It’s not that our three-year-old Samsung Galaxy S3 isn’t a great phone, it is. But with Project Fi, we got unlimited talking and text for $20 a month. We only pay for the data we use, an extra $10 for each gigabyte, and they reimburse us for what we don’t use. The catch is, to be a Fi user, you have to buy a new phone, either the $199 Nexus 5x, the Nexus 6 (around $300 on eBay) or the $499 Nexus 6p, made by Huawei, (pronounced “wa-way.”) Surprisingly, Huawei is the largest telecommunications company in the world.
We went for the top of the line, and had it in mind to sell our old Galaxy S3 on eBay to defray the cost. It came in the mail and it was beautiful. The service plan combines T-Mobile, Sprint and Wi-Fi into a virtual network.
The Nexus 6p is about an inch longer than our old phone and a little wider. It’s sometimes called a “phablet,” for phone/tablet. The large screen makes it easier to type and the phone feels light in the hand. For us, who are very thrifty phone users, the battery lasted several days before needing a charge. The recharge took an hour and 20 minutes.
The sound quality is excellent, whether playing music, audio books or a rainstorm. (We used to have to plug in speakers to listen to our other phone’s rainstorm as we went to sleep at night.) Like all phones, it goes to sleep after it’s been idle, but we can unlock it simply by placing a finger on a sensor on the back. With our old phone, we’d type a pin number to unlock it, but this got old so fast, we started leaving it unlocked. That meant anyone who found our phone could start it up and read our incredibly boring email.
The 6P radiates quality and looks good. Bob didn’t want to hide its good looks with a phone case, but Joy insisted. The phone is safe then even if we drop it, which once happened with our Samsung and it cost $100 to fix the cracked glass.
On the con side, our out-of-the-box experience wasn’t perfect. The 6P comes with a pin that you push into a tiny hole in the side of the phone to eject a tiny tray where you insert the included SIM card. When we pushed in the pin the first eight times, nothing happened. We called tech support, available around the clock, and they immediately wanted to send out a brand new phone. We said OK, but a few minutes later, we tried the pin one more time and presto, the tray opened! Which just goes to show ya, you have to try things nine times, not eight. We inserted the SIM card and called back to cancel the replacement.
From then on, everything worked great. One of the first things we did was turn off cellular data. (No need to run the meter while in range of our home Internet connection.) Our old Android apps transferred to the phone automatically some minutes later. We were able to keep our old phone number, and we discovered some great features in the latest Android operating system.
- “How Dog Breeds Have Changed Over a Century.” Google those words to find before and after pictures of a dozen or so dogs that have supposedly progressed. In every case, we liked the old dog better.
- “Can We Guess Your Age and Income Based Solely on the Apps on Your Phone?” Google those words to take a quiz from the Washington Post. Joy took it and found out she was a single guy older than 32 making more than $52,000 a year.
Using the new Android Pay, similar to Apple Pay, is easy enough. Once you set it up on your phone in “settings,” hold the phone above the card reader and you’re all set. Google says it’s more secure than using a credit card. That’s because it uses a virtual credit card number, so the payment device doesn’t learn your real number. (That’s also true if your credit card has one of those new chips.) Stores that accept Android Pay include Subway, Whole Foods, Walmart and 60 others. We think they will someday be virtual stores, serving virtual sandwiches.
Now for the catch: Google says you have to call your credit card’s bank to see if you still get rewards when you use Android Pay. We called Citi cards, and the agent said all Citi card holders get airline miles or whatever their reward plan is when they use Android Pay. Of course we don’t go anywhere so we accumulate a lot of airline miles.
We recently bought a Windows XP computer for offline use. But a reader reminded us of what we read once before: it’s safe to go online if you use Firefox.
The catch is you have to make sure you’ve installed Security Pack 3 on Windows XP, but since you’re prompted to do it, you probably have. Also be sure you have anti-virus software, such as the free Avast. We’ve since been online with Windows XP since and all is fine so far.
Readers continue to write us about Windows 10 disasters, and now that Microsoft is starting to do forced upgrades, the problem is worse. Remember: this is the operating system that Microsoft said would never need to be upgraded. Proclamations from tech companies is one of our greatest sources of amusement.
The same reader who gave us the Firefox advice, says one of his adult students experienced a forced Windows 10 upgrade recently. Rebooting his computer “triggered a three-hour horror show.” The student’s printer and email stopped working. The teacher spent four hours on the phone and in person getting everything running. Then he locked down the machine and four others so the Windows 10 update couldn’t be installed.
He told us how to do it, but it’s too techie to go into here. If you’re interested, search on the phrase “Don’t Want Windows 10? Here’s how to Say No.” The first article that comes up, from BetaNews.com, tells you how.