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Picking Your Wireless Carrier (USA): Data Plans for Tablets update

I made a post a while back about picking a data plan for a tablet with cellular radio. Some things happened early November, namely the release of the iPad Air. Well, in conjunction, both AT&T and T-Mobile rolled out new data plans that may be of some interest. Unlike typical post paid smartphone plans, data plans on US carriers are not that bad. So it’s great to see more choices.

First, AT&T. In addition to their regular plans, AT&T added two new plans. First one is 250MB for $5 that is good for one day. You may think WTF? However, this is actually not bad for travelers/tourists that may only need a day’s worth of data plan, and they don’t have to shell out $15 (which was the price for 250MB that is good for 1 month). The second plan is the one that is more interesting. $25 for 1GB that is good for 3 months. Why is this great? This allows you to have a secondary plan that will only cost you $8.33 a month, and you get 1GB total data. It is very useful when you occasionally bring your tablet with you on the go once in a while, and you want more than 200MB data per month (more on this later). What is even better, you can sign up for any of the data plans on your tablet (iPad, Nexus 7, etc), and then put the SIM on your smartphone, and voila, smartphone with only data plan. πŸ™‚ I tried this on my HTC One and it works fine, with LTE to boot. Of course, there is a risk AT&T may do something, but so far things are working okay.

I did get into a snafu in activating the plan. It has been a while since I renew the plan on my AT&T account. A quick call to AT&T reprovisioned the SIM (assigned a different number than the old one) and I was good to go.

Next, T-Mobile. T-Mobile is doing something more aggressive. 200MB per month for FREE! Yes, free, as in no payment at all. Sounds good, right? Well, there’s a catch, and I spent hours with T-Mobile support (figured it out myself eventually).

The T-Mobile plan is automatic. If you have an existing prepaid mobile broadband data plan with T-Mobile, you will automatically get the plan, ie. if you don’t renew your plan, you will automatically get the 200MB per month for free.

So, what’s the catch again? Well, here’s my story. I got a T-Mobile SIM that I use on and off for data plan when I need it. I want to test this plan out, so I inserted the SIM on my iPad. Well, it did not work. Every time I tried going to any website, I got redirected to my T-Mobile site. If I tried logging in with my account information, it got stuck in a page saying the site is down. Now, I thought this would be as easy as T-Mobile re-provisioning my SIM just like my issue with AT&T, right? Nope. I called T-Mobile, the rep was quite baffled as everything was shown to be okay on their end, and decided to put in a temporary pass so at least it would work. Well, it did work for a couple of days, then it’s back to square one when the pass expired. Called T-Mobile again, wasted 1 hour being transferred multiple times and having to re-tell the story again and again, and the final rep pretended that she could not hear me and disconnected me. Some of the reps did not even know about the plan. Even funnier, one did not even know what an iPad is (he kept referring it as my phone, and one time he asked which manufacturer made the iPad, and whether it’s a T-Mobile or non-T-Mobile iPad. Seriously. Note that all iPads are unlocked so this should not even be questioned). Resetting the connection, rebooting the iPad, nothing.

I decided to go to a local T-Mobile store. The guy checked out my account, changed to a new SIM, still no go. My account showed that my device is my Nexus 7. When I activated that SIM for the first time, I did it on my Nexus 7. Well, guess what. Apparently the SIM is locked to whatever device it was originally activated from. I put the SIM into my Nexus 7, and it works. What a load of crap. I tried putting the SIM into my Nexus 4, and I got a voice mail saying that my service has been restricted. So yeah, T-Mobile doesn’t want you to switch your SIM around different devices. If you want data plan on a different tablet, you have to get a new SIM and activate it in that tablet. Also, you cannot use this trick to get a data only plan on your smartphone (similarly, T-Mobile does not allow you to use a SIM with a smartphone plan on a tablet).

Well, there you go. Newer options to get data plan on your tablet. If you don’t need to switch devices and 200MB per month is fine, the 200MB T-Mobile plan is great. However, once you need flexibility, you need to pay up. If you need a good amount of data on your tablet, AT&T’s 1GB for $25 for 3 months is not such a bad deal. If you don’t need it for that long, Verizon is better as they give you 1GB for $20. If you need a smartphone plan with a good amount of data, T-Mobile’s own $30 a month is still the best deal, giving you 5GB of 4G data. None of the tablet data plans can match that.

