Look at your smart phone. What do you use it for? Data, phone calls, text. What if I could show you how to use do all that over a data only connection for only about $20 a month? You’ll need: a Virgin Overdrive Pro*, an off-contract iPhone (I’m using an iPhone 3GS), and Talkatone using a Google voice number.
Let me back up. In 2003, I figured out that if I dropped my landline and dial-up internet, I could get Vonage and cable modem broadband service for the same price. This was before MagicJack, but that would have worked, too.
This was possible because of a technology called “Voice over IP” or “Voip” for short. An analog phone turns your voice into an electromagnetic signal. That signal is sent over wires using directly switched connections. We joke about a telephone signal being two cans and piece of string, but while it’s somewhat more complicated, it’s not much more so.
Voip turns your voice into bits, 1s and 0s, and sends it over the internet. Since the internet doesn’t care what the bits are, it’s assembled on the other end back into voice. This is how Skype works. Google voice has an additional piece that takes the reassembled audio and sends it onto the analog phone system.
Normally, you’d pair your google voice number with a cell phone or land line and Google will connect those phones to their service.
Talkatone is an app that mimics the web-based function that allows you to use your computer as a phone. In essence, you are using your iPhone as a computer to do the Voip function that you’d normally need a full-scale computer to do.
Initially, this function was hidden Talkatone. Maybe they thought Apple wouldn’t like it, but now it’s in the forefront. You can also send and receive text messages using this app, so you’ve even got that function.
It’s not perfect though. First, for some reason, Google voice doesn’t support MMS, so if you have friends who send those, this might not be for your.
The other limitation is that you need to use a data connection to make this work. Since I no longer have an active AT&T account, I didn’t have a data connection until last Friday. I almost didn’t buy it, but so far it’s been a great investment. Walmart had a Black Friday deal on an Virgin Overdrive Pro wireless hotspot. Basically, it’s a cellphone without the phone. It connects to the Sprint network and provides me data over 3G (or Wimax 4G ) for up to 8 devices. The charge for 1 gig for a month? $20.
If I can keep my data use to under 1 GB per month when I’m not somewhere with free wifi, my whole phone bill will be $20. If I need twice that, my bill rises to a beefy $35. What’s great is if I’m going on a trip, I can raise my plan temporarily so that I don’t use expensive airport or hotel wifi. Since it’s a wireless hotspot, I can use my phone AND computer on the same connection without my wireless phone provider telling me that somehow 1 GB on my computer is different than on my phone.
The downside of all this is that I need to carry two devices, not just one. My phone can do all this by itself, but the carriers won’t let me just buy data and use it how I want, no I have to buy minutes and texts or play this game and buy a separate device, so that’s what I’ll do.
It’s not a perfect solution, but compared to what I was paying, I’ll take the slight inconvenience.
Have you ever combined services like this to save money or to get more bang for you buck?
*Note all links to Amazon are affiliate links, but I’ve used all these products and recommend them.