Cut the Cellular Cord with Wi-Fi Calling

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Why is it films set in dark dystopian futures are always beset with fascist governments, evil multinational corporations, or tech firms that foolishly program indestructible robots? Shouldn't the heroes of these films be battling the real oppressors of modern life like student loan officers, the I.R.S. (please don't audit me for this column), or cable companies? These are the institutions that hold society over a barrel and beat us into submission. Now normally I would include cellular service providers in that list, but I'm starting to feel their days of tyranny are coming to a close. Why? Because technology like Google's Project Fi are slowly starting to rip apart their business model.

Cellular service providers aren’t necessarily evil, but they certain are vampiric. Whether you’re talking Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or any of the also rans, they’ve all got their fangs plunged deep into our collective cash arteries. Instead of simply paying your cellular bill this month, try looking at all the ways these contracts bleed you dry. They hit you with voice charges, data charges, premium data charges, roaming charges, equipment protection, and if you’re leasing a phone instead of buying it outright you could be paying for that long after your contract ends. Cellular service executives must be some of the fattest cats on wall street with all the different means to line their pockets.

Thankfully there are ways to purge yourself of your monthly cell phone bill. As much as we like to nitpick the little issues we all have with our smart phones, they’re actually amazingly complex and powerful computers. For decades telephones were nothing more than a microphone and speaker attached to telephone line and to make them work you needed to the services of a telephone company like MCI or AT&T. The dirty little secret is today’s smartphones don’t need cellular plans at all. If you let your cell phone plans lapse you’ll still have a microphone, a speaker, and a web-enabled device that can send and receive messages via Wi-Fi.

Through the beauty of Wi-Fi there are an incredible amount of services that allow you make voice or video calls. There’s Skype, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, Facebook, Facetime, and that’s only the big boys, and the best part is all of these services Wi-Fi voice or video calls for free. Think of all the places you run into wifi; your house, your office, the grocery store, department store, coffee shops, libraries, the bank, even some cars are starting to come with wifi as a standard option. If you’re brave enough to drop your cell phone plan and go the Wi-Fi route all of these locations are your personal phone booth.

Of course for many cutting the cellular cord cuts means cutting off emergency calls and constant connection to the outside world. Fear not, for those on the fence there’s Google’s Project Fi. The lure of contract free cell service has always seemed alluring but too costly to take advantage of. Not with Project Fi users piggy bounce automatically between Wi-Fi, Sprint, and T-Mobile’s network for signal strength and all for dirt cheap. All plans start at $20 base service, plus $10 for every gig of data used, and since it’s contract free users can dump the plan come the end of the month if they are missing the comfort of a cellular contract.

Sadly, Project Fi can only works with Google’s Nexus line of phones at the moment and you need an invite to join, but think of the implications. Instead of spending over $100 a month with Verizon, wouldn’t you rather spend $30 with Google?

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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