I read an interesting article over at news.ycombinator.com. Whatever Works for You describes less the author’s computing setup, but instead the fact that he has learned that no matter how much he likes it, it will not be what others want or need.
After reading this a co-worker commented on how he was jealous that he spends $200 a month on his phone bill, while I only spend $100 every six months. I have advocated many times my method, realizing that most folks that already own a smartphone will either not be able, or willing, to use my approach. And I totally get that the compromises and sacrifices I make for this cheap phone bill is well above the pain threshold of even some of the most ardent tech folks. So non-techies just are “right out”.
Out of the gate I need to make it clear that I am getting no endorsements or other compensation from the following companies.
Why o’ why would you follow my way of phoning? Well, before you put yourself through the wall-o-text that is coming, here are the reasons I do things this way:
- I have one phone number to give out for the rest of my or Google Voices life (whichever ends first).
- As a result I can choose the cheapest cell plan and change when appropriate. Since I “Pay as I Go” I am not stuck with contracts.
- As a result I have an insanely in-expensive phone bill. So far I have paid $100 every 7 months. I do not have a home phone line, but I do have broadband internet (but that was there regardless).
- WIFI is almost everywhere I am, as a result I do not have to pay for a data plan.
- Cheap cell phones. When it breaks, I buy a new one and just transfer the SIM card.
What are things that I do not like about my current system?
- Extra gadgets. I have a cell phone AND an iPod in my pocket.
- I do not have a smartphone. I am not “always connected”. (Actually, that may be a good thing also.)
- I really want a smart phone. I am just too cheap in this area to pay for the over the top monthly data and exorbitant voice plans.
To phone like me you will need the following ingredients:
- A Google Mail and Google Voice account. (Costs no money.)
- Google talk plugin installed on top of Google Chrome. (PC or Mac, also costs no money.)
- A pay as you go voice/text plan on an inexpensive carrier. I use a T-Mobile flip phone with their Pay As You Go plan.
- A WIFI enabled computing device. I use an iPod Touch 3G.
A number of the above ingredients can be exchanges for other free services out there. For instance you can get a cheap “Skype In” number that will work with Google Voice. The only issue with the Skype In number is you have to jump through hoops to make sure you do NOT get their voice mail service. The skype voice mail conflicts with Google Voice, and it is difficult to keep it turned off of you have multiple computers logged into skype. I tried, it sucked, and their customer service was no help, they honestly are not setup to disable voice-mail at their end.
The setup. I am not going into great detail on this at this time. If you cannot perform the following activities without hand holding then the actual “how I phone” instructions will be more than you will want to deal with.
- Install Google Chrome on all the PCs you use.
- Install the Google Talk plugin on top of Chrome.
- Setup your Google Voice account if you do not have one already.
- Add your pre-paid phone number to Google Voice. Set it up as the primary cell number, configure text options.
- Add your work number to Google Voice. Set it up to only ring when you know you will be in the office.
- On your cell phone set a speed dial to your Google Voice number, this is your new voice mail call out.
Once you have this done you will want to let all your folks know that your new number is your “Google Voice” number. That is the ONLY number you will ever give out again. When folks call that number all your other numbers will ring. Whichever one you are near you answer.
Normally unless I know the caller I just let google voice get it, then I listen to the message on my PC from the Google Voice site. If I am away from my PC I can always check messages by calling my Google Voice number from my cell phone and treat it like any other cellular voice messaging system.
Placing calls is the sticky point. If I am at my computer I call out using Google Voice and indicate which phone to ring. Often I have Google Voice ring my Google Talk account, which results in a phone pop-up on the Gmail screen. If I am at my desk at work where I do not have a mic, and streaming media is blocked (the horror) I have Google Voice dial my work number. As soon as I answer the phone, Google Voice rings the other end and my call is in progress. If I am out I am often at a wifi spot, from there I have the Google voice app on my iPod Touch perform the call with my cell phone as the target of the call.
Why go to all this effort when making a call? Well, I want the recipient on the other side to see the call as if it is coming from my Google Voice number. That way when they use their history to call back it will still use my Google Voice number. I do not want them memorizing my cell phone number, there is no guarantee that I will keep it if I can find a better deal elsewhere.
I do not plan to phone like this forever. Eventually a carrier will break away from the pack and provide an inexpensive voice/data plan for smart-phones. When that happens I will gladly pay more for the convenience. As it stands I am looking into getting a refurbed iPhone and use it without a data plan. That will reduce my “cell” + “iPod” combination to one device.
Is this for everyone? NOPE! Is this even for most people. I doubt it. But it works for me!