applications with others. Or duplicating your installed applications on a new phone or one that is ‘reset’; either by wiping or installing new or different ROM version.

Simply download and install the application from the Playstore. Then run it to create a back up list.
Once installed navigate to a list you’ve created and copied over or that someone has given/sent you, and then restore. You can choose which to ‘reload/restore’ individually if you wish too. Now your applications will  show up in the Playstore on your phone and you can then install/update them.
Bam dead simple.

Have fun and be safe. Peace

Android Sensor Applications

Modern Smartphone’s are amazing! And I really love my latest – Epic 4g Touch (Sprint’s implementation of the Samsung Galaxy S2).

This thing rivals, and in some cases exceeds, the capability found in full blown laptops of just a few years ago. What makes Smartphone’s like these so amazing is the massive amounts of ‘sensors’ these devices now contain.
Most have GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes, light sensors and  more! All in a little hand held form factor. Oh, and they can actually make calls to just about anywhere from just about anywhere.

There are many tools and applications available to help you fully utilize these capabilities and features. Here are some that I use.

Metal Detector application – exactly what is sounds like. Make sure you calibrate it. [which by the way is NOT a gimmick and does work!].

Google StarMap Point your phone at the sky, and Google Sky Map will show the stars, planets, constellations, and more to help you identify the celestial objects in view. You can also browse the skies in manual mode.

GPS Status & Toolbox – not only is this a cool GPS device I’ve found that it is great for resolving other GPS issues; like when you navigation or maps app won’t ‘lock on’ to your location. Simply launch it and reset it or download A-GPS data regularly to keep your GPS fast and hassle free.

AndroSensor A tool that lets you know virtually everything about your device’s status. If you want to see what sensors your Android device actually has AND see what information they are recording/seeing check it out.

Radioactivity Counter Let’s you turn your Android device into a Geiger counter! For real. I may try this app that sounds pretty incredible. You can read more about it here.

Once again HERE is a list of applications installed and the current configuration of my phone.

That’s all for now. Just thought I’d throw up some of these for reference.

Reduce high cell phone carrier data usage issues on your Smartphone

A friend recently got a new phone – Samsung Galaxy S2 from AT&T, and she noticed that she is using loads of plan data somehow. Now I know that the aspect of having a new much more capable device might at first cause a spike in usage – downloading applications, watching videos, checking web services more etc. But she has notice that in a couple of weeks she was at 65% of her total plan allotment! Something is up.

I started to ask in forums and look around on the net and found that more than just a few others are noticing this too! What appears to be happening is that there are some apps that will keep using 3G connections to ‘check in’ using up data allotments. EVEN when WiFi is available.

In my previous post, here, I provided some information on how to use Titanium Backup to back up your system and remove or ‘freeze’ bloatware’ and other system applications.

One app I noticed that appeared as a common offender mentioned in many, many posts was the AP Mobile app. (I have already removed this app via Titanium so didn’t notice it I guess).

I would recommend that if you have this poorly written app you remove or at least ‘freeze’ it. Then check your data usage over the next few days.

Here is a very recent sample post from XDA forums:
“I didn’t think much about data usage until last week when I checked my AT&T account and noticed that I was already 50% through my allocated 2GB data limit. I’ve been mostly on WIFI since the device was activated and the few times that I was on 3G/HSPA was during my 30 minute lunch breaks. It didn’t make much sense considering I’ve had no time to mess around with the phone (aside from tweaking the widgets and checking my e-mails).

Anyways, fast forward a few days and after installing data manager, I discovered that AP Mobile (Stock TW widget) had used over 500MB+ of data. :-/ Apparently, I’m not alone. A quick glance at other forums and websites confirmed that AP Mobile was notorious for using heavy amount of data. It may not be an issue with users with unlimited data but to us fellow mortals, every megabyte counts. :-P?”

Another link with even more horror stories can be found here.

So clearly this is just one application I think everybody with a limited data usage plan should at least ‘freeze’ or better yet disable. I don’t like things ‘checking’ in that I haven’t allowed/authorized anyways so this is no big deal for me. There are others I’m sure but you’ll have to experiment with those.

One more thing to check is that your ‘web widgets’ – CNN and other types of web/news feeds (RSS) are not updating at too often an interval. Or that they are not updating at all unless you tell them too – manually.

I have an unlimited data portion of my plan (Sprint), so I’m not too terribly worried about ‘overages’ but I still want to know what’s going on.