Hopefully my experience may be useful to others. πŸ™‚

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in rant, tips

 

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Picking Your Wireless Carrier part 04: CDMA MVNOs

First of all, I would like to say that I am not a fan of CDMA carriers (Verizon, Sprint, and their MVNOs). The reason is that you are forced to buy their phones, which are branded and controlled by them. Plus you cannot use your phone anywhere else other than the operator your pick. Imagine buying a car where you can only fill up your gas at one gas station company. Imagine buying a computer where you can only use with one ISP for internet. With GSM, I can buy an unlocked GSM phone and use it with any GSM carrier I want to, worldwide.

Having said that, CDMA is pretty prominent in the US. The biggest carrier, Verizon, is using CDMA (and recently LTE). Let’s take a peek at their prepaid plans. Verizon only offers two plans, $60 and $70 a month. $60 gives you 500MB data, $70 gives you 2GB. Unlimited minutes and text. Compared to their own post paid plans, it’s not bad. However, your phone selection is severely limited as Verizon only offers three old smartphones on their website (2 Android phones, and 1 Blackberry, all 3G only). Plus, you are limited to 3G EVDO. No LTE access. And once you compare prices with the plethora of MVNOs we have seen so far, $60 a month is a lot of money, especially when you cannot use the phone that you want.

There is a Verizon MVNO called PagePlus. They will activate Verizon phones (you still have to buy the phone somewhere, and since CDMA is provider locked, most of the time you have to buy them at full price from Verizon). *EDIT: I guess I was misinformed, another reason I hate CDMA. PagePlus is not activating Verizon phones, more like people are flashing their Verizon phones to be usable on PagePlus.* Prices are a bit more reasonable. $30 a month gives you 1200 minutes, 3000 text, and 250MB data. $40 a month gives you unlimited minutes and text, but dialed down the data to just 200MB. $55 a month bumps the data to 2GB. If you already have a Verizon phone, this is a good alternative to save some money. Do note that you will be using EVDO 3G, not LTE. EVDO 3G is slower than HSDPA (which is the 3G technology used by GSM carriers).

Next, let’s look at Sprint. Being the “little” guy against Verizon, Sprint is akin to T-Mobile, offering better values and more MVNOs. They only have one prepaid plans for smartphones, $70 a month for unlimited everything, including data, but no tethering. Also, Sprint only offers two Android phones. The plus side is they offer an LTE phone. The downsides are Sprint’s LTE coverage is extremely limited at this point, and their 3G EVDO speed is slower than even Verizon’s (which is already slow).

Sprint’s MVNOs are more interesting. First, there is Virgin Mobile. $35 a month for 300 minutes, $45 for 1200 minutes, and $55 for unlimited. Text is unlimited. Data is “unlimited,” up to 2.5GB at 3G/4G speed. Tethering/portable hotspot is $15 extra, and will give you an extra 1GB of high-speed data. 4G here means Wimax. It’s no LTE, and it’s not going to be expanded any further as Sprint decided to adopt LTE instead, so caveat emptor. On the bright side, Sprint’s Wimax coverage is a bit better than Sprint’s LTE right now. In addition, Virgin Mobile’s phone selections are more varied, including iPhone 4S and 4 (CDMA iPhone, thus slow 3G EVDO speed). A good option if you know what you want and get.

Another Sprint MVNO that is offering an ala-carte style plan is ting. This is a very interesting model. Unlike most plans, you have a plethora of options on how many minutes, text, and data you want to pay per month. Even more interesting is if you exceed the pre-determined limit, ting will simply bump your plan up to the higher one, and will bring it down on the next billing cycle. So no crazy overages. How is this interesting? Well, since ting will bump your plans up automatically, one can simply pick no minutes, no text, and no data, and just pay $6 access fee per phone. That way, if you are a light user, you will be paying the minimum amount possible. They even include tethering at no additional charge (the way it should be as tethering is a feature of your phone, not the network). Of course, if you look at the upper end prices, it can be very expensive (3000 minutes by itself already cost $52, while other operators are offering unlimited minutes, text, AND data for less than that). ting allows you to bring an existing Sprint device (except for iPhone). They also offer a more “up-to-date” lineup, including the Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy Note 2. Catch is, it’s still CDMA, and it’s Sprint. So if your area has no LTE, you’ll be getting the slow EVDO 3G.

