Google’s smaller smart speaker, Google Home Mini, will cost just $49

Posted on September 19, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

The Google Home Mini will cost just $49 when it debuts next month.

A treasure trove of leaked Google hardware information is coming to light today as Droid-life is reporting evidence of an upcoming miniature version of the Google Home set to debut at company's October 4 hardware event in San Francisco. From Droid-life:

According to the information we've viewed, the Google Home Mini (official name) will arrive in Chalk, Charcoal, and Coral colors. The Google Home Mini will be powered rather than wireless, at least according to the images here. This Google Home Mini will be able to help you with your schedule, set reminders, grab news, and other Home-related inquiries. It'll cost just $49 and is, of course, sports Google Assistant.

The speaker will reportedly come to market as the Google Home Mini in three colors, and will take on Amazon's incredibly successful Echo Dot, which has dropped in price to a similar $49 in recent months (though we've seen it for as low as $39).

Google Home Mini won't have replaceable bases like its larger counterpart, and certainly won't sound as good, but its main attraction is Google Assistant, which has grown in usefulness since it debuted over a year ago.

Where to buy the iPhone 8 in Canada

Posted on September 14, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Where can you get a brand new iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus in Canada? Here's the list!

The iPhone 8 available to order starting 12:00am PT / 3:00am ET on September 15, both from Apple's own site and its carrier partners.

If you're looking to pick up either the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus on launch day or beyond, here's where you can go, and what you need to know about the different ways to buy the new phone.

Buy the iPhone 8 unlocked from the Apple Store

Apple sells the iPhone unlocked through its retail and online stores, and the phone is already available for pre-order. While Canadians don't have access to the iPhone Upgrade Program (IUP) that allows annual upgrades through a monthly payment, Apple does allow customers to trade in their old phones for credit towards a new one.

Here's how it breaks down:

iPhone 8:

  • 64GB: $929
  • 256GB: $1139

iPhone 8 Plus:

  • 64GB: $1059
  • 256GB: $1269

These are not cheap phones. Even compared to the base U.S. prices, there is an affordance for continued weakness in the Canadian Dollar built in.

There really isn't much benefit to buying the iPhone 8 directly from the Apple Store unless you require an unlocked device.

See at Apple

Buy the iPhone 8 from Rogers

The iPhone 8 is available from Rogers in the following configurations:

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $229 / $429
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $429 / $629
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $359 / $559
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $559 / $759

Rogers has a national network that is proven fast and reliable in most provinces, but especially in Ontario and British Columbia. The cheaper of the above prices indicates the price on a Premium+ Tab plan, which adds $10 per month to your monthly plan to lower the cost of the phone up front. The higher of the above prices indicates the price on a Premium Tab plan, which offers a standard $500 subsidy.

See at Rogers

Buy the iPhone 8 from Bell

The iPhone 8 is available from Bell in the following configurations:

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $229.99 / $429.99
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $429.99 / $629.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $359.99 / $559.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $559.99 / $759.99

Bell has a national network that is recognized as one of the fastest and more expansive in most of the country. The cheaper of the above prices indicates the price on a Premium Smartphone Plus plan, which adds $10 per month to your monthly plan to lower the cost of the phone up front. The higher of the above prices indicates the price on a Premium Smartphone plan, which offers a standard $500 subsidy.

See at Bell

Buy the iPhone 8 from Telus

The iPhone 8 is available from Telus in the following configurations:

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $230 / $430
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $430 / $630
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $360 / $560
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $560 / $760

Telus shares a network with Bell, that has been awarded both the fastest and more expansive in most of the country.

Telus also makes it easy to get an iPhone 8 for $200 less than the other carriers by adding $10 per month to your bill. This Premium Plus plan is a hybrid model between regular subsidies and a tab.

See at Telus

Buy the iPhone 8 at BellMTS

The iPhone 8 is available from BellMTS in the following configurations:

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $229.99 / $429.99
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $429.99 / $629.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $359.99 / $559.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $559.99 / $759.99

BellMTS has a moderately-priced regional network that caters to Manitoba but does offer national roaming deals. It's now owned by Bell.

See at BellMTS

Buy the iPhone 8 at SaskTel

The iPhone 8 is available from SaskTel in the following configurations:

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $229.99 / $429.99
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $429.99 / $629.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $359.99 / $559.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $559.99 / $759.99

SaskTel offers a moderately-priced regional network that offers service throughout Saskatchewan.

Buy the iPhone 8 at SaskTel

Buy the iPhone 8 at Videotron

Prices tbd.

Videotron offers a high-quality network operating in Quebec and Eastern Ontario.

See at Videotron

Buy the iPhone 8 from Koodo

Koodo, Telus' subbrand, sells the iPhone 8 at an upfront cost with a per-month tab thereafter, with lower plan prices as a bargain.

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $430
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $630
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $560
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $760

See at Koodo

Buy the iPhone 8 from Fido

Fido, Rogers' subbrand, is selling the iPhone 8 in the following configurations:

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $429
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $629
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $559
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $759

See at Fido

Buy the iPhone 8 from Virgin Mobile

Bell's subbrand, Virgin Mobile, is selling the iPhone 8 in the following configurations:

  • iPhone 8 64GB: $429.99
  • iPhone 8 256GB: $629.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: $559.99
  • iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: $759.99

See at Virgin Mobile

Buy the iPhone 8 from Eastlink

East Coast upstart Eastlink, which operates in the Maritime provinces and parts of Northern Ontario, is selling the iPhone 8 in the following configurations:

Pricing tbd.

See at Eastlink

Any questions?

If you have any other questions about getting your iPhone 8 in Canada, drop them in the comments!

[custom:iphone8]

How to order Apple Watch Series 3 in Canada

Posted on by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is an exciting upgrade. Here's how to get it in Canada!

There's a lot to like about Apple's Series 3 upgrade to the Apple Watch even if you don't go for the optional cellular mode. From the faster S3 chip to the barometric altimeter, if you're rocking a Series 0 or Series 1 Apple Watch, you may want to think about upgrading. And if you're looking to go independent and untether from your iPhone entirely, the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular is definitely for you.

Apple Watch Series 3 hits store shelves on September 22, but you can pre-order starting September 15 at 3:01am ET/2:01am CT/12:01am PT.

If you're in Canada, there are a few things you need to know.

The best place to buy Apple Watch Apple.ca

The best place to get an Apple Watch as soon as possible is Apple.ca, which has the various models and bands in one easy place.

While the Apple Store will have the Watch when it goes on sale September 22, if you want to guarantee the model you want and have it delivered to you on the 22nd, you want to get it from Apple.ca.

See at Apple Canada

Apple Watch Series 3 pricing

Compared to the Series 2, Apple Watch has actually dropped in price in Canada for Series 3. That's great news, and makes the GPS + Cellular model a little more affordable.

Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Celluar

  • 38mm: $519
  • 42mm: $559

Apple Watch Series 3 GPS

  • 38mm: $429
  • 42mm: $469

These options are for the aluminum casing and Sport bands, and go up significantly if you want the stainless steel or (gulp!) ceramic options, or various watch straps in more premium materials.

See at Apple Canada

What about Apple Watch GPS + Cellular on Canadian carriers?

At launch, there's only one carrier, Bell, offering cellular service with the Apple Watch Series 3. The way it works is pretty simple: $5 per month on top of your existing share plan. (Note: You have to already have a share plan.)

Bell utilizes a service called NumberShare to, well, share your number with your Apple Watch. Here's what you need to know:

  • There's a $10 connection fee to activate your Apple Watch Series 3, but you can probably get it waived if you ask
  • All users get three months of service for free (a $15 savings!)
  • Overage charges are $0.07 (or 7c) per MB. That's a lot, so don't go over!
  • The service activates on the watch itself, much like iPad Pro eSIM
  • Your Apple Watch will have the same phone number as your iPhone

There's lots more to learn over at Bell, which has put together a useful FAQ on using Apple Watch Series 3 with your Bell phone service.

See at Bell Canada

TELUS has also committed to offering Apple Watch Series 3 service later this year, but it's not available at launch.

Where else can you buy the Apple Watch Series 3?

At launch, it's Apple or Bell, but you'll soon be able to get it from Best Buy and many other retailers. We'll update this page when we know more!

What colors are available?

The Apple Watch Series 3 is available in gold, silver, or space gray aluminum, or silver or space black stainless steel.

When does it go on sale?

Apple Watch Series 3 goes up for pre-order at 12:00am PT / 3am ET on September 15 and will be available to purchase a week later, on September 22.

Has the Series 1 been given a discount, too?

Yes, it has! You can pick up a Series 1 Apple Watch for as low as $329 CAD. It's currently available, so you don't have to wait until pre-order time if you plan on picking one up.

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How to buy an unlocked iPhone in Canada

Posted on by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Wondering where to buy an unlocked iPhone in Canada? Wondering if you should? Here's the answer!

Unlocked phones are all the rage, but what does the term mean, and when is the right time to make the investment?

What is an unlocked iPhone?

An unlocked phone is one that can be used on any carrier without restrictions. Most Canadian carriers, in exchange for providing a handsome subsidy, sell handsets that are locked to their networks, making it more likely that you will purchase and continue using their service. Popping a SIM card from, say, Bell into a Rogers-locked device will refuse to connect to Bell's network and throw an error. Put a Rogers SIM card back in that phone, and it starts working again.

