Blu Life One X 2016 Review

Posted: May 11, 2016

title

The Blu Life One X 2016 is the first device we have reviewed from Blu. To be honest, we weren’t expecting much from a phone with a $150 price tag, but were pleasantly surprised by the quality of this device. In fact, the Blu Life One X has ousted the Motorola Moto G as our recommendation for the best budget phone. If you are looking for a new phone but have less than $200 to spend, you can’t go wrong with the Life One X.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Great value
  • Bright 1080p display with accurate colors
  • Excellent battery life
  • Expandable storage
  • Unlocked
Cons
  • Not the latest Android OS
  • Camera suffers in low light and dynamic range is limited
  • Charges slowly
  • Only 2.4GHz Wi-Fi

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review

Posted: March 26, 2016

Samsung Galaxy S6

Every year we get a new smartphone from Samsung in the Galaxy S line with top notch specifications, a great display, and a good camera, but packaged in a plastic, cheap-looking body with a bloated and slow user-interface. This year Samsung has finally listened to the critics and redesigned the Galaxy S line to provide a well performing smartphone that looks good and isn't held back as much by its software.

Ting Review 2016 | In-Depth Analysis

Posted: March 23, 2016

Ting Mobile That Makes Sense

has a totally different approach to wireless service compared to other mobile carriers. Instead of charging a set amount each month for a "plan" there are simply tiered rates for different services. Ting charges you for what you actually use in three separate categories: minutes, texts, and data - everything else is free.

Have you already read the review and are back for the $25 Ting credit? If so, use this $25 promotional link immediately prior to purchasing or activating your first phone or SIM card on Ting to lock in the credit.

How to Switch Your Nexus 5 or 6 From CDMA to GSM Without a Factory Reset

Posted: February 14, 2015

Nexus 5

Recently I switched my Nexus 5 from Ting’s CDMA service to their new GSM service. Unfortunately it is not quite as easy as plugging in the GSM SIM card - a few settings need to be changed for everything to work properly. Most cell phone providers and even the forums I have read suggest doing a factory reset and wiping the entire device just to switch between CDMA and GSM. Although I am sure that works, it is really overkill and not required.

There are two main ways to switch back and forth. This first method is best for those who may want to switch from CDMA to GSM but want their current CDMA settings to remain intact. If you use this option, going from GSM back to CDMA is as simple as inserting the CDMA SIM card - the Nexus 5 or 6 will recognize it is back on CDMA and switch immediately. This assumes that you have two active numbers: a CDMA line and GSM line. If you want to switch from CDMA to GSM permanently, the second options is best as it resets all the carrier settings.

Follow these direction to switch from a CDMA number to a GSM number and SIM card.

  1. Go to Settings → More → Cellular networks → and change Preferred network type to “Global."
  2. Take out your CDMA SIM card and replace it with an active GSM SIM.
  3. A new menu should appear called Access Point Names within the Cellular networks menu.
  4. Select Access Point Names and select or enter the appropriate APN information.
  5. Now select the Network Operators menu and tap "Choose Automatically" which will register you on the GSM network.

GSM vs. CDMA Explained

Posted: January 28, 2015

Overview

Before we get into the details of each technology, let's get the acronyms out of the way. CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access and GSM is the acronym for Global System for Mobile Communications. Now you can forget them, because everyone just uses the acronyms anyway. If you were to look up the Wikipedia entries for GSM and CDMA, you would find that they are so technical that they are not very helpful for most people. The point of this article is to simplify and summarize the differences in the two technologies so that no matter what your level of expertise, you can understand what kind of phones you can buy and the benefits and disadvantages of each.

CDMA and GSM are like different digital languages

Both CDMA and GSM can be broadly described as mobile networking protocols that use different technologies to send information back and forth via radio waves. They are primarily used in mobile phones, but many tablets, laptops, or anything else connected to a mobile network will also use one of these technologies. CDMA and GSM are like different digital languages. GSM devices can only talk to and understand GSM equipment (primarily cell phone towers) and CDMA devices can only communicate with CDMA networks.

The component in the mobile phone that enables it to communicate through these technologies is generally referred to as the “radio,” as its purpose is to convert information being sent out into radio waves and to interpret radio waves coming back into something that can be understood by your device.

Which Mobile Providers use GSM vs. CDMA?