Again, I’m not a fan of CDMA in general as I have pointed out in the beginning. GSM opens a lot more choices in terms of phones. If you have to go CDMA route, ting and Virgin Mobile offer very good prices. If you must have Verizon coverage, and you want LTE, then paying up to the nose for Verizon’s post-paid plans is the only choice.

Next I would explore tips and tricks in picking your phone and operators.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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September 12th Apple Keynote Prediction

Well, the day is getting near, and the rumors from the so-called “analysts” are endless. Time to pitch in mine.

1. New iPhone. Currently, the rummor is that it’s going to be a 4″ iPhone. Before, I was hesitant to assume that as the form factor of the current iPhone 4/4S is perfect imo. However, the increasingly leaks of spy shots on the new form factor kinda makes it a given. Despite the plethora of pictures of the parts, not many rumors about what’s inside. Some assumed it’s going to be the A5X, the chip used on the “new” iPad. Some said it’s going to be a new A6. Who knows. The A5X seems too big for the old form factor, but with the enlarged size, it’s possible. So, my prediction for the new iPhone is that, as rumored, it will be 4″ with the new dock connector, it will have the A5X in it, and it will carry the same price points as the current 4S (eg. 16GB for $199 subsidized up to $399 for 64GB). LTE is also a given, although who knows how it would work with the unlocked version.

The dock connector change is huge though. It will break all existing rich accessories ecosystem, although Apple will gladly sell you an adapter or two. Now, what if Apple approached this ala the Macbook Pro and “new” Macbook Pro with retina display, ie. releasing an iPhone with the updated internals but with the older dock-connector. Unlikely, but don’t want to re-buy all my existing accessories. I do hope Apple cut the unlocked pricing a bit. Currently, the 16GB iPhone 4S is $649. This may sound cool when unlocked iPhones are selling for thousands of dollars, but not anymore when the Galaxy Nexus is $349 unlocked. Apple need to really cut that price down. Even the old 3GS is sold at $375, more expensive than the more advance Galaxy Nexus. Although I think Apple will keep the unlocked pricing structure the same, because they can, I wish they at least bring the 16GB 4S to match the $349 Galaxy Nexus. One can only hope.

Oh, and Apple will call it the “new” iPhone. No iPhone 5 nor 6. Apple could’ve paired it with the iOS version, but they skipped 5 and named it 4S instead. So it will be just a “new” iPhone. Just like Macbooks and iMacs, there will be simply a top of the line iPhone (the latest one), and lesser speced cheaper ones (eg. the 4/4S).

I also have a concern with the new nano SIM. It’s hard enough having to jugle the micro SIM with phones using regular SIM using adapters. Now the even smaller nano SIM is going to make things even more annoying, as Apple will be the only one using it (Nokia just started using micro SIM for their Windows Phone phones, while other companies are still using regular SIM).

2. iOS 6. Kinda obvious. The removal of Google maps will be the big thing, and also adding turn-by-turn navigation. The only thing I’m disappointed is how many of these features won’t make it for the iPhone 4. Other than that, we already know what will be in iOS 6, so I doubt there will be any surprises. Maybe some extra stuff due to the larger screen of the new iPhone.

