Terrified smartphone newbie needs reassurance

I've had an LG VX8300 from Verizon Wireless for the last six years. Before that I had a phone that did nothing but make and receive calls. My husband and I are grandfathered into a VW plan that gives us basic access with 500 shared minutes a month for $60 a month. I want a smartphone. I was *this close* to reluctantly ordering an upgrade through Verizon with a new 2-year contract (We've been month-to-month for nearly four years). I was going to get an iPhone 4 ("free" with 2 year contract) for each of us at a service cost of about $140 a month.

I took one final look around, spotted information about Ting on Howard Forums and decided it was too good to be true. I looked for more information, and kept finding more positive reviews and information, so last night I used a referral link and ordered an LG Optimus S for $3 (a bit over $7 with taxes). 

What I want to know is what I should be expecting. How long will it take the phone to arrive? How difficult is it to activate the phone? What happens if there is something wrong with the phone? How hard is it to learn Android? Will I be able to choose my own phone number for the new phone? How the heck do you make a phone call on a phone that doesn't have a keypad? Can I make my own ringtones? Is there an alarm function? Will I ever be able to move my old phone over to Ting? Is the coverage any good out here for Sprint/Ting? What's the difference between CDMA and GSM? Is there a newbie guide to Android somewhere that someone can recommend? Is this going to work out? Should I be already planning on getting a phone for my husband and cancelling our Verizon service, or will I regret this? Reassure me, please.

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  • I did the exact same thing as you (ordered a refurbished LG Optimus S from Ting) and this is my first smartphone as well.

    I ordered my phone on the 27th of October, and it arrived on the 3rd, so it took about a week to arrive. The phone was pretty easy to activate. On my Ting account page, near the top, there was a link that said "Activate LG Optimus S," and I clicked on it, and the ESN was already filled in for me. I chose to receive a new number from Ting, but you can move your old number over from Verizon if you enter all the needed information from your Verizon account. My phone became activated automatically within a matter of minutes. Later that day, it even upgraded to a newer version of Android (2.3) automatically as well.

    I'm finding Android pretty easy to learn so far. On the bottom of the touch screen is a box button, and if you tap it, it shows you all your apps. You can also access your phone settings under your apps, and under settings under "Wireless & Networks", you can enable Wifi and connect to a wireless network. I would advise doing that if you have Wifi at home, as you use less data that way.

    You make phone calls through a touch dialpad that pops up when you tap the phone icon on the bottom left portion of the touch screen. You just tap the number buttons on the dialpad as if they were real buttons. It works quite well.

    I'm not sure if you can make your own ringtones, but I can affirm that there *is* an alarm function. You just click on the clock app and can set an alarm from in there.

    As for whether coverage is good in your area, that depends on where you live. Coverage is typically good in more urban areas but may not be the best in extremely rural areas. But if you check with Ting directly, I'm sure they can let you know!

    The practical difference between CDMA and GSM is just that in the United States, Verizon and Sprint use CDMA, and T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM. That's all you really have to know. GSM is more international, but since Sprint uses CDMA, Ting has to as well.

    I'm not sure if there is an Android beginner's guide, but this link has some helpful information: http://www.pcworld.com/article/190633/android_101_android_phone_how_to.html

    You don't necessarily have to cancel your service right now with Verizon. In fact, if you do that, you won't be able to keep either your or your husband's current number. In order to transfer your number to Ting, your Verizon account needs to still be open. Once the phone number is moved over, you are automatically canceled from Verizon. If you are not sure if you want to switch to Ting yet, you can always try it for a month by yourself and switch your husband over the next month if you are satisfied with the service.

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  • You've been on the service for about a week, I guess? How is the call quality on the phone? Have you been using the wifi, and does it work with calls or just data? I'm relieved to hear about the alarm... I long ago stopped using an alarm clock and rely on my phone to wake me. How's the battery life so far? I can often go a week without recharging my current phone, I don't expect that sort of longevity on a smartphone.

    Thank you, your post really did help with the anxiety. I just needed a little talking down. I'll go check out that link now....

