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Written By: Gary on November 2, 2011 No Comment

Having a phone that works internationally is great in case of an emergency. The problem is that when you’re in another country calls are $2.29 to and from the United States, even if you don’t answer the phone, you’re billed for as long as it rings. I found this out a few trips ago, I only avoided the charges when I could show my chat transcript that indicated I was trying to disable everything and not pay anything.

att-logo.jpgDisclaimer: The tips below are not for someone who wants to make a lot of calls and be reachable at all times, they’re for the person who can wait until later to return the calls. Also, I do not work for AT&T, this is how I do it and it appears to work for me, billing terms may change. You are responsible for verifying that everything works this way for your account! None of this requires any hacking or jail breaking to do these things, I have a free Google Voice account set up (it’s sort of like Skype) and it’s set to forward my phone calls to my cell number.

Texting – On AT&T I receive texts internationally for free, I can send back to the United States for 50 cents (I’ve never tried to send from another country to the country I’m in, I’ll check that next trip). If I want to reply to a text it’s 50 cents but if I want to send a photo with the text, I believe it starts to use data and you’ll be billed for it (probably the same applies if someone sends you a photo). If I need to text someone in the US, I pay the 50 cents or I find WiFi location and use Google Voice to send and receive texts (it’s like a chat at this point), I can use the iPhone App or the Google web site. If I miss a sent Google Voice text message, it forwards it to my e-mail (so I always tell people to initiate a chat via my actual cell phone number).

Phone calls – Before I even leave the US, I turn off my 3g data and forward my AT&T calls to Google Voice (I do this from the iPhone settings), so my calls never even get sent out of the country. Google Voice is smart enough to not forward it back to my cell if someone calls, it just dumps them into GV voice mail. This way I can carry a working phone with me and if I have an emergency I can make a call.

google-voice.jpgIf someone calls, GV will e-mail and text me the message (with text recognition transcription) so I know they called and if it’s a good transcription, I even know the topic. Then I can decide if I need to work my way to somewhere with WiFi or make a $2.29 a minute call on my phone. Otherwise, I just check the voicemail the next time I’m on the computer or have Wifi on my iPhone or computer (with Skype or GV). From outside the country to call the United States or Canada, GV charges 2 cents plus a penny a minute (I pay Skype $3 a month for unlimited calling to the US from anywhere).

Data – AT&T significantly dropped their international roaming data plan charges this past summer, I might give a small package a try on my next trip. Don’t forget Onavo can save you money on your data plan.

Written By: Gary on May 19, 2010 One Comment

Throughout life, even before cell phones and even before call waiting, I’ve called people on the phone sometimes initiating (but sometimes returning a call) and they don’t answer so I leave (or not leave) a message. I then move on with my day: I hop in the shower, go to work, I start some laundry, go for a bike ride or I might have even placed the call before walking into a meeting of some sort (it’s not like I’m calling people at 4:59 on a business day).

Cell Phone Etiquette: Observations from a Mom Michelle CiminoI can’t tell you the number of times I get a call back within moments and, because I’m not there any more, I can’t take the call so I end up with a message that says “why aren’t you there?”. In most of these cases I have no reason to believe they’ll be calling me back in a few minutes, I have no idea why they didn’t take my call. In a few cases, I’ve even gotten a “I don’t like that you aren’t then when I call you right back!”. I’m not on a tether, I’ve committed no crime…

Isn’t the real question,
“Where were they when I called?”?

If I don’t know you’re calling me back soon, why would I be sitting by the phone? They weren’t sitting by the phone, right? I could be there for hours and still be unavailable when you finally call. Especially these days, many people have call waiting, if they needed to click over just to say “I’ll call you back in 5, unless it’s important”, or they could text back with out even interrupting their call (although I’d prefer “I’ll be done in an hour” compared to “what do you want?”). The other problem is when someone does answer when already on a call, they say they’ll call you back in 5 minutes (or an hour) and triple the time has past. How long do you wait before leaving or calling back? If you leave, are you in trouble because they said they would call?

I’m not a big fan of people clicking over for every incoming call, so if I’m expecting a call I’ll tell a person I’m talking to (at the start of the conversation), “I do need to take a very quick call from so-and-so” or “I’m on my way to meet someone, so if they call I need to take it for a minute”. Otherwise I generally ignore call waiting. Although, when doing a job search, I’m apt to take unknown callers when from area codes of where I’m applying.

Related sidebar: I’ve noticed times that when I don’t leave a message, I think I’m more likely to get a call back when I don’t leave one! But then it doesn’t mean they played the actual message (if I left one) that might have some useful info like “I’m running late, I’m hopping into the shower and I’ll be on my way”.

Written By: Gary on January 8, 2009 No Comment

So I found this web site for Calling America that lets you make free phone calls to the United States. It seems to be fully supported by advertisements on the screen. You just type in the number and then you get a pop-up asking if it can use your microphone. You also have to wait 10-seconds before it dials (time to read the ads).

Not the best quality, but if you’re over your minutes it’ll work. My most likely use is when I’ve misplaced my cell phone, since it’s my only phone I don’t have a way to call it and have it ring…

I’ve tried a few calls on it so go check it out. You’re limited if you don’t sign up for their free service (numbers of calls and time length).