3. iPods. The iPod lineup didn’t get any updates at all last year. It’s a dying market with Apple standing on top. Not sure what Apple would do, but so far the rumors are new lineup across the board and the final axe for the iPod Classic.
-iPod Shuffle: What else can you do with this? Apple tried to go buttonless, but people didn’t like that. So the current Shuffle is as simple as one can get. Maybe just more colors. Same price point, $49.
-iPod nano: the rumor is that Apple will make a wifi iPod nano to connect to the iTunes store. Make sense as it allows people to buy more stuff from Apple. The current nano is already too restricted to be improved upon, so to me, the new “nano” will be actually a smaller iPod Touch. Apple will still market it as the iPod nano, but it will be an iOS device. I mean why do things half-heartedly? Might as well stick the full iOS in it. It will probably have either an A4 or the A3 (iPhone 3GS internal) in it to keep cost down. Screen will the the old lower-res LCD 3GS’ screen (non-retina). This might also explain why Apple is still supporting the 3GS for iOS 6. It might be old inside, but Apple will make it attractive outside by making it in colors. 8GB and 16GB at $99 and $149. Cheapest entry to the app store!
-iPod Touch: With the nano taking over most of the draws of the iPod Touch, the new iPod Touch will be larger (presumably following the new iPhone size) to compete further as a portable gaming device. Besides, the current Touch is so thin that it’s impossible to put something like the A5X in it. The new larger 4″ iPod Touch will carry the A5X, the iPad 3/iPhone 4 camera, and priced at $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB. This also begs Apple to drop the price of the unlocked iPhones. I mean come on, why is a 16GB “new” iPad with LTE is cheaper than a 16GB iPhone 4S?

The wild card is the iPad mini. The popularity of the Nexus 7 and Kindle fire HD show that people want a smaller tablet. The iPad has ruled the standard sized tablet market, but Apple has nothing for this segment, having only an outdated iPod Touch. Pricing will be tough as the Nexus 7 and newly announced Kindle fire HD pushed that envelope further down at $199. Currently, for $199, you can only get a small-screen old 8GB iPod Touch. Definitely not an iPad experience. However, if Apple was to make an iPad mini, this pricing points will overlap too much with the iPod Touch and iPad. If Apple made an iPad mini, I don’t think Apple would go for the $199 price point. It would be probably at least $249 or $299 for the lowest end, as a bridge between the iPod Touch and iPad. I would guess $299 for 16GB, $399 for 32GB. Cheapest entry for an iPad experience! I do think Apple need to give some incentive to buyers, so I think Apple would make a 4G versions for the iPad mini. Note that for now, the Nexus 7 and 7″ Kindle fire HD are wifi only, so having 4G will be an advantage (and justify a higher price). So maybe $399 for 16GB + 4G and $499 for 32GB + 4G, matching up nicely with the starting price for the regular iPad. Internals will be the same as the “new” iPad (retina-res screen, etc).

I don’t know if Apple would do all of these in one announcement though. It sure will take a lot of attention away from the competitors and keep the news and tech bloggers busy for a while to cash in on the SEO. However, something like the iPad mini will be a huge announcement, so maybe Apple will do an October event (and maybe with an updated “new” iPad having the new dock connector), coupling this with maybe some announcements for the Apple TV or iTunes services. Or maybe this will be done together with the new iMacs.

In any case, September has been a very exciting month, starting with Nokia’s announcement of their new Lumia 920 phone with Windows Phone 8, then Motorola with their new RAZR Android phones lineup, then the bombastic Amazon announcement with their new Kindle and Kindle fire HD lineups. Of course, Apple will top them all as usual, and sell a bajilion more iDevices. For me personally, I find my current iPhone 4 to be satisfactory. If Apple still put ridiculous prices for the unlocked iPhones, I might just snap the iPod Touch instead, or a 4G iPad mini (if it existed). Although I love my iPhone and can’t live without it, sometimes I miss the usage of a basic phone. However, I don’t want to go back having to carry multiple devices again.

Well, there you go, my predictions for Apple’s September 12th event. Now if only I got paid like those analysts.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in apple, event, Keynote

 

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New iPad announcement

I have not posted anything on this blog for a while because I’m too lazy, but I guess it’s time for an update because, well, the iPad 3. πŸ˜€

So, here’s my keynote run-through and impression.

1. Tim Cook rehashing the same thing about how Apple is so great in this post-PC era, how they are making a boatload of money, how great their retail stores are, and how you will buy whatever they are announcing today. (I made the last part up). I just went to their 5th Ave store in New York, and it’s quite amazing how many people were in that store, in the middle of the night. I mean really, the store even opens 24 hour. Unbelievable. Every retailers on the planet are salivating.

2. iOS is great. Sales, numbers, Siri, bla bla bla. But hey, now Siri can speak nihon-go. iOS 5.1, available today. How many Android devices got updated to 4.0? Yeah.

3. iCloud, it just works. Err… not really Tim. It’s cool, but still need a lot of work and features. Now iCloud supports movies, and iTunes has 1080p movies.

