Saturday, January 29, 2022

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Tech Talk

Cut the cellular cord with Wi-Fi calling


Why is it that films set in dark dystopian futures are always beset with fascist governments, evil multinational corporations or tech firms that foolishly program indestructible robots? Shouldn’t the heroes of these films be battling the real oppressors of modern life like student loan officers, the I.R.S. (please don’t audit me for this column) or cable companies? These are the institutions that hold society over a barrel and beat us into submission. Now, normally I would include cellular service providers in that list, but I’m starting to feel their days of tyranny are coming to a close. Why? Because technology like Google’s Project Fi are slowly starting to rip apart their business

Cellular service providers aren’t necessarily evil, but they certainly are vampiric. Whether it’s Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or any of the also-rans, they’ve all got their fangs plunged deep into our collective cash arteries. Instead of simply paying your cellular bill this month, try looking at all the ways these contracts bleed you dry. They hit you with voice charges, data charges, premium data charges, roaming charges and equipment protection. If you’re leasing a phone instead of buying it outright, you could be paying for it long after your contract ends.

Thankfully there are ways to purge yourself of your monthly cell phone bill. As much as we like to nitpick the little issues we all have with our smart phones, they’re actually amazingly complex and powerful computers. For decades telephones were nothing more than a microphone and speaker attached to telephone line, and to make them work you needed the services of a telephone company like MCI or AT&T. The dirty little secret is that today’s smartphones don’t need cellular plans at all. If you let your cell phone plans lapse, you’ll still have a microphone, a speaker and a web-enabled device that can send and receive messages via Wi-Fi.

Through the beauty of Wi-Fi, there are an incredible amount of services that allow you make voice or video calls. There’s Skype, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, Facebook and Facetime — and that’s only the big boys. The best part is all of these services Wi-Fi voice or video calls for free. Think of all the places you run into Wi-Fi: your house, your office, the grocery store, department store, coffee shops, libraries, the bank, even some cars are starting to come with Wi-Fi as a standard option. If you’re brave enough to drop your cell phone plan and go the Wi-Fi route, all of these locations are your personal phone booth.

Of course, for many, cutting the cellular cord cuts means cutting off emergency calls and constant connection to the outside world. Fear not, for those on the fence there’s Google’s Project Fi. The lure of contract-free cell service has always seemed alluring but too costly to take advantage of. Not with Project Fi. Users piggy bounce automatically between Wi-Fi, Sprint and T-Mobile’s network for signal strength — and all for dirt-cheap. All plans start at a $20 base service, plus $10 for every gig of data used. And, since it’s contract-free, users can dump the plan at the end of the month if they are missing the comfort of a cellular contract.


Sadly, Project Fi only works with Google’s Nexus line of phones at the moment, and you need an invite to join, but think of the implications. Instead of spending more than $100 a month with Verizon, you could spend $30 with Google. CV


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.


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