Moving to a Droid?

Discussion in 'Android General Discussions' started by OutInTheSticks, May 18, 2010.

  1. OutInTheSticks

    OutInTheSticks New Member

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    Am an old Alltel customer, not under contract for cell phones (Nokia 6255i, LG AX8600) or air card (UM150). The current plan I'm on is ~900 minute Alltel plan, the Aircard is on an unlimited plan. Current phone bill runs around $105 per month. The air card is another $65 per month. We're located near NC/VA state line, so close as to be able to ping off NC towers as our "home" towers. Live in a rural area where DSL via the phone company is unavailable, as is cable TV.

    Looking to upgrade both mine & my wife's phone to new Droids. My service on my old cell is excellent, only a couple of fuzzy spots in my daily commute. Inside the house, mine is pretty decent. Hers is not good at all, drops off everywhere.

    At home, I have the aircard hooked to my PC, and I also have an external antenna pointed towards a nearby tower to boost the signal. Without that, the air card gets -95db, with it it dips to below -80db or thereabouts, so it does make a difference. The antenna is a Parabolic Grid Antenna, pointed toward the nearest tower to me, approx 3 miles.

    What I would like to do -

    1. Get a better phone for my wife, who wants a smartphone.
    2. Lose the expense of the air card each month without being subject to a data cap (I would like to set it up to where either of us could simply hook the phone up to my PC & antenna & use it like we currently use the air card.) The cap on data is a must, as I occasionally work from home with a lot of databases, multiple sessions & VPN access and would pound the cap in a couple days at times. I am content to use my cell phone tethered to my PC as an aircard & be able to use it when I am there (or have my wife do this if she's there). I realize this removes the phone from use, or would pause a data session if it's in progress when the phone rings, but it's something I'm willing to make a concession for, for offsetting the cost per month on the aircard.
    3. Minimize the expense of the new plan, without sacrificing a lot of service from my old one. Usage varies each month, some months more texting, some months more voice. Generally, we use about 1/2 the capacity of our plan, with spikes to about 3/4 occasionally.
    4. I do not want to buy a new air card or get into another plan, as we might move to an area where I would have a better option than the aircard for connectivity. Doing so would also bump me up into a Verizon, capped plan, which I do not want.

    What I've found out is that I can get a 500 minute plan (less than what I have) for approx the same price I have now, but not sure what data capacity that might have. I can have the same plan I have now, but it's a Verizon plan, not an Alltel one, cost is approx $130/month, offsetting the cost of current plan + aircard by about $30. Again, unsure of any data capacity/cap limits on it.

    Assumptions:

    1. I should get equal or better service (3g) from home with the Droid than I currently do on the air card.
    2. I should get equal or better service from the droid compared to my cell phone.
    3. I should get better service from the droid compared to my wife's LG phone.

    Questions:

    1. Is what I want to do practical? (i.e. getting 2 smart phones & replacing 2 cell phones & an air card with them)
    2. Can the Droid be tethered to my existing antenna & PC?
    3. If it can be tethered to my PC and used like my air card, does this change anything regarding the data plan or have any increased costs or other considerations that I'm not aware of?
    4. Are there any hardware changes I need to make, assuming the above is a practical, cost-effective replacement for my air card when at home & a cell phone when I leave?
    5. Are there any cost issues with being able to use the Droid as a tethered unit & using it via VPN as an air-card data device?

    Anything I've not mentioned?

    Would appreciate any input any others might share.

    Thanks,

    SC
     
  2. jsh1120

    jsh1120 Silver Member

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    Some thoughts...

    As far as cell phone performance, I think you're going to have to get a phone and give it a try. My experience is that (and this is a gross overgeneralization/oversimplification) smartphones in general are not as good at grabbing and holding a signal as "dumbphones." Further, that smartphones vary significantly in this performance category, as well. And finally, that no one can tell you how well a phone will perform unless they are sitting in your house with an identical phone (and sometimes not even then.)

    As far as texting, calling, etc. none of those activities are associated with your use of the 3G network for data transfer.

