Project Fi review, cell service from Google

IMG_20150625_215033669_HDRI received my Project Fi kit and a Nexus 6 about three weeks ago. I was placed on a list after getting in line the first day offered in April.

Project Fi is cell phone service by Google that is currently by invite only on one handset. the Nexus 6.  Fi combines the resources of first choice WiFi and two cellular networks (Sprint and T-mobile), automatically switching between whichever three networks has the best signal on the fly for voice and data. Simple billing of $20 unlimited talk/text, $10 per gig of cell data.  Unused data is refunded from each $10 increment. Fi easily transitions for use in 120 countries for often the same rate. Fi FAQ 

Project Fi review in short: Fi works and is a good value for a low price. Extremely simple and transparent billing, support is excellent.

fi1

Inside the crafty box with the rounded edges is three Googly colored boxes with goodies.

I received the Fi kit with a (surprise) back up battery, head phones and a high quality case for the Nexus 6 with “Fi” molded on the back.

You set up the porting information ahead of time via the Fi desktop website so when you sign on to the phone for the first time the port begins automatically. Complete porting can also be done from the Fi app on the Nexus 6.

Screenshot_2015-06-25-21-36-09

The support interface.

I was glad that I had an issue with the porting process as I wanted to try each of the support systems to see how the Google robots that people fear deal with an issue.

Surprise! Living, breathing people that are empowered to fix an issue.

The “phone” option for support: Put in a call back number, and it tells you the waiting time. Each time I tried it, it said one minute and a person called me back in one minute day or night.

After the call, you receive an email that summarizes your issue and you can reply if it was resolved. You receive an optional phone survey at the end of each call.

IMG_20150625_215033669_HDR

The Fi case for the Nexus 6

The “email” option for support: Uses a form and then email response like the phone summary.

There is a live chat on the desktop interface.

For some reason, a digit was getting dropped off my porting PIN during automated transfer from MVNO Ting.com, a phone company the Fi folks had never heard of.

Humans from both Google and Ting got on the phone, called each other, and forced computers to talk to each other.

Fixed: It ported immediately.

Fi is by invite, with one device offered. That is how you work out the kinks of things before broadening the availability. I like being part of any learning process. Support was an enjoyable, personable experience without the usually menu tiers of corporate phone support.

It is best to use your summary email after an initial call, rather than just cold cocking support with the same problem via phone. It compiles the issue and escalates it. Even if you use the phone for the first call, reply with the emails if the issue isn’t resolved.

Cell data works before porting: The cell data works right out of the box as soon as you boot up the Nexus 6 and activate with Project Fi. The porting process is secondary bringing your handset phone number voice and texting over to Project Fi.

Warning current Google Voice users: Think really hard about how you currently use Google Voice and consider how things might change so you can update which Gmail account hosts your GV number.

If you port your handset number into a primary Gmail account with a current Google Voice number, the GV number will be booted back out into the pool and you will lose it. 

Screenshot_2015-06-25-22-12-28-02-01

Fi Network appears at the top of the handset as the carrier, like it might say Verizon or AT&T

I have used my GV number for years to consolidate and synchronize all voice mail and text messaging between all devices (phones, desktop, tablets, Android, i OS)  with different handset numbers.

I had the option to use that number which was paired with my primary Gmail account or port in another number. I wanted to keep my handset number I have had for 15 years and my current Google voice number tied to my main Gmail account.

I opted to port my GV number into a secondary Gmail account I don’t use much (you can create a new one). And port my current Ting handset number into my Fi phone (my primary Gmail account).

In reality, the Fi phone is a Google Voice number and is part of that system, thus you can’t have two GV numbers on the same Gmail account.

Now I still consolidate all my numbers and voicemail and texting with the Hangouts app, only I have gone back to my handset number as my primary number because it also works with the Chrome extension on the desktop for texting and calls, which is tied to the email account you log into Chrome with.

If you have any money credit in your GV account that is porting over to the alternative account,  it will be transferred over into you project Fi account as an account credit. Now I can finally use the $10 Google gave me for signing up for Google Voice a zillion years ago.