Written By: Gary on August 15, 2007 2 Comments

So Justine from TastyBlogSnack.com got her detailed phone bill from AT&T for her new iPhone. They have detailed billing and she had about 30,000 text messages last month. It cost them $7.12 to mail her the bill in a box.

Insane that her bill is that long, but it’s also insane that iJustine does a 1,000 messages a day! Of course she has the unlimited plan!

I’ve never imbedded from “revver” before, in case it doesn’t work here’s the YouTube link and here’s her original post about it. I heard her talking about it on MacBreak Weekly #53 with Leo LaPorte today (but I had no idea she was SO cute)…

Written By: Gary on February 4, 2007 No Comment

It’s the Linksys CIT200 iPhone and works with Skype and you’d might not even realize it was a real phone. It looks more like a generic Nokia cell phone than a home phone and it works great. Actually, the one thing that makes it “not normal” (which doesn’t bother me as much as others on-line) is if you are manually dialing you need to dial the “+1” before all calls, to me it’s slightly silly, you should be able to configure it to have a default country (and area) code.

So I really like my iPhone.You can see all the people you have on your Skype list on the display of the phone so you just scroll down and pick who you want to call. I’ve wandered all over the condo and it’s clear everywhere (I’m on the 3rd/4th floor and it’s clear on the first level too!). It’s got a headset jack on it, a great speaker phone and supports call waiting. From the USB base the plugs into the computer it even has a button to press so you can page the phone so you can’t misplace it. You do need to route the audio on the computer so it properly goes to the phone (Skype has audio settings but it seems like the computer overrides them).I initially set up Skype when I dropped my land-line phone. I wanted a way to make phone calls in case I forgot my phone somewhere (or it broke) and wanted an easy backup. Plus when I’m out of the country if I have interent access, I can make phone-calls to the US very inexpensively (2.1 cents a minute).

If you use Skype it’s a must have, if you don’t have Skype and you need an extra phone line in the house get Skype and pay for unlimited outgoing calls to land-lines in the US and Canada for $30 a year. If you don’t get a phone like this you just use a headset on the computer.

What don’t I like about my iPhone? It’s got a crappy wallpaper background and while they have several to choose from, none are a plain background so it’s always hard to read the screen. The “+1” is a minor annoyance, but since I really don’t use it that much, it’s okay. The audio configuration is mildly annoying, I’m hoping an update fixes that (update: I did just install the Jan 22, 2007 update and the audio confusion seems better, we’ll see how it feels after a few days).

Written By: Gary on January 21, 2007 No Comment

So I haven’t said much about the iPhone since it was announce but what’s to say it looks awesome!!! It’s a widescreen video iPod with an internet browser, e-mail and it makes phone calls. The downside (IMHO) is it’s only on Cingular and I don’t think the network the iPhone is using is as fast as the EVDO speed networks.

IphonehandThe negative I’ve seen some reviewers mention is that it only accepts music from the iTunes music store. Which isn’t true, it only accepts protected music from the iTunes music store. And it’s important to remember all other players don’t allow music from the iTunes music store, I see that as a problem. You can buy from some (smaller) music sites and put your CDs on it. FYI, the iTunes music store sells 58 songs a second (5 million a day) that makes them the fourth largest retailer of music (Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target are above them) then just pulled ahead of Amazon. The iTunes and iPod experience makes it so pleasant to use I don’t think most people care if you can only use one store to buy (protected) music from…On a side note there are rumors that Apple is making a huge advertising announcement during the SuperBowl. The rumor is that they are going to start carrying the Beatles CDs, I just don’t see that is a major announcement, but we’ll see. It’s interesting since Apple Records (the Beatle’s label) has sued Apple more than a few times for infringing on their trademark but I just don’t see it as that huge of a deal. I see them maybe running some new AppleTV ads and maybe some iPhone ads or maybe a new widescreen iPod ad, who knows, the SuperBowl is where they started their ad blitz for the Macintosh in 1984.

Written By: Gary on April 27, 2005 One Comment

It’s amazing how great your day can be going and one stupid phone conversation can ruin it….


No bad news or anything, just stupid stuff…

Written By: Gary on February 12, 2005 No Comment

So I increased my minutes on my cell phone. The intent was to give up my landline and save $$$.

So I’m having issues giving up my phone number. I’ve considered something like Packet8 (VOIP) Voice Over IP (19.95 a month, only 3% tax, no other fees) for some phone over my high speed internet and while they’ll give me unlimited calls and let me keep my current number it’s kind of a wash dollar-wise after adding the extra minutes to my cell. I guess if it sounds great I could lower my cell plan but I’m just not sure.

I’d probably be happy with even just switching my phone to a voice mail service or something internet related (like e-fax, at least they used to have voice mail) like that. If I could keep my number somehow just for a little while so I don’t have to lose it if I change my mind.

Is anyone out there doing something like this? Any suggestions?


FYI: My phone bill was about $48-$52 a month ($19.95, $2-$4 in long distance and a lot of taxes). So I added more cell minutes for $25 so it’s gotta be cheap or good enough so I can lower the cell minutes. If I added this VOIP service at $20 a month, I’m really only saving about $5 a month, not a reason to sacrifice anything.

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