In the US, Sprint and Verizon use CDMA while AT&T and T-mobile use GSM. In the rest of the world, GSM is the standard with only infrequent pockets of CDMA.

GSM vs. CDMA: What You Need to Know
GSM CDMA
SIM Card: X
Unlocked Phones: X
3G Network Speed:
4G LTE Networks: Carriers use GSM standard for LTE
US Networks: AT&T and T-mobile Verizon and Sprint

How to Activate the LG Volt on Ting

Posted: December 29, 2014

UPDATE: New Boost Mobile and Sprint prepaid devices can no longer be activated on Ting. This is due to Sprint's new unlocking policy. When attempting activation you may receive the following message, "Sorry, this device can't be activated right now. Sprint says there's an unpaid balance associated with it."

We no longer recommend buying a Boost or Sprint prepaid phone unless you do so in a store where you can run the MEID on the box through Ting's MEID checker before purchase.

Sprint will not allow used prepaid phones (like the LG Volt) to be activated on Ting unless they have been active for over 12 months on the original provider (i.e. Boost or Sprint prepaid).

The best option for most people will be to use Ting's GSM network instead. For more information read our review of Ting's GSM and CDMA networks. The LG Volt will not work, but a large number of excellent and affordable phones are compatible with Ting's GSM network.

If you have had trouble activating a Boost or Sprint prepaid device you can let us know by voting here.


LG Volt on Ting

The LG Volt is available on Sprint prepaid, Boost, and Virgin Mobile for a retail price of $180. However, the actual cost has decreased significantly recently - at the time this article was published, the LG Volt was $60 on Amazon.

This post will show you how to activate the LG Volt on Ting. As explained in our previous posts on activating Boost or Sprint Prepaid phones, this device is not officially supported, but functions perfectly on Ting.

To provide a brief overview, this is device is for people who want a lot of features and great battery life but do not want to pay a premium. A good phone for comparison is the Motorola Moto G as it costs about the same. The LG Volt is not as well made as the Moto G and has a lower resolution screen, but offers a lot of additional features such LTE data, storage expansion through a microSD card slot, NFC, an IR remote, and a high capacity battery. These are features not often seen in phones that cost less than $100. If you are interested in other inexpensive Boost Mobile devices that can be activated on Ting, see the Moto G and Sharp AQUOS Crystal activation guides.

LG Volt Specifications
Display: 4.7 inch LCD with a resolution of 540 x 960
Operating System: Android 4.4.2 KitKat
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, 1.2GHz quad-core CPU
Storage: 8 GB, expandable up to 32 GB with a microSD card
RAM: 1 GB
Cameras: Rear: 8MP with flash; Front: 1.3MP
LTE: Sprint Spark tri-band LTE
Battery: Li-Ion 3000 mAh
Other: NFC, IR remote

I was able to get the Boost Mobile version of the LG Volt to activate perfectly on Ting. Voice, texting (SMS and MMS), and data including tri-band LTE work as intended. However, there is no mobile hotspot feature and third-party tethering and hotspot apps do not appear to function. Much like the Moto G, tethering or a mobile hotspot is not possible with this phone on the stock software.

Do you have concerns about activating the LG Volt or are currently having issues with it? Check out the FAQs section below for help.

Ting to Add Support for Unlocked GSM Devices

Posted: December 9, 2014

Ting has announced that in February 2015 they will launch a GSM service alongside their current CDMA offering from Sprint. Up to this point Ting has been strictly a Sprint mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) meaning their customers are using Sprint’s network and consequently only phones that work with Sprint are available on Ting. Sprint has also imposed onerous restrictions on new devices, blocking some completely for an entire year like current generation iPhones, or requiring other new devices to be purchased directly from Ting at full price.

With this announcement, many of the problems I had with Ting could soon be resolved. Being able to buy any unlocked GSM device and bring it to Ting simply by popping in a Ting SIM card will be a major improvement to the current system. People who have a phone that is compatible with T-mobile or AT&T should be able to switch simply by ordering a SIM card from Ting and activating their current device.