    Now, for data issues. As far as I know, both the Droid and the Incredible have unlimited data plans for the $29.95 you pay for a smartphone monthly premium. On the other hand, as far as I know every mobile broadband plan (for "aircards" or for phones) has a 5 gig a month max limit. Furthermore, it is not even clear if you can purchase a "tethering" plan for the Droid, though you can for the Incredible. (This whole area is a mess in terms of what VZW is doing. I strongly suspect it's because the whole issue is in flux within VZW and no one can give you a straight answer as far as the Motorola Droid is concerned.)

    I have a plan for a netbook I purchased through Verizon that replaced an air card I had with them. I pay $60 per month for that service. I could, if I chose, "tether" my Droid to that computer and avoid the "mobile broadband" plan. But if I did so, I'd have to deal with two issues.

    () Tethering is technically a violation of my ToS with Verizon. I don't need to use the 3G network on the laptop very often and so that would not be a major problem. But it would constitute a technical violation of my service contract. So while I've occasionally tethered my Droid, I don't do so on a regular basis.

    () Since I'm still locked into the mobile broadband contract for my netbook, I'd have to terminate that service and pay a fee that would reduce the savings I'd enjoy. For me, though probably not for you, it isn't worth it.

    Finally, I haven't done any controlled tests, but my impression is that the built-in "aircard" in my netbook does a better job of connecting to the VZW 3G network when I need it than my Droid (when tethered). Thus, if I dropped the separate mobile broadband service for my netbook and relied exclusively on the "tethered" Droid, I'd lose some performance/functionality.

    So, since you want to retain at least the same level of service with your Droid (acting as a modem) as you have with your aircard, I'd say, again, that you may have to test the Droid vs your aircard to determine if it meets your needs.

    As far as whether you would draw the attention of Verizon by dropping your aircard and using your Droid as a 3G broadband modem, I don't think anyone can answer that question. Although your Droid data plan is technically unlimited, you might draw the attention of VZW if you routinely exceeded some unspecified maximum on your Droid as a result of tethering. There are no reported instances of that occurring with the Droid as far as I know, but that doesn't mean it hasn't or would not happen.

    The bottom line is that there are no technical barriers to what you want to do. However, in your specific location you may encounter real world barriers. Furthermore, there is no plan (that I'm aware of) that really does what you want to do, i.e. have an unlimited mobile broadband plan on your phone that (legally) allows you to use it as you currently use your "aircard."

    P.S. I've ignored the question of whether you can use your Droid as a wifi device (not a 3G device) because that doesn't seem to fit your scenario. But if you simply connect your Droid to a Wifi network and tether it to your computer, you would not be hitting the data caps that apply to mobile broadband plans. But if you did that, you could also simply use your computer connected via Wifi (with appropriate hardware) and avoid all this.
     
  3. Diordna

    Diordna Active Member

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    Hope I helped a little! And apps like PDAnet can help you tether wired though, and you have to pay for them for best use.


    ..but the dude above me put more time into it haha :icon_ banana:
     
  4. OutInTheSticks

    OutInTheSticks New Member

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    This is kinda where I'm at.

    What I don't see is that if I am using the phone as an aircard doing whatever I want to or need to do, and then disconnecting & carrying it with me when I leave, and use it all the time I have it with me, I don't see what the difference is in it. It's not like I'm cloning the device off to run remotely while I'm not there, or that it's doing dual duty with both voice & data at the same time. I mean is it unlimited/unthrottled, or is it it not?

    I don't have an alternative at home for high speed internet. Our POS phone service has such staticky lines you can hardly talk, I have less hope that DSL would be anything close to dismal IF it were available.

    In my case, there's not a WiFi network available - I don't even see the lights from my neighbors house, so I'm pretty sure the signal on any wireless devices around are attenuated to be smaller than that.... If I had another alternative for high speed internet or WiFi, I'd probably use that instead of this. Just trying to save a few bucks by consolidating what I use, get a newer phone than the 5-6 year old one I use now....

    I've given thought to Pdanet, as a couple folks have recommended that.

    I just don't see what the difference is if you bought the phone to use & have to buy a "mandatory" $30 data plan that is supposed to be unlimited (but really isn't). On top of that, you have to pay $60 for a "mobile broadband" package. (??? Isn't the data plan on a smart phone the same thing as a mobile broadband package? Some of this is so bass-ackwards, it makes me wish I was dyslexic.)