When a phone is unlocked, you're free to shop around for the best monthly plan — one that is not tied to the sale of a handset. Most carriers, in fact, offer monthly discounts for bringing an unlocked phone to their network, since they don't have to sell a subsidized phone — money that comes out of their bottom line — to sell a service plan.

Should you buy an unlocked iPhone?

These days, you hear a lot about "buying unlocked" and how it's so much better. But, like all things, it's not that simple. Whether you should buy an unlocked depends on a lot of things, but thankfully it's easier than ever to make that decision; the number of ways to obtain one has risen dramatically over the past few years.

But should you? There are several reasons to buy an unlocked iPhone:

  • Carriers often give meaningful discounts to customers who buy an unlocked phone beforehand and purchase service.
  • Unlocked devices can be used on any carrier whose wireless bands are supported on the handset. These days, most unlocked phones sold throughout the world work on the major Canadian carriers.
  • Unlocked devices can be used internationally, with local SIM cards, that avoid often-expensive roaming plans.

Are there any downsides to buying an unlocked iPhone?

They are typically more expensive since they are purchased at their full retail price, with no carrier subsidy. The 64GB iPhone 8, for example, costs $429.99 on a 2-year contract, but $929 outright. That $500 difference — the subsidy — is offered in exchange for two years of guaranteed service revenue. You can get it for $229.99 on a 2-year contract, but you need to be on a plan that costs $10 more per month. Most people don't want to spend more than $900 on a smartphone up front unless they have a very good reason.

Where to get an unlocked iPhone?

Apple sells the iPhone unlocked directly from its retail stores, as well as online. That is the easiest way to get one, and also the most expensive. From the iPhone SE, which starts at $469, to the iPhone 8 Plus, which goes all the way up to $1,269, there is no question that Apple's most popular product has been affected by the weak Canadian dollar.

That's why iPhone resellers such as Orchard are finding such success in the Canadian market selling well-maintained second-hand products.

Whereas buying an unlocked iPhone from Kijiji or Craigslist is largely a crapshoot (see the IMEI blacklist below), getting an unlocked iPhone from Orchard or an equivalent service all but guarantees the phone is in good standing.

Unlocking an existing iPhone

It's fairly easy to unlock an existing phone, if you want to go that route. To do so, you'll need to come at the problem in one of two ways:

  • If you purchased it directly from your carrier, call them and pay a fee for them to unlock it. That fee is usually $35 to $50, depending on the provider, and may only be possible when the device is fully paid off, or the account is in good standing.
  • If you purchased it from someone else (who presumably got it from a carrier), websites like cellunlocker.net have proven reliable and inexpensive. Some websites claim to be able to unlock iPhones, but be careful about their claims, as not all have the capabilities.

Will an unlocked iPhone work on your carrier?

I can't answer that for you specifically, but chances are, yes. iPhones sold in the last three years usually have some, if not all, the requisite hardware to support most Canadian carriers.

If you're looking to purchase an unlocked phone, make sure it has at least one of the following compatible LTE bands. (Not sure what a "band" is? Read up on our Guide to LTE in Canada.)

  • Band 4 (All carriers)
  • Band 7 (Bell / Rogers)
  • Band 12/17 (All carriers)
  • Band 13 (All carriers)
  • Band 2 (Bell / Telus)
  • Band 5 (Bell / Telus)

Have any questions about unlocked iPhones? Any experiences to share? Let me know in the comments!

Updated September 2017: Added pricing information for the iPhone 8.

How to turn off ‘Press home to open’ for iPhone and iPad

Posted on September 13, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

While you need to press the Home button to unlock your iPhone by default, you can make a quick change that lets you simply rest your finger on the Home button to open the device.

Since its introduction, Touch ID has been an excellent feature that allows you to quickly unlock your iPhone or iPad while still maintaining a reasonable level of security. As it's evolved, it's only gotten better and faster. However, some opined that the feature worked too quickly, leaving them without time to read their notifications before unlocking their devices.

With iOS 10, Apple brought a new default behavior for opening an iPhone or iPad: you'd need to press the Home button in order to unlock the device. While this allows you to view notifications without worrying about opening your iPhone, you might also feel that it slows you down. Not to worry, however, because Apple has included a setting that allows you to simply rest your finger on the Home button in order to unlock you iPhone if you use the raise to wake feature or the on/off switch to turn on your iPhone's screen.

Here's how you can turn off "Press home to open" on your iPhone and iPad on both iOS 10 and iOS 11.

How to turn off 'Press home to open' on your iPhone and iPad

  1. Open Settings from the home screen.
  2. Scroll down and tap on General.
  3. Tap on Accessibility.

  4. Scroll down and tap on Home Button.
  5. Enable Rest Finger to Open.

That's it! Now using the home button to turn on the iPhone will also unlock the phone. The only downside? You may miss those beautiful new notifications on the lock screen, but you can still easily get to them by activating the Notification Center.

Update September, 2017: Added new screenshots for iOS 11, spruced up the language in the introduction to reflect the feature's existence in iOS 11.

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iPhone X and iPhone 8 in Canada: Everything you need to know!

Posted on September 12, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

If you're in Canada, here's what you need to know about the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.

OK so you know about the phones and you are salivating at the features. You're despondent about the late October pre-order date. These things are obvious. But if you're in Canada, here are some things you may want to reference when deciding whether to buy the latest iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, or upgrade to the expensive af iPhone X.

How much do they cost?

The iPhone 8s are a bit more expensive than the equivalent iPhone 7s which, given the unstable value of the Canadian dollar, makes sense that Apple would continue to hedge. The default storage options are twice as large, too, which could account for the increase (though there is no such bloat in U.S. prices, so...)

iPhone 8:

  • 64GB: $929
  • 256GB: $1139

iPhone 8 Plus:

  • 64GB: $1059
  • 256GB: $1269

iPhone X:

  • 64GB: $1319
  • 256GB: $1529

These are not cheap phones, the iPhone X especially. Even compared to the base U.S. prices, there is an affordance for continued weakness in the Canadian Dollar built in.

What colors are available?

Apple has simplified its color options this year, and that's probably a good thing. So long, Rose Gold.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Space Grey

iPhone X

  • Space Grey
  • Silver

Which carriers will offer the new iPhones?

Pretty much all of them:

  • Rogers
  • Bell
  • Telus
  • Videotron
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Fido
  • Koodo
  • MTS
  • SaskTel

There's a big omission there, and one that we don't know yet: Will Freedom Mobile offer the iPhone this year?

Does that mean the new iPhones will work with Freedom Mobile?

Yes! They all have Band 66 support inside, which is excellent news for Freedom Mobile customers. Even if the Shaw-owned carrier doesn't officially offer the phone for sale, it shouldn't be too hard to buy an unlocked model and put a Freedom SIM inside to receive LTE access.

Are older iPhones getting a price cut?

Yes, they are! The iPhone 7 now starts at $739, and the iPhone 7 Plus starts at $899.

  • iPhone 7 Plus: $899 (32GB) / $1029 (128GB)
  • iPhone 7: $739 (32GB) / $869 (128GB)
  • iPhone 6s Plus: $739 (32GB) / $869 (128GB)
  • iPhone 6s: $599 (32GB) / $739 (128GB)
  • iPhone SE: $469 (32GB) / $599 (128GB)

When do they go up for sale?

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus go up for pre-order in Canada on Friday, September 15 and are available to buy in stores and online September 22.

The iPhone X is going up for pre-order in Canada on October 27 and will be available a few days later, on November 3.


Want more? Here's everything you need to know about the iPhone X

Can the Note 8 out-iPhone the iPhone 8?

Posted on August 29, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung's best phone ever, but can it compete with the upcoming iPhone 8?

Last week, I went hands-on with the new Galaxy Note 8, Samsung's latest, best, and most powerful phone. The narrative around its announcement and release was, predictably, both humble and overwrought — a typical Samsung-specific mixture of sentiment and braggadocio.

It's a really nice phone, with plenty of reasons to be excited, especially if that S Pen is your jam. It's my jam — I like writing on paper, and this feels about as close to that as, say, the Apple Pencil on iPad Pro — so I'm excited about using it. The Note 7, as you are probably well aware, didn't go so well for Samsung, which is likely why, even with its new near-bezel-less design, the Note 8 is about as conservative an upgrade as you'll find in today's world.

I compared the phone to the iPhone 7 Plus, which feels massive in comparison. Both phones are built solidly, with perfectly-machined aluminum and high-quality glass. Even a year later, though, the iPhone 7 Plus feels incredibly well-built. The glossy 7000 Series aluminum of my Jet Black model has held up quite well — I don't check it daily for scratches, though I'm sure they've proliferated in the months since I stopped using a case.

The Note 8 may have been announced before the new iPhone, but it has to compete head-to-head.

The Note 8 is, like the iPhone, built with an aluminum frame, but it has a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass on the back, whereas Apple uses metal throughout. Samsung says there are some advantages to this — it allows for wireless charging, for instance, and doesn't require the surreptitious hiding of antenna lines — but its glass-backed phones are all slippery fingerprint magnets, and the Note 8 is no exception.

