Archive for February, 2012

Prepare To Get More Out Of Unlocked Cell Phones

Many people use unlocked cell phones to get away from being locked into carriers, but Google, Android, AT&T and Cisco are conspiring to bring us better data service, and the technology can be applied just as easily to unlocked cell phones, making a carrier almost unnecessary.

Hotspot 2.0 is starting to get rolled out, and it enables cell phones to connect to Wi-Fi devices without using SSIDs, passwords, or having to prompt the user.

Carriers benefit because it would take much of the strain smartphones have put on their networks…and local governments should get behind it because removing that strain is critical for emergencies when thousands of calls, texts, and data strain the network as emergency calls and “I’m alright” texts go out.

According to Cisco, most current WiFi spots will only need a software upgrade. That means that you can attune your unlocked cell phone (probably fairly quickly if you’re using an open-sourced OS) to rely heavily on these hotspots (porbably best if you’re in a major city). Just make sure that you’re connected to WiFi when you use your phone, or get a minimal carrier-plan as back-up should there be no WiFi nearby.

Of course, it’s not too likely that carrier will rollover and let unlocked cell phones and improved WiFi availability steal their customers, but in the short term there’s no doubt that it will be necessary. Even as Sprint got the iPhone they made sure the device would prompt to use WiFi as much as possible so they could maintain the same unlimited plans without facing the downfall of AT&T and Verizon.

In other countries, similar WiFi usage has lead to vastly cheaper phone plans, and allowed smaller phone companies to rise up and overthrough their local cell phone oligarchy. If this goes wide spread, and unlocked cell phone users adapt their phones to it early, it could revolutionize the American cell phone game.

On A Budget? Use Cell Phones Smarter

If you’re on a buget, a new fancy-pants smartphone may not be in the cards for you—or is it?? Here’s three ways to make owning a cell phone more affordable:

  1. Start with what you buy. Used cell phones are almost as good as new, and often gently used. You can get last years iPhone 4S (if the iPhone 5 finally releases this year) for a fraction of the price. Just check reputable used cell phone dealers, and remember that certain trade-in chains have HORRIBLE reviews.
  2. Only use cell phones when you’re at a wireless hub (at home, work, a coffee shop, book store, etc.). iPhones are already designed to look for the nearest smart phone hub, but it’s a smart way to use Android phones, too! It saves money on that data plan, especially if you’re not on Sprint.
  3. Make calls using data. Minutes can be the most expensive part of using cell phones, (so can crazy texting), but it may be cheaper to just use data—and free WiFi—for everything, including calls. (I recommend downloading Google plus and using hangouts to video call your friends!).
  4. Secret fourth step: make sure to get CASH for that used cell phone! Even if it’s an older model, it may be worth something, and you’re keeping it out of a landfill!

Criminals Unlocking Cell Phones?

Just about everybody has a smartphone, and so it’s no surprise that cell phone robberies are skyrocketing.

Police can’t keep up with the amount of reported stolen cell phones—dozens a day in major cities—and are looking for easy ways to help keep cell phones locked.

We’re not talking about normal unlocked cell phones, which break past software to allow multiple carrier use, but preventing tampering with the hardware so it can be resold without hindrances of the past owner.

Currently, criminals can unlock cell phones by replacing the SIM card, which is the only way to currently track smart phones. Cops want to lock cell phones by hardwiring in a “fingerprint” to the cell phone, making the phone itself, and not just the SIM card, trackable to the owner. It would also allow carriers to shut down service to the phone, making reselling it unviable, and hopefully killing the trend of crimes related to smartphones.

Of course, this method requires the sacrifice of all the first people to be robbed. Shutting down the phone would make it impossible for you to unlock the cell phone from your end, (a computer accessing an app on the phone), much less track it, and any crook is likely to ditch the phone anyway once the carrier bricks it.

Better yet, take responsibility to lock cell phones—make sure to check out all the apps dedicated to helping you get your cell phone back: lock the home screen (and wipe away telling finger grease), get GPS tracking that you can access remotely to unlock your cell phone for yourself and block out the thief, and add any other programs that let you control it remotely. Sometimes criminals will sell back to the owner for a reward, which you might be able to post, with a phone number, on your display—with the cell phone locked, of course!

Used Cell Phones Offer New Ways To Help Poor

You’ve probably participated in a drive for used cell phones before. You may have donated them so that the underpriviledged could dial 911, or you may have given your used cell phones to a battered women’s shelter, school drive, or drive for soldiers.

But besides the fundamental need to call 911, used cell phones offer the disadvantaged other free services. Many states offer subsidized plans to activate cell phones, and increasingly there are many health services that send free information to cell phones for those who sign up.

When you donate used cell phones to a battered women’s or to another similar charity, one of the services that becomes available is text4baby, a program that offers preganant mothers and mothers of young children free advice, tips, and encouragement to help keep them and their baby healthy.

Whether it helps educate them so they can take better advantage of the care available to them, or helps those who can’t make doctors visits as often as they should, text4baby is a sucessful program that should be available to all women: which is why donating your used cell phones is important.

Despite being a first world country, (and spending more money then anyone on child birth), the US has a horrible infant mortality rate, and even the maternal death rate has increased in recent years. Although some of that has to do with wealthy older women having babies past their body’s abilities, some of it comes from poorer women, especially imigrant women, who don’t have the resources to support a healthy pregnancy.

Used cell phones coupled with free services like text4baby are an easy way to reach these women, and a first step at decreasing mortality rates associated with birth.

Text4Baby is a helpful tool for all moms; to sign up just text BABY for english or BEBE for spanish to 511411.

Have you used text4baby? Let us know about it in the comments.

Chile Forces Unlocked Cell Phones

Unlocked cell phones are now mandatory in Chile. As 2012 rolled in, so did a requirement that service providers could no longer but software on phones inhibiting their use on other carrier networks.

The new unlocked cell phone law is also retroactive: all current cell phones have to be given their unlock code by the service provider so that users can have the choice of true mobility.

Locked cell phones are a way for carriers to subsidize cell phones—your phone isn’t really free, you’re signing a contract. Most carriers prefer this method, although Europe has unlocked cell phones (the customer paying full price for the cell phone instead), and some other countries have mandated unlocked cell phones in an effort to improve customer rights.

In the US, there are only a few carriers that sell unlocked cell phones. It’s actually to the customer’s advantage, since it broadens the options in the market. Carriers still want you on a contract—but if you come to them with an unlocked cell phone, you can stay off a contract, and they’ll often offer you a secret, better price to keep you with them.

Of course, there are US movements to give customers similar rights, but the carriers would likely not respond favorably.

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