Tuesday, June 26, 2012

All is well and working

There have been several things happen since my last post that need to be updated.  First and most importantly for me, I used  Absinthe 2.0 to jailbreak my iPhone 4S running iOS 5.1.1.  You can find any number of help pages on how to do the jailbreak, so I won't go into much detail there.  Once the jailbreak is finished, you will see the Cydia app on your screen.  That's where you can download from a wide variety of apps for jailbroken devices.  The one I was most interested in was MyWi which DOES let you use your iPhone as a mobile hotspot for a cellular data connection with Consumer Cellular.  It just allows you to use your WiFi only iPad anywhere you can get a cellular signal, but no WiFi.  Keep in mind that you will be consuming bandwidth from your data plan with any cellular data you download, so WiFi, when it's available, is always cheaper.

At this point, I have an iPhone 4S, unlocked and jailbroken, on a CHEAP Consumer Cellular voice and data plan.  But, I still am using a temporary phone number that I got from CC to test out my iPhone during all the hacking.  Now I want my original phone number back.  No problem.  Give Consumer Cellular a call and ask them to port over your phone number from your original carrier, which in my case was AT&T.  They'll send you a new SIM card in the mail which arrives promptly.  You'll still have to cut that SIM card down to the mini-SIM that the iPhone uses.  Stick that new SIM in and, nothing works!  You will have to call CC to activate the phone. NO CHARGE for activation--another nice thing about Consumer Cellular.  You'll need your account number from your old carrier to do the activation.  After activation, I did find that I had to go back to the settings in My Account on the CC Web site to check the box for Web (Data) for the new (actually old) phone number that had just been activated.

Now I have done everything I needed to do to get my iPhone 4S working with Consumer Cellular, EXCEPT to terminate my contract with AT&T.  I had purposefully waited until my phone number had been ported over and I was sure that everything was working before I took that last step.  With AT&T there is an early termination fee which is $325 minus $10 for each full month of your Service Commitment that you have completed. If you've already done the math and selected a plan with Consumer Cellular, you'll see that it won't take long to recover that cost in monthly savings. My wife and I have the Anywhere 100 plan plus data for $35 a month. That's for BOTH phones, sharing the minutes, and and data and messenging. But that's just our plan for this month. If we use more voice minutes and/or more data some other month, we'll change our plan for that month to avoid overuse changes and then change it back to the cheaper plan the next month. Use, decide, and pay on a month-by-month basis.

Because Consumer Cellular piggybacks on the AT&T network, my connection is just as reliable as it was when I was paying ATT&T's outrageous monthly fees. No AT&T tower close-by? No problem; your phone will seamlessly switch to the strongest available signal and you don't pay any roaming charges. It's like free local calls to anywhere in the US from anywhere in the US.

What's stopping you?

Monday, June 11, 2012

As it turned out, the fix for data was pretty simple.  Because I was already a Consumer Cellular customer, I could log in their Web site and check my settings.  My wife has a non-smart phone and I have my iPhone 4S.  When I looked at the settings under My Account, I saw that CC had added a data plan onto my account which was part of the request to mail the SIM card. But in looking at the specific settings for the two phones, I saw that Web (Data) hadn't been enabled.  I checked that box and saved those settings, and before long I had Internet access.  The MMS test messages that I'd sent had been received; the phone worked; and I had an active Internet connection.  I am a pretty happy camper.  The only thing left on my to-do list is to get the personal hotspot feature working.  It appears that will require jailbreaking and installing a tethering app.  It looks like one of the most popular apps for that purpose is MyFi, available from Intelliborn.  I'll report back with an update soon.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Earlier this week, I received a Consumer Cellular SIM card in the mail after requesting that from a customer service rep from Consumer Cellular.  I trimmed the card down to the mini size required by the iPhone 4S, using the AT&T SIM card as a template.  Last night, I inserted that SIM card into the iPhone and immediately had voice service.  No jailbreaking done (yet).  I was able to send texts using Messages and use Safari, so I thought I was done.  However, one thing I'm hoping for is being able to use the iPhone as a hotspot for my iPad, but when I went to Settings > General > Network, there was the spinning ball indicating that it wasn't "connected."  So I went to unlockit.com.nz and downloaded the settings for Consumer Cellular to unlock the phone.  I again inserted my CC card.  This time I noticed that the option for a hotspot was no longer visible, but the voice and data functions were still operating (I thought), so I went to bed feeling pretty good about things.

Then, on the way to church this morning, I discovered that I didn't actually have a network connection for  data and Internet.  All along last night while I was testing things, I had actually been getting my data via my home network Wi-Fi instead of directly from a cellular network.  The only thing I know that works right now is my Wi-Fi and the phone.

I'm going to have to do some more studying to see what else to try to get data working without a reliance on Wi-Fi.  I also notice that I've lost voice dictation for messages and email when I'm not connected to Wi-Fi.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I'm in the process of terminating my contract with AT&T and switching back to Consumer Cellular.  I am a huge fan of the no-contract way they do business.  Whether you are a heavy phone user or a seldom user, they have an economical voice plan for you.  They are NOT designed for heavy data use, like streaming videos or gaming.  For affordable voice plans, I recommend you check them out: http://www.consumercellular.com/.

Their biggest limitation is in the choice of phones they offer.  For a long time, I was a holdout in the cell phone world.  I had a "free" cell phone from Consumer Cellular, but never carried it with me unless I was traveling, only using it rarely even then.  I was finally overcome with my desire for an iPhone 4S and bought one last year at Best Buy.  Of course, my only options were AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon.  I had been spoiled by Consumer Cellular's no long distance, no roaming, no contract service.  After consulting with friends, I decided on AT&T.  All along, I've been thinking about the day when I'd be able to go back to the good old days of Consumer Cellular and save myself a ton of money in the process.  I first had to overcome the multiple hurdles of activating my iPhone 4S on the Consumer Cellular network.  I read a lot about other users' experiences of switching to Consumer Cellular, and came across foreign words pertaining to cell phones like "jailbreak," "unlock," and "tethered."  I could see that I had some studying to do before taking the plunge.  A couple of blogs were particularly helpful: 1) http://www.hickendesign.com/site/2012/02/how-to-setup-your-iphone-or-ipad-on-consumer-cellular/ and its related site 2) http://www.hickendesign.com/site/2010/12/iphone-3gs-on-consumer-cellular-with-edge-data-working/.  Neither of these provided enough specific information about using the iPhone 4S with Consumer Cellular, because the writer, Mark, doesn't himself have that iPhone model.

So, I think I have enough information on how to proceed and I'll update you on my progress.  Feel free to share your experiences with Consumer Cellular and your iPhone 4S.  Together, we can help each other.