So here are some more tips for lowering data usage all can use:

1. Manage all linked accounts, such as Gmail, (Google) Facebook, Twitter, and auto-sync apps (many come with the phone such as Stocks, Weather, News), though some may be downloaded. Most phones have this folder in settings. When un-checking the “Sync automatically” box, You can modify when and how often your linked accounts and apps sync to update their information. Some, you may still want to sync often and automatically (I have most that way, but again I’m not worried about data charges; yet!) But you may find it useful to change the frequency settings or change to sync when you open or actively use the app. Also uncheck boxes that state any apps can sync, receive, and send background data at any time. This applies to all other apps, like games or any you download from your app store.

2. You might want to make sure your GPS  is turned OFF, when not being used some carriers charge for this through data usage (not sure if AT&T still does – probably though). Many many people I know forget about this and/or don’t even realize when it’s on, and didn’t realize how much data it incurred as well as why their phone died so often. A good indicator of it being on is that it’s a MAJOR battery drainer. When using location serviced apps like maps that work better with GPS satellites, make sure you have it set to ASK every time it wants you to turn on GPS satellite access. And be SURE to turn it off when you are done using it. (not sure of others, but I have to manually turn mine off.

3. Utilize Wi-Fi when it is available. This is the best way to avoid data, granted you stay connected to Wi-Fi. Many people have trouble keeping an active Wi-Fi connection even if they are close to their router. [With the newer WiFi routers and expecially a good new phone this isn’t much of an issue anymore.]

** Most people also have the option to turn off the mobile network when your phone is idle or asleep, (not actively being used) so that nothing can sync. This means NO data can be sent, synced, or received (apps, email, internet, & mms txt messages) until you wake up the phone.  (which usually, unless manually set otherwise, toggles mobile network back on)

You can still receive calls & sms text messages without the mobile network enabled.  It will promptly resume when you do use the phone again unless you have it set where you must manually enable it. This helps people limit unknown data usages at odd hours as well as save battery life.

Well that’s all for now folks. Stay connected, be frugal and have fun. Peace Out.

Backing up Android phones

I’ve said this before many times before and I’ll keep on saying it, – back your sh$t up! If you do not have a backup solution for your digital information and devices, it is just a matter of time before you lose it/them and are screwed (or at least severely compromised).
I have written numerous posts on how to back up your Mac or Windows machines – just search my blog for those. Here I wanted to get into backing up your Smartphone.

These days most people have a wealth of information on their cell phones. Particularly the latest smart phones. These are now full featured computers that contain so much information it is truly incredible. Once one has upgraded or purchased a phone, gone through the process of getting it configured to their liking, adjusting all the system settings/functions and installed and configured applications it really sucks to have to do it all over again if you ever lose your phone and have to replace it, have to ‘wipe’ your phone (whether it’s done remotely for security reasons or by a store technician) or have an application issues that causes system crashes. And sometimes you can never seem to get all of your applications and settings back to where they were.

Enter Titanium Backup. This is the must have application for every Android phone. AND the number one reason (in my opinion) to ‘root’ your phone. With the simple ‘One-Click’ root available for most Android phones that Idescribed here it is very simple to gain root access. Once you’ve rooted your phone head over to Android Market and install it. The basic application is free and can do most things you will need. But I would still recommend buying the Pro Key to add a few other VERY powerful features.

The users guide can be found here. And a pretty decent video is here (pay particular attention to the point of ‘freezing apps’ around the 1:43 mark).

Here is another very good (and long/detailed) review and tutorial on the many benefits and functions of the Pro Version. I’d suggest you watch it for some fantastic tips and maybe some other uses for your situation(s).

Take your time and figure out this application and please USE IT. I have mine set up to back up every night locally and to DropBox (only available on the Pro Version). But I’m a back up fiend, you may be OK with weekly backups.

I also have used this to ‘Freeze’ applications and actually uninstall carrier ‘bloatware’ and crap hogging up data and space. SOME CARRIER APPS ARE ROBBING YOU OF YOUR CARRIER DATA LIMITS AND YOU MAY NOT KNOW IT! (more on that in my next post!)

Manage Applications – Freezing and uninstalling with Titanium


List of apps

Tapping the “Backup/Restore” button brings you to the application list – or rather the list of available “items”. Here you can see which applications and settings are available on your phone, and what has already been backed up (the symbols to the right tell you the latter – hit your phones menu button and select “Legend” for details on what they mean).

Tapping an application brings up a popup from which you can select actions to be taken with the selected item: You can e.g. run an application, back it up, and restore it (or its settings). You also may also decide to un-install the application – even if it is a system app! But with the latter, you should be very careful: Remove the wrong thing, and your phone may start malfunctioning; which is why you should first try whether it’s safe to remove that system application. This can be done by “freezing” it.


