Full-time Google Voice, for reals now, and my history with Sprint and T-Mobile

I’ll provide some history: I got Google Voice as soon as I got an invite in June 2009. I was on a grandfathered AT&T (AT&T Blue [pre-Cingular!]) plan, when those plans came with free text message receiving. I always got texts from friends, but used various online tools to text them back. (AT&T’s was the coolest, since it actually came from my number!)

Finally I had the ability to text, and in thread-format, too. I didn’t even care that it required being next to a computer, since that was already a requirement for me to send text messages. I instantly became on Google Voice full-time.

Fast forward a few years later – in April 2012, I decided to make use of the Sprint-GoogleVoice integration (released ~March 2011), and decided to use my Sprint number on Google Voice (I preferred my original number over my GV number anyways), allowing me to receive SMS and MMS on the same (my “primary”) number, though MMS would show up on the device and SMS would show up in Google Voice (note that there is an option to deliver SMS to the device, and with Sprint integration it would appear native [no phone-number translation] as well, but I preferred that to stay in the cloud.)

I actually got out of my Sprint contract in March 2012, and used that to sign another contract to get a Sprint Galaxy Nexus. At the time, I was considering a GSM Galaxy Nexus on T-Mobile, with T-Mobile’s $30/month prepaid plan (100 minutes, unlimited text and data throttled after 5GB). Also at the time, cheap deals for the Galaxy Nexus ($400-450) were showing up, and the GNex wasn’t in the Play Store yet – nor was Jelly Bean out yet.

I chose to stick with Sprint so that I could use the GV integration, and get MMS. However, I was already used to being unable to get MMS, so I don’t know why I didn’t just port my primary number into Google Voice and get it over with. I thought it would override my Google Voice number (which I also wanted to keep), but it turns out that I can actually have both numbers on the same account. I deeply regret choosing this route, and I deeply regret sticking with Sprint, as if the Sprint network wasn’t enough, the radios in the Galaxy Nexus were awful, and 3G performed much worse than my older Sprint phones. It would’ve also been nice to go GSM, and have a spare GSM phone around.

Back on topic – so I used my Sprint number with Google Voice (and kept the Google Voice number on the same account, for $20), for most of 2012, and some of 2013. I was like “ooh, I can participate in group MMS now!”. Guess what? No one used it.

I picked up a Nexus 4 in November 2012 and got the T-Mobile prepaid plan. I was immediately hooked to HSPA+ speeds, and even the quad-core CPU. Everything was amazingly fast. and of course, I was using it with Google Voice, such that both of my phones were, basically, endpoints to the same phone number.

I “double-fisted” phones for a while (about 6 months in total – Nov 2012 to May 2013.) Sprint’s LTE buildout was slow, though all the Sprint defenders will call it “fast”. However, in March 2013, T-Mobile provided the greatest surprise of all – San Jose was a launch city for LTE! I instantly had LTE everywhere. It was EVERYWHERE and it was FAST – the GSM standard LTE, not the stupid shitty slow-to-negotiate LTE that Sprint had with my Galaxy Nexus. I continued to use both phones until May 2013, where somehow I had a slip in T-Mobile data usage, and went all the way up to 4.99 of my 5 GB for that month. You get throttled to 2G/EDGE speeds afterwards, which is slower than Sprint 3G… and can hardly send IMs or check in to venues on foursquare.

Or at least I thought it was slower than Sprint 3G. Turns out that it was around the same awful speed in most places (around 100-200 kbps – ISDN, anyone?)

I figured that if Sprint couldn’t even save my bacon when T-Mobile was stuck on 2G/EDGE speeds, there was no point of having it around. I have enjoyed Sprint LTE here and there, but it’s definitely not everywhere it needs to be – yet in San Jose (even including Santa Clara/Sunnyvale, essentially the entire South Bay), T-Mobile LTE is really indeed everywhere, and coverage is growing quickly around the Bay Area.

I paid the ETF to leave Sprint, and only wish I did it earlier.

Now my friends got a bunch of iPhones – I told them to only get top-of-the-line Android phones – they didn’t listen, and suffered accordingly. But now, they’re all aware of group texting.. BUT they don’t know that it’s MMS. I’m now on a “fuck SMS/MMS, stop using the shitty protocol which also ties you down to a phone number and a single device” crusade – Google+ Hangouts and Facebook Messenger are the two awesome messaging applications of choice right now, each with their own pros and cons – and I’ll post more on that soon.


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