July 16, 2012 By: jerdog
The American mobile carrier market is vastly different from markets in the rest of the world, with the U.S. carrier being the one in charge as opposed to the consumer. The carriers are able to dictate to the manufacturers what they want in their carrier-branded device and the manufacturer largely has to go along in order to get their device to the market. Add to the mix the fact that there are two mobile technologies in the U.S. (CDMA and GSM), and things can become really complicated. This is most evident in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S II (AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint) where there were four very different devices (2 GSM, 1 GSM/LTE, and 1 CDMA), each with their own specs which differed from the international version, the GT-i9100.
One of the many advantages of purchasing an international device, like the Samsung Galaxy S III GT-i9300, and activating on U.S. GSM networks is that you don’t need to renew your existing contract in order to use it. Another advantage is the savings that can accrue if you choose to use the device on a prepay service outside of the normal constraints of the U.S. carriers. Let’s look at an example of the costs associated with AT&T’s SGS III versus the international version imported to use on that service and on Straight Talk (an MVNO for AT&T). Note that I am using AT&T in this instance because it is currently the only carrier in the U.S. that will take the GT-i9300 natively. Your mileage may vary (YMMV) on the other networks.
That is a savings of $1371 (44%)! Break that up by two years and guess what you’re saving each year? $685 which is more than the initial up-front cost of the international device. How is that NOT good economics? That also does not even taking into account the sale of your existing phone, which can cut down your up-front costs. Heck – I sold my 4-month old GT-i9100 for $350 to purchase my GT-i9300. Of course you could purchase the GT-i9300 and use it on your existing AT&T contract without a renewal, but you really wouldn’t see a cost benefit to that option.
Sure, the AT&T SGS III is LTE whereas the GT-i9300 is HSPA+, but for many that won’t matter. The added speed for some areas of the country most likely isn’t going to add up to $685 of increased productivity, and on Straight Talk you have the exact same coverage and HSPA+ speed as AT&T.
So now that we’ve established the cost benefits of using the international device in the U.S., let’s discuss the logistics of bringing it to a prepay service. Once you get the SIM card for the service all you have to do is plug it in, put the APN in and you’re good to go. No other configuration steps are needed.
One thing that many have noticed, is that when you bring an international device to a U.S. carrier you can potentially lose out on some of the network settings which could enable your device to perform better. One of these benefits is Fast Dormancy. Without going into too much detail, Fast Dormancy (aka FD) is a technology for GSM networks that allows the data connection to go into a dormant state without releasing the device’s IP address and pinging for connection at a reduced timeframe thus theoretically increasing battery life. AT&T does utilize FD in most areas, so again YMMV. You can set the time your device queries the data network from a default of 3 secs while the screen is off to any value above that.
XDA Senior Member cmd512 knew from previous experience that correctly utilizing Fast Dormancy on your international device can give you some positive results, so he started a thread to examine the i9300 and it’s FD settings on AT&T. Here’s what he had to say:
After getting my SGS3, I noticed I was getting consistently slower speeds as well as notable battery drain when only on cellular data. While there were some knuckleheads on here that kept telling me to “use the phone APN” (even though I’m on AT&T’s Medianet and CANNOT use the phone APN), I started digging into the SGS3 Fastdormancy settings as I knew from experience that could impact both download speed and battery life.
When he went digging into the nwk_info.db found in /data/data/com.android.providers.telephony/databases he found that the device had carrier-specific information for all of the carriers in Europe, but nothing for AT&T. After digging into the settings found on ICS ROMs for the AT&T SGS III he was able to duplicate the specific nwk_info.db settings for AT&T’s Fast Dormancy and plugged those in.
Not too long after, I realized that the UK version of the GT-I9300 does not have ANY Fastdormancy data for AT&T medianet. So, I added them in, and now, I’m pulling consistent 5Mbps downloads vs not being able to break 3Mbps previously.
So after seeing the positive results with Fast Dormancy enabled, he put together the exact steps to add in the AT&T settings via SQLite Editor, and put those in the OP of the discussion thread. To get you started with the information already entered, XDA Senior Member ookba provided a nwk_info.db file already configured but with Fast Dormancy turned off. You can install that file and then follow the steps provided by cmd512 to change the lcdonfdtime/lcdofffdtime settings in the dormpolicy table to 0 and 20 respectively, which means that the idle delay for your device when the screen is on is 0 sec (disabled) and 20 sec when the screen is off.
Because of the nature of FD, you may need to disable it if you see secril_fd-interface appear in the list of kernel wakelocks using BetterBatteryStats, and it has a high percentage of wakelock time, i.e. hours as opposed to minutes. To do so, XDA Elite Recognized Developer gokhanmoral decided to make an application he called FastDormancy Toggle for i9300 and placed it in the Google Play store. The application allows you to quickly disable FD without digging into the internals and possible screwing something up.
As with anything you will need to experiment to see what works best for you in your area, along with which specific modem provides the best mix of performance and battery life. But once you do find that sweet spot, I can guarantee your experience with an international device like the GT-i9300 will be much improved, and your wallet might just appreciate you for once.
February 3, 2012 By: Ian Stacy
If you have a phone with an NFC chip and aren’t using Google Wallet, now’s your chance. Check out this thread for reports of working NFC payment locations.