Screenshot_2015-06-25-22-30-15-01

The Hangouts app with the three accounts running. My Fi handset number, my ported GV number into another Gmail account and my work enterprise Gmail account.

So now all my phone numbers are consolidated into the Hangouts app once again.

A notification pops up from any of the phone numbers in Hangouts when people text linking me to the text that came in. For a short time, i have to be aware of which number I am texting back out.

I am slowly working people back to my handset number on project Fi phone for texting because it works in my primary Gmail account and I can continue to match my text messages on the desktop with the Chrome extension.

Eventually, i will be back to where I was only one number across all devices and my old Google Voice number will be in the background in the event any forgotten contacts call/text me that way going forward I will get a notification.

Google is planning a big update to the hangouts app, if you don’t like the way it works now, there are probably some changes to improve it.

You can opt to receive texts in a regular text app by default on the Nexus 6, if you don’t like to complicate things, with multiple numbers across multiple devices.

Voicemail: Screenshot_2015-06-25-23-16-10 The voicemail is integrated into your recent call stream of the phone dialer. VM is transcribed into text with an option to hear it and redial so you don’t have to do anything to interface with VM like calling a number or pushing a VM button.

If you are signed into your hangouts app with the Project Fi/ Gmail account the voicemail will also appear there across your shared devices.

My work (Verizon) and personal phone (Fi) are mirrored devices for the most part. That gives me the redundancy of all three cell networks (Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) and hardware.

Network: Project Fi chooses between using T-Mobile,  Sprint and WiFi.  Whichever network gives the best signal for data and talking.

Software tries to get the transition into WiFi whenever possible. From a user perspective, you can’t tell anything is going on. It is seamless.

Calling can be done on WiFi and transition into cell. Calling  on WiFi can be really handy when you are a couple floors underground with no cell service, or another country with WiFi. The unlimited calling/text is a flat fee of $20.

Call quality has been good, testing throughout York County Pennsylvania.

Screenshot_2015-06-26-00-08-02

Yellow spot shows data used, green is tier chosen.

Data: You pay for what you use. $10 a gig and you are credited at the end of the month for the part of the gig you don’t use toward the next month. There are no overage fees. Picking a tier of data is mostly for budgeting purposes.

If you pick the minimum 1 gig, you will be credited for the amount of data not used below the 1 gig. So 100 mb of data would cost $1.

The idea with this phone is to use free Wifi spots as much as possible and software in the phone helps to sign into Wifi easier.

Screenshot_2015-06-26-00-24-02-01A Comcast/ xfinity subscriber for home internet, I tap into the nationwide network of hot spots that are tied to many routers using my Comcast password.

When you sign in once, the Nexus 6 will remember the sign-in when “xfinitywifi” appears and attempt to Screenshot_2015-06-27-14-12-34auto connect.

You can shut off WiFi and just use your $10/gig cell data, but it tends to want to connect to WiFi again. I really haven’t tried to force it not to connect, as I want it to connect.

Sometimes the Xfinity hot spots can be troublesome, but often most useful to avoid using cell data.

You can also use the phone as a hot spot using that same mobile data.

Within the Fi app you can:

  • Create a greeting for voicemail
  • Change privacy settings to allow retrieval of voicemail from another phone, set a pin. Opt to send voicemail to Google to improve transcription, opt in to allow Google to use your Customer Proprietary Network information to offer additional services. Generate a secret code that will create a security barrier from someone calling into Fi support as you.
  • Call forwarding allows you to forward a phone and texts to another device
  • Set data usage alerts
  • Opt in for news, updates, tips and tricks
  • Update credit card info
  • See billing
  • Access support
  • Access the Fi community, a closed group on Google+

You can service the entire account without leaving the mobile app.

Nexus 6: It’s BIG!

I’m a big fan of the Moto X phones, using two first generation and currently I use a second generation Moto X for work at ydr.com.

The Nexus 6 is mostly like a very large Moto X, adding some very sweet front facing stereo speakers making the Netflix experience on a phone like a small theater. These speakers are also excellent for GPS in the car and filling a room with a podcast.

if you use the supplied charger it’s designed to charge super fast, giving you 8 hours of run time in 15 minutes. The battery life has been very good.

