Ting Migration Update (Also, finally getting to use those apps!)

First of all, here’s my referral link. Click here to sign up and they’ll give you a $25 credit you can use on a phone or against your bill.

The account sign-up was painless and pretty quick. The part where it did a bunch of stuff to my phone took a couple cycles to take, but once that was through it worked perfectly sing. I decided not to do VOIP for calls at home as I thought I would. As I went through the instructions, it turned out to be too complex and unreliable. People complained that it turned off their alarms (which I use to wake up for work) and other strange nonsense. I decided not to stress it. I barely talk on my phone anyway – ever since my parents became business owners, it’s been a lot harder to get a hold of them. At the end of my fist month I only had used a little over half of the smallest chunk of voice minutes that Ting sells. I’ve decided that whenever Hangouts for Android gets feature parity with iOS and allows VOIP calls, I’ll investigate that. Strangely, the one time I tried to use Hangouts on a desktop to call, it didn’t work as a touchtone phone.

I disable data for the first month so my pre-tax bill was only $9. That was pretty sweet after years of $40/month bills. So if I keep using my phone as I did with Verizon (that is, no data), I could have an incredibly cheap cell phone bill. I was also able to jump onto store wifi (Macys and Lowes) to get texts while out. (I disabled texts, but use Google Voice for it) There appears to be some weirdness with dialing out via Google Voice if you don’t have any data, so I’ve decided to allow data at the smallest tier for this month – upping my bill to $12/month before taxes. Still pretty awesome, although with only 100MB – no Google Music. (Not that I really ever listen to music in the car)

So far I’m still in a honeymoon period with Ting. The only thing that’s a tiny bummer is that it takes about a day and a half (give or take a few hours) for the counters to reset on the website when a new month starts. So, let’s say there’s a certain event coming where you know this month you will really need to be tight on your minutes if you want to stay on budget and you have some big phone calls to make early in the month, it can throw you off a little. It’s really barely worth complaining about – it’s such an edge case, but it’s really the only bummer I could find.

Also, yeah, with a post-pay plan you’re a bit more careful about your minutes. It makes me more likely to text for a yes/no question because you always get charged rounded up to the nearest minute – even if you only talk for 10 seconds.

I was excited to be able to use apps and was most excited about the ability to use the phone for podcasts. Here are the apps I’m using regularly and what I think.

Google Now: I really think the prediction engine/reading your email engine here is pretty great. Love that it saw my upcoming flight and let me know it was on time, what gate it was at, and a bunch of other details. Tied to some other app that let me know how conditions were at the airport. Also great that it automatically tells me the weather of where I’m landing. Told it to track the Florida Panthers and that functionality was neat – no need to have a special app or constantly go to a webpage. Just nice stats on what’s going on with the game.

Also neat that it looks for packages I’ve ordered. However, recently Amazon has (intentionally or not) stopped including the tracking number in the email so I only know when it shipped, not where it is – limiting the functionality. I’d like to see even more stuff – look in my last.fm and let me know when Fire Iron Frenzy is coming out with a new album or doing a new Kickstarter. It has the capability to be awesome. Right now it’s just a fun curiosity.

I’m not sure if it’s because I have Android 4.1 on my phone, but the only bad thing about it is that the widget that’s available seems to barely show any of what I care about. So I always have to GO to Google Now. Some more surfacing of the info rather than making me go there would be awesome.

Comixoloxy: The app is more usable than on Danielle’s phone because the screen is larger, but definitely less enjoyable than on the tablet – which is almost full size. Given how key their Guided View technology is – I don’t see why I’d buy comics on Google Play instead of Comixology. Google needs some similar tech if it cares to compete. (Or just buy them as seems to be Google, Apple, and Microsoft’s MO)

Dogcatcher: The podcast app. First the negatives: It’s very complicated to get setup and feel confident that it’s doing what I want it to do. In other words, each question on its own is not too hard if you’ve been listening to podcasts for a while, but in the aggregate it can be a little hard to figure out exactly what the programs’ going to do as a whole. It took me a whole month to figure out how to get it to show old episodes when I wanted to grab anything beyond the first episode when first adding a feed. Annoying that it didn’t automatically save to the external SD card, but then again according to an ars review, that’s (becoming?) rare among non-Samsung phones. Still, it was annoying to try and figure out why it wasn’t able to get more than a few episodes and then moving them around.

Now for the great stuff. Although the now playing/next up interface didn’t make sense to me at first because those podcast episodes didn’t have show notes, it works very well for those that do. Especially nice (compared to my limited MP3 device from before) that one can click on the links in the show notes. I always have listened to my podcasts at greater than 1x speed in order to be able to listen to more of them than I could if it was just on the radio. However, the Sandisk devices do not compensate for pictch shift. It was awesome and weird to listen at 1.5 speed without the pitch shift (didn’t need to purchase a library as it seemed to indicate one would need to).

I also love that it auto-creates a playlist and adds new episodes to the bottom. Before I would listen to all the episodes of a particular feed at once and sometimes that could be a bit boring. I also love that it auto-deletes on listen. With my old device I had to delete each episode after listening and this new method is a lot safer while I’m driving. Definitely worth the couple dollars to buy it.

Google Voice: It is annoying that SMS isn’t better integrated into the phone, but I know that could get messy when distinguishing between G-voice texts and regular account texts. Overall I wish they would better integrate it into the OS – after all it IS Google’s Android.

Google Music:  I’d used this already with Danielle’s phone. The version my phone has is closer to the website and easier to use. (Mostly because Danielle’s phone was old and had issues updating software over 3G. Once she connected to Wifi it all got updated) The latest update allows one to choose where to store the music. Again, given how small the onboard storage is, this actually allows me to cache some music now. Woohoo!

Simple lastfm: One thing that annoyed me was the inability to always be Scrobbling – even if I was playing my music at someone else’s place. Simple lastfm worked well enough. A couple false scrobbles, but not too bad. After a while it was a little too annoying and so I went for the official Last.fm app and have not had more than one issue.

Nook: I effing hate skeumorphic design. I don’t want digital “pages” to have a turning effect.  Luckily I was able to easily disable it. Over all nice and clear, however, a bit more straining on my eyes than the non-tablet (e-ink) Nook. I like the ability to sync between my e-ink Nook and this app so that I could always read a book no matter what device I have with me. However, with Barnes and Nobles’ future slightly unclear in the face of Amazon, I have begun considering whether or not to buy future books on Google Play Books. Of course, the negative to Google Play books is the inability to read it on an eink device. Perhaps Amazon and the Kindle will provide a great enough competitive edge that Google and B&N will team up and allow Google Play books to be read on e-ink devices or perhaps I’m just too much of an optimist.