Saturday, December 7, 2013

From iPhone 4s on Sprint to Nexus 5 on T-Mobile: Intro

I moved from iPhone 4s to Nexus 5 on T-Mobile. I did a lot of research before, during, and after this transition. This move is just the beginning of a larger experiment for me. This may not end up being my final arrangement.

I'm going to start off with a quick intro, which is what you are reading now. Then, I'll post some detailed articles covering:
  • Android phone comparisons
  • Nexus 5 vs iPhone 4s experience
  • Carrier research
Before going into the what and why - a brief history. I've had been using the iPhone 4s for close to two years. While it was a very reliable phone, the data service had gotten unbearable. I decided I wanted to try an LTE phone. This journey has lead me to switch cellphone companies and tentatively my carrier. 

Initial plans:
Preliminary research indicated that Sprint's LTE service may not be that fast compared to the competitors. However, I was willing to give it a shot, if it didn't cost more to try.

I Spent a crap load of time researching phones and phone companies. I decided I would give Android another shot. I was deciding between a small set of phones, when article by Ars Technica tipped the scales towards the Nexus 5.

I'll share my findings about the various Android phones out in the market in a future post. 

Choosing Nexus 5:
Here is the Ars Technica article, The article suggested I could swap the Sprint SIM from iPhone to Nexus5. If this were the case, I could try sprint, then I would simply swap the Sprint SIM with another provider to make a comparison.

The Nexus 5 is an extremely multi-carrier phone. It works on every major carrier except for Verizon. It met all my basic requirements. So, I went ahead and ordered one from Google to insure it wouldn't be locked. At the time of this article, it was the cheapest way to get a new unlocked Nexus 5.

First attempt with Sprint:

I went to the local corporate Sprint store.

The folks at the corporate Sprint store advise me I can't just swap SIMs. They also said that the 32GB Nexus can't be added to Sprint. I knew this wasn't the case, because there were reports of others getting on sprint with the 32GB model. However, I was eager to test my new phone, and wanted service right away.

So, I walked over to the T-Mobile store and got a pre-paid SIM there.


The T-Mobile rep suggested I would not get full T-Mobile speed without getting the phone direct from them, which I thought was an odd thing to say. I wonder if they get commissions for selling phones.
I know there are cheaper ways to get service, and I may try those too some day. However, I wanted to start off with a major carrier directly and I didn't want a contract. T-Mobile meets this requirement. Since it's prepaid, I can go for a cheaper service next month . I'll provide my findings regarding various carriers in a future article. 

T-Mobile is FAST. Well, compared to Sprint 3G on the iPhone 4S.  I get less bars, but even with just one bar, service seems good with T-Mobile. I don't know how much of this is the modern processor in the Nexus vs the old processor in the iPhone. Or, how much is LTE. But, it's faster.

FYI, I'm not giving up on testing Sprint. But, getting on to Sprint is going to be a project.

By the way, the way I'm able to move easily between services and have more then one service active at a time is by using Google Voice. 

Google voice:

Google voice is a free magic phone service from Google. You get a phone number that does the following:
  • Allows you to have multiple phones ring for a given number 
  • You can schedule certain phones to only ring at certain times.
  • Have transcribed voicemails SMS'd to your phne 
  • Make really cheap international calls
  • Receive/make phone calls from your PC/Mac (within gmail)
  • Using conditional forwarding, have google act as your voicemail for your regular phone number

Setting up Google Voice with T-Mobile presented some issues.

T-mobile doesn't support conditional forwarding for "bring your own phone"
This means callers to my real T-Mobile number won't get forwarded to my Google Visual Voicemail. Most people have my google voice number so that isn't a big deal.

To get Google Voicemail to work on T-Mobile I had to call T-Mobile to have them disable voicemail. This had to be done so that the T-Mobile voicemail would not pickup before Google Visual Voicemail id.
Google's new SMS app, "Hangout" doesn't support google voice. Also, you can't make their outdated google voice app a default SMS app which limits some of the nifty SMS integrated features, like auto sending a message letting a user know you are busy when you get a call.

I installed Slider Messenger, a $2 app to work around this issue. This is a bit of a hack. The app intercepts Google Voice notifications and ads the messages to itself. 

Summary (TL;DR):

Hated Sprint 3G, got Nexus5. Sprint was unhelpful in getting the phone added to my existing service.

Ended up getting my LTE boost from T-Mobile. Google Voice on T-Mobile requires a kludge, and may have slightly less coverage. Otherwise, currently happy with T-Mobile.

To Come:
  • @sprintcare tells me Sprint is doable, just have to jump through some hoops Will I finally be able to test? How will service be?
  • Did a lot of research on phones, going to save you some time and provide you with my findings.
  • Also did a bit of research on carriers. Stay tuned for what I discovered!
  • Find out how my life on Android compares with life on iPhone

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