4. New Apple TV with 1080p support. “The quality is off the charts.” Meh, I can rip my blu-ray to get 1080p movies DRM free myself. Boring demo. Still $99.

5. iPad 3, or “the new iPad.” Yeah, Apple drops the numbering altogether. It will be just the iPad. Just like the Mac, no numbering anymore. Tim Cook went on and on about how people love iPads. Hearing Tim Cook talking made me sleepy. Sorry, but it’s hard for anybody to match Steve Jobs’ performance and presentation. Tim is also showing how the apps on Android tablets are inferior to the iPad version.

Amazing new iPad! It’s magical! No, Tim didn’t say magical, but might as well. Phil is doing the actual announcement, not my favorite person to do keynote either. So, what’s new on the new iPad?

-Retina display. 2048 x 1536 resolution, higher resolution than even my iMac! More than any 1080p HDTV! It’s quite amazing, 264ppi. Wait, that’s not 300dpi. Phil went on explaining why they still classify the iPad’s 264ppi as retina based on distance. Whatever.

-A5X chip, not the A6. So instead quad-core CPU, it’s still dual-core CPU but quad-core GPU. 4X Tegra 3? Holly mackerel, and Android tablets using Tegra 3 are barely coming out (Yeah Asus, where’s your Transformer Prime?). Amazing.

-iSight camera. Errr, ok, now Apple is using the iSight monicker again after changing it to Facetime on Macs? Phil says that the front facing camera is Facetime camera, and the rear facing camera is an iSight camera. Ooookay. 5MP, 1080p video with image stabilization. Sounds great, right? Yeah, considering how many people out there are using iPads to take pictures and videos in the wild, it’s going to get worse. Really, holding an iPad to take pictures in public places doesn’t make you cool.

-Voice dictation. Oh come on Apple, can’t you just put Siri on it? Voice dictation also in nihon-go.

-4G LTE + HSPA+. So real 4G and fake 4G, included. Problem is, AT&T version will be different than Verizon version since both LTE is not compatible with each other. Luckily, either of them have world-compatible 3G. Oh, and personal hotspot feature…. if your carrier supports it. Uh huh, yeah, good luck with that on US carriers.

-Still 10-hour battery life. Well, Apple put more battery on the new iPad, resulting in a bit thicker body compared to the iPad 2.

-Same pricing for all levels of storage capacities starting at $499 for the 16GB wifi. Alas, no 128GB version.

Availability? March 16th in 10 countries, including Singapore, and pretty much everywhere else a week after that. Compare that to the Asus Transformer Prime, which was released at the end of last year, yet still not available in retail today. This is why Apple is successful, and funny thing is, the competitors just don’t get it, still following their old way of slow time-to-market schedule.

6. Game and app demos. Ooohhh, shiny. Console quality games. Err, no, not with touch screen. Autodesk, selling a ton more apps on iOS than the desktop. “Amazing.” “Retina display is luscious.” Epic games, with a diablo clone.

7. Updated iWorks apps and iLife apps. The multiple instruments on multiple iPads on Garageband is pretty cool. iMovie is updated, now with trailers. iPhoto for iOS! Finally! It’s long overdue. Imo Apple should’ve just replaced the current photo app on iOS with iPhoto. Currently, it feels weird having both apps. On the Mac, there’s no “photo” app, just iPhoto. The journal feature is very nifty. A must download.

8. And finally, yet another video talking about everything that was covered.

9. Oh, and price drop of the iPad 2, 16GB wifi for $399. Yup, Android OEMs are still having problem producing enough of their stuff, now they have to compete with $399 iPad. Maybe they will finally learn a thing or two about how Apple does their business.

So, that’s it, new Apple TV and new iPad. Do I want one? Well, gotta catch’em all…

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Returned my Samsung Infuse 4G

Well, I returned my Samsung Infuse (good thing AT&T has a 30-day return policy). Not, it’s not that I didn’t like it. It’s okay, but there are things that started to annoy me.
First of all, what I liked about it:
-Large screen. In the past, I wouldn’t imagine having a 4.5″ screen phone. Now, everything seems too small and too tight to use.
-Android and Google Voice integration. This is more a plus for Android. I love the integration of Google Voice in Android, that it’s seamless. Not the case on iOS.
-Generous internal memory for apps.

