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AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment


AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

My mom's starting to use text messaging now, up from none from previous years. Per message cost on AT&T postpaid is $0.20 and she uses around 80 on average a month ($16). Unfortunately, AT&T has eliminated the $5/200 and $10/1000 messages plans so we're left with either the $20/unlimited on her line or $30/unlimited for the whole family which we don't need (an additional monthly cost of $20 either way). Calculated long-term costs:
status quo (pay per use): +$16/mo = $192/1st yr, $384 over 2 years
upgrade (unlimited): +$20/mo = $240/1st yr, $480 over 2 years

Yeah. Ouch.

Looking at long term costs, getting her a separate phone on prepaid actually ends up cheaper than either of the above options (assuming the device doesn't fail before 2 years' time).
new prepaid line, estimated cost:
1st yr = $250 ($150 LG Thrive + $100 refill)
2nd yr = $100 (refill)
Total 2-yr costs: $350

I chose the LG Thrive, an Android smartphone, for this experiment for 3 reasons:
1.) contact syncing with Gmail
2.) integration with Google Voice
3.) one of the least expensive smartphones on AT&T 3G

The Thrive will be mostly used for texting with a smattering of voice when there's 3G signal but no 2G available (it happens). We'll be using prepaid on the Thrive and she will continue using her current 2G-only phone on postpaid for most calls (although I'm gonna try to slowly wean her off it). AT&T's prepaid network will be used solely as an internet service provider. All text messages will be sent and received from the official Google Voice app (free). Voice calls will also be routed through Google Voice using the GrooveIP app ($4.99). 3G Watchdog (free) will be installed to monitor data usage. A $25/500MB data feature package will be added for the first month with succeeding $5/10MB recharge every 28~29 days to roll over the balance. The $25/500MB package will be used in-lieu of $5/10MB when data balance is running low.

Text messages are 140 bytes in size (not counting multi-part SMS) so even with additional overhead introduced by Google Voice, that's probably going to be less than 1KB per message. Considering a worst case scenario where each message counts as a separate session and each session usage is rounded up by AT&T to the nearest KB, that's still a maximum of 1KB per text. Even the $5/10MB data feature package should be enough for 10,000 text messages.

Google Voice uses around 80Kbit/s or 10KB/s for each stream (up and down). That equates to roughly 1.2MB/min - around the same as a low quality YouTube 3G video. Monitoring usage via 3G Watchdog appears to confirm the 1.2MB/min estimate. Depending on what data package subscribed to, using Google Voice for calls can be slightly cheaper than AT&T ($0.06/min on $25/500MB) to considerably more expensive ($0.60/min on $5/10MB).

For the first month, email syncing, and other services that consume data will be disabled on the phone. Initial syncing (updates, contacts, etc) will be done via wi-fi after which wi-fi will be disabled to more accurately gauge the amount of data consumed by Google Voice for calls and texts. Services might be enabled on succeeding months depending on cumulative data usage. Right now, I'm targeting max usage of 620MB/yr or ~50MB/month (365/28 = 13; $25/500MB first charge + $5/10MB * 12 recharges = $85/620MB) so as not to exceed $100 per year. Time will tell if I, or rather my mom, will be able to meet that.


I'll post some weekly usage charts once I have everything set up (just ordered the Thrive from Amazon).

Message 1 of 21

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

DomC wrote:

I was reluctant to jailbreak my 3G at first but the addons have made it totally worthhwile.

That's the thing. So far, I haven't found anything I can't do on the LG Thrive that I could on my rooted Nook Color (barring the issue of the slower processor). Android's a pretty open system. I want to change UI? I can easily install ADW on an unrooted Android. Widgets, etc? Yep, all of them work. Live wallpapers? Yeah, it has those too. I want to install apps not found on the Android Market? Oh, hey, fancy that, I can do it, too. So far, the only thing I want to do that I can't do is uninstall the apps pre-installed by AT&T.

Message 16 of 21

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

OnlytheShadowKnows wrote:


Yeah, weird, right? I have no idea why. All I know was that my brother and mine's iPhones both get 1 bar at least on 3G while my mom's Motorola V191 and dad's V197 on GSM don't. Had to turn off 3G to conserve battery on the iPhone and presto, no signal, too.




But neither the iPhones or the Motos could make or receive a phone call or, equivalently, send/receive texts, right?


[Some folks in here assert that a single 3G UMTS radio is responsible for voice/text calls, but I say it is the standard 2G GSM/EDGE radio:  Two different radios, different frequencies, different antennae.]




Just to be certain there isn't a misunderstanding on my part re: what you are stating - the fact that I brought 3G into the other thread when you initially specifically referred to 4G may have blurred my understanding of the discussion -


But you believe that at&t's 3G network technology does not allow for voice transmission?


If so, yes - we will just have to agree to disagree. Smiley Happy  They are completely separate radios (GSM vs. WCDMA), and I do agree that SMS is not conducted over the 3G network, but with GSM based WCDMA 3G technology, both voice and data can be carried simultaneously on 3G.

There must be a happy medium somewhere between being totally informed and blissfully unaware.

     - Doug Larson

Message 17 of 21

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

Excellent thread
Message 18 of 21

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

were you able to figure out how much data is used for standard 160 char text message via GV?

Message 19 of 21

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

yungwunn911 wrote:

were you able to figure out how much data is used for standard 160 char text message via GV?

I've found 3G Watchdog Pro isn't really all that good for monitoring per app data. Trying to find a better alternative. For what it's worth though, for the whole day today, Google Voice's data usage was just 30KB. That traffic was for 2 text messages - one sent and one received. Not sure how much of that 30KB was used by the actual messages and how much by syncing to Google servers.

Message 20 of 21

Re: AT&T GoPhone: The Google Voice Experiment

Just an update.


After 3 months of use, data balance is down to 275MB so that's an average of around 80MB/month (500MB initial - 275MB + 2*10MB top-up). That's with sending/receiving 2 messages every day via Google Voice, Facebook updates, and the occasional use of Yelp and Google Maps. Not bad all in all. I'm topping up the data balance every 28 days so will probably replenish with the 500MB package at Month 5.

Message 21 of 21
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