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  • Call quality has been great! Everyone has said I sound crystal clear, and I've had no problem getting signal except in some very old buildings with materials that blocks cell phone signals. You can use the wifi for phone calls if you create a Google Voice number (your first Google Voice number is free). The only disadvantage is that it will show up as your Google Voice number on peoples' caller ID, so some people might be confused why you have two numbers. But I use it anyway at home, because it's nice to get free minutes. I did make a mistake initially though. The Google Voice app gives you the option to call out through Google Voice, but it still uses your cell phone minutes. You have to download and open the app "Groove IP Lite" and dial the phone number from there if you want to make calls over wifi. It's a little extra work, but as I said, I enjoy having some free minutes. If convenience is more important to you than saving some money, then just make phone calls over the Sprint network like normal and use a bit more minutes.

    The battery life is nowhere near as good as a flip phone. I used to charge my flipphone once or twice a week, but I have to charge the Optimus S once a day, sometimes twice if I use it very heavily. Turning off 3G or Wifi when you are not using it can help save battery power, as can turning down the screen brightness. So far, I've just been plugging it in before I go to bed to charge it at night.

    The Optimus S may be an outdated smartphone by now, but it's perfect for me! I don't really play games and just want to check my email and use Skype, etc. It's been working out great for that so far, and I'm really enjoying Ting. :) I think you'll really enjoy them too.

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  • I already use Google Voice, forwarded to both my husband and my cell phones, so I'll need to look a little closer to see how to set that up. I like to fiddle with things like that, so I think I'll stay happy. I'll have to find a new location for my cell phone alarm, near an outlet. It looks like there's an active hacking forum, so I'll be reading for tips.

    Again, thank you. I still can't quite believe this service is for real. If it is, I'm going to be telling a LOT of people about it.

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  • There is almost nothing these phones can't do now. Thousands of apps make that possible, from personalization, to utility. Ringtone maker apps let you do just that, and I use Alarm Clock Xtreme for my alarm. (I was surprised when my phone actually plays the EXACT same sound as my old alarm clock did)

    Read the booklet, but ignore a lot of the Sprint stuff. It just costs you money. (Like Sprint Movies and TV)

    Look for a charging cradle. It makes it easier to keep the phone charged, and use as an alarm/clock/radio/sleep machine.

    Get a screen protector.

    If you're prone to dropping, get a rubberized snap on protector.

    Put a larger SD Card in it before you add apps. (Activate the phone, then turn it off and remove the SD Card. Then copy the SD Card to a computer, copy it to the new card, pop it in, and turn the phone back on.)

    Use settings to move large file apps like games and navigation to the SD Card. (Only for Gingerbread)

    Get Lookout Security. Even the free version let's you locate your lost phone.

    Get Ting Usage (Unofficial) to track your plan.

    To take full advantage of Ting, I almost never use data. Big Wireless has this big battle over who has the best data to keep people brainwashed into thinking you have to have super fast unlimited data to use a smart phone. You don't.

    Keep your data turned off and use wifi. Most apps don't need data turned on, unless you're streaming media, or using live traffic updates for Nav. I use WiFi Auto Login, which grabs any available wifi while I'm out to sync Gmail, lists, etc.  For music, I transferred all of my CDs to iTunes years ago, then to Google Music when I went Android. (SO much better than iTunes) For traveling, you can select songs, albums, or playlists for offline listening, and not have to stream them. If you need to access data with no WiFi available, use a 3G toggle widget to turn it on, get the data, and turn it back off. Or wait until you do have WiFi. 

    Apps are the programs. (Applications on a desktop)  Widgets are active shortcuts to functions, or app data you can add to the screen (try that, Apple). Organize your apps on the 5 screens by category to make them easier to find. (most used on the middle Home screen, less used on the outer screens)

    Activate a screen lock, so others can't access your phone easily. (I use Unlock With WiFi to keep my phone from locking when home, or other more secure places)

    Text, rather than call, if you can. (100 texts is $3. 1000 is $5)

    By managing my phone responsibly, I have yet to reach $20 on my monthly bill, and I use my phone apps all the time.

     

    And don't forget Stupid Zombies.

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  • Is there a way to get rid of the Sprint stuff? Like rooting? I'm still mildly confused about the rooting information for the LG Optimus S (mostly the downgrading process before you start the rooting), but I've rooted a Kindle so I'm not particularly scared of trying. On the other hand, my Kindle couldn't make phone calls. I'd love to root the phone up to the latest Android version, if that's something people think is a good idea.