Because it is a Nexus device (Running 5.1), it runs a pure version of Android without software extras third party manufactures dump on phones, so you will need to dive into the Play store to make the Nexus 6 your own.

The camera interface on the Moto X is one of my favorite automated camera modules. By flicking the smartphone from a certain position, you can open the camera and be ready to shoot, plus HDR and the ability to spot focus and adjust exposure.

The Nexus 6 uses the stock Google Camera (which has updated twice since I started using the phone). Although it does some fancy things like Photosphere, for the nuts and bolts of taking a quick photo, the Moto X interface is superior. It’s interesting that although Google owned Motorola when this was developed, that the useful Moto X options weren’t part of the Google Camera interface. It looks entirely different.

Android 5.1 allows for the use of deep third part manual control and shooting RAW files. If you are into tweaking, try a camera interface like Manual Camera.

You can manually control shutter speed, focus distance, ISO, white balance in infinite increments and output as RAW or jpg.

The Nexus 6 camera has mechanical stability control, so you can lower the ISO and shutter speed. Lower ISO means better quality if you can keep the image sharp.

The Moto X can shoot UHD 4k video and a 13 mp back sensor.

Screenshot_2015-06-26-19-30-25

Posted in A Smartphones | Leave a comment

Ongoing Project Fi review, Google cell phone service

Project Fi is cell phone service by Google that is currently by invite only on one handset. the Nexus 6.  Fi combines the resources of WiFi and two cellular networks (Sprint and T-mobile) and automatically switches between whichever three networks has the best signal on the fly for voice and data. Simple billing of $20 unlimited talk/text, $10 per gig of cell data, unused refunded, and that rate holds in 120 countries without other charges. Fi FAQ 

Ongoing questions answered: If you buy one gig of data and use less, you will be credited on your next bill for the difference. So 100 mb = $1 which is about what I was doing on my personal phone with ting so my bill would be $21

June 4

I applied for an invite April 22 and received it June 2. Google is trickling out invites and starting with one device for sale to start slow and controlled.

Ordering was super simple. The Nexus 6 was $500, with a choice of 24 payments without interest. There weren’t many choices, the ordering process is basic and just worked.

The unknown with Google is the level of human service. I ran through all the options: Tweet, chat and phone

I think Google has been listening to the fears about robotic Google algorithms controlling support of a cell phone service.

My tweet was answered quickly, even though I didn’t ask a question, with a question. And answered promptly when I replied.

The embedded chat support was quick with a one min wait.

Voice support (24/7) answered right away with a human! who was able to answer my question, no automated menu tree and, no hold time.

The Nexus 6 was $500 through the Google store (or 24 interest free payments), which is very reasonable for the size of the phone and level of unlocked hardware. If you cancel Project Fi, the phone is yours to keep (you have to pay it off under the payment plan).

I have been a fan of the most recent Motorola phones under Google leadership, using two Moto X (first gen) phones for two years. The Moto X  has been my favorite Android phone to date.

My guess is that I will be happy with a similar designed Motorola built Nexus 6. The Nexus 6 was born out of the relationship Google had with Motorola, before they sold the mobility part of Motorola to Lenovo.

Says shipping in 1 to 2 days, check back for updates of this Project Fi review.

Comment and view comments on facebook here 
Project Fi1

Posted in Project Fi - Google | Leave a comment

Periscope app presidential realness

Periscope app: Be interesting to watch this election, where candidates are unaware of the reach of a live audience via a smartphone. Live interviews and people’s interpretation from organic sources at any time.

“…presidential candidate Rand Paul stalked off in a huff in the middle of a Periscope interview with The Guardian on Friday, leaving correspondent Paul Lewis to theorize about the candidate’s sudden departure as the lights in the room went out .” – <a href=”http://mashable.com/2015/04/10/rand-paul-guardian-walks-out-periscope/?utm_cid=mash-com-Tw-main-link”>mashable</a>

Comment on facebook

Posted in A Smartphones | Leave a comment

CHROMEBOX RAM UPGRADE $38

chromebookWell that took 10 minutes I doubled the RAM on my $170 Chromebox for $38 from two to four gig.