What's really interesting about the Note 8, though, isn't how it compares to the iPhone 7 Plus, but how it will stand up to the iPhone 8, or the idea of the iPhone 8. By now we know a lot about Apple's upcoming phone, which could debut at $999 — a full $70 more than the already-expensive Note 8 — but Apple has ways of surprising even the most well-informed of leak followers.

It's important to see whether Apple's claim that it is always a few years ahead of the competition is actually true, since the Note 8 is basically the most advanced and expensive Android phone most people can buy right now. It also showcases the best of what Samsung can do with hardware and software, given that its operating system, built by Google can only be altered so much.

Crossing paths

The iPhone 8 is said to feature a number of hardware improvements that have been present, in one rudimentary form or another, for years on Android. Wireless charging has been on every Galaxy S flagship since 2015's Galaxy S6, while its rumored face unlock feature debuted on the Galaxy Note 7.

There's also talk of the next iPhone largely doing away with the bezels around the display, opting for an on-screen home button that would allow for a much more efficient screen-to-body ratio. And there's talk of the iPhone 8 moving from LCD to OLED, a display technology that Samsung has largely perfected.

Moving in the other direction, the Note 8 has Samsung's first dual camera setup, which largely apes that of the iPhone 7 Plus (and, most likely, the upcoming iPhone 8). With a second 12MP sensor that pairs with what Samsung calls a "2x lens," the results appear to be similar to that of the iPhone: the ability to shoot twice the distance with no loss in photo quality, and a portrait mode that Samsung is calling Live Focus.

The ongoing differences

Even if more of the spec sheet is, on paper, shared this year between the two phones, there are always going to be substantive differences between any Note device and the latest iPhone. The S Pen, despite the growing adoption of the Apple Pencil on iPad Pro, is still the only decent stylus for a phone, and I've heard from many iPhone users over the years that wished Apple would just offer Pencil support on its handheld devices.

The S Pen continues to improve every year, and on the Note 8 it's now possible to write on the lock screen without actually turning on the phone (the Note 8's Super AMOLED display means that black is truly black, so battery isn't affected). There's also a built-in coloring book, because why not?

Samsung has no equivalent to iMessage, and that's becoming a problem.

More important, though, are the differences between the two phones' ecosystems. Samsung still relies on Google's Android operating system for its foundation, which is probably why its software aspirations continue to improve in fits and starts. Samsung does bundle its own app store with its phones, but it's nowhere near as comprehensive as Apple's App Store (or Google's own Play Store).

The Note 8 will launch with Android 7.1.1, the penultimate version of Google's mobile OS — Android 8.0 isn't expected to come to Samsung devices for another six months or longer — which, while great in most respects, still lacks some of Google's improvements to notifications, battery efficiency, and for the texters in the back, emoji.

Speaking of emoji, Samsung — and Google, for that matter — still lacks a credible competitor to iMessage, which is almost single-handedly the reason younger people buy iPhones these days. Of course, the Note 8 isn't aimed at teenagers, but Samsung's continued inability to build platform buy-in makes its hardware a comparatively harder sell. Samsung will sell just south of 50 million Galaxy S8 units this year, but Apple, through iMessage, still has a lock on that special communication sauce that acts as glue between so many millions of people around the world.

It's clear that Samsung is trying to edge its way into that dominance: one of the more prominent features in the Note 8 is something called Live Messages which, like Digital Touch, lets you draw on the screen using the S Pen and have it translate, highlighters, sparkles and all, into a GIF that can be sent using any messaging app. It's a shrewd, smart move from Samsung since it lives anywhere but can only be made using a Samsung phone, but it's nowhere near as sticky as a closed system like iMessage.

The Bixby-Siri conundrum

The iPhone 8 will almost certainly double down on Siri as its do-everything virtual assistant, just as Apple has done every year since the service debuted in 2011 with the iPhone 4s. The service, while not perfect, has had years to get better, faster, and more intelligent, and we're now able to plug into third-party apps to do cool things.

Bixby, Samsung's not-quite-an-assistant, had a tough few months in its infancy, but has probably surpassed a lot of people's expectations with its comprehensive list of voice commands. Of course, Bixby is an on-device assistant, so it's far less like Siri than, say, Google Assistant or Alexa, but it's still a useful little tool that's getting better all the time. And it's here to stay, for better or worse: Samsung appears to be putting dedicated Bixby buttons on all of its flagships from now on.

The takeaway

The Galaxy Note 8 is here, perhaps improbably, and it's going to be one of the best Android phones of the year. A lot of pundits are pushing people to forego this version in favor of the cheaper and almost-as-good Galaxy S8+, but I'm not one of them: I think there's virtue in the pen (the pen is mightier?), and benefit to the dual camera.

But whether it's going to be enough to convince millions of people to skip the iPhone 8, or switch from iOS to Android, remains to be seen. A lot of Note 7 owners came from the iPhone, but that short-lived phone may have been a flash in the pan. This year's iPhone is more exciting and enticing than 2016's version, and despite record numbers of switchers last year, Tim Cook may reveal that the iPhone 8 brought over more Android users than ever before.

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How to move your photos, contacts, and more from Android to iPad and iPhone

Posted on August 27, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Just get a new iPhone, or about to get one? Here's how to transfer all your Android data to iPhone so you can start enjoying your new device right now!

Moving your photos, contacts, calendars, and accounts from your old Android phone or tablet to your new iPhone or iPad is easier than ever with Apple's Move to iOS app. Apple's first Android app, it hooks your old Android and new Apple device together over a direct Wi-Fi connection and transfers over all your data.

While Move to iOS app transfers a lot of your data, it doesn't transfer your apps (as they're not compatible), music, or any of your passwords. Additionally, you can only transfer data from an Android phone or tablet to an iPhone or iPad running iOS 9 or higher. Good news: That does include your brand new iPhone SE, iPhone 7, or iPad Pro.

How to move your data from Android to iPhone or iPad with Move to iOS

  1. Set up your iPhone or iPad until you reach the screen titled "Apps & Data".
  2. Tap "Move Data from Android" option.

  3. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Play Store and search for Move to iOS.
  4. Open the Move to iOS app listing.
  5. Tap Install
  6. Tap to accept the permissions request.
  7. Tap Open after it's installed.

  8. Tap Continue on both devices.
  9. Tap Agree and then Next on the Android phone or tablet.

  10. On your Android device, enter the 12-digit code displayed on the iPhone or iPad.

After entering the code, the Android device will connect with your iPhone or iPad over a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection and determine what data will be transferred.

It will ask whether you want to transfer your Google Account info (so that you can quickly log in on your new Apple device), Chrome bookmarks, text messages, contacts, and the photos and videos in your camera roll. Select everything you want to move over.

Your Android phone or tablet will transfer the selected data over to your iPhone or iPad and place the appropriate content into the correct apps. The two devices will disconnect and Android will prompt you to take your old device to the Apple Store, where they'll recycle it for free. Although you could just sell it yourself through a service like Gazelle.

Once the transfer process is complete, tap on Continue Setting Up iPhone or Continue Setting Up iPad on your device and carry on setting up a new Apple ID or logging into your existing one.

Once the setup process is completed, you'll be prompted to log in to the accounts you transferred from your old Android device. Do that, and then you're good to go!

How long the transfer process takes varies depending on how much data you're transferring — especially if you were storing many photos and videos. We transferred roughly 400MB of files and it took about 8 minutes from starting to set up our iPhone to entering account passwords.

To help you settle in with your new iPhone and iPad, Google has developed several apps that tie into their services, including the full Google Drive and Google Docs suites, Google Play Music, Gmail, and more. Heck, if an Apple Watch isn't your thing, you can even bring your old Android Wear watch to the iPhone too.

What about just the photos?

Honestly, if you're like me, you may just want to make sure that your photos are transferred from one phone to another. If that's the case, I highly recommend installing Google Photos on your Android phone and syncing all of the photos prior to switching over to the iPhone. Once on the iPhone, merely download Google Photos and download all of those photos to your iPhone.

It's a relatively easy process that ensures you're always going to have your photos, even when disaster strikes, since they're always backed up in the cloud!

Google Photos: Everything you need to know!

What about just the contacts?

OK, so you don't want to lose those precious contacts you've been hoarding for years and refuse to pare down. I get it — you may still want to contact that ex one day. We don't judge.

If that's the case, and you don't want to go through the hassle of Apple's Move to iOS app, there's always CardDAV, a protocol that Google uses to synchronize its contacts between devices. The iPhone supports this, too, so all you'll need is to log into your Google account on the iPhone and follow the instructions.

How to set up Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts on your iPhone or iPad

Update, August 2017: This article was recently updated with some new instructions for making your switch to iPhone even more seamless!

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Verizon’s Unlimited plans: Everything you need to know

Posted on August 23, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

A complete breakdown of Verizon's Unlimited plan and everything else you can get when you sign up for service.

In the United States, there are a lot of companies that can get you and your phone online, but most people use one of the four biggest: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Choosing between them can be difficult. Your first priority should be what service works best in the places you spend your time. It's not worth saving $10 a month if the service is bad. Once you have that sorted, you can look at what each company has to offer and the prices they charge for it.

More: Which unlimited plan should you buy?

Let's take a look at Verizon to see what they can give you and what it will cost.

Verizon Unlimited plan details

Verizon used to have a single unlimited plan, but it has since expanded that to two, offering various levels of value depending on customer need.