    Charging cradle, got it. I'm not prone to dropping, not even scratching, but the LG VX8300 is a very sturdy phone, so I might reconsider if the Optimus S isn't as... solid. I really wish I could port my husband and my VX8300s over to Ting. I would do that today if it were possible and dump Verizon so fast they'd get whiplash.

    I'm not quite sure what you are saying about the SD card. I've got an 8GB laying around somewhere, are you saying I should put that in before I even activate the phone?

    I may need some data. I go to meetings and sometimes people forget to make copies of documents, but they are usually available on a website to be downloaded. It's been frustrating to have everyone else pull up their cell phone and go check out the document while I'm twiddling my thumbs or frantically taking notes that I'm not sure I'll need. I also like having the possibility of checking maps or such while on the road, although that's a fairly minor issue. But I plan on using wifi whenever possible.

    My phone shipped this morning, so I'll have it within a week or so. I've already visited Google Play to figure out what apps I think I ought to plan on getting, and I just hope they'll fit on the phone. It doesn't have a lot of memory.

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  • I think you have to root your phone to get rid of the Sprint stuff, I just ignore it. As for Google Voice, if you go to the settings when you are in Voice, you can select what calls to make with Google Voice. If you select "make all calls with Google Voice" all your calls will show up on the person you are calling ID as the Voice number. That will avoid confusion. If you don't mine leaving your data on all the time you can use Voice to text and that will show up as your voice number. I find that leaving the data on all the time uses a lot of data, so I have an app that turns the data off unless I need to use it. If you use the text message app for texts they will show up as your ting number. So, if I call you caller id shows my google number, if I text you get my ting number. Everyone is used to now, I just told them to ignore my ting number. It mostly was confusing on the caller id part for my friends. If you get the auto air app, and the groove ip app you can have your phone turn on the wifi system automatically, and the groove ip app turns your phone into a voip system and no cell minutes are used. Good luck.

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  • I'm not a fan of rooting, especially on new hardware. I thought I'd be disappointed having Gingerbread rather than Ice Cream Sandwich, until I found out ICS eliminated some functions, like being able to move apps to the SD card. I'm really happy with Gingerbread now, and think it is perfect for a basic smart phone.

    If you plan on using any storage heavy apps like offline navigation, or games, or storing movies, get a bigger SD Card. 16GB or even 32GB. Make sure it's a faster class (6 to 10), just to be sure it's not a slow link.  Any name brand will work, though.       Activate the phone, THEN swap the card after copying the contents to the new one. THEN add your apps. Plenty of room for apps.

    If at a meeting, check to see if they have WiFi available before resorting to your own data. Most offices do now.

    Get an offline Navigation app (I use CoPilot Live USA). They store the map data, as well as point of interest data on the phone. The only time you'd need data is if you want to check traffic or weather. I've pulled into a McDonalds more than once just to check something with their wifi to avoid using my data. It's a good excuse to stop driving and fiddle with your phone, too.

    One of the best things about Android is having the exact same updated information on my phone, tablet, and PC. (Gmail, e-mail, Bookmarks, Contacts, Calendar, Pictures, Documents, Music, and even grocery lists. I use Our Groceries for my grocery lists, and** Cmarks** to sync with Chrome.)

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  • Ray: Auto Air and Groove IP? Got it.

    I already read about the phone number thing with Google Voice. I don't think that's going to be an issue for me. I suspect most people will start to text me instead of call.

    Brian: The refurbished phone doesn't come with an SD card installed, so I'll probably put the 8GB one in to start. That's if I understand the information right.

    I've checked about the wifi. Most of the places I'm at do not allow outside wifi at all, period. So it's data or nothing for those, but it should be a fairly low amount of info in any given meeting, and it probably won't happen more than twice a month (knock on wood). Heck, I might be able to load up documents before I go to the meeting now that I'll have a device small enough to carry into meetings.

    CoPilot Live USA, got it. I forgot about free wifi at McDonalds. That will come in handy on trips. Some rest stops have free wifi now, too.

    The biggest thing I want is access to my Google Calendar. That will save me a lot of pain and frustration in the future. Lots of other things will no doubt be pleasant, but the calendar contains my life and right now I can only access it from a computer.

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  • Strange that an office wouldn't have WiFI available. Data from the network isn't really different than grabbing outside WiFi. Oh well.