How to Use Google Hangouts For Free Wi-Fi Calls and Texts

Posted: November 22, 2014

Hangouts and Dialer
Learning how to use Google Hangouts to make and receive calls over Wi-Fi can save you money and make poor mobile signal inside buildings something you won't have to deal with again. There are three main situations where Wi-Fi calling is helpful:
  1. You use a mobile phone provider that charges overage fees for minutes and texts.
  2. You use a mobile service like Ting, that charges based on actual usage.
  3. You experience poor mobile signal quality in certain buildings, like your home or office, that have Wi-Fi available.

In order to use Wi-Fi calling on your phone there are a few steps to complete first that we will be learning about in this article:

  1. Get a Google Voice number and set it up with your mobile phone.
  2. Install Hangouts and set it up on your device.
  3. Use Hangouts to make and receive calls and texts.

For our international readers, please note that Google only provides Google Voice numbers to people in the United States. You must have a U.S. based phone number to get a Google Voice number.

Sharp AQUOS Crystal Review

Posted: November 4, 2014

Sharp AQUOS Crystal

The is a unique new phone offered exclusively on Sprint, Boost, and Virgin Mobile. It can also be activated on Ting. The near bezel-less design is the most striking thing about this device and to accomplish that Sharp has made some bold design choices: it has tiny bezels, no headset speaker, the front-facing camera is at the bottom of the device, and its screen is made of acrylic instead of glass.

For those of us in the United States, we do not often think of Sharp as phone manufacturer because their devices rarely make it here. However, Sharp is a Japanese electronics company that has been selling smartphones that are popular in Japan for quite some time. This new offering by Sprint in the US likely has much to do with Sprint’s new Japanese owner, Softbank, which has close ties with Sharp in Japan.

Before we go any further, we need to talk about the price. Off-contract the Sharp AQUOS Crystal is $240 from Sprint and only $150 from Boost and Virgin Mobile. It can be found at retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy for even less. That very low price will influence the way we look at and talk about this phone - it is not a flagship device and shouldn’t be judged by the same criteria as devices that cost much, much more. This review unit is the Boost Mobile variant, but my observations can be applied to the other variants as the differences are only in the back color and packaging.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Unique nearly bezel-less design
  • Excellent display quality
  • Very compact for a device with a 5” display
  • Expandable storage up to 128 GB with a microSD card
  • Good battery life
  • Low price of just $150 off-contract
Cons
  • Entire phone is made of plastic materials
  • Distortion/refraction from chamfered display edges
  • Backlight visible at certain angles
  • Only available on Sprint networks

How to Activate the Sharp AQUOS Crystal on Ting

Posted: October 15, 2014

Sharp AQUOS Crystal on Ting

UPDATE: New Boost Mobile and Sprint prepaid devices can no longer be activated on Ting. This is due to Sprint's new unlocking policy. When attempting activation you may receive the following message:

Sorry, this device can't be activated right now. Sprint says there's an unpaid balance associated with it.

We no longer recommend buying a Boost or Sprint prepaid phone unless you do so in a store where you can run the MEID on the box through Ting's MEID checker before purchase.

Sprint will not allow used prepaid phones to be activated on Ting unless they have been active for over 12 months on the original provider (i.e. Boost or Sprint prepaid).

The best option for most people will be to use Ting's GSM network instead. For more information read our review of Ting's GSM network. Another option is to purchase the Aquos Crystal directly from Ting - it will definitely activate and work as intended. If you are a new customer, you can receive a $25 discount by using this promotional link prior to purchasing it.

If you have had trouble activating a Boost or Sprint prepaid device you can let us know by voting here.


Sharp AQUOS Crystal on Ting

The Sharp AQUOS Crystal has just been released as a Sprint, Boost, and Virgin Mobile exclusive device with a retail cost of $149. To learn more about this device check out my full review. In this post, I wanted to go ahead and share how to activate the device on Ting, my mobile service provider. As I explained in the Ting Moto G and LG Volt activation guides, this is not an "officially" supported device, but functions well on Ting.

I was able to get the Boost Mobile version of the Sharp AQUOS Crystal to activate perfectly on Ting. Voice, texting (SMS and MMS), and data including tri-band LTE work as intended.

The Sharp AQUOS does not have built-in tethering or a mobile hotspot and the third party tethering apps I tried did not work. Much like the Moto G, tethering or a mobile hotspot is not possible with this phone on the stock software. Other people have also had success with the Sprint prepaid version - both should work fine on Ting.