Go Unlimited

Go Unlimited is the cheaper of the unlimited plans, aimed at users that don't necessarily need the fastest performance at all times or high-quality video streaming.

  • One line: $75/month
  • Two lines: $65 per line/month
  • Three lines: $50 per line/month
  • Four or more lines lines: $40 per line/month

Paper-free billing and $5/mo AutoPay discounts apply.

The Go Unlimited plan offers unlimited LTE data, but you're subject to reduced speeds (throttling) when the network is congested. Verizon may choose to throttle at any time of the billing cycle, which is unlike most other unlimited plans that only do so after a certain amount of data is used.

On Go Unlimited, all video streaming is capped at 480p on phones and 720p on tablets. And while the Go Unlimited plans offer unlimited mobile hotspot (tethering), the speed is capped at 600kbps, which is likely too slow for most people do anything other than browse the web — slowly.


Beyond Unlimited

Beyond Unlimited is basically Verizon's original unlimited plan with some slight tweaks.

  • One line: $85/month
  • Two lines: $80 per line/month
  • Three lines: $60 per line/month
  • Four or more lines: $50 per line/month

Paper-free billing and $5/mo AutoPay discounts apply.

The Beyond Unlimited plan offers unlimited LTE data, but you're subject to reduced speeds (throttling) at times of network congestion if you exceed 22GB in a billing cycle (customers that sign up on a two-year contract get 25GB per month before throttling).

Video streaming is capped at 720p on phones and 1080p on tablets. Mobile hotspot use is unlimited, with 15GB of LTE data in each billing cycle. Laptops or other devices used through the hotspot have a 1080p hard cap for streaming video.

Business Unlimited

Verizon is also rolling out an unlimited business plan for companies with four or more lines. Pricing is generally the same per line as the Beyond Unlimited with some minor changes.

Verizon Unlimited plan add-ons

Verizon's Beyond Unlimited plan lets you call, text and use data inside Canada and Mexico back to the U.S. at no additional charge, and call to those countries from within the States as well. Data use is capped at 500MB per day in each country, after which it is throttled to 2G speeds. The company does keep an eye on how much data you're using, though: if more than 50% of your data in a given month comes from outside the U.S., Verizon will slow down your speeds and holds the right to cut off service.

If you need other international services, Verizon has you covered.

  • The free International Messaging add-on lets you send text messages to over 200 countries and multimedia messages to over 100 countries
  • The Unlimited Together - North America add-on gives you discounted calling rates to over 230 locations for $5 per month
  • The Unlimited Together - world add-on gives you discounted calling rates to over 180 locations for $15 per month
  • A daily Travel Pass gives you unlimited data and calling when you're in one of over 100 countries for $10 per day
  • A monthly Travel Pass gives you discounted calling and messaging rates as well as a data alotment based on your needs (prices vary, see Verizon's International Travel page)
  • Cruise ship rates are $2.99 per minute for voice calls and $0.50 per message sent / $0.05 per message received for texting.

Verizon also has a program that gives you a prepaid card of up to $650 in value for a trade in if you switch from another network. The details are on the Switch to Verizon page of its website. It also has a referral program and a rewards program that can put money back in your pockets.

If you're both a Verizon Wireless and Verizon Fios subscriber, you can use the Fios Mobile App to watch your shows from home without using your data.

They also offer a wide range of their own services, including their own RCS messaging app, a personal cloud and an excellent account management app. You can find them (and more) on the App Store.

See at Verizon

Updated August 22, 2017: This article has been updated to reflect changes made to Verizon's unlimited plans.

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The Essential Phone is your best ‘iPhone 8′ equivalent on Android

Posted on August 21, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

If you're looking for the iPhone 8 of the Android world, you may already have it.

You've heard the rumors and seen the alleged prototypes, and perhaps even ogled the dummy devices that purport to show the design of the upcoming iPhone 8.

But if you want to get as close to the real deal as possible right now, you have to leave the comforting confines of iOS and venture north a ways to Palo Alto, where the team behind the Essential Phone is readying to ship their first device. Essential Products is the brainchild of Andy Rubin, and comes out of a hardware incubator he started after leaving Google a few years back. The Essential Phone is aptly-named, too: it's about as bare as you'll find on a phone today, sans excess of any kind — it even lacks external branding.

It also resembles what we think the iPhone 8 will look like, at least on the front. Its 5.71-inch screen goes practically edge-to-edge, eschewing bezels for the Platonic ideal of the blank slate that many smartphone manufacturers hope will find the right balance between form and usability. This decision is not without consequences, though: Essential had to buttress the front-facing camera into an awkward dip near the top center of the LCD panel, marring the visual uniformity. Apple has also been forced to tackle this problem, reportedly choosing to go with a "notch" design — bringing the iPhone 8's OLED display up to the edges on the top left and right with a swoop in the middle to accommodate the camera hardware — which could add some difficulty for app developers.

Image credit: Gordon Kelly/Forbes

But the Essential Phone is interesting for more reasons than its slight resemblance to an unannounced iPhone. It also represents for the Android world what Apple has been trying to accomplish with the marriage of hardware and software with the iPhone, iOS, and the entire ecosystem of Apple products for upwards of 10 years now.

To Essential, its first piece of hardware, the phone (or Phone) is but a conduit (though hopefully a profitable one) to a larger ecosystem of interconnected products, from cameras to home automation, that founder Rubin believes no one does well enough today. The first step of the puzzle is the phone, being the central nervous system of every app, service, and piece of communication in most peoples' lives; the next step is building the ecosystem so that the phone feels indispensable.

Essential understands that the phone is a means to an end, but it's also the most important computer in our lives.

Apple has done this in innumerable ways; in no particular order, the App Store, iMessage, iCloud, Handoff (Continuity), Apple Watch, Apple Music, Apple Pay, FaceTime — even Notes! — to keep iPhone users invested in the ecosystem. But Android has little inherent gravity, at least not intrinsically. Companies like Samsung have tried for years to build its own version of what Apple has, with little to moderate success. Are you more likely to buy a Galaxy because it exclusively works with the Gear VR or Gear 360, or works better with a Gear S smartwatch? Does Bixby Voice engender you to its hardware? Samsung's success still, after all these years, is far more tied to its hardware innovation and relentless marketing than anything surrounding it.

Even Google is not precious about its own growing ecosystem of free services. You can use Google Maps and Photos on an iPhone about as well as on the Pixel, and its nascent hardware division, from the inexpensive Chromecast to the pricey Google Wifi router system, works just as well on an iPhone as any Android device.

Google doesn't care where you use its services, and brings most of them to iOS alongside Android.

What's interesting about Essential as a company, and the Essential Phone as a product, is that it distills Rubin's vision of Android — not Google's vision, but his own — into a single product. Android's iPhone. High-quality materials, best-in-class silicon, and a software experience that does away with every bit of cruft possible. If you purchase the Essential Phone from the company itself, there is nothing but the bare minimum of Android apps pre-installed to be certified by Google to run the Play Store. Indeed, it has fewer apps pre-installed than even a Pixel, which is sold by Google itself.

Of course, there is an inherent compromise in launching a phone running Android, even one as unadorned and "stock" as the Essential Phone. For one, the phone, which ships this week to those who bought it unlocked, runs Android 7.1.1, which is about to be overtaken as the newest version available to consumers — Android 8.0 Oreo is rolling out as we speak, but only to the most recent of Google's Nexus and Pixel devices. The other problem with the Essential Phone is that what it sees as a virtue, simplicity, most consumers construe as additional work. The irony of only getting Google services pre-installed on a phone not made by Google — the only piece of software developed by Essential itself is the camera app, and it's not very good — isn't lost on Rubin, who's said that this is just the first step in a long list of software improvements for the phone, but it's surely to rile some early adopters.

That said, iPhone users looking to decamp for more "open" climates may want to take a look at the Essential Phone. Despite the fact that it has no first-party hardware at all — it uses off-the-shelf components, such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and a now-common dual camera setup — there are some parallels with the iPhone that bear some exploration. For one, Rubin and his team promise lightning fast software upgrades within day or weeks of Google's official releases, with platform updates for two years and security patches for a year after that. Sure, that mirrors Google's promises for its own hardware, but very few Android manufacturers have been able to keep it.

The second point is that Rubin has learned from his many years at the helm of the Android project, watching the iPhone and Droid compete at a code level, a silicon level and a carrier level, that as many good decisions as Apple has made throughout the iPhone's ten-year history, others have fallen flat.

In a May essay written around the time of the Essential Phone's release, Rubin laid out why he started the company, and built the Essential phone. Some of them could have been straight from the mouth of Steve Jobs in 2007:

  • Devices are your personal property. We won't force you to have anything on them you don't want to have.
  • Premium materials and true craftsmanship shouldn't be just for the few.
  • Devices shouldn't become outdated every year. They should evolve with you.
  • Technology should assist you so that you can get on with enjoying your life.
  • Simple is always better.

But one does not fit with Apple's worldview, and that's one that Rubin hopes to leverage: We will always play well with others. Closed ecosystems are divisive and outdated.

Much of what Apple does, for better or worse (but usually better), makes using Apple products a more fulsome experience. The iPhone benefits from its integration with iMessage, its symbiotic relationship with Apple Watch, with the App Store's curation. But Apple doesn't go out of its way to endear itself to standards it doesn't think adds any benefit to the user experience, so you can't charge your Apple Watch from just any Qi wireless charger, and prior to iOS 11 developers didn't have access to the iPhone's NFC chip for actions outside of payments.

