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How an Aging Sprint Device Can Reduce Your Android Phone Bill

By Patrick Nelson LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Jan 8, 2014 5:00 AM PT

In case you hadn't noticed while wandering the aisles of your local consumer electronics big-box retailer, there is an explosion of mobile virtual network operators hitting the marketplace.

How an Aging Sprint Device Can Reduce Your Android Phone Bill

MVNOs are telcos that buy capacity from major operators like T-Mobile or AT&T, for example, and sell it on to you. Walmart and América Móvil's Straight Talk calling product is an example.

Here's how it works: You buy a contract-free SIM card, drop it into an existing, unlocked GSM phone, and then top it up with 30-day expiring funds -- and repeat with a dollar amount each month, often US$40 or $45.

Savings can be significant over contract because you're not paying the operator for its investment in your phone, as you do with a major and its shiny, discounted hardware offerings. Instead, you bring your own device or pay full price for the phone up front.

A basic unlimited-calling monthly bill with some high-speed data from Straight Talk runs $45 each month. Compare that to $80 and up, at the minimum, from a major.

Dynamic Pricing

This is a fast-moving arena, and we are beginning to see some inventive concepts from these MVNOs. One such concept is dynamic pricing, where instead of a monthly fixed dollar amount, you only pay a maintenance charge of under $10 and then for wireless services used.

This is great for people who travel, buy local SIMs overseas and skip entire months in the U.S. -- like those in the military, for example. It's also good if you don't need unlimited minutes and can get by on less.

Dynamic pricing can reduce your phone bill even further than that if you BYOD on a GSM MVNO such as Straight Talk.

However, a drawback is that dynamic pricing is now available only on CDMA technology devices, including BYOD devices from Sprint, and not GSM BYOD devices like those from AT&T.

Sprint is a CDMA technology major that is reselling wireless to Canadian dynamic pricing MVNO Ting.

I have been using Ting, with its $6 maintenance charge, for the last few months in lieu of Sprint, and my bill has ranged from US$27.31 to just $10.17 when I was out of the country. On Sprint, I was paying $82 each month even if I didn't make a call.

Zact is another dynamic pricing MVNO.

Here's how to go about getting dynamic pricing with Ting using an old Android Sprint phone.

Step 1: Verify that your Sprint contract expiration date has passed.

You can do this by signing in to your Sprint account management Web page using a Web browser and clicking on View Contract Details to the right of the device pictured.

Tip: Allow the contract to expire before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2: Check to see if your BYOD device model is compatible with Ting.

The Sprint Samsung Epic 4G, Samsung Galaxy SII Epic 4G Touch, Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC EVO 4G, HTC EVO 4G LTE, HTC EVO 3D 4G, HTC EVO Shift, Motorola Photon 4G, Motorola Photon Q, LG Optimus S and LG Viper are known to work.

Tip: Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile phones won't work. The Sprint S4 and HTC One won't work.

Step 3: Find your device's Electronic Serial Number.

It's located on the back of the phone under the battery and can be called an "ESN" or "MEID."

Step 4: Confirm your actual device's eligibility.

Do this by entering the device's ESN/MEID number and your email address in the Ting BYOD Activate Your Used Device Web page and wait for the results to be emailed.

Step 5: Sign up for Ting service at the Ting website.

Step 6: Perform a carrier wipe on the phone.

Do this by dialing ##72786# and entering your Master Subsidy Lock, or MSL -- a 6-digit number emailed to you by Ting or obtained from Sprint.

Then press OK and allow the phone to reboot.

Step 7: Connect to the Internet using WiFi and perform a System, Profile and PRL Update.

To do this, touch the Settings icon in the app drawer and look for the System Update settings.

Tip: System Update may be found within About Phone, depending on Android version.

Step 8: Reboot the device and verify services are enabled by testing the phone.

Tip: Make any configuration changes in your Ting account dashboard. Porting your Sprint number will deactivate your existing Sprint plan. If you want a new number from Ting, request deactivation of your existing device from Sprint directly.

Want to Ask a Tech Question?

Is there a piece of tech you'd like to know how to operate properly? Is there a gadget that's got you confounded? Please send your tech questions to me, and I'll try to answer as many as possible in this column.

And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments!

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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