Now, I find the Infuse to be fine on day-to-day use. But then the small things are getting annoying:
-It’s still Froyo. With Gingerbread already 6+ months old, it’s abhorrent that Samsung/AT&T released this phone with Froyo. And who knows if AT&T is going to update it. I inquired AT&T about it, and they said that they will only release an update if it meets their high standard. :puke: Really? High standard? Outside the US, Samsung handsets (SGS and SGS2) are sporting Gingerbread already, and I’m sure Samsung would know a lot more of their phones than AT&T. Bullshit. Using Froyo means that there are bugs, bugs that are only fixed with Gingerbread. Accessing things like the list of apps and general usability put Gingerbread above Froyo. Granted, Samsung’s Touch Wiz is actually not bad, and Samsung seems to manage to smooth out a lot of the quirks on Froyo. But going back to my Nexus One with Gingerbread after a month of using the Infuse breathed so much fresh air. Gingerbread is simply a lot smoother, and the keyboard is better too.
-AT&T controlled. Sure, I did manage to unlock it, but certain features like tethering and wifi hotspot remain under AT&T control unless you root the phone. But why do I have to do that? My Nexus One has those features available without having to root.
-Questionable touch-tone keypad. I think this is a Samsung issue. I found out about this issue when I was trying to navigate the touch-tone-base menu of a bank. The Infuse is literally unusable. Every touch tone key press on the virtual keypad of the Infuse registers as multiple numbers, even if I only tap the number really lightly. I don’t understand why. My N1 and iPhone 3GS don’t have this issue.
-Useless front facing camera. The only app included with the Infuse that can interact with the front facing camera is the camera app, and it can only take pictures, not video. I tried using other apps like Qik and Tango, the video captured by the front facing camera is rotated by 90-degrees. WTF? It’s close to useless.

I guess my next venture to Android will be on the Nexus 3. I’m sick and tired with carrier-controlled phones. With Apple now selling the iPhone 4 unlocked, I might go back to iOS, and replace my 3GS, the only provider-locked phone I own now.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Samsung Infuse, unlocked

I never like the idea of provider-locked phone. It makes no sense, and an obvious anti-consumer business practice. I mean think about it, would you buy a laptop that is locked into a specific ISP? No. So why would you buy a phone that is locked into a single carrier?

My first provider-locked phone is the iPhone 3GS. I bought it on impulse, after Apple announced the 3rd gen iPod Touch wouldn’t have a camera on it. Trying to buy an unlocked phone in the US via official channels (ie. not imported) with full warranty and support is extremely difficult. No unlocked iPhones in the US. As for Android, only the Nexus One and GSM Nexus S are sold unlocked. All the rest are provider locked.

Now, if you’re with T-Mobile, they do have a fairly decent unlocking policy. If you pay for the phone full-price, or if you’ve been in good standing with them for x amount of months, you can simply call and get the unlock code for your phone. T-Mobile doesn’t advertise this for obvious reason, but the policy is there. AT&T, which I’m with, on the other hand, is a different story. They have a bogus unlocking policy. Buying the handset at full price doesn’t mean you can get it unlocked. Per AT&T’s policy, they won’t unlock handsets which they are the exclusive seller. Well, guess what, all of the phones that AT&T carry are custom-made for them. So this is akin to AT&T saying they can refuse any request for unlocking any of the phones they sell. What a bunch of bull.

I recently bought the Samsung Infuse since I’m getting frustrated with my Nexus One with its severely limited internal storage memory. You can read my impression on the Samsung Infuse on my previous post, and to be honest, I kinda like it. The large 4.5″ screen is actually very nice to have, and I can’t help feeling cramped everytime I try to go back using my iPhone/Nexus One. Problem is, obviously it’s AT&T locked. Thus my quest to unlock my Infuse.