It's not clear how Essential plans to "play well with others" given that its first accessory, a 360-degree camera, relies on power pins on the back of the phone, but it's an admirable and well-received portion of the manifesto.

The Essential Phone is unlikely to sell well in its first year, and for all I know, the company, despite already being valued at over a billion dollars, may not last more than a few years. Phones are largely commoditized, and it's unclear how Rubin's vision of Android will fare in a world where the top five manufacturers control upwards of 80% of the world's phone market share. But even if Essential manages to carve out a small niche, I believe that like HTC before it, Essential may be considered the Apple of the Android world, and to me, that's pretty high praise.

Read Android Central's Essential Phone review

Best Places to Buy a Used Phone

Posted on August 7, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Buying a used phone doesn't have to be overly complicated or stressful.

The used phone market is an iceberg; you can only see the tip sticking out of the water, but it goes far deeper than you can imagine. This bears out in a recent Deloitte report that claims the used phone market grew to 120 million units in 2016, generating $17 billion for their owners. That number is only going to get bigger faster, too: IDC believes that by 2020, over 220 million used devices will be sold or traded in annually.

That's a lot of gear, and similar to how a new car loses its value once it's driven off the lot, phones immediately become cheaper once they're removed from the plastic wrapping. For a seller — even one who treats his or her phone with the utmost care — that can be problematic. For a buyer, though, that becomes an opportunity to pick up a gently-used device for a great deal.

Things to consider before you buy a used phone

We've already written of the most important considerations you need to take into account when buying a new phone — do a visual inspection if possible; always purchase from a reputable seller; be patient; be aware of carrier locks or other roadblocks; look into insurance, especially if the phone is out of warranty — but there are a few other things to think about.

The first is what kind of used phone you're looking to buy:

  • A used phone purchased directly from a seller (eg. Craigslist)
  • A used phone purchased through an intermediary that has verified its condition (eg. Gazelle)
  • A refurbished phone that has been through a "touch-up" directly from the manufacturer or a partner (eg. Samsung)

Know what kind of used phone buying experience you want before you start shopping around.

You can probably get the best deal buying directly from someone else because there is no intermediary taking a fee, but you also run the risk of the phone having issues that the naked eye can't see. If you know exactly what you want and know what to look for, you're probably going to be comfortable buying a used phone from a direct marketplace like Craiglist, Swappa or one of many buy/sell forums.

If you don't want to take any chances with the quality, but still don't mind a bit of wear and tear, buying through an intermediary marketplace like Gazelle could work really well. The phones often come with (admittedly limited) warranties and money-back guarantees which, as a buyer, offers considerably more peace of mind than the average "meet up at the nearby 7-Eleven and hand over a wad of cash" type deal.

Finally, buying a certified refurbished phone is your safest bet, but comes with the least discount over a new product. Both Samsung and Apple sell refurbished phones directly on their websites, and though the savings are not substantial, they're at least guaranteed to work, and well properly. For example, Apple sells a refurbished unlocked Space Gray iPhone 6s for $449. The same phone can be had for between $308 and $408 at Gazelle, which inspects but doesn't refurbish the products, and between $280 and $375 at Swappa, which merely connects buyers and sellers. But Samsung sells its refurbished models with a 12-month warranty, a charger and cable, and a brand new battery and casing. Gazelle throws in a charger but no headphones, and Swappa just ensures a clean exchange (for a small fee).

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The best places to buy a used phone

This is not an exhaustive list. There are innumerable places to buy a used phone on the internet, and depending on your country, this list may not be as applicable (though we tried to highlight international marketplaces as much as possible).

Craigslist

Craigslist tends to set up "meet up at the nearby 7-Eleven and hand over a wad of cash" type phone deals, which can be hit-or-miss depending on how adept you are at identifying scams — of which there are many.

The main thing Craigslist has going for it is size and scale — it's practically everywhere, and has communities for almost every city in the world. You will be able to find a used phone on Craigslist, that's not the problem; the problem is sifting through the thousands of listings to find something worth pursuing and ensuring that the phone you decide on does not have underlying damage or, worse, that its IMEI (a unique number that helps identify individual devices) hasn't been blocked due to theft.

  • Good Good prices, excellent availability, and plenty of choice, with the option of buying local to check condition
  • Bad Hard to verify sellers or the quality of the phones

Learn more at Craigslist

eBay

eBay is enormous, and today continues to be one of the top places to purchase a used phone. It has the advantages of Craigslist, scale, with few of the disadvantages, especially since it uses PayPal to ensure that payments can be recalled should there be a problem.

For buyers, eBay has a robust filtering system, allowing you to search for exactly what you want, with filters for price, carrier — even color. Of course, eBay still has its roots as an auction house, and that is how some used phones are still sold, but far more of them are sold at set prices. eBay charges sellers, not buyers, to host their listings, so all you need to do is find the right listing and you're off to the races.

eBay's best feature is its Money Back Guarantee which, combined with the extensive seller profiles, make it easy to buy with confidence. If there's an issue with the device, or the shipment, you can apply to get your money back and, within reason, eBay will either cancel the PayPal transaction or, if it's already gone through, refund you. And seller profiles let you filter potential purchases based on trusted sellers that have been around the block once, ten, or ten thousand times.

  • Good Lots of selection with verifiable sellers with a money back guarantee.
  • Bad Potentially high cost of shipping, and you won't be able to see the device before buying

Learn more at eBay

Swappa

Swappa began its life as a small Android-based phone buying and selling community, but it's since expanded to include all mobile devices like iPhones, as well as tablets, Chromebooks and MacBooks.

Swappa works on a set fee structure that's very different to most other platforms, and this is important: the buyer pays the fee. Most will pay under $20 for the privilege, and all payments are done over PayPal, which is incredibly convenient and secure. Why is a buyer fee better for both buyers and sellers? Because it encourages sellers to list their products on Swappa, adding inventory to a service that relies heavily on participation.

Swappa does not physically inspect devices, but it does do a few things to make sure the buyer is getting what he or she pays for: all listings are verified by a human, who ensures that the IMEI is valid and can be activated. All listings must have good quality photos that clearly show any damage, and the quality (fair/good/excellent) should match the photos. And the cost of shipping is included in the price of the listing, which should prevent post-sale price gouging. And because Swappa uses PayPal, all listings are protected, so if a device doesn't arrive as advertised, buyers have recourse to get their money back.

Finally, Swappa's prices tend to be lower than many curated services since, aside from the flat fee, the seller sets the price.

  • Good Plenty of listings with clear quality guidelines and good prices
  • Bad Buyer pays fee, no warranty or accessories

Learn more at Swappa

Gazelle

Gazelle uses an interesting model: it buys phones from sellers and resells some of them on its website just like a regular e-commerce store (the rest are either recycled or sold to third parties). The advantage is that once Gazelle receives the device it performs a so-called "30-point inspection process" to ensure that it is in working order, and puts a SIM card in it to make sure it can properly connect to a network.

As a buyer, that means you may pay slightly more than Swappa for the equivalent model, but you get a phone that is guaranteed to work, either unlocked on a number of carriers or the one that it is advertised to be locked to, and there is a 30-day return policy if you're not completely satisfied.

Gazelle also offers financing options, which allows it to compete with carriers by offering flexible payment plans that don't require a lot of money up front. At the same time, Gazelle doesn't accept every type of Android phone because its inspection system is only optimized for a handful of models — all popular Galaxys are accepted, but it only recently started buying (and selling) the Google Pixel — which ensures a higher-quality buying experience.

  • Good Seamless buying experience with plenty of choice, all phones come with a charger and are guaranteed to work, 30-day money back return policy
  • Bad Doesn't sell every type of phone, could be more expensive than other options

Learn more at Gazelle

Glyde

Glyde has an interesting business model, somewhere between Swappa and Gazelle. Like Swappa, it's a user-to-user e-commerce portal but, like Gazelle, it asserts some control over the potential exchange by forcing the seller to use its secure shipping container, and doesn't release payment to the seller until the buyer receives it. It also promises to refund a disappointed buyer within 72-hours.

All phones, from iPhones to Galaxys to Windows phones, are available to purchase on Glyde, and buyers pay no additional fee beyond what is shown on the site.

  • Good Lots of choice and buyers have leverage if unhappy with a sale
  • Bad Phones are not inspected beforehand so what you see may not be what you get

Learn more at Glyde

Your choices

What are your favorite places to buy used phones? Let us know in the comments below!

Apple Music celebrates new Arcade Fire album release with exclusive concert performance

Posted on July 28, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Enjoy 'Everything Now Live' on Apple Music right now!

If you're like me, you've been anxiously awaiting the release of Arcade Fire's new album, Everything Now, for months. Now that it's here, there are myriad options for listening to the diverse 13-track dance-rock opus.

Apple Music wants to get in on the fun, and is offering an exclusive film of the band's recent Brooklyn concert, aptly titled Everything Now Live. Most of the tracks are from the new album, and if you've never seen Arcade Fire perform live, this is nearly as good — and it's very, very good.

Of course, new Apple Music users get three months of free listening to enjoy this and millions of other albums, playlists and, increasingly, video content like Planet of the Apps.