    If you're starting without a card, get a bigger one before you get the phone, and put it in right away. Then you don't have to worry about copying it later. You can get MicroSD cards for less than $1 per GB at Amazon or Walmart now.

    Lots of places have WiFi now. I drive by hotels and WiFi Auto Login will grab their WiFi. McDs, BK, Starbucks, most hotels, sports arenas, and mall food courts have it.

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  • Brian: Sadly I live close to the middle of nowhere, and internet is still a bit of a novelty for many in this area, at least as far as wifi goes. My own company does not have in-house wifi yet. If I'd stayed in Seattle I'm sure I'd be a bit more advanced myself now, but the pace is slower on the other side of the mountains.

    Thank you much for the advice. I'm going to hunt for a good MicroSD card now. I suspect it will cost me more than the phone.

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  • I have the phone, unfortunately I must return to my wifi-free work and deal with a lot of stuff, so I won't have any time to play with it for a bit. Thanks to all who responded with suggestions and advice.

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  • So here we are, a bit more than a week after I received my refurbished phone. Let's see if I can't answer my own panicked questions.

    It took three days for my phone to arrive after I ordered it. Activation was, as people said, simple.

    Nothing was wrong with my first phone, but my husband's phone that I ordered through eBay a week after getting mine had some issues that my Google-fu solved. In addition, I contacted support over both weekends since getting the phone and they were AMAZING. Seriously folks, I didn't expect any help until Monday in both cases, but in both cases my issues were fixed promptly through e-mail alone (which I tend to prefer for techie stuff). Ting tech support deserves kudos. I am simply not afraid of having problems because I think Ting will be there to fix it if I do.

    Android is not too difficult to learn, although I will confess that I immersed myself into it in order to root my phone (and later, my husband's phone). There is a ton of information on it out there, much of it specific to the phone you have. Google-fu will save the day. Also, the Google Play store is fun to go through to find potential apps for your phone. If you've linked your phone to your Google account it couldn't be easier to get new apps and manage what you have.

    If you accept a new phone number for your Ting phone you will be assigned a number, they don't give you a choice. But since I was only using that number for testing purposes, it wasn't an issue. I was able to port my old phone number to my new phone (with help from Ting support) after a few days. The flexibility there was what gave me the confidence to choose Ting.

    Smartphones without keypads are weird to me, but making a call was trivially easy. Either a keypad jumps up or I pick the person I want to call from the contacts list. I have also created shortcuts to dial a couple of people I tend to call the most.

    Yes, you can make your own ringtones. Again, pretty easy. You just dump them on the SD card in a folder and viola! You have custom ringtones. I'm currently using the alarm function that comes with the version of Android I am on, but there are a ton of alarm apps as well.

    By the time Ting allows me to move my old Verizon phone over, I probably will have no interest in doing so. I love my old phone, but my purple smartphone is definitely charming me.

    Ting's coverage is more than adequate out here in the middle of nowhere. My understanding is that it will use Sprint's network for everything and free roaming on Verizon for voice and SMS, so there's little chance of getting caught in a dead area for voice if I stay on my usual paths.

    I still don't quite understand the differences between CDMA and GSM, except that they are different hardware standards for phones. It sounds like a new standard is coming, LTE, though I'm not sure I'm right about that. It's all terribly confusing.

    I'm very happy with the service I've gotten in the less than two weeks since I got the first phone. I've already managed to free my husband from the grip of Verizon as well, so now it's just a matter of seeing if this happy dream will continue. I'm really pleased that I didn't go with Verizon for the smartphones because I would be paying at least $100 more a month. With Ting I'm going to be saving money even from the voice-only plan we had at Verizon, and that's pretty impressive in my book.

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  • @Laura,

    Thank you for taking the time to update your post! and answer your own questions.

    Your responses will definitely be helpful to others.

    I could not agree with you more.  Our first phone with Ting was in July.

    We are slowly but surely bringing over our phones.  The savings and customer service are amazing!

    Welcome to Ting.

    Cheers! 

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  • Just as J said, thanks so much for sharing your experience Laura. This could be a really great thread for a lot of new folks new to Ting.

    If there's anything else that we at Ting can do for you now that you're active, please let us know.

    Take care and I have fun with your first smartphone!

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