Can you hear me now? No? Good!
July 22, 2009 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Working out a situation where I would have an iPhone on Verizon's data network and wondering if anyone has tried this or is currently doing it. Further details inside

As an iPhone user who is not in a 3G area, I have been wishing for over a year that Verizon would get the iPhone. They have not, nor does it seem it will happen in the near future (WWDC was my hope). On top of that it seems if they did I would have to get a new phone anyway since it would likely be CDMA. So I'm screwed on that front. Then I started thinking and realized the iPhone covers so much of what I do with data that I no longer technically need it as a "cell phone". To compound it all I work in a place with no cell phone access at all, so I'm not the person that requires being tethered to a phone at all times of the day anyways (I can't be really). Here are my thoughts:

1. Text Messages - I have Twitter with push notifications. Anyone who doesn't use that doesn't need to get ahold of me via txt.

2. Voicemail - I have a Google Voice account I (assume?) could keep for vm transcriptions to email.

3. Calling - Skype on the iPhone works over wifi. In addition I can open up Google Chat for text conversations that need to happen in real time (if I'm not driving).

So my thought is that all of this combined makes the Verizon Mifi a really compelling product. Sure I have to carry an extra device but if I cancel my cell phone plan (which I know there would be a cost to do) and opt for this, I have a Verizon data cloud surrounding me at all times for $60/month which is less than I'm paying for the iPhone.

Has anyone tried this? Am I missing anything important or any other pros/cons I haven't considered?
posted by genial to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, there's been talk of people doing this using Ipods Touch and the MiFi. I don't see any huge flaws with this, other than the fact that people are waiting for the camera/mic equipped Touch that's supposed to come out in September.
posted by Oktober at 12:21 PM on July 22, 2009

Rumor has it the iPod Touch will soon have a built-in camera and microphone, essentially making it an iPhone without a SIM card
posted by chalbe at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2009

If you're not going to use it as a phone why not get rid of it, get an iPod Touch which will do # 1, 2 and 3. That way you're only paying the $60 for the Verizon data service?
posted by eatcake at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: The other thing you might wanna think about is the battery life on the Mifi. Now granted the iPhone doesn't have amazing battery life either but if you play with the settings you can make it last 12-15 hrs.
posted by chalbe at 12:25 PM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: It's worth noting that the Mifi does not actually have unlimited data (yes, yes, it says it does, it lies.) 5GB a month sounds like a lot, but that depends on how much skype traffic you've got going on. But yeah, it sounds pretty viable.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:48 PM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: If you're not going to use it as a phone why not get rid of it, get an iPod Touch
Good point, but I really love the camera and GPS. I guess there's a good possibility a 3Gs quality camera might go into one in September, but a GPS I'm not so sure about.

The other thing you might wanna think about is the battery life on the Mifi.
My thinking was that with only occasional use it would last roughly the same as my phone and I could charge via USB while at work. Certainly something to think about though.

It's worth noting that the Mifi does not actually have unlimited data
Oh trust me, I am fully aware of that. We use a Verizon Broadband card for home internet where only other option out in the sticks is Satellite (which we had before but I don't want to dwell on because I still get twitches thinking about how godawful it was). I'd be monitoring it but really with the iPhone it can be rather difficult to rack up 5GB in a month, then again I've been on Edge - EVDO might be more tempting. But at least I'm used to monitoring this kind of thing. Is there any data on what kind of bandwidth Skype calls use? I'd probably only being using it a few times a day (if that) for short calls.
posted by genial at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: Skype bandwidth info. This is (I assume) for a PC based skype which would be always-on. Your iPhonePod version only runs when you need it so that would be an upper ceiling.

Speaking of which, I don't know if you'd be able to receive calls unless you leave skype running all the time.
posted by chairface at 1:25 PM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: Also keep in mind that currently you can't accept phone calls over skype unless you're running the application. So if you're playing a game or whatever, right now, you won't get the call.

Skype could update their application with some kind of push support that tells you you have an incoming call, but that will (most likely) be unreliable. And of course you'll have to pay skype for the privilege of an incoming phone #, etc.
posted by TimeDoctor at 8:19 PM on July 22, 2009

I'm not sure if this is possible or not, but might it make more sense to tether your iphone to a conventional cellphone via bluetooth? If nothing else, I bet the jailbreakers have figured out how to do this...

The main problem with a mifi is that it's going to be a pretty power hungry piece of equipment. It's a neat device and a good idea, but even their published spec puts it at 4 hours of battery life with a single wifi client. My understanding is that bluetooth uses a lot less power, plus you'd still have real 911 capability.

You wouldn't even necessarily have to get the voice part of the phone plan -- you just need the simplest, least power-consuming device that can connect to Verizon's network and do bluetooth tethering.
posted by ph00dz at 6:45 AM on July 25, 2009

Response by poster: Some great advice here. Just wanted to update the thread with the solution I ended up going with for prosperity:

I did buy a Mifi and have been using it a few days now and absolutely love it. If you're in an area with only Edge service I cannot recommend it enough. After 1 year with my iPhone it has changed the way I use it simply by no longer feeling the dread of having to pull the browser up and wait so long for things to load. Battery life is manageable by the fact that I only use this when I'm out and about (which typically is not for more than a few hours). I have a USB car charger already because of the iPhone, and charge while I'm driving. At home it stays plugged in and I can still use it no matter where in the house I am.

For the transition to VOIP and a data-only cellphone I've made a few changes, some of which require having a jailbroken phone (I already had this). Everyone uses my Google Voice # for communication. Free texting is one major benefit to me with this. The previously $3 app, GV Mobile, which now resides in Cydia because Apple pulled it, will do text messaging through Google Voice for free. I use a program called Prowl to push text updates to my phone. I used this tutorial to set that up (and also got Gmail notifications as well).

Unlimited Skype out was $30 for the year. For Skype-In I route calls from Google Voice to Gizmo5 which will forward to a Skype user for free. See this tutorial for info on that. At work I can keep Skype open and receive calls that people are making to my cell phone. I'm still working with jailbroken apps like Backgrounder that allow programs to run in the background. This allows me to accept calls in Skype, however I currently get no notification and the Skype ringtone is very soft, almost to the point I can't hear it. I also don't get Caller ID through this, which isn't great but not a huge dealbreaker for me. All calls show up as "openskype" and a number. They do send a chat message with the number that is calling, but it's hard to go to the chat and see that when someone is actively calling you. Perhaps this might get changed in the future.

So far I'm happy but this is definitely not the setup for anyone but the extreme tech geek. I'm willing to push this thing to the limits and accept bugs and problems along the way. If anyone comes across this thread and wants advice feel free to mefimail me.
posted by genial at 7:39 AM on July 29, 2009

« Older Left Hand of...Photography?   |   Can I make Firefox 3.5 ignore my visits to certain... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.