…and in the end. Final Review…

Back in my late teens/early twenties I owned a 1978 Chevy Monza. Not a well maintained, 8 cylinder example, but a poorly maintained hand-me-down from my sister with a rebuilt 4 cylinder engine and a Jerry-rigged radiator. The plastic was crumbling on the interior. The carpet had water damage from the windows being left open. The tires were mostly bald. And this is how I got the car when it was new to me. The car, quite often, would randomly stall on occasion, randomly not start on occasion and randomly make odd unidentifiable sounds that could lead to the other two random aforementioned issues. It was a deathtrap with a horror show with bad paint with a radio that was not nearly loud enough to drown out the “issues”.

There is no surprise turn here where I say “But I LOVED it.” and you pat me on the back for being almost pithy. No, it was stressful and not fun. I did not realize how stressful and not fun it was till my next car: a 1982 Honda Civic – the little tank that was more reliable than I realized a car could be. And that is the point full of the pith. It is with life’s variances we realize things are better or, in this case, worse.

What I originally hoped this blog would become is a journey of happy discovery within the Android platform and the huge benefits of a free phone service. My hopes were to have recommendations of how one would get the most out of any Android phone. What this blog had become is a sounding board for me to complain about how absolutely inconsistent the phone and service are for me. I will no longer be writing posts at  freepophtcevo.blogspot.com because even I grow tired of the repetition. So, one last waltz, if you please.

The FreedomPop HTC EVO Design beta test is a failure. Why? Read on.

The HTC EVO Design is so underpowered, the clock on the phone will stop working if over-taxed. This is not a small problem. I cannot understand this in 2014 or in 2011 when the phone came out or 2003 or 1995. This phone’s clock stops. There are, at times, not enough processor power for the CLOCK to work, but, I don’t know when those times are because the CLOCK stops. My first cell phone from 2003 did not have this problem. Crap free phones, cheap pay-as-you-go phones and old iPhones NEVER did this. My Commodore 128 never has this problem. This phone has this problem.

The FreedomPop service, which I still maintain is revolutionary, hinges on two well meaning but poorly executed things. Thing one is Sprint’s 4G data. I have lived in 2 major metro areas and have found the idea of Sprints 4G very enticing, what I have not found was consistent service, at least not if I am moving faster than 2 miles per hour. I would guess the quality would be good sitting under a Sprint 4G tower, unfortunately, I don’t live or work there.

Thing two is the FreedomPop Messaging app. Here is what I know, what I don’t know and what I am guessing at. I know that when activated, the Messaging app will use so much power that I will have a dead phone in 5 hours. I don’t know when this will be fixed, though there was some major and minor improvement with updates, I must leave my phone plugged in when this app is running. I am guessing that the Messaging app is based of some version of CSipSimple which I understand to be a great piece of mature open-source software that FreedomPop, let’s say, remade in its own image, poorly.

So, for fun, here’s a situation wrought with peril: this phone is my alarm clock. (Side-note: here is a very good recommendation, Timely, this app is not only terribly useful and configurable, it is also very beautiful – my sincerest compliments to Bitspin.) But, when you have a phone that, doesn’t keep proper time, and at times, though you don’t know when, will run out of juice if not constantly plugged in, the situation comes back to stress. It is stressful when you can’t rely on your clock to be a clock.

And when you can’t rely on your phone to be a phone, to be the thing that it looks like,  to be the thing it says it is on the box, and it is dead or it can’t make a connection or it is on 3G, not 4G,  or its app that you depend on all this to work is just not working for whatever reason – it is not the thing it says is. It is stressful. It is useless.


Google Voice Tips With an Expiration Date

May 15th 2014 is the date which you can say good-bye to Google voice apps that use XMPP to make and receive free calls using a bevy of soft-phones or Android apps or iPhone apps. That is it – no more. What are they going to do next? I still don’t know.

Here are some pointless software recommendations to fill your time for the next four months:

So, lets see… Talk-a-Tone the totally o.k. app with an oldish interface and the odd name, that previously used Google Voice’s XMPP, has opened up a freemium service of its own. If you upgraded the app recently, you get to become a customer of theirs, not Google’s.  For Talk-a-Tone, this is the difference between staying in business and going the way of the do-do. Good luck to them.

The app I have become fond of is GroVe-IP-lite, the little sister to GroVe-IP. The developers of GroVe-IP have decided to for this app to go dark on the 15th of May. They have said as much in the description of the app in the Google Play store. Unfortunate – this is a pretty nice bit of kit to have available – good interface, call quality was good, and pretty reliable when in use.  From what I could tell, the only difference between the two versions of the app was that you couldn’t use your carrier data plan with GroVe-IP-lite.

In so far as computer based soft(ware)-phones, I was using the open source YateClient with Google Voice on my Mac with much success. It gave me the best quality with probably the least intuitive interface, but, once you get used to this softphone, it doesn’t matter. An interface that stops you from wanting to use the program is bad, YateClient’s just made me have to think more. Again, it is another causality on the 15th of May for its Google Voice hooks, but it is also a SIP client so this will probably live on just fine.

What will I do after for cheap/free service after the May 15th, I am not sure. I will probably end up cobbling together something with some SIP service with Google Voice to get me through. As for what is Google going to do to Voice – I think that a clue lies in the conversion from SMS client to MMS client for the Messaging piece. Is this to serve a service like Hangouts or to possibly serve the Android platform? We shall see, soon enough.

Freedom Pop Messaging App Update

Not a lot to write about here, but if you are using the Freedom Pop Messaging app, open up the Play Store and get the update. From what I can tell, you now get a warning when your 4G service’s signal is not up to snuff. It is good to be warned. But generally, I have come to learn that a cell phone that is not available when you need it is not terribly useful. Searching around for a hot 4G signal or free WiFi to make a call is not at all convenient.

I am going to keep this phone around a little longer, but the experience has been poor. Sorry. Underpowered, buggy phone/software with a spotty 4G network in my area has made this phone untenable.

But, I still have to hand it to Freedom Pop for being radical.

The hidden radio inside the phone

As stated before, there is an FM radio inside my HTC EVO Design that, for some reason, FreedomPop decided not to to include any software pre-installed on the phone to utilize this feature. Now this may sound like a great idea, and I admit my reaction to the “discovery” was “that is really cool!” In practice, it is impractical, and in the many the scenarios I am in need of an FM radio (in the car) I have an FM radio.

Well, even though I did not need it, the program I landed on to give the FM radio a go was called Spirit Free (make sure you READ THE FULL THREAD if you decide to use it.) The free version of Spirit is no longer available in the Google Play Store. The full version allows you to save, record and and listen to stations in stereo – only mono is available in the free versions. HTC has a radio program, HtcFMRadio.apk, that you can google around for but I was never able to get it to install and work properly from any site.

It is probably a “feature” of the HTC Evo Design, but every time I would use Spirit Free, I would need to reboot my phone because all alerts and alarms would no loner work – don’t know why, and really, as I said, this is not a killer feature for me.

Give it a go. Your mileage may vary.