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Save net neutrality and keep our mobile future awesome

Posted on July 12, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Do your part to keep the internet open and weird.

I love to tell people what I think of a particular thing, be it a product or brand or service provider. I'll freely tell someone to go with T-Mobile as a carrier, for example, because it offers the best compromise between speed, value, and coverage. Rarely, though, does it occur to me to judge a provider based on its stance towards net neutrality, a topic that has a direct impact on the American people.

Maybe I should.

Today, July 12, is the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, where thousands of companies are taking a stand to support the current state of the internet. We at Mobile Nations stand with larger entities like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and thousands of others in urging the FCC to uphold Title II regulations, which designate as telecommunication services, legally preventing them from changing the way internet traffic is sent, shaped, and received.

Net neutrality is a complicated topic — we have a small explainer if you want to learn a bit more about it — but the move to deregulate parts of the internet comes from a self-proclaimed libertarian FCC chair, Ajit Pai, whose desire is to see less government regulation around telecommunications services at all costs, regardless of whether they negatively impact consumers.

The onus shouldn't be on us, the consumer, to police bad actors. The FCC wants that to be the case.

In an interview he gave with NPR earlier this year, he said that instead of the arrangement we have now, which pre-emptively abrogates the preferential treatment of certain types of internet traffic over others, he wants to move to regulating on a case-by-case basis.

First and foremost, we want to make sure that all content that is lawful on the Internet can be accessed by consumers — that's a bedrock protection of the open Internet that I think everybody would agree with. ... But secondly, we want to make sure that we have the ability to allow all kinds of streaming companies, others who create content on the Internet, to be able to reach their endpoints, which is the consumers.

And so we can envision some pro-competitive arrangements that allow for video in particular to be delivered in an efficient way. And one could conceive anti-competitive arrangements. And the simple point I've made is that we can't predict in advance every single potential type of outcome — some might be good, some might be bad — and on a case-by-case basis let's figure out what types of conduct are anti-competitive or otherwise would harm consumers or innovators, and take action if we see something like that arise.

Pai's argument arises out of a firm belief that over-regulation leads to a decrease in investment and cites examples of how certain internet companies have limited wired broadband and fixed mobile expansion into rural areas over the last few years. He also believes in what he calls a "free and open internet" that is not shackled by the 1930's-era Title II classification that oversaw Ma Bell, a true telecom monopoly.

"If you act before the fact, then you're preemptively saying that we think the marketplace is forever going to be the same and we can take account of every particular kind of conduct," he said. "You could be prohibiting a number of pro-competitive business arrangements."

While Pai may be correct in an environment where meaningful competition didn't already exist, if we look at what's happened to the U.S. wireless market since Title II was implemented in 2015, we see a clear trend towards an internet that is more accessible, mobile, and competitive. We see companies like T-Mobile — a proponent itself of the end of net neutrality, mind you — undercutting Verizon and AT&T, pushing the former carrier duopoly to not only lower prices but to become much more transparent in how they treat their customers. An open, free internet also leads to savvier, more educated users, and the expansion of net neutrality laws brought the layperson into the conversation.

Perhaps the most vexing and frustrating thing about Pai's insistence that pre-emptive regulation needs to be removed in favor of a lighter regulatory touch is his placement of the onus on the consumers — you, me, us — to identify violators. "Especially in the Internet age," he said, "consumers are able to complain to the Federal Trade Commission authorities, the Justice Department, the FCC, other state agencies."

Right now, the FCC is forced to police the internet service providers on our behalf, to enforce regulations that prevent companies like AT&T and Verizon from silently and sneakily limiting their unlimited plans, as they once did, and not following through with broadband expansion contracts because they weren't guaranteed a big enough return.

Zero-rating may seem like a good thing, but it opens the door for a lot that's terrible.

The rollback of net neutrality isn't about making legal so-called consumer-friendly tactics such as zero-rating, which has become so pervasive in the U.S. that it's not clear whether people actually associate them with the movement anymore. But that pervasiveness denotes an insidiousness to how network providers approach regulation, always trying to find a legal maneuver around the problem. When T-Mobile stopped counting streaming music and video services against a user's monthly data cap, it did so knowing that the FCC would eventually hold it to account for its actions. It took a new administration and a libertarian, light-touch-regulation chair to drop all inquiries into whether zero-rating violated net neutrality.

While it may sound like programs like T-Mobile's Binge On and others like it benefit consumers — who doesn't want more data for free? — they have the potential to shut out smaller companies that lack the requisite size or influence to make a deal with a massive carrier. Recently, carriers in the UK began mimicking their U.S. counterparts. In Canada, such zero-rating programs were recently banned not just for their own sake, but to show the telecom regulator's commitment to reinforcing the rules of net neutrality.

Should Title II classification be stripped away from the service providers to whom we give thousands of dollars every year, such legal challenges will be more difficult to win, and carriers — even AT&T, which is reportedly joining the fight to uphold net neutrality — will be free to do more in the name of profit, at the expense of the internet we love.

If you want to do just that, you have until July 17 to submit your comments to the FCC about why a truly free and open internet deserves to be something Americans take for granted.

Join the fight to uphold Net Neutrality

All phones sold in Canada will be unlocked starting December 1

Posted on June 16, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

The Wireless Code of Conduct has received an update to address some of its widely-held complaints. But it doesn't fix everything.

In a review of Canada's Wireless Code of Conduct, which debuted in June 2013, the country's telecom regulator has made two important changes that will potentially lower the cost of ownership and make it easier for consumers to switch providers.

In a statement, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced, as of December 1, 2017, the end of unlocking fees for Canadians with existing devices and, perhaps more significantly, a mandate that all new devices as of that day will need to be sold unlocked, even if purchased from a carrier on contract.

As of December 1, all Canadians will be able to request an unlock code for a locked phone from their carrier at no charge — currently, the Big Three providers charge between $35 and $50 for the service — which will allow it to be used on any competing network, domestically or while traveling abroad. It will also easily allow customers to switch carriers and bring their compatible phone over to a new one should they desire. What isn't being said, though, is that many phones being sold at the carrier level today, including the Google Pixel and upcoming Essential Phone, are unlocked out of the box from the manufacturer. Other devices, like the Galaxy S8, are sold unlocked and become locked to the first SIM card inserted in the phone.

Switching to a different network will also be simpler under the new rules because customers will be able to cancel service contracts within 15 days while paying no penalties for phone restocking, something that the first draft of the Wireless Code tried to address but, according to consumer advocacy groups, didn't go far enough.

Unlocked phones may be going away, but carriers will still pursue phone exclusives to differentiate themselves.

Given that the vast majority of Canadians pay one of three companies for mobile service, all of whom share a number of similarities in network speed, coverage, device availability and plan costs, this is more a convenience than anything else, but current return policies limit handset returns to 30 minutes of talk time and 50MB of data use, an absurdly rapacious set of numbers.

One of the most important changes to the Wireless Code is also going to be the least talked-about: secondary line users will no longer be able to consent to overage charges without the permission of the primary account holder. This means that parents will be able to supervise and approve roaming or data overage charges on a per-line basis, fixing an oversight in the first Wireless Code draft that caused millions of dollars in unnecessary fees. Primary account holders will still be able to let secondary lines approve overages, but it will be an opt-in process.

The existing overages of $50 for domestic and $100 international roaming are still in place, but the CRTC has explicitly stated that they apply to one's entire account, not an individual line holder. For big families that share data plans, this may lead to limits being hit, and overages needing to be approved, far earlier in the billing cycle.

This will make it easier for Canadians to leave the carriers they love to hate.

Since its inception in 2013, and its strict enforcement in 2015, the Wireless Code has been criticized for allowing wireless carriers to continue raising the cost of service within the existing rules. Advocacy groups believe that without a robust MVNO market, where carriers sell wholesale access to their networks to smaller companies in a model popularized by broadband internet, Canadians will be forced to continue paying a high price for their monthly service. Carriers justify the prices by saying that, Canada being a huge country, network upgrades and maintenance are more expensive than anywhere else in the world, but critics point to a lack of competition keeping prices high.

The Wireless Code doesn't mandate pricing, and these new changes, while admirable, don't address the core issues of competition within the Canadian wireless market. Still, being able to move devices more freely, and having penalty-free service trials, will make it easier for Canadians to shop around, which may have the effect of lowering complaints against the companies Canadians love to hate.

Deal: Switching to Sprint gets you free unlimited for a year!

Posted on June 15, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

This Sprint deal seems too good to be true, but it isn't.

We often tease Sprint for its desperate attempts at getting customers on other networks to switch over, but this latest deal is a doozy, and well worth investigating.


Until June 30, 2017, customers on T-Mobile, AT&T, or (especially) Verizon get up to five lines of free unlimited service by switching over to Sprint. There are a few caveats, which we'll get to in a moment, but as long as you're a new Sprint customer, the deal is very enticing. The service is not some limited version of Sprint's regular unlimited plan, either: up to five lines get Sprint's full unlimited package, which includes calls, texts and up to 23GB of high-speed 4G LTE (and unlimited data at slower speeds after that) just by switching over.

Sprint claims that customers bringing five lines over can save over $2000 in the first year if switching from Verizon.

