Cell Phones, Rallies, and Internet Connections

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March 29, 2010

We spent the past week with a few thousand of our closest friends at the FMCA Convention (Family Motor Coach Ass’n) in Albuquerque, NM.  We did a lot of talking about digital photos and about blogs, but the hottest topic was all about cell phones and Internet Access.

In several of our seminars, we used our Droid phone tethered to the computer for our Internet connection.

If you’re one of the many folks who have iPhones, you’ll think we’re SO behind the times!  But, being Verizon customers, we couldn’t get one of those fancy computer/phones because the iPhone is only available on the AT&T network. Now, both Jim and I have the Motorola Droid – very similar to the iPhone, but on the Verizon network.

It’s a whole new world!

We’ve been teaching RVers how to use their cellphones tethered to the computer for Internet Access for a while now.  With the Droid (or similar ‘app-phones’)  you don’t even need to use your computer at all.  You can read email, update your facebook status, read your favorite blog, check the weather, and Google for Mexican Restaurants, all from your phone.  But, using it as Internet access for your computer is great too – especially since the data plan is unlimited!

A couple weeks ago, we wrote an article on Internet by Droid.  Last week we put it to the test by depending on the Droid for Internet access in a couple of our seminars.  It had to work, or our seminar would be a flop.  It did.  It worked great.  Plenty of speed to upload photos, work with WordPress, and use Google Earth.

When you get a phone that can browse the web, you must pay for a data plan on that phone.  We are paying $30/month for the data plan on each Droid phone.  The beauty is that the plan is unlimited.  Even when using the Droid as a tethered Internet connection to the computer, the usage falls under the unlimited plan.  I checked my Verizon usage stats to be sure:

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I wouldn’t be surprised if that changed someday, but, right now, it’s pretty nice.

 

Chris Guld

www.GeeksOnTour.com

Leave a Reply

37 comments

  1. Roxanne

    I want you to know how much I HATE the popup window on this site. I already subscribe.
    Most of the time it fills my screen and I can’t get to the close window button no matter what I do. So then have to shut down the browser, change all my settings and come back to read the article.
    Unless something I really want to read regardless of the PITA. I don’t bother reading anything of the authors.
    Fix that stupid popup…. Please.

  2. Nick Stumbaugh

    When we tried to use our iPhones last summer at RAGBRAI (a week-long bicycle ride across Iowa, we were a support vehicle), we found that they would only work early in the day, before hundreds of cyclists and support people arrived. Apparently, AT&T’s network is easily swamped when hundreds of people try to use it in a small town. I hope Verizon is better that way.

  3. John

    Are you sure that that “Unlimited” isn’t the 5GB unlimited of Verizon? I got one of the first AirCards with “Unlimited” which really means 5GB/mo.

  4. Larry

    I had the Verizon plan and my bill went up by 100.00 each month because the 5GB/mo only coved the basic after this the price went up. I had their extender but that was a new charge each month after the 250.00 for the equip.
    So if you can stay away form Verizon you are better off

  5. Allison

    OK, so if I get the Droid with an unlimited data plan, how the *&%#* do I “tether” it to my computer???

    Have pity on those of us who are not tech savvy.

  6. Francis X. Schilling

    Hey, Allison, you are in good company as even the tech savvy are cornfused – me included. If I’ve read one “Gosh, darn, golly this tethering thing is the greatest thing since sliced bread!” post/article/blog I’ve read a hundred. Never much in the way of details though. This one at least included the phone model.

    I’ve been all over the Verizon site and the *cheapest* I can find a Droid plan with data is $70 if you drop to the 450 minute per month plan. Just a wee bit more than $30. And … I *still* do not believe that “unlimited” BS! No way of knowing what quantity is being measured in that graphic, but if it’s kilobytes that’s only a little more than 350 MB and well under 5 gigs. I’d *LOVE* to believe these claims, but …

  7. “Tethered” means: go through your cell phone to get to the internet. This can be via an attached cable or via Bluetooth. The cell phone functions as a Modem to achieve this. Simply stated; you connect your computer to your cell phone and do a Dial-up connection to your Internet Service Provider.
    Hope this helps ;)p

  8. Francis X. Schilling

    I guess I should have been more specific – I know *what* it is – I just don’t ever see anymore detail than what you describe. Like I said, at least this article gave an actual phone model even though I still don’t believe the “unlimited” claim or the monetary figure. I’ve seen $30/mo., $45/mo., $60/mo., you can toggle the data service on and off month-to-month, you can’t toggle month-to-month (this last from *two* different online Verizon reps *and* a store manager) and on and on and on and … Lots of claims, few details and virtually *nothing* in the way of confirmation from Verizon including the cable required to effect the phone-to-PC connection while maintaining power to the phone in the Droid accessories list. If you have it and it works I guess a “hallelujah!” is in order.

  9. Dan Rambow

    You may have unlimited data service, but I just checked on the Verizon web site, and it clearly says $30 to add unlimited data service (defined as 5gb). So, you may be good, or get charged 10 cents per megabyte over.