AT&T wouldn’t unlock the Infuse, per their policy I mentioned above. Of course, I can wait to see if AT&T will change their mind, but they usually do that after the phone is already on the market for a long time, and that’s not a guarantee either. So getting an official unlock from AT&T is a no go.
There are people selling unlock codes on forums and ebay. Obviously, there’s no way to guarantee anything, plus you have to spend money to use a device that you already own? No way.
Well, XDA to the rescue. Found this post on their forum:
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1081072
Yup, somebody crafted up a simple program to root and unlock the Samsung Infuse. The program will even give you the unlock code! How convenient. πŸ˜€
Even better, the guy put up the simple instruction on the thread. Everything needed is on the zip file. All you need to do in addition is to download Samsung’s PC software called KIES if you’re on Windows (I use a Windows 7 machine). Trying to find the software on US Samsung site is not that easy as Samsung only listed the software as available on certain devices. Easier to just google it and download it from Samsung’s international site.
With Samsung Kies installed, all you have to do is download the zip file from XDA, un-zip it, and run the batch file (one for root+unlock, the other is just for unlocking). I opted to just do the unlock. Simply follow the easy steps (turning on USB debugging mode on the phone, connect it via USB, and run the batch file). At first, the batch commands seemed stuck at waiting for a service to be restarted or something, but I just left the program alone, and not too long after that, it showed me the unlock code! All I needed to do next was simply turning off the phone, insert a SIM from another provider, and turn the Infuse back on. It will ask for the unlock code. I punched in the code that was given by the program, and voila, my Samsung Infuse is unlocked! LOL. That’s it. So easy, and free! Screw you AT&T!

I wish unlocking iPhones is this easy, without the need to jailbreak.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2011 in android, samsung

 

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Samsung Infuse 4G impression

After being disappointed by T-Mobile’s LG G2x, my search for a new phone continues. The selections outside US are grand, between the highly praised Samsung Galaxy S 2, or Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc/Neo, etc. Alas, NONE of those phones are being released in the US by their respective douchebag companies. Instead, what do we have? Samsung released a rehashed Galaxy S 1 phone on AT&T, called the Samsung Infuse 4G. Trying to import the Galaxy S 2 is prohibitively expensive and risky (at least $750, and it will have no warranty whatsoever). However, I’m too annoyed with my Nexus One already that I finally bite and checked out the Samsung Infuse 4G from the lovely AT&T.

First of all, it IS a re-hashed Galaxy S 1 phone. It contains the same single core processor as with the Galaxy S 1 phones, albeit at slightly higher clockspeed (1.2GHz vs 1GHz). While people outside the US are treated with dual-core goodness of the SGS2, US gets some leftovers. Performance wise though, it’s actually not bad. Despite the old architecture and Samsung putting their own skin on top of Android, the phone seems to perform fairly well. AT&T, as bad as they are, did a decent job by not overloading the phone with too much junk ware. Remember my review of the G2x, where T-Mobile put buggy old junkware apps in it that you cannot force-close? AT&T didn’t do that. Sure, the stuff that are pre-installed on the Infuse cannot be uninstalled, but you can easily force-close them if needed. This probably explains why the Infuse, despite having an older hardware, feels better and more stable than the G2x. The only glitches I experienced are mostly related to Froyo as I also experienced them when I had Froyo on my Nexus One. Gingerbread should take care of those, if AT&T is kind enough to update the Infuse.

Did I say Froyo? Yeah, in 2011, while other countries are getting Gingerbread phones, US gets old phones with old OS sold as new. Pathetic and sad. Even worse, it’s not even the latest version of Froyo, which is 2.2.2. It’s 2.2.1. You might think what’s the big deal. OS updates is a HUGE deal in modern smartphones because it doesn’t only give you new features, but also bug fixes and security fixes. Emphasis on security. There are serious security flaws that are fixed in Gingerbread, leaving tons of Android with Froyo vulnerable. It is extremely irresponsible of the OEMs and carriers for not pushing updates in a timely manner. Imagine if Dell or HP blocked service packs of Windows. There will be a huge outrage and security concern.

