bitpim

Selecting the LG VX4400 mobile phone

by Michael Alderete on 1/5/2004

When choosing which of the dozen mobile phones offered by Verizon that we should get as our new phone, I spent (too?) much time researching the issue. I had a few criteria that were important:

  • Flip phone (or Rochelle’s purse dials randomly)
  • Can connect to my Mac OS X system (Windows-only not acceptable)
  • Tri-mode (digital and analog)
  • Customizable polyphonic ringtones

Several phones matched enough criteria to merit consideration. The LG VX4400, Motorola T730, and Samsung SCH-a530s all seemed fairly equivalent in most of their features. The LG VX6000 had a camera and a groovy OEL screen, but no analog capability, plus it was the most expensive. The LG VX3100 was the cheapest phone (by far), smaller, and had better battery life, but was B&W instead of color, and didn’t have analog or customizable ringtones.

In the end, it came down to the VX4400 and the Motorola. The LG had slightly better customer ratings, but the Motorola was on Apple’s list of iSync-compatible phones.

What swayed me to the LG was the vibrant communities of owners/users I came across, and an Open Source data synchronization utility called BitPim, which only worked with the VX4400, and had just recently been made to work on Mac OS X. While BitPim isn’t as polished or usable as iSync, it does one thing iSync does not: load custom ringtones and wallpapers onto the phone.

So far I’m pretty happy with the phone. Reception has been great, especially outside our house (which is a mobile phone dead zone). The form factor is excellent when in use, but a little big to carry around (I still love my Nokia 8860 best for the form factor; truly, an amazing phone that 4 years later has not been exceeded in that area).

And BitPim, while not pretty, was easy to install and connect to the phone, and has enabled me to download a great collection of ringtones (things that sound like a phone ringing, not rediculous classical themes and minuets), and a few custom graphics for visual ringers.

I still need to pick out a couple good games and use Get It Now to download them to the phone, so that when I’m 45 minutes early to a movie (I like to get a good seat), I have a distraction in my pocket that I can play with in public. Ahem.

What’s funny and gratifying is that Consumer Reports just this month released their latest reviews of mobile service providers, plans, and phones (subscription required to view). They liked Verizon best for the providers (unless you live-and-die by Push-to-Talk, then go Nextel), and the highly rated LG VX4400 was one of three “quick picks” that they selected as recommended phones for Verizon users (the LG VX6000 was another, and too expensive for us; the last, the Motorola 60p, wasn’t offered when we signed up). I would bet that the folks at Consumer Reports did even more research than I did!

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On the portability of numbers

by Michael Alderete on 12/29/2003

Rochelle and I recently tested the early waters on mobile phone number portability, by switching our mobile phones from AT&T Wireless to Verizon Wireless while keeping our existing mobile numbers, in the third week that it was possible to port the numbers.

We wanted to switch for a variety of reasons:

  1. My phone (using AT&T’s GSM service) works well everywhere except in our house. According to the research I did, for a variety of reasons Verizon has the best coverage in the Bay Area and nationwide.
  2. Rochelle’s old (and free) “stick-style” phone keeps dialing me from her purse. A new clamshell design should fix that.
  3. Rochelle’s plan was killing us when she overflowed her minutes or roamed, which happened every other month.
  4. Our old plans were old, and not getting us the features or minutes that were available today.
  5. Rochelle’s company switched their preferred wireless provider to Verizon, and Verizon was offering killer discounts on plans and new phones.
  6. OK, we admit it, we just wanted to get polyphonic ringtones.

I did almost a week of research, inputting our old bills into a spreadsheet to review our historical usage patterns, comparing different carriers’ available service plans, learning more about mobile phone technologies (e.g., TDMA vs. CDMA, 800MHz vs. 1900MHz, etc.), finding the right phone, finding software for the right phone that would connect it with my Mac, etc.

In the end, Verizon having an arrangement with Gap, plus the ringing endorsements and explanations of technical superiority, made it impossible not to go with Verizon. Picking phones was a little harder, but after narrowing the options to three phones and Googling around for reviews and other info, it became clear that the LG VX4400 was the way to go for us. I’ll write more about our phone selection in another post.

Once the decisions were made, Verizon’s corporate rep made it incredibly easy to place the order and get the ball rolling. During the order process he was very careful to caution us that, because of the very early nature of number portability, it could take between 2 hours and a week for our numbers to completely transfer from our old carrier.

It turned out that AT&T wasn’t happy with our decision to switch, and our phones were deactivated immediately after they were notified we were transferring to Verizon. Since this was a few days before we got our new phones, let alone activated them and the number transfer, it seemed a little harsh, but making do without mobile phones for a couple days wasn’t a big deal.

In the end, the number transfers were anti-climactic. When the phones arrived I charged them for a few hours, and then followed the two-step procedure to activate them. Instead of it taking 2 hours or a week, the phones immediately came up with our old numbers. Yay Verizon!

So far we’re pretty happy with the new service and phones. I still don’t get perfect reception in the house, especially not in the computer room, but the phone is definitely usable in what is apparently a very tough environment for mobile service. After hours of “dicking around” (Rochelle’s term for it) with BitPim, the phone sync software, I managed to get our contacts copied from my computer to my phone, along with a bunch of custom ringtones and wallpapers.

Those poly ringtones make it all worthwhile.

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