Jamie Starke bio photo

Jamie Starke

I develop for my career, but I also develop for fun, and whenever I think it can solve a problem I'm having. This has lead me to create side projects, such as Rental Map and BusTimes, among others.

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Overview

My Story

The first cellphone I ever owned was when I was 16. I used to make plenty of phone calls. I’d chat all night. Then text messages became the big thing. My value pack included hundreds of text messages, and believe me, I used them.

I purchased my first smart phone when the iPhone 3G came to Canada. Then the iPhone 4 came out. With the advent of FaceTime, why would I ever call my folks, or my in-laws, when I could talk to them, face-to-face. If I needed to text someone on an iPhone, I’d would send them an iMessage.

Oh how things changed. I started using way more data. As more and more of the things I did went over data, my text and voice calling went down. Way down. it got to the point that my last year, I hadn’t crossed 100 minutes in a month. Not daytime minutes, minutes.

Over time I really started to question the value I was getting from my voice plan. I was paying $20 a month, plus a $12 value pack, plus… Just for the voice, text, and voicemail portion of my plan. In the end, I was paying about $40/month for the voice and text portion of my plan.

At first, I was questioning the value of having Call ID when no one was calling. Then I moved, and the cell reception in my place really went downhill. Before I wasn’t making many calls, but in the new place, the phone might not even ring even when someone was calling. I found ways of getting my (rare) calls over data, and my voice usage went down further. I was finally ready to drop my voice plan all together. As I was around WiFi most of the time, I only needed 3G Data when I was between home and work, or out and about.

My voice usage over time, showing that my last year on a voice plan, I never crossed 100 minutes in a month.
My data usage over time, showing that as my voice usage was decreasing, my data usage was trending upward, but rarely crossed 1 GB.

All of the big carriers have tablet plans, and the way I could see it, using a tablet and going data only could actually save me a ton of money. My Cell plan at the time was around $80/month, and about $40 of that was voice and text. I figured if I went pure data, I could probably find service to drop that $40 to about $10.

The Voice Alternatives: Phone Apps

If you’re looking to go Data only, there are a number of apps you might find useful out there.

Service Pros Cons
Google Hangouts
  • You can place calls to any number Canada or the US for free
  • Free picture and text messaging with other Google hangouts users
  • Free Video calls with other Google Hangouts
  • iOS, Android and Desktop
  • Outgoing calls come from a weird Google number
  • No Incoming calls (at least in Canada)
Text+
  • Cheap rates to Canada and US Numbers
  • Free Calling with Text+ Members
  • Free text messaging
  • iOS, Android and Windows Phone
  • Number might expire if you don't use it for a few weeks
  • No Desktop Support
FaceTime
  • Free Voice and Video calls to other FaceTime users
  • Support for iOS and Mac only
iMessage
  • Free Text and Picture messages to other iMessage users
  • Only works with other iOS users
  • Requires standard text messages to message non-iOS users
  • Support for iOS and Mac Only
Skype
  • Free messaging or video calls to other Skype users
  • Cheap calling to a number of countries and cities
  • iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Desktop
  • Canadian numbers not available for incoming calls
Fongo
  • Free phone calls to Select Canadian cities
  • Cheap Text messaging plans
  • iOS and Android Support
  • Limited selection of Canadian Phone numbers
  • No Desktop Support
My Phone App (in progress)
  • Phone numbers available for all Canada and US regions
  • Cheap Calling and Texting
  • Pay for what you use
  • Android support
  • No iOS or Desktop support (yet)
  • Paid service

My Phone App

As I noted above, I’ve been working on a phone app to take advantage the cheap online telephony services. I’ve been using my app for text messaging for the last year, and I’ve been forwarding my phone number to my Fongo app, until I get around to completing the Voice functionality. The big advantage from my point of view is that I only have to pay for what I actually use.

If you’re interested in potentially taking advantage of my app as well, add yourself to the mailing list, and I’ll let you know as more information becomes available.

My next post: Finding a data plan

In my next post I’ll be sharing some advice on how to find the best Canadian Data plan.

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