The main seller of the Infuse is its 4.5″ screen. Yeah, it’s massive! It puts my iPhone 3GS and Nexus One to shame. It’s even bigger than the LG G2x. The 4.5″ Super AMOLED screen is a beauty, bright and vibrant colors. Alas, it still has the same resolution as my Nexus One, 800×480. Definitely not “retina” resolution, and it kinda shows on some fonts and icons, aliased jaggies aplenty. Still, there are times now that I appreciate the larger screen. Maybe signs of my eyes getting old. πŸ˜€

Another main seller of the Infuse is 4G, or more like fake 4G. AT&T is marketing HSPA+ as 4G. This may make you think the Infuse is somewhat more “advance” than something like the Galaxy S2, even though the Galaxy S2 also supports HSPA+, minus the hype and marketing. Is it fast? It is. I can get 3 to 5mbps down and 1mbps+ up. This is a lot faster than my iPhone 3GS, which usually gets only up to 2mbps down and a lousy 50-100kbps up. A far cry for sure. Still, it’s not really 4G, and it’s unfortunate that everybody now is misusing the monicker, thanks to T-Mobile. Now, the Infuse apparently is not compatible with GoPhone for data, even if you have purchased data packages. I have a GoPhone pay-as-you-go SIM for backup, and it works fine for data on my Nexus One and 3GS, but it doesn’t work at all on the Infuse, not even reverting back to 3G or EDGE. It just doesn’t work.

The camera is sweet. It’s not as fancy as the G2x though. The G2x can do 1080p video while the Infuse is maxed out at 720p. Still better than my Nexus One and 3GS. The front facing camera on the Infuse is also 1.3MP, beating the VGA resolution on most other phones, including the iPhone 4. Photo is at 8MP on the rear facing camera. Nice.

Samsung is quite generous on the internal storage, 16GB partitioned into the usual ~1+GB for apps and the rest as internal “SD card.” There’s also a microSD card for even more storage. I’ve been downloading apps like crazy, finally being freed from the limited internal memory of the Nexus One. The SIM slot is located above the battery so you can replace it without having to take the battery out. However, the microSD card slot is located UNDER the SIM slot, and access to it is blocked by the battery. It’s not that easy to take it out either since, so if you are those people that like to change SD cards often, well, look elsewhere. The Infuse comes with a measly 2GB microSD card, but considering you already have ~16GB internal storage, it’s not a big issue.

One thing I immediately miss is the trackball on the Nexus One. As silly as it may look, the trackball on the N1 serves as a very useful notification light, so I can see if the phone need my attention without having to turn it on. No such thing on the Infuse, just like the iPhone.

Another surprise is that the Infuse actually supports 5GHz 802.11n, a nice update from most other phones that usually only support the crowded 2.4GHz band.

One drawback of Android is its media capability. Let’s face it, nothing beats the iPod integration on iPhones, and their ecosystem of accessories and support, especially in cars. My car has a USB port that supports my 3GS. As expected, the Infuse doesn’t work with it like the iPhone did, it only works for charging, no difference than the Nexus One. Sad. 😦

The Infuse comes with an HDMI adapter. It basically converts the micro-USB slot into an HDMI slot. However, you have to plug-in a power source on the HDMI adapter instead, making it a dongle-cable mess.

So, let’s recap.
The goods:
+decent performance for an old single core phone
+not too much junkware from AT&T
+other sources for apps is enabled
+beautiful huge screen
+tri-band HSDPA: 850/1900/2100
+HSPA+ is decently fast

The bads:
-4.5″ may be too big for some
-old hardware released as new, while other countries are getting the dual-core SGS2
-old outdated and buggy OS
-all the stuff one may not like on Android (eg. media capability, accessories support, etc)
-locked to AT&T
-fake 4G

If you’re on AT&T and you need a new phone, what are your options on the same price range? The main one will be the dual-core Motorola Atrix 4G, which is sold for the same price. Despite having dual-core, the Atrix has poorer screen, only VGA front-facing-camera, and at this point, I have a felling Samsung is more likely to pull through with updates than Motorola. The Atrix does have fancy feature like finger-print scanner and you could turn it into a linux netbook using an optional expensive dock. I’m not a fan of Motorola though.
Another phone on the same price range is the 16GB iPhone 4. At this point in time, however, I wouldn’t get the iPhone 4 as the iPhone 5 is near the corner.
Then there’s the cheaper Samsung Captivate, which is an AT&T variant of the Galaxy S. Cheaper, smaller screen, but no front facing camera.
There’s also the HTC Inspire, but since HTC only made it with dual-band 3G (850/1900), I’m not interested.

So there you go, a quick impression on the AT&T Samsung Infuse 4G.

 
 

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