Cheap or free computing is the best. Runs great.

The last of my regular computers blew a power supply and I get tired of being on mobile all day long and sometimes it’s just nice to have a huge screen and a physical keyboard tosmash on.

Nice link to show how and source to buy

Comment on facebook

Posted in Chrome operating system | Leave a comment

Updated: Odd stuff I hear on the police scanner – 911 calls

The sometimes sad, often odd and mostly amusing bits and pieces of life in York County, Pennsylvania tweeted while listening to York County Department of Emergency Services, 911 Communications from April 2010 to present while covering news for the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

The 800 tweets almost never made the paper or a web update, but are still a micro slice of life.

Originally posted to twitter @paulkuehnel

March 18
#911call: For a KIA stolen from Walmart parking lot…caller calls back, not stolen, she forgot she was driving different car.
March 17
#911call: Caller advises that he was attacked by his “baby mother’s son” It’s interesting to watch the evolution of defining family.
March 15
#911call: For an empty flipped over vehicle with alcohol bottles in the vehicle.
March 9
#911call: For a man constantly stealing and smashing light bulbs\
March 6
#911call: for a pothole. Police: “this isn’t a pothole, it’s a kettle”
March 8
#911call: Caller wants to know where he can get replacement for lost (loaded) magazine for his gun. Police: Tell him to Google it
March 3
#911call: For a vehicle throwing credit cards out the window
#911call: For two females, one punched the other, for cutting in front of her in a drive-through (call from each)
Feb 10
#911call: Caller advises they received 5 counterfeit $20
Feb 9
#911call: Caller advises that they were being rushed thu a drivethru, told driver not to rush them, then person rushing pulled out a gun.
Feb 8
#911call: for an older model Honda heading toward Dover with stolen “Popcorn and Dixie plates” from the Giant.
Feb 3
#911call: caller advises, got a call that she just won $5,000,000 from the Treasury Department
Continue reading “Updated: Odd stuff I hear on the police scanner – 911 calls” »

Posted in A collection of tweets: Odd stuff I hear on the police scanner, All posts from the start | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Meerkat as a journalism tool, Periscope

Meerkat shoots in a horizonal preview but people view in vertical , so make sure the image is loose and in the center.

Meerkat shoots in a horizonal preview but people view in vertical , so make sure the image is loose and in the center.

Meerkat may be broken before it gains any traction.

Meerkat may evolve into a great journalism tool, but Periscope may be the anointed live video streaming service by the Twitter gods over time.

Updated 03/14 @sadandbritish sent me this link:  Twitter Starts breaking Meerkat Features by Limiting Social Graph Access.

And so it goes with new ideas that depend entirely on someone else’s highways. Twitter has their own  idea for live streaming service, Periscope.

Twitter rolled out a similar service after services like Tout, that edits and posts short videos in social streams.

What makes Meerkat so cool, is live interactions with Twitter (what Twitter is breaking).

Notifications in iOS app tell you about streams in your twitter stream.

Notifications in iOS app tell you about streams in your twitter stream. Here Mashable has scheduled a live stream and I was notified and it appears in the app.

Meerkat is more a video live stream extension of Twitter than a stand-alone product.

You log in with your twitter account and the interaction within  Meerkat works with your social stream. Your twitter name is your Meerkat name.

  • Auto posting of live stream to your Twitter account when you start broadcasting.
  • Comments you leave on screen also post to Twitter.
  • You receive notifications from people you follow that they will be scheduling a live stream (see photo)
Stream viewed in iOS

Stream viewed in iOS. Note: you can see all the people watching your stream and comments show on the screen and are posted to your twitter feed in real-time as you broadcast.

Meerkat goes with the vertical video output, like Snapchat because they think people hold their smartphones vertical most of the time so we should just give up and do it too theme.