    In reality 5gb is really a lot of downloaded data, unless you are watching TV and movies over the internet. I run my computer business 24/7 from three computers hooked via Cable 20mb speed, and we rarely run over 10-12gb a month, and thats with lots of updates to new computers, and a lot of remote access time.

    And as more people jump on the Verizion-Droid bandwagon, they too will start to suffer the same problems that some areas have with AT&T when too many log onto wireless internet at once. Both carriers need to add more bandwidth and towers or these ‘smart’ phones will start looking pretty dumb.

  10. Carl C

    I have a Verizon boulder G Zone (orange). I pay $30.00 a month for internet access and am relatively pleased. However, 5GB is NOT that much. When you imagine that cable internet gets you about 200GB per month at twice the speed for ~$45.00, I’m appalled.

  11. Eddy Shepherd

    I am thinking that the data plan you have is not available any more. But as long as you do not change your plan you will stay at that rate. For the person above the cable to tether your phone is called a USB cable. Some are standard with different sizes and some are phone specific. You do not have to be an expert to hook it up. Just call Verizon or which ever service you use and they will help you to get started.

  12. ROBERT DONOVAN

    I AGREE WITH LARRY, STAY AWAY FROM VERIZON. I HAD A CELL PHONE FOR 10 YRS. WITH OTHER COMPANYS. I NEVER HAD A BILL OVER $50.00. LAST YR. I WENT TO VERIZON. I HAD $200.00 BILLS FOR THREE MONTHS. AND I HAD TO GET THE PHONE CHANGED THREE TIMES, BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WORK RIGHT. ONE QUIT CHARGING. TWO PHONES HAD A LOT OF STATIC NOISE WHEN I TRIED TO USE THE PHONES. I HAVE INTERNET ON THESE PHONES AND HAD A LOT OF BROKEN CONNECTIONS. AND INTERNET IS SLOW, BUT FASTER THAN A LAND LINE, HEE HEE HEE. I WILL BE GLAD WHEN THIS CONTRACT IS DONE. GOOD BY TO A BAD SERVICE. BOB

  13. William Robinson, Jr.

    I just bot a Virgin Mobil Broadband air card at Radio Shack today for 100 bucks. You can buy Gb/minutes as you go, w/ NO contract. I’m using it now. Some of you guys may want to look into it. I use Sprint as my cell carrier. Robbie

  14. Francis X. Schilling

    Well, Eddie, I am glad they helped you, but as I said in my second post – they sure as he** ain’t helped me. I’ve “talked” to an online rep, a phone center rep and a store manager and they all told me different stories, gave differing service costs and gave me bad information about not only which phones are EVDO Rev. A capable, but how the data service costs are structured. That is *IF* I believe the claims in articles like this.

    What I am inclined to believe is that the people who post these glowing reports have been grandfathered into some sweet deals that are either no longer available or are being actively discouraged for new customers by Verizon in an attempt to regulate-by-confusion the overburdening of their bandwidth capacity until they can … ??? One would hope the answer is “add more capacity”, but it could just as easily be “start severely limiting usage for these overly sweet deals”.

    I also know what a USB cable is and it ain’t in the accessories list for the Droid. I’ll admit I need cataract surgery, but I did not see it. Sadly, Verizon (at least at present time) has the broad, nationwide data access coverage that I require by a large margin over *any* of the other players.

  15. TravelingLight2

    My wife and I have a Sprint unlimited 3G internet system. We have a Sprint modem in the house and can plug our aircard (USB type) into the modem and run up to 5 items wirelessly off the one aircard. We have unlimited usage. It is not restricted to 5Gig but is truly unlimited.. We were going to upgrade to the new 4G, but found that we would be limited to only 5Gig of usage. The store personnel argued with us that we did not have unlimited usage on our old plan, then they checked out our past usage on their main Sprint accounts records and found that we were routinely using in excess of 6Gig per month and occasionally jumping to 8Gig. We do not watch TV on the phone, but we travel trade shows and festival circuits as our employment and we find that the cell phones and aircard are currently the best way for us to go. We can use the aircard directly on one of our computers through USB connection or we can plug in our modem and run up to 5 computers from the one aircard wirelessly. The modem is also very portable and will fit in my shirt pocket.

    Note: Even though the new 4G systems would be faster for us, they are not found in as many places as 3G. Most of the 4G systems I have investigated will revert to 3G when 4G is not available. Clearwire currently has a system that is $40.00 a month for unlimited 4G connection and seem to be in direct competition with Sprint, even though Sprint owns 51% of Clearwire. But as of now we can not have our phones hooked up through Clearwire. Maybe later this year.

    One of my other part time jobs is doing mystery shopping of wireless stores, so even though I am an old guy, and only a Techno Geek wannabe, I am becoming pretty familiar with the different plans and systems. I will tell you that no one in my opinion can keep up with all the gadgets and systems available and the availability is changing daily. I find that very few folks working the Kiosks and wireless stores are completely familiar with all brands and plans available. They would have to read and practice usage 24/7 and even then I would doubt they could remain on top of all info out there.