Properties of a backup

Freezing is only available with the PRO/Donate version. It makes the application unavailable to the system without deleting it. If your phone starts with some strange behavior, you can simply “defrost” the frozen application, and everything should be fine again.
Tapping-and-Holding brings up a different set of choices, but again just concerning the tapped (and held) application: You can search for all files belonging to it, view the app in the market, re-create the market link, if it does no longer appear in your market downloads (or do the opposite, detach it from the market), or move it between internal and SD storage – even if the app does not officially support this.

I’ve added another list of applications I have installed with direct Android Market links and QR codes again for those few who asked here.

I hope this helps some of you who have asked.

Epic 4g Touch EL26 Modem/Kernel/ROM – Full Restore – Rooted

Sprint has been trying to ‘push’ a system update to my phone for a couple of weeks – one that is supposed to fix many ‘bugs’ such as LOS (loss of signal) some where having and improve overall performance by updating the phone to Android version 2.6.3.

I have already ‘rooted’ my phone as I described in a previous article using this method with this file.

Even though the ‘root’ I did was the Stock ROM with just the addition of enabling full root access with recovery options, I was leery of running any ‘stock’ updates. Most cell providers have done a piss poor job of pushing out updates and my research showed this update was indeed causing more problems than it was supposed to fix!

So I waited and researched for further updates and ‘custom/patched’ fixes from the great folks at XDADevelopers Forum and the ACS team. My patience and research paid off.

Because my phone is already rooted I am able to use Titanium Backup Pro to back up all my application AND settings. I do this nightly to the local SD card AND to Dropbox (pretty much the only reason I use Dropbox actually).

If you want ANY reason why I believe you must root your Android phone, it is for the ability to use this application! If you install nothing else that requires root access or make any customizations you still win if you use Titanium. [OK so major plugging done.]

The guys at XDA now have a full ‘One-Click’ root available here.

I backed my data using Titanium (just in case!) then set about updating my phone following the easy to use (and very precise) directions. I chose the ‘NoData’ package – to preserve all my applications and settings! [but remember I still have my backup just in case!]

Following the instructions it worked flawlessly!!

Then to install even more recovery options (the Clockworkmod – a full system imaging tool!) I followed the directions here. They are simple and precise too. After the update and all the reboots system is up and running WITHOUT ANY ISSUES.

My download speed for both 3G and 4G have increased. My 3G data speed doubled – modem really made a difference!
The responsiveness of the phone is now even faster. Switching between applications and screens is faster and smoother too!

Super video on the ‘Rooting’ using the one-click root little faster than what I originally did!

Once the update to EL26 was complete I installed the Clockwork Mod exactly as described above and laid out in this awesome video below.

The guys at ACS and XDA are GREAT! I can’t thank them enough. To download and access some files you might be required to register for each forum. Both are free and the process is painless – do it!

Well there it is. I hope someone else finds this useful. Peace

Free calling in Gmail extended through 2011

Google initially rolled out free voice calls in Gmail (via Google Voice) as something they would offer through 2010. Now, "in the spirit of holiday giving," they’ve extended free calling through all of 2011.

In case you haven’t tried it yet, dialing a phone number works just like a regular phone. Look for “Call phone” at the top of your Gmail chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

More info here

Text to Phone

Want to send a short email to a friend and get it delivered to his/her cell phone as SMS? If you know your friends’ phone numbers and the carrier they are on then you can easily send emails to their cell phones directly from your email program.

Here is how it works:

Most of mobile carriers offer free Email To SMS gateways which can be used to forward simple text emails to a mobile phones. And the good news, majority of those gateways are free and available to the general public.

You just need to know the number and the carrier of the recipient to start emailing them to mobile phone. Below we put together a table listing free email to SMS gateways for different carriers. You can use as quick reference both for US and international mobile numbers.

Virtually all of the major US cellular carriers use the format for SMS to text capable cell phones, with a limit of 160 characters in the subject and message body (total).

Example: T-Mobile:


Send Email to phonenumber@….

[where phonenumber = your 10 digit phone number]








Verizon (text only) (pictures and videos)

Dead simple and when people reply to the text it goes right to your email instantly!

I love simple tech tips and hope this helps some of you too.

Legal spying via the cell phone system

I don’t think many people know about this or can even really technically understand it.
But this article should serve as another warning to people – you have very little REAL privacy. Just about everything you send or receive via the internet, cell phone or even publicly switched telephone system is very open to ‘evesdroping’.

The NSA has been doing this for years. But now some ‘regular’ guys are showing how it’s done very easily with publicly available tools and techniques.
So for the truly paranoid time to put on the tin foil hats.