From the perspective of getting more junk on the internet and gaining followers, Meerkat is successful, but from a journalism perspective it presents new challenges. Throw shooting tight and horizontal panning though the preview frame out the window

Meerkat assumes that you will be far away from your subject, as most smartphone shooters are.

Stream stretched and cropped as viewed in web browsers.

Stream stretched and cropped as viewed in web browsers.

The viewfinder is horizontal while the output video vertical.

Make sure the subject is in the middle! and not too close or you will have your content cropped out into nonsense. If the subject moves, keep it in the center. It makes you almost want to mask out the viewfinder while using it.

When stream has ended you can save to camera roll.

When stream has ended you can save to camera roll.

The web view takes the horizontal preview, outputted into a vertical and stretches it back to a horizontal!. so the image can almost make no sense and is all morphed.

This is mostly a mobile platform.  

When the steam ends, the thumbnail window is back to horizontal. You can save a vertical video to your camera roll.

All of this doesn’t seem to matter to the growing popularity of the service, as it goes with the visual evolution.

You can only produce videos on iOS at the point but you can view live streams on both iOS and Android.

Time will tell if Camp Meerkat or Camp Periscope wins the live streaming Twitter battle. The Periscope kids hold most of the camp door keys at the moment.

Posted in A Smartphones | Leave a comment

Google wireless network moving closer

Google wireless network may only work (initially) with Nexus 6 smartphones. This would make sense if you are trying to perfect a WiFi + MVNO carrier, to start with one device, a pure Android phone to make sure it works. But if the price is right! this would most likely appeal to Android innovators first anyway.

If it is anything like Republic Wireless which starts at a $5 WiFi only plan,the cost could easily outweigh the limitations.

It may launch later in March . bgr.com

Posted in A Smartphones | Leave a comment

Tout Android thumbnail pick, gain loss iOS

tout1Tout, a real-time video publishing platform,  updated the Android app with the ability to update thumbnails.

In one way, it is a better method than on iOS in that you can set the thumbnail before you upload the video. On iOS the video auto publishes with a random often not so great thumbnail. Then when you have time you can go back into the app and update it.

You choose the thumbnail from your video tout2timeline or a still from your gallery on the phone, another Android only feature.

On the other hand you can’t update the thumbnail for videos uploaded though the web interface or change the thumbnail once the video is uploaded from the Android app, which you can do on iOS.

But it is an ok trade off for quick publishing. I would rather know the video has the right thumbnail before I upload it, rather than auto publishing with an almost always poor thumbnail selection and getting back to it later after it has had its 15 minutes of fame.

Start editing the thumbnail in the Android app of Tout by clicking on the picture icon in the caption edit field after your clips have been trimmed and placed in order.

Posted in A Smartphones | Leave a comment

Android, Gmail merging contacts tool

mergeA handy Android, Gmail merging contacts tool.

You have had a Gmail account since 2004, merged earlier email contacts maybe rolled over a list of phone contacts since 1997…  It’s time to clean house.

This easy tool that pulls the contact list out of Gmail and on it’s own page allowing you to do maintenance tasks, specifically merge contacts.

Log into your Gmail account on a web browser and then  contacts.google.com/preview into a new tab.

merge1I condensed 75 contacts with sometimes 3 or 4 entries for the same person. It will compact all the fields into one new contact.

Since the contacts on your Android phone are cloud based off of Gmail, that list updates automatically.

Posted in A Smartphones | Leave a comment

Net neutrality reminder from Comcast

This is what you don’t want to see from a provider like Comcast that has over half of US broadband customers arstechnica.com

This is why net neutrality is important and should especially be for journalists working in a very mature monopolized market with declining compensation, searching for new ways to survive.

The internet should be one big open pipe and regulated like a utility.

It would be absurd if your gas company could cut off your supply if you didn’t buy a specific brand water heater, or the water company could restrict water if you wanted to use a Delta faucet in your sink instead of a Moen. That is why we need net neutrality.

Comcast: “business terms had not yet been agreed upon.”

“Comcast customers that want to access HBO Go from a PlayStation 4 are hitting a roadblock, the site reported. Other ISPs are serving HBO Go just fine.”

Posted in A Smartphones | Leave a comment