    There is no one size its all, you have to do your own homework and ask questions. If you are afraid that your question is too dumb to ask, then you will remain in the dark. I am old enough in appearance that no one thinks that any question I ask is dumb. They are amazed that I can turn the dang thing on. But the fastest growing users group is my age group. The younger working folks have to depend on the info they can get from their supplier, and the teenagers are only interested in the latest COOL color or tech app. We all pay our money and then hope it does everything we need.

    Forums like this are the best way to find out what your questions might be. Geeks On Tour has become my go to source when I am wondering how to get something done. I look forward to meeting them in person in Myrtle Beach, SC next week.

  16. hey Roxy, i have the same problem with the pop up window. just close it out and reopen it, should come back up without the pop up.

  17. Barb

    I agree with Roxy about the Pop Up. Since I only find the article because it was sent to me (duh) then I AM subscribed. Could the site not just:
    1. put a link at the top or side for visitors to subscribe –
    2. or a pop up that is smaller than the whole page so one can close it and still be at the article ??
    If a user has a slow broadband connection, closing the browser and reopening can be really off-putting !!!
    Thanks for addressing this. Why lose readers??

  18. Geoffrey Pruett

    Have one of the early generation Blackberry clones by Samsung which has the data base and highly touted GPS.
    This was so new no one at AT&T could or would correct the continual programming issues which were a moving target and remained until the phone died and was replaced and that only after being run around thru many hoops and constant misinformation. The 50 page instruction manual was only available as a down load 11 months after purchased.
    Finally made the choice to cancel all but the phone service, this has never been any problem, and use it as an expensive dual use pocket data base. When anyone talks about ” New Tech” and more bandwidth I pull out the phone as a reminder of how these promises are followed up on.
    Geoffrey Pruett

  19. Steve

    There is a lot of confusion with data and phone plans.
    My data plan is unlimited on my Droid. Even though 5 GB is quite a lot, going over 5 GB is not a problem with the Droid. It is a new data plan added to an older family shared plan and costs $30/mo additional.
    If this were just a phone, the price is high. But the Droid is a web enabled computer that makes phone calls, handles contact and calendar info, is a complete GPS navigation device and so much more.

  20. Bill

    I agree with all you folks that mentioned the pop-up subscribe window. I too am sick of it.

    Most of the time I am reading an article from a link in an email sent to me by the site. They know that because the link address from the email contains “utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RvnetBlog+(RV.net+Blog+Daily+Updates+Feed)”

    From that they know I am a subscriber so it would be easy to block up the pop-up when I click on an email link. Maybe they just like making people mad!!!

    How about you geeks explaining this to the web geeks that run this site. Geek to Geek as it were.

  21. Ram Balaraman

    Hi Roxy,

    Please download and use Firefox Browser (www.firefox.com). It is free and virus-free. After you have it installed it on your machine, click on the ‘Tools’ item on the menu bar and choose ‘ Add-ons’. From this page search for ‘Adblock Plus’ and ‘Flashblock’. After you install these you will not be annoyed with these ‘pop-ups’. Instead of playing a ‘flash’ clip it will show a ‘f’ button and if you want to play it, you can click on the button. Everything will be in your control and annoying pop-ups will be history.

    Have fun!

  22. Dennis Rosenblad

    If you are a roader you need to look in to the carriers coverage Sprint has a lot of NO SERVICE even along interstate highways and metro areas ATT disapears away from metro & major highways. I have talked to a lot of snowbirds that bought a throwaway just to have cell service where they aer parked for a month or so!!!!!!

  23. James Hamilton

    I have a Verizon cellphone and it is time for a replacement. I have called Verizon multiple times and visited two of their stores. They claim the cheapest unlimited data plan is $60 a month. How did you find one for $30 a month? Do I have to move to Florida to sign up for such a cheap plan?

  24. BIll

    Did I understand that when you tether your Droid, you are not paying an additional fee fro that service? Also, did I understand that when you are tethered, you still have unlimited data? I have been told that there is an addtional charge to tether and you are then subjec to the 5GB monthly limit.

    Keep up the great work.
    Bill

  25. Rick

    We are Canadians who RV in the U.S. during the winter. We use 2 TracFones for our cell phone use – they are perfect because there is no contract to commit to and we can discontinue usage when we return to Canada (and pick up again when we return to the U.S.)
    Does anyone know if there is a company that offers something similar for internet access? Currently we “buy into” whatever wifi is available at the rv pks, but there are many nights we have no access at all … and we never have access on the road unless we stop at a hot spot.
    Thanks.

  26. Paul

    I am not that far advanced as most of these people, however, Rick mentioned about using the TracFones. As we entered the U.S., we purchased a TracFone for two reasons, one for emergencies and the other to contact our family in Canada. However, the TracFone we purchased will still not allow us to phone Canada, even after numerous, internet and phone calls to their customer service people. We then purchased a Net10 which will work in the U.S. and for long-distance calls to Canada.

  27. Ned

    I tethered on an LG dare last summer and it worked great but as far as I can see on verizon web site there is a charge above the basic rate if you go above 5 GB. They charge by the MB after that. Correct me if I’m wrong as I hope it is unlimited.

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