Despite getting some nifty Sprint discounts, I’ve officially moved away from the 2 year contract, subsidized phone system and over to the world of MVNO. I had been not-so-patiently waiting for the Nexus 5 to be released so I could also obliterate another long held irritant, the carrier / manufacturer bastardization of Android. Also, Sprint doesn’t allow you to unlock a phone to take with you to another carrier so the decision was pretty easy. Side note: my old Motorola Photon will still live on thanks to the multimedia dock as a Netflix player for the downstairs TV.
In terms of selecting a MVNO, the choice narrowed down to StraightTalk and NET10, both owned by Tracfone. StraightTalk seems to have more customers, or at least people I know using it, but NET10 has the potential to lower the bill down to $85 for unlimited talk, text, and data for 2 phones when you are enrolled for auto payment, whereas StraightTalk is $90. I’m not sure if there will be little fees here and there that negates this whopping $5 savings, but I figured I’d give it a shot and see how things go. It’s not super intuitive from the website the order of operations needed to get from a Sprint customer to a NET10 customer who wants to bring their own new phone, and transfer their existing cell number. Ultimately, all I needed to do was order a micro SIM for the Nexus 5 and select which network I wanted behind the scenes (AT&T or T-Mobile). Since AT&T has better coverage I chose an AT&T micro SIM and added 1 month of service. Later I realized that I should have just got the micro SIM and then signed up for auto payment during the activation process to save an extra $5 the first month. In the mail I received the SIM, an activation card with the instructions which added clarity to the situation, and my airtime card for getting my first month of service. The activation process was fairly straightforward, although there was some ambiguity when requesting information from our old carrier since we had 2 phones on the account. For instance, do you want my SSN or the SSN number of the primary account holder? At the end of the activation I was provided with the Assess Point Names (APN) needed for LTE data speeds (Sprint is just now finally rolling out 4G in my area and it was spotty at best). Much to my surprise, my old number transferred to NET10 in like 15 minutes. Kudos to NET10 AND Sprint for making that transition so smooth. I’ve grown accustom to carriers jerking you around when porting numbers that I just assumed there was going to be some shenanigans. The only real gotcha I encountered is the APN provided at the end of the activation wizard did not work. I then went back to my activation card I received in the mail and instead went to the APN link provided and it gave a totally different set of settings to add to my phone. Once I did that and rebooted, I was getting LTE data (10 mb down, 4.5 mb up).
As for the Nexus 5 and KitKat, it’s been a joy to use, the UI is buttery smooth. I’m not a screen / camera hardware junkie (I’m more concerned about CPU / memory performance) so I don’t get all concerned about pixel density or extreme details over the camera. From my untrained eye, the graphics seem top notch and vibrant and the camera is already a marked improvement over my last phone with plenty of features I’ll probably never use. In particular, the image stabilization really helps prevent blurry pictures. The biggest bug I’ve noticed so far is that both my work and home WiFi didn’t work initially. My WiFi settings ported over from my Google account, and when I would attempt to connect the first time I would bomb out (show “connecting”, but ultimately fail). Each time, I would remove the WiFi network, add back in, and then reboot the phone and WiFi would be working, so hopefully I don’t have to do this for every WiFi connection. The phone feels super light in my hand and I’ve had to make some adjustments because I’ve almost had it flip out of my hand due to it being lighter than my old phone. I had also grown use to the superior curved and beveled edges of my old phone which made it more comfortable to grip. My old phone was running Gingerbread so in terms of a technology leap KitKat is a massive upgrade. I’ve used Jelly Bean on my tablet so the differences are more subtle there, but I look forward to familiarizing myself with all the new features. I’m already a regular Google Now user.
In short Nexus 5…good, KitKat…good, NET10…good so far