· 4 min read Posted by Touchlab

Unplugged Day 4?

Still not REALLY unplugged.  I’ve moved the goal posts a bit, and instead of going completely without a phone plan, I went with the t-mobile $30/month deal.

T-mobile’s business is interesting.  In order to sign up for the $30/month plan, you need a phone or SIM card.  I popped into a retail store to see if I could get one Saturday, rather than having it shipped.  After some confusion, its turns out I could not.  I could get a SIM card, for $20 ($1 online), but it would need to be activated in the store, which means I wouldn’t be able to get the $30/month plan, which must be online, or at walmart, and only for new activations.  We chatted for a bit about how it seems like their online and retail businesses compete with each other.  Mercifully this salesperson wasn’t trying too hard to “sell” me.  I think me ripping apart the Galaxy Nexus and talking about VOIP clued him in to me not being the best use of his time.

I ordered it Saturday afternoon.  Came today.  Is it me, or has shipping in general gotten just a touch faster over the past few years?

The setup process is pretty cryptic.  I would imagine the average phone user would fumble this.  There are A LOT of numbers to key in.  Then there’s a completely weird part where you have to state how much money you want to charge to the pre-paid phone, even though the plan is clearly $30/month.  I keyed in “$0”, which was promptly rejected.  I selected the $30 radio button, which was accepted.  I was half expecting an extra $30 charge, which I don’t think happened?

Anyway, boom! Phone is set up.  I had confirmed with both the store salesperson and a chat salesperson that VOIP was allowed on t-mobile, but then remembered the general rule that sales people will often just say yes to anything. After a reboot, I fired up the GrooVe IP, dialed my regular phone, and it all worked.  The only weird thing I noticed was a delay of about 1 full second from talk to sound on the other end.  I wonder what a normal cell delay is?  Sound quality was great, though.  Really regret leaving t-mobile in the first place.

I’ve read that GrooVe IP and Google Voice use about 1.2 megs per minute, which translates into a few thousand minutes if I’m on 4G.  Since most calls will be wifi, I don’t expect to get anywhere near the 5Gig limit.  Just need to remember to not use the regular dialer when calling out.

Once I drop Verizon, my current phone becomes the VOIP-only phone.  I’d still like to test that out with the clear hotspot, but t-mobile kind of made the test meaningless.  The one valid reason to continue would be that the t-mobile plan is far from a standard plan.  I don’t know what kind of Jedi tricks Walmart pulled, but without them, I don’t think this plan would be available.  As far as I can tell, t-mobile doesn’t have another plan that would approximate this in any way.  The regular 2Gig and 5Gig phone plans cost $60 and $70, respectively, and include unlimited phone minutes.

It struck me that if a lot of people jumped onto this plan, t-mobile would shut it down pretty quickly.  It would be hard to compete with other carriers who are pulling $80+/month for smartphones (I’m pretty sure my Verizon bill is over $100).  I also expect them to eventually yank the VOIP-friendly attitude.

So, its a great deal.  Now promptly forget about it and tell nobody.  Don’t ruin my party.