· 5 min read Posted by Touchlab


Saw the excellent post on The Verge today about how the biggest thing holding back phone innovation is the carriers.  Its a concept I’ve agreed with for some time, but that article goes into much more detail, and really crystalized the idea in my head.  As an Android developer, I’ve seen the mess that carriers (and OEMs, to be fair) are making of the platform.  The primary issue for me is the carriers make money off the ignorance of users and restrictive business practice, rather than creating a better product.

I had been a Verizon customer years ago, but left because of a lot of crap that they did back then.  I had flip feature phone which had hardware bluetooth capable of moving photos to my computer, but Verizon disabled that and charged something like 25 cents per pic.  I was just getting into phone dev, so I moved to t-mobile.  While I had my share of gripes there, the situation was FAR better, from a consumer perspective.  I could get a new phone, move the sim card, and eventually even tether with my same data amount, as long as I didn’t use all the data.  It all worked.

The only place I would drop calls turned out to be in my office, which isn’t great for business.  I re-drank the Koolaid and jumped to Verizon.  I forgot how bad it was.  I got the Bionic, which was a mess.  Horrible phone, up and down.  Reception was worse at home, oddly enough.  I did not, however, drop calls at work, so I stuck with it.  I picked up the Galaxy Nexus when it came out, at full price.  Verizon blocked Google Wallet, presumably in lieu of ISIS (which we’re waiting on still).  Then Google opted to not support that phone as a “Nexus” device anymore.  I can only assume because of Verizon restrictions.  The 4G often forgets to reconnect, a problem which I also had on the Bionic, so I’m guessing its not something with the phone.  I’ve had numerous problems with billing, voice mail, and my tethering, which I pay for, only works for about 5 minutes, then requires a reboot.  On top of that, the lack of ability to move between phones really irks me.  You CAN buy a phone outright, but they charge huge premiums for the privilege (the Galaxy Nexus is still $650 off contract, the GSM version is $350).

So, even though I’ll be paying some early termination fees (for the second time.  I cancelled a mobile USB card a copule years ago because of disastrous customer service), I’m thinking its time to switch back to t-mobile.

But today I was thinking, since I’m punching myself in the wallet, why not see what happens without any cell plan?  While I’ll talk your ear off in person, I’m not a fan of long phone conversations.  Except for times that I “go out”, I’m generally close enough to a web connection that my life won’t be greatly disturbed.  I could use a pay phone in a pinch, although I’m pretty sure they only exist for illegal purposes at this point. Drug deals and such.

BTW. I think an excellent documentary would just be footage of people using pay phones, narrated like a nature show by somebody with a British accent.  But I digress.

(Hope tumblr does auto-saving…)

Anyway, I *could* get by without any cell service.  Because I do actually need to conduct business and would probably freak out without access to maps, I’m thinking something less drastic.  What I WANT is a data-only plan, that will occasionally use VOIP for a short call here and there.  To that end, a Clear wireless hotspot would serve nicely.  The big plan is $50/month.  If I could sneak by on the little plan, that’s $35/month.  T-mobile offers a data-only plan, but only for tablets and mifi’s, and since this is partly my little protest, I’m not going to try to sneak a tablet sim into my phone.  Not sure I could, anyway.

friend overheard my crazy plan and offered to let me borrow his for a bit to try it out.  I assume he just wants me to see how horrible it’ll be and periodically poke fun for trying.  But try I will!


Day 0

I need to get the basics in place before I jump ship.  I do need to make calls, even if I do so rarely.  The plan was Google Voice.  Strike 1.  I thought Google Voice actually did VOIP, but it seems like the phone app will only forward calls to a real phone.  That, or its crippled so as not to anger the carriers, so I’ll need another solution.  Looks like this won’t be as easy as I thought.

I have actual work to do, and “sleep”, which generally doesn’t get high priority in the schedule, so research will have to wait till tomorrow.

In the odd chance that anybody reads this and has info, forward along…