A(nother) tale of two phones

When I first entered the realm of smartphone existence in June of 2009, I went with the Palm Pre. I made a really bad decision for a few good reasons:

1) One of my very close friends works as a mobile technology analyst for a very large bank. He anticipated that, based on the initial reviews the Pre was getting, it could be the phone to finally break the iPhone’s choke hold on the smartphone market. I am a fan of dark horses.

2) Being one of the first-wave adopters was a risk, and I am a risk-taking sort of person.

3) My contract with Verizon was up and the Pre was just about to be released.

When I first got it, I was ecstatic. I still appreciate many of its features: Its Linux-based Web OS operating system is sleek and intuitive, its universal address book flawlessly syncs information between your online and mobile contacts, and its battery life is pretty good once you learn that searching for signal and the GPS are what drains it (putting it in airplane mode when you’re out of range and disabling the GPS fixes this).

But it didn’t take long before I started to encounter some deal-breaking problems. On multiple occasions (including right now), it would seemingly arbitrarily decide to stop syncing my email. The first time this happened, hours on the phone with tech support and two trips to the Sprint store could not remedy the problem, and I ended up getting a replacement phone. Sprint’s tech support is so abysmal that the next five times this happened, instead of stressing myself out by dealing with those people, I simply went without email on my phone until the problem seemingly arbitrarily fixed itself after a few days/weeks. It’s gotten extremely sluggish over time, with the touch-screen commands executing a good 5 seconds after they were initiated, sometimes more. The camera phone app now takes minutes to open, if it does at all. And finally, the PHONE APP broke, so I haven’t been able to make or receive calls for about two months.

It soon became clear the Pre was not the dark horse some had hoped it would be. Aside from the hardware problems, or maybe because of them, mobile application builders stopped investing time and resources on WebOS aps. And the app catalog was a mess to begin with, and nobody ever cleaned it up. I could get by for a while, but then even the facebook app stopped working and I couldn’t post photos to the web anywhere with my phone. After Twitter changed its authentication method to OAuth, none of the Twitter apps for the Pre worked anymore, and still nobody has bothered to fix them or make new ones.

Me = Fed up.

Thankfully, my friend Dave Winer, after seeing me suffer in a state of smartphone limbo for quite some time, gave me a spare phone he had as an early birthday present. Thank you X a million, Dave!!!

Enter, the Nexus One.

That's not my hand, even though I am wearing the exact same nail polish color right now: Photo via News.com.

The Nexus One is a Google smartphone that runs on the Android open-source operating system. It’s sold unlocked so you don’t have to be bound to a single service provider. In theory, you don’t have to pick any service provider — you can buy a SIM card with an unlimited data plan that expires after 30 days, but I think it’s more expensive to do this. Though, with all the bogus fees that telecom companies can dish at you, it’s questionable if it really would be more expensive over two years.

Anyway, open-source, options, Google. These are all things I like. And now I am one step closer to becoming a cyborg, which is excellent. So now I have a few things to investigate, and maybe you guys can help me out. Since this phone is currently unlocked and without a SIM card, I can only use web applications if I am connected to WiFi. I initially thought this would be OK, as WiFi is pretty easy to come by in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I figured I could use Google Voice to make calls and g-talk for messaging. But now I am encountering some problems and it’s pretty clear I need a SIM.

For one, even though I connected to WiFi when I initially set it up, I haven’t been able to connect to any network since. Right now, it says it’s connected to my home wireless network with excellent signal strength, but I can’t use any of the Web-based apps. I went to the coffee shop on the corner today and tried to connect to their open WiFi, and it was the same situation. So, I don’t really know what’s going on with that, but I’ve adjusted just about every setting in the Nexus One’s Wireless menu to try to remedy it (including entering an IP manually) as well as every setting on my router (changing it to an open connection, changing the channel, changing the kind of security), and nothing has worked yet. If I were superstitious or crazy, I would suspect that I have “angered the Jobs” by turning my nose up to the iPhone, and now my MacBook (which has a full hard drive and is physically falling apart) is retaliating against the Nexus somehow. But I’m neither of those things so I probably should just get a SIM card and be done with it so I can finally enjoy .

Which company to pick? AT&T? T-Mobile? Other? Do I need to sign a 2-year service agreement or can I just buy the card and pay month-to-month? I haven’t looked into the prices yet, will hopefully get to shop around a bit tomorrow. I want to make a decision by the end of this week.

Until I then, I will just continue to gaze longingly at the Nexus One and carry it around everywhere I go for no reason, customizing the settings and what not until I can get online and play.

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9 thoughts on “A(nother) tale of two phones

  1. Dave Winer

    Hi Arikia good post! It’s weird that the wifi isn’t working. Hope we can get that fixed. In the meantime, Kevin Tofel posted a comment on my scripting.com post saying that T-Mobile had a good month-to-month plan that got him a SIM for his Nexus. I would seriously consider not getting a contract, this is likely a temporary fix for you. There are lots of the phones coming on the market all the time, and it’s just a matter of time before another catches your eye. :-)

    Reply
  2. Kevin C. Tofel

    In terms of which provider to use: that’s an easy question to answer because the Nexus One’s 3G radio works with either AT&T’s network or T-Mobile’s, but not both. It all depends on which “model” of the Nexus One you have. I’d check the box (hoping you have it) and see if the 1700 MHz frequency is listed on the specs. If so, it’s good for T-Mo 3G. If not, it’s meant for AT&T 3G. That should dictate which carrier you want to talk to.

    My hope would be for T-Mo, which is who I use. I have a great month to month plan with unlimited everything and they just gave me a SIM card, even before my Nexus One arrived in January! :)

    Reply
    1. Kevin C. Tofel

      Ugh, then it’s likely to be the AT&T model, but I’d still recommend checking the specs for the frequency. The Nexus One is unlocked, so it will work for voice with either a T-Mo or AT&T SIM. It’s the 3G data that’s the variance, but if you used an AT&T SIM and got AT&T 3G service, that settles it for sure. Note that 2G or EDGE data service would work with a SIM from either carrier.

      If it is the AT&T version, then I can’t speak to how they handle SIM cards and prepaid plans. :(

      Reply
      1. Steven

        Relativly inexpensive experiment: stop by Walmart and find a $20 “GO Phone” – that’s an AT&T phone with a SIM, no contract if memory serves. Drop that SIM into the Nexus and see if it works.

  3. Andy

    For the wifi problem you should be able to open the dialer and type *#*#4636#*#* This should bring up a different menu that will allow you to get more information about the WiFi and hopefully help you figure out what is going on with it.

    Reply
    1. Arikia Post author

      Hey Andy, thanks this is a neat trick.

      OK so when I go to Wifi status in that menu, it says it’s enabled, the network is connected, the supplicant state is completed, RSSI: -33, BSSID info , SSID has my network name, Hidden SSID: false, IPaddr: the generic D-Link router IP, my MAC address is in there, Network ID: 0, Link Speed: 54 Mbps, San results: blank. When I run a ping test everything comes up unknown though. HTTP Client test: Fail: IOException.

      This is so weird! Anyone have a clue?

      Reply
  4. Arikia Post author

    Wow! Thanks for all the great comments, guys. Dave, your commenters are super 1337. So it sounds like the T-mobile month-to-month SIM is the best option IF it’s not already formatted for AT&T. Great. I will go to both stores tomorrow and hopefully be happily computing by tomorrow evening! :)

    Reply

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