In an attempt to save money, Shelly and I decided to eliminate our crazy-expensive cell phone plan through Verizon. We were paying $190/ month for two smartphones with unlimited calls, text, and data. I decided to see if I could completely eliminate my plan while still maintaining some usability with my old phone. In essence, could I have smartphone capability for free?
Note- please don’t spam the comments section with your favorite cell phone plans. I will delete it. I’m aware of all the options available as I’ve researched it extensively. This is an experiment to continue using my hardware at no cost. If you have an idea consistent with that experiment, you may post that.
Anyway, these were my goals:
- Keep my old phone number.
- Be able to place and receive calls at least some of the time.
- Be able to send and receive texts.
- Be able to browse the Internet and use the Facebook app.
- Be able to use Google Maps.
- Be able to shoot pictures and video, and share.
This experiment was greatly simplified because I have an HTC Incredible running Android. This is significant because I can utilize Google Voice. This is what I did:
- Set up a Google Voice account using my Gmail login, then set it as my default voicemail system.
- Download and install GrooVe IP Lite, the Google Voice app, Wi-Fi Matic, and Wi-Fi Finder.
- Port my Verizon phone number to Google Voice. It cost $20, but allows me to keep the number. If anyone (prospective employers) tries to contact me or friends text me, I won’t miss it.
- Set up GrooVe IP Lite and Wi-Fi Matic.
This entire setup is based on using wi-fi instead of the data connection to accomplish tasks. Internet, Google Maps, and the Facebook app aren’t problematic as long as I have a wi-fi connection in the area.
Google Maps, in a recent release, added a badass “offline viewing” feature. This allows you to prefetch a map, then use the map for navigation once you leave your wifi connection. I was able to download the entire San Diego metro area. It’s not fully functional, but better than nothing.
In addition to Google Maps, I also downloaded MapFactor Navigation which also offers map pre-fetching and offline navigation. I’m still testing this particular app.
Google Voice allows me to text via the GV app over wifi, but not make calls. GrooVe IP Lite uses Google Voice to make calls over wi-fi.
Wi-Fi Matic sets up a schedule to turn wi-fi off when I wouldn’t be using it (night) to conserve the battery.
Wi-Fi Finder is an app that uses a database of free wi-fi hotspots all over the world. It also has a live scanner to find wi-fi hotspots within range. Since everything is now done via wi-fi, knowing where to find these hot spots is critical.
The limitations are obvious- I cannot use the phone outside a wi-fi network. This limits the phone’s usefulness in if I’m not at home or near a free public wi-fi hotspot. For some, this may be a deal-breaker. Based on my current situation, it’s mostly a non-issue.
What about emergencies?
Per FCC rules, all cell phones, regardless of status (deactivated in my case) must have the capability to place 911 calls. If there was an emergency, I’d still be covered.
Eventually I’ll move to a decent prepaid plan, but I’ll continue to experiment with the free route in the interim.
Anyone else play around with a similar setup and have any tips or tricks?