    I use it how I use it, whether its for work or not, and the bandwidth used is the bandwidth used. Mostly I use my aircard for work, but I will also grab some stuff off Usenet, as well as the occasional Itunes & BitTorrent stuff, but not all the time. Mostly for surfing. But, the 5gig cap is ridiculously low. I mean, I understand the reasoning behind it (to maintain the most paying users on the network but with the lowest amount of bandwidth consumed), but what I don't understand is how Verizon can advertise it as unlimited, when they explicitly say that any usage over 5gb in a month would cause your account to be terminated (or ripping you a new one on the cost of it). I have read a couple instances where account speeds were throttled at a set limit.

    If phone companies spent a tenth of the money they spent on advertising on upgrading/increasing their infrastructure, the 5gb plan & the nickel & dimeing crap would go away....

    SC
     
  5. jsh1120

    jsh1120 Silver Member

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    Actually, buddy, I think you're confused. The Droid $29.95 "data" plan is unlimited. It's the "mobile broadband" plans that are limited to 5 gigs per month. That may not be true of your current broadband plan if it's grandfathered from AllTell, but ALL VZW plans available for "aircards" are limited to 5 gigs per month.

    In fact, a number of users here claim to have more than 5 gigs a month traffic on their Droids with no ill effects (in terms of charges.)

    The limit on the Droid is not in terms of data transfer; it's a prohibition against using the device as a "pathway" to another device, i.e. tethering.

    At the present time, the absurdity of the entire pricing structure is that if you don't purchase a mobile broadband plan for your Droid (even if you could), you have no maximum limit. If you do add a "mobile broadband" plan for a Moto Droid (if you could), you would be limited to 5 gigabytes per month.

    All in all, if I were in your situation, I would purchase a Droid, purchase PDAnet, and test the performance. If it works well enough for you, check your data use over the course of a month. You may be surprised to find that you aren't using as many gigs as you think. But even if you exceed 5 gigs a month, the worst that can happen is that VZW will try to get you to purchase more bandwidth. They can't charge you for what you've used on your droid since it is "unlimited." And given the absurdity of the current situation, I doubt they would try to "prove" that you've tethered your phone.

    Keep in mind, of course, that this advice is worth exactly what you're paying for it.
     
  6. OutInTheSticks

    OutInTheSticks New Member

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    No - I share the same perspective as you brought up.

    Whether the Droid is the one browsing or doing whatever, or it is thru the PC, then the same device is consuming bandwidth. Unless they're using a packet sniffer, how are they able to tell what is using what?

    SC
     
  7. Chupp75

    Chupp75 Member

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    from what i understand they arent able to tell that you are using it as a tether.
     
  8. jsh1120

    jsh1120 Silver Member

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    Sorry. I must not have been clear. You're certainly correct that without going to considerably more trouble than I suspect it's worth and risking some very bad PR, VZW cannot tell if you're using the droid as an "endpoint" device or as a gateway to another device.

    However, if you purchase a separate "mobile broadband" plan, the data download/upload will be limited to five gigabytes per month. Without such a plan there is no limit on downloads/uploads. As odd as that sounds, that's the state of the current VZW offerings.
     
  9. OutInTheSticks

    OutInTheSticks New Member

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    You were clear.

    The fuzzy part is the difference (to me) between an "unlimited data" plan & a "mobile broadband" plan, the first being "unlimited" (whatever that means) and the second one being subject to a 5gb cap.

    It may just be semantics, but I see it as VZW kinda double-dipping - i.e. selling you the same access twice. Sort of like leasing a car, making the payment each month & then having to pay again when you drive it over 60 mph.

    In this case, you're not cloning the access, or using the phone for multiple tasks at the same time - it's dedicating it to a single purpose to the exclusion of other purposes.

    I honestly don't see how it is much different from remoting into a session on my desktop at work.

    For VZW to be able to tell an endpoint of the data means that they're a lot farther into the content of the data than they're admitting, and that gets into a much bigger can of worms. Who'd do any https browsing knowing that?

    I'm always wary of companies who:

    1. advertise ALL the time
    2. have tons of marketing info everywhere else
    3. and have more marketing people & attorneys than any other occupation in the company.



    SC