Now here are the caveats:

  • The offer is open to new customers only.
  • After the first year, which technically ends July 31, 2018, service will cost $60 for the first line, $40 for the second, and $30 for each subsequent one.
  • The offer is only open to customers bringing their own unlocked, eligible phones.
    • These include devices like the Google Pixel, Nexus 6P, Moto G5 Plus, iPhone 7, and Galaxy S8. Check out the full list.
  • You will have to buy SIM cards through Sprint for $2.99 each and activate them on the company's online portal.

Along with the unlimited calls, text and data, users get 10GB of hotspot data per line and HD video streaming at 1080p.

So while there are a few hoops to jump through, it's definitely worth pursuing for the insane level of savings. If Sprint has even decent LTE service in your area, you can't beat this kind of deal.

See at Sprint

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Comcast, ‘the worst company in America’, just launched cellular service

Posted on April 6, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Comcast is launching cellular service through its Xfinity subbrand in partnership with Verizon.

Comcast, the enormous cable, internet and content creation behemoth, just launched cellular service despite owning no actual wireless spectrum.

The company, which owns NBCUniversal along with its massive Comcast Cable division, will offer 4G LTE service under the Xfinity Mobile brand, in partnership with Verizon, which powers the actual cellular part of the proposition. The other part is automatic access to Comcast's 16 million wireless hotspots peppered around the country, which will be open to all Xfinity Wireless customers through a simple authentication process that uses the other Xfinity apps and services to verify a customer's identity.

But Xfinity Wireless will not be available to everyone; it's a bundle-only deal for existing Xfinity cable or internet customers (pdf), and will differ in price per line depending on how much one already spends with the company.

"Xfinity Mobile benefits customers by bundling wireless service with Comcast's other Xfinity experiences. With Xfinity Mobile, customers only pay for the gigabytes they use, with the flexibility to easily switch back-and-forth between data options using the Xfinity Mobile app at no cost."

The idea is pretty straightforward: existing Xfinity customers can sign up for unlimited wireless service for $65 per line, up to five lines. Top-tier Xfinity X1 customers, though, get the service for $45 per line, but at this point it's not clear what that minimum spend is. But despite being called unlimited, wireless service is throttled after 20GB per line, which is lower than Verizon's own unlimited throttling policy.

The other way to get service is by the gigabyte: each line can spend $12 per gigabyte, which works out to be cheaper if the user stays under 5GB per month. Users can go back and forth between the two options, so if it appears that one line is going to spend more than $65 per month in a la carte data, it can switch to the unlimited option with no penalties.

The offering is, technology-wise, very similar to Google's Project Fi in that Xfinity Mobile is acting as an MVNO, facilitating a mix of wireless and easily-accessible Wi-Fi hotspots around the U.S. The major difference, though, is that Comcast is generally disliked by most of its customers (it was voted "the worst company in America" three years ago), and plans to bundle its bevy of entertainment options with each phone:

When using Xfinity Mobile, you're already signed into your other Xfinity apps – whether it's watching up to 200 live TV channels and 40K On Demand movies and shows with the Xfinity Stream app, or controlling your home devices from the road with the Xfinity Home app.

Comcast says that customers will be able to manage all of their mobile services, including adding and removing lines, buying more data or switching plans, or cancelling service, through the Xfinity Mobile app.

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And while the company is entirely a wireless MVNO right now, working exclusively with Verizon, it has bid in the now-closed 600MHz wireless auction, so it's possible it could launch 4G LTE service of its own in the near future, at least in some parts of the country.

When it launches in the coming months (no word on a specific launch date yet) it will offer a range of phones, including the latest iPhones, according to a press release. It's unclear at this point, due to the tie-ins with Xfinity services, whether you'll ever be able to bring your own phone.

Are you into this at all? If you're an Xfinity customer, are the prices preferable to your current plan, unlimited or not? Let us know in the comments!

Best transit apps for Canadians

Posted on by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Canada's a big place, but getting around its biggest cities shouldn't be a big task.

There are dozens of great transit apps out there, often built for a single city's unique bus or metro system. But the best apps are the ones that undertake the difficult task of consolidating data from dozens — hundreds — of cities, arraying accurate arrival and departure times, directions, service messages and more in intuitive ways.

Transit App

My favourite of the four apps being profiled, Transit App is the only app in our list developed in Canada. By default, the app opens to the closest transit stops, be it bus, metro, or streetcar, with a gesture-based interface that feels built for touch.

Transit App isn't overly complicated, which is its greatest asset. A universal search bar offers the ability to enter a destination address, for which the shortest and/or most direct route is outlined in a list. The app's ebullient colour scheme differentiates it from the rest of the market, and the developer recently added some killer new features, including:

  • Departure reminders, with alarm
  • Stop announcements
  • Service disruption announcements
  • Bike / car share integration

Transit App supports most Canadian cities with open data support, including Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and many others. For the full list, check out Transit's Regions page.

Moovit

Moovit isn't as well known to Canadians as some of the other choices, but the San Francisco-based company has done an amazing job building one of the best transit apps around.

Like Transit App, Moovit's strength is its simplicity. The iPhone app opens to a map overview above a list of nearby stations and stops showing, if available, the latest live departure times. Similarly, a universal search bar makes it easy to get directions to a particular destination. But Moovit differentiates itself from the pack with Live Ride, a notification-friendly real-time tracking feature that keeps you informed about potential changes or improvements to your trip while it's happening. If, for some reason, a subway stoppage is detected on your way to the station, Moovit will redirect you immediately.

The service recently added a few excellent features, including:

  • a Notification Center
  • Service Alerts and Line Maps
  • Cross-platform account synchronization

Moovit also boasts one of the largest collections of Canadian cities — 50 in total, including smaller cities that are not supported by other apps. For the full list, check out Moovit's Cities page.

Citymapper

An ambitious and often-complicated app, Citymapper tries to be all things to all transit-goers. From offline map support to a custom commute feature, Citymapper is a beautiful example of how data can work to make your life better. It is also an example of how to overwhelm your users. When I'm planning a trip in a foreign city, I almost always use Citymapper, since its data sets are unparalleled. But when I'm trying to get from A to B in my home city, I tend to use Transit App or Moovit. But Citymapper does have one major advantage: It knows where I should stand on the subway platform to emerge near the closest exit at my destination; and it knows, with more accuracy than any other service, how long my total trip will take.

Citymapper has added a number of new features recently, including:

  • SmartCommute
  • Offline maps mode
  • Custom "Meet me somewhere" links to share with friends
  • Total trip pricing, with Uber integration

Citymapper boasts support for only three Canadian cities — Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto — because it does not just pull numbers from the city's open data sets, but builds its own. Each city is curated and approached with care.

Google Maps

The most well-known app in the list is also the least transit-focused. While Google Maps has access to enormous amounts of data from dozens of Canadian cities, its transit prowess is integrated into the rest of its features, which includes directions for driving, biking and walking.

Nonetheless, Google Maps has highly accurate transit data, made better by a recent redesign that makes it far easier to isolate transit directions. But Google Maps makes it considerably more difficult than the three above choices in finding departure times for nearby transit stops; instead, it wants you to enter a destination first which, for many people, is overkill. Still, the app is a great choice for those who spend a lot of time in multiple types of transportation, including transit.

Google Maps supports most large Canadian cities, and many smaller ones, too. For a full list, check out Google's Transit Maps page.

Other local options

While we've only focused on apps that offer transit directions for multiple cities in Canada, there are numerous local options available to iPhone users, some developed by the transit authorities themselves.

In Toronto, for instance, a popular choice is RocketMan, which offers a great overview of Toronto's Transit Commission.

In Montreal, the city's official transit authority, STM, has developed its own app, but it is reportedly buggy, and has skimmed a lot of its design from Transit App.

In Vancouver, Radar for Metro Vancouver Buses offers a comprehensive overview of the city's TransLink system.

Did we miss one of your favourite transit apps? Let us know your favourites in the comments below!

The Galaxy S8 is here, and it’s the iPhone 7’s biggest competition

Posted on March 29, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

How does the Galaxy S8 compare to the iPhone 7?

The Apple world may feel fairly insulated from the day-to-day minutiae of the Android world, but there is one moment each year where even the iPhone faithful need to sit up and pay attention: Galaxy launch day.

After the dismal recall and subsequent cancellation of the Galaxy Note 7 in late 2016, Samsung has delayed the launch of the Galaxy S8 to ensure that it has everything in order, from the availability of hardware to the messaging around safety. To that end, the Galaxy S8 is Samsung's most important release ever, and it's sure to give the iPhone 7 a run for its money.

Samsung Galaxy S8 hands-on preview

There are two phones, the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 and the 6.2-inch Galaxy S8+. Both of them sport super-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratios, which make them a bit unwieldy at first, but with their ultra-slim bezels, able to fit a lot of screen in a fairly compact body.

For years, the Galaxy S line mirrored the iPhone in relying on a physical home button to return home, flanked by capacitive keys on either side to fulfil the rest of Android's navigation needs. This year, Samsung has eschewed the physical for virtual to maximize screen real estate, but has taken a page from Apple's playbook in one key area: it has added a special haptic engine to make the virtual home button feel more like a physical one. The fingerprint sensor, though, has moved to an awkward position on the back of the phone next to the 12MP rear camera, which is sure to frustrate long-time Samsung (and Apple) users.

