We have a Droid in our Home

This will be my first technical post for 2011. My significant other just moved here and we had to shop for a good phone plan for her. I had to think about what would be a good replacement for what she had before, what would make financial sense for us and what would also be interesting to have and use for the next couple of years.

Blackberry 8520
Blackberry 8520 (Courtesy cellulare.nxtr.it)

In South Africa she was using the Black Berry Curve (8520), which I personally think at the moment is unbeatable. If you are not on that plan you are losing out, unless you can spend more on a more luxurious Blackberry, a man from Venda told me he cant take the EDGE connection speed of the 8520 so he opted for 3G Blackberries. At R60 ( ~$8.60) a month the BIS unlimited internet plan is unbeatable, even on Prepaid which was what she had on Vodacom. Blackberry Messenger is also becoming a standard talking point in South Africa and I have a feeling the iPhone is dead in the water in South Africa because it does not come cheap with internet so the cost of owning one is much higher than a blackberry. In the USA its hard to get any internet service for a smartphone on a Prepaid plan (more on that later). I also had thought about then texts and a phone plan.

For the phone plan we use LocalPhone as our international service provider. Thus we have a South African landline number that family can call us on (gets forwarded to our phones here) and we also use it to call outside the US to home.  Thus having a good phone plan is essential as my better half sometimes gets calls that last an hour. So having a good number of minutes was a need. In the US you pay for incoming calls and outgoing calls. Texts are not a big one but having a plan is always better than not having one as out of bundle texts messages can add up to a large expense. Same at the calls receiving texts and sending texts you pay for. Unheard of in South Africa but here its the norm.

I myself am on an iPhone plan with 450 minutes from AT&T. AT&T is a pain in NY but it works in New Brunswick for now (On Thursday while in the lab, all the iPhones could not make calls on the 3G network) and I have a love hate relationship with my phone but that is a story for another blog post.  So when looking for a phone to get on this side then we also looked for a smartphone that would last a long time and just plain works.

Samsung Intercept Virgin Mobile (Courtesy AndroidGuys.com)

A full plan was out of the question at the time because of the cost so we did not look at AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. We looked at the alternative providers MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile. We finally settled on the Android equipped Samsung Intercept from Virgin Mobile. This was a close one as it was a close race between the android and the Blackberry Curve 8530 (8520 with 3G) also on Virgin Mobile. The Samsung Plan is $25 (~R175) a month and includes

  • 300 Minutes (Incoming and Outgoing)
  • Unlimited Texts (SMS)
  • Unlimited 3G Internet

To forgo the Blackberry took some convincing. My better half did not want to let got of Blackberry Messenger but with BIS on Virgin Mobile it would be $10(~R70) extra per month and we would be getting an older version Blackberry (There a multitude of new Blackberries making their way to the US) and it would not be upgradeable to the newest Blackberry OS. The Samsung Intercept ships with Android 2.1 but it should be upgraded to 2.2 in the next few months. Ohh some background to make one understand that better. Virgin Mobile, just like in South Africa, runs on top of another network. In the US it runs on top of Sprint. Spring is a CDMA provider so no SIM card and cannot be used in South Africa. We are in the US anyway we are not worried about that. Sprint also has a Samsung Intercept on their network and it has been updated to Android Froyo (2.2) so Virgin Mobile is also preparing the update (Sprint had some teething problems with the upgrade). So in the end the the Intercept Won because it is at least a little bit future proof, even though Android Honeycomb (3.0) just got announced :(.

Now the last piece iOS vs. Android. Well its kind off an unfair fight. My better half and me both have iPod Touches and I have an iPhone. We both got used to iOS before having an Android device in our home so we all have these expectations about what a touch screen phone should be. We had to both throw our assumptions out the window and appreciate the device and operating system for what it is. The Samsung Intercept even though small is cute and I really like physical keyboard. The battery life is okay not really bad you just have to manage the tasks running well. It is heavily customizable and the google Market has interesting applications just like the Apple App Store.  I even did a double take and tried to find how much it would cost me to cancel my AT&T contract. I pay $75 (~R575) a month and I get 450 Minutes(Incoming/Outgoing) 200 Text Messages, Unlimited 3G Internet. I am still on it, so we now enjoy the best of both worlds and our combined bill is manageable. I will still be looking out to actually not renew my contract if another Android phone gets onto Virgin in the next year.

We replaced Blackberry Messenger with Whatsapp, which I did not even know existed and is cross platform. It is available on iOS, Blackberry OS, Android and some Nokia phones. We even have Angry Birds installed, even though its a smaller screen to the iPod Touch. So in the end my partner is getting the best of both worlds as she plays a good number of games on the iPod Touch and then has the smartphone power of Android on her Samsung Intercept. So we have accepted the Droid in our home and its awesome 🙂

Interesting Applications you should have on your Android Phone:

  • Barcode Scanner
  • Google Shopper
  • Google Navigation (We dont even have a car yet)
  • Whatsapp (Already Said it)
  • Appkik

The rest are for you to explore. Thats it for this time 😀

Wait there's more. We went to a Michael Jackson Tribute performance here at Rutgers.

Remembering the King of Pop
Remembering the King of Pop

Best performance was by the Acapella group Duwende. Check out their Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/duwendemusic

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