Galaxy S8 vs. iPhone 7: Battle of the platforms

One interesting addition this year is Bixby, an on-device assistant that is less Siri and more Jarvis. The idea is not to ask it questions about the universe, but to make getting things done on the phone faster and easier.

Like Siri, you can ask it to take a photo or take a note, but Bixby is intended to mirror anything you can do with your finger, but with voice. Eventually, it's going to be the glue holding together all of Samsung's various products, from phones to tablets to refrigerators and washing machines, but for now it's limited to just a few apps on a couple of phones.

Finally, there's DeX, a dock that, when a Galaxy S8 is plugged into it, creates a desktop environment out of Android. Samsung has partnered with Microsoft and Adobe to optimize their Android apps for a multi-window experience, and it's clear Samsung wants to leverage DeX to compete with Apple, Google and Microsoft in the enterprise space.

Want to know more? Check out all of Android Central's Galaxy S8 coverage!

T-Mobile is giving all of its customers a free year of baseball streaming

Posted on March 28, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

T-Mobile Tuesdays has something good for baseball fans starting April 4.

T-Mobile is into doing nice things for its customers recently. The company has announced that it is giving away a free year of MLB.tv baseball streaming to all of its users, including those on older plans and prepaid service.

A regular season costs $112.99 a year, with MLB at Bat, which includes iPhone, iPad and Apple TV access, an additional $19.99, so Major League Baseball is likely hoping that this turns into some revenue-positive conversions in the 2018 season. At Bat is included in the promotion.

T-Mobile says that the promo is part of its T-Mobile Tuesdays campaign, where it gives something nice away every week. The promo begins April 4 to celebrate the official return of baseball in the U.S. (and Canada — don't forget the Blue Jays!)

T-Mobile Tuesdays free stuff (including MLB.TV Premium) is available to all customers on a T-Mobile branded monthly rate plan, including consumer and business, postpaid and prepaid plans. Every line can participate.

Customers will only have over a day to sign up for the promotion; it ends at 4:59am ET on April 5. Once signed up, customers will need to sign into the MLB.tv app or website before 4:59am ET on April 11, so there isn't much time to take advantage of the promo. And according to the rules, the free access will expire on February 28, 2018.

Additional T-Mobile Tuesday 'Thank You' gifts on April 4th include a free VUDU baseball movie rental, a $2 DUNKIN' PROMO CARD, and 30% off Groupon Local (up to a $40 value).

See at T-Mobile

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How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier

Posted on March 21, 2017 by Daniel Bader.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Here's how to make sure your unlocked or pre-owned phone will work with an alternative carrier.

There are a number of things to consider before moving to an alternative carrier. How much data do I really need? Am I looking for better service, or just cheaper service? And if I already have a phone, will it work on the carrier that I choose?

We're going to delve into this topic, but there are a couple of things we should get out of the way beforehand.

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An introduction

Before we talk about whether your phone will work on a particular alternative carrier, we should direct you to a few introductory posts about what exactly these companies offer, and why you should think about switching over.

Once you've read through those, there are a few more things you need to know. In the U.S., there are four major carriers with nationwide networks — AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon. All four of them use generally the same technology, but there are some major differences worth noting.

  • Sprint and Verizon have 3G networks that use aging (and disappearing) CDMA technology. All phones that run on their networks must have special radios that support CDMA. Thankfully, most phones these days have some sort of CDMA support.
  • T-Mobile and AT&T use a more common HSPA+ technology for 3G service. Practically every phone you can buy today — even those designed for Verizon and Sprint — will likely work on AT&T and T-Mobile, as long as the SIM card is unlocked.

Thankfully, the days of poor interoperability between carriers are behind us, but there are some lingering issues. Even though all the major U.S. carriers have adopted what amounts to the same LTE standard as their high-speed mobile internet offering, they all use different wireless spectrum — also known as wireless bands, or frequencies — to deliver calls, text and, most importantly, data, over the air.

Unlocking the phone

Even if your phone is technically compatible with a particular network, the SIM slot still needs to be unlocked to be able to work on carriers both in the U.S. and abroad.

In the U.S., unlocking services are free as long as your account is in good standing and your phone hasn't been reported lost, stolen or involved in illegal activity. All the Big Four carriers are obligated to unlock your phone, though the process differs between them. All recent Verizon phones are unlocked out of the box.

The carriers

Let's discuss the individual carriers themselves, and why your phone — perhaps one you bought through your old carrier, or purchased unlocked from, say, Amazon — may or may not work on the network.

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Alternative carriers powered by Verizon

There aren't that many Verizon-powered alternative carriers, or MVNOs, in the U.S., so we'll start with the easy one. Companies like Total Wireless or Straight Talk, which are powered by Verizon's network, make it pretty easy to bring your own phone. They ask that you make sure your phone supports CDMA service, and offer network checkers to help you verify that your phone will indeed work on their network.

Quick trick: Open your phone's dialler and type *#06# to get its MEID number.

As we said above to work on a Verizon-based alternative carrier, your phone needs to support the following frequencies:

  • 3G: 800Mhz (BC0), 1900Mhz (BC1) 1
  • LTE: 700Mhz (Band 13), 1700/2100Mhz (Band 4), 1900Mhz (Band 2)

1 Phone must support bands on CDMA.

Many popular phones today, from the Samsung Galaxy S7 to the Google Pixel to cheaper devices like the OnePlus 3T and Moto G5 Plus, support Verizon's 3G and LTE networks. As long as you do your homework beforehand, you should be able to bring your phone over to any alternative carrier that runs on Verizon's network.

Here are the most popular alternative carriers that run on the Verizon network:

Alternative carriers powered by Sprint

Sprint is, like Verizon, a combination of CDMA-based 3G and modern LTE — though it uses different wireless frequencies. The upside is the same, though: your phone will need to support CDMA service on 3G in order to make calls and texts, and likely to register on the network entirely. Even if your phone supports Sprint's LTE bands, it won't be able to connect to Sprint's core network.

There are many alternative or prepaid carriers in the U.S. that rely on Sprint's network, including Ting, Straight Talk, and Boost Mobile. Most of these alternative carriers have online services to allow you to check whether your unlocked phone is compatible with its host network, though some — like Sprint-owned Boost Mobile — have explicit restrictions. For example, Boost Mobile customers cannot bring a Sprint-branded or Virgin-branded phone over to its network.

To use a phone on an alternative carrier that connects to the Sprint network, your phone needs to support the following frequencies:

  • 3G: 800Mhz (BC10), 1900Mhz (BC1) 1
  • LTE: 850Mhz (Band 26), 1900Mhz (Band 25), 2500Mhz (Band 41)

1 Phone must support bands on CDMA.

These are the most popular alternative carriers that run on the Sprint network:

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Alternative carriers powered by T-Mobile

Like Sprint, there are many prepaid and alternative carriers that rely on T-Mobile's network, including Mint SIM, MetroPCS and others.

The good news for those bringing their own phones to one of these networks is that there's a good chance, if it was bought in the past couple of years, that it will just work. All that you need is a SIM card and service from the new provider and you should be good to go.

That's because T-Mobile uses a combination of 3G and 4G LTE technologies that have been widely adopted throughout the world, and most phones today, from the Google Pixel to the Galaxy S7, OnePlus 3T and many others, will just work on an MVNO that runs on the T-Mobile network.

To make sure it will work, though, you have to verify your phone supports the following bands:

  • 3G: 1700/2100Mhz (Band 4), 1900Mhz (Band 2)
  • LTE: 700Mhz (Band 12), 1700/2100Mhz (Band 66), 1900Mhz (Band 2)

These are the most popular alternative carriers that run on the T-Mobile network:

Alternative carriers powered by AT&T

Like Verizon, AT&T doesn't power many smaller prepaid or alternative carriers, but it does own one: Cricket Wireless. And like T-Mobile, bringing a phone to an AT&T-powered MVNO is usually no big deal: most phones sold in the past couple of years work with AT&T. Indeed, AT&T's adoption of the worldwide HSPA+ standard for 3G, plus its standard LTE capabilities, means that even phones purchased overseas should work with Ma Bell.

After you've verified that a phone is SIM unlocked, you need to make sure that your phone has the following bands to work with an AT&T-powered alternative carrier:

  • 3G: 850Mhz (Band 5), 1900Mhz (Band 2)
  • LTE: 700Mhz (Band 12), 1700/2100Mhz (Band 4), 1900Mhz (Band 2)

These are the most popular alternative carriers that run on the AT&T network:

Alternative carriers with multiple networks

The final piece of the puzzle is a bit complicated, but let's talk it out. Some of the above providers, like Project Fi, rely on more than one host network to function properly. Others, like Consumer Cellular, connect to either AT&T or T-Mobile. This usually means that the SIM card inside your phone will choose between T-Mobile and Sprint depending on your location and signal strength. You as a user don't have to make any decisions, but your choice of phone could impact the quality of service.

As long as everything is working properly — your phone supports both networks, and you are in an area that has good coverage on at least one of them — then you don't need to think about it at all. But it's a good thing to know, since these kinds of carriers can be to your advantage if you happen to be in an area where both the host networks are strong.

Questions?

Some of this stuff is stupidly complicated, and we'd love to help. If you're having issues figuring out whether your phone will work on a particular prepaid or alternative carrier, let us know in the comments below!

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