January 31, 2012 By: Joseph Hindy
Scripts are always fun to add to a phone. The versatility of a script can be staggering and can do anything from increasing performance to increasing battery life and sometimes even both. There isn’t much about a phone that can’t be changed with a script.
The installation instructions are pretty simple, as stevehkim explains:
The scripts are pretty self explantory and you can adjust these values using root explorer and using the menu in root explorer to “open in text editor”. Or you can you wordpad or notepad++ on your pc and adjust them. Save the scripts to your phone. Using root explorer copy the init.d scripts to /etc/init.d. Paste in this directory and set permissions as rwx,rwx,rwx and reboot.
So if you’re toting an AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II and want to get your script on, you can check out the modest collection in its thread here along with information, further instructions and discussions about them. Also, make sure you exercise the proper caution and back up your device first.
January 27, 2012 By: Jase Glenn
Not so long ago, AT&T attempted to purchase wireless carrier T-Mobile from parent company Deutsche Telekom in March of 2011. Due to a variety of legal and ethical reasons this bid for market dominance was officially abandoned on December 19, 2011. A condition of this buyout was upon failure, AT&T would have to directly pay T-Mobile $3 billion cash, as well as another $1 billion in spectrum licenses. The result of this tragedy was AT&T posted a staggering $6.7 billion dollar loss for fourth quarter last year.
Who do you think has to pay for this? Apparently AT&T thinks the subscriber does, because less than a week ago they decided to raise their customer’s rates yet again. If your thinking of switching to AT&T the prices on all smartphone data packs have been raised by $5 per phone.
Five dollars not a lot you say? Let’s look at the numbers:
AT&T has 71 million subscribers currently. If each subscriber pays $5 dollars more AT&T will see an extra $355,000,000 in pure profit per year. It’s the equivalent to you failing all performance evaluations at work and then getting a raise. Not only does AT&T officially have the worst customer service, and far less 3G and 4G coverage than rival carrier Verizon, but now it has some of the highest plan rates to boot. What does the customer gain out of this? An extra 100MB on the lowest data plan, and an extra gigabyte on the most expensive.
Shame on you Mr. De la Vega; biting the hand that feeds you is never the right thing to do.
Up until recently, AT&T’s Android offerings have been somewhat lacking compared to the other major American carriers. And while the Samsung Galaxy S II and Galaxy S II Skyrocket have certainly helped close the gap, there’s no denying that other carriers simply pack a stronger punch.
Luckily for Ma Bell customers, AT&T is bolstering its Android arsenal with six new LTE-enabled and Android-packing devices: the Samsung Exhilarate, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket HD, Sony Xperia Ion, Pantech Burst, the Pantech Element tablet, and the Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone/tablet hybrid.
Of most interest, the Galaxy S II Skyrocket HD features a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and the same 4.65″ HD Super AMOLED screen as the Galaxy Nexus—all while keeping itself slim-and-trim at just 9.279 mm. The Xperia Ion packs a 4.6″ HD display, 12 MP rear-facing camera, and a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. The Pantech Element, as its name suggests, is a weatherproof tablet for those who take tablet computing to the extreme. The Pantech Burst is a 4.0″ 1.2 GHz dual-core phone, and it marks Pantech’s first truly high end device. The Galaxy Note, already released in Europe, is an HD-packing tablet/phone hybrid with S-pen functionality for easy copy/paste and note-taking. And finally, the Exhilarate boasts a 4″ screen and eco-friendly construction.
Interested in having a look at the new offerings yourself? Sneak a peek courtesy of the official AT&T site (PDF warning). Or, you know—you can eschew technology thanks to the SpareOne we covered earlier if all these new-fangled thing-a-ma-bobs get a bit too overwhelming.
December 14, the deadline Senator Al Franken gave to answer his questions about Carrier IQ, came and went. Now the responses are public. Franken also questioned FBI director Robert Mueller in the Senate Judiciary Committee about the FBI’s collection of information specifically obtained from Carrier IQ’s software. Thankfully, Franken was not satisfied by the answers he received in either inquiry. From Franken’s press release, which includes companies’ responses,
“I appreciate the responses I received, but I’m still very troubled by what’s going on,” said Sen. Franken. “People have a fundamental right to control their private information. After reading the companies’ responses, I’m still concerned that this right is not being respected. The average user of any device equipped with Carrier IQ software has no way of knowing that this software is running, what information it is getting, and who it is giving it to—and that’s a problem.”
There’s a big problem of specificity in how the media reported Trevor Eckhart’s (XDA Recognized Developer, TrevE’s) research. And now, anyone who wants the issue minimized is exploiting that lack of specification of what people mean when they say “Carrier IQ” to avoid saying anything damning. For example, look for the clarity in Mueller’s initial response, where the FBI “neither sought nor obtained any information from Carrier IQ”–the company–in this video:
When Franken pressed on, trying to clarify the question, it was abundantly obvious how unpracticed Mueller was at using “Carrier IQ“ to mean the software. Of course, the assertion that the FBI never sought information from Carrier IQ, the company, isn’t true. Andrew Coward, Carrier IQ’s VP of Marketing, told The Associated Press that the FBI is the only law enforcement agency to contact them for data. It’s a discrepancy that will probably be excused by the semantic ambiguities of “sought”.
The EFF posted an article about the lack of clarity in reporting about Carrier IQ, identifying four different meanings of “Carrier IQ”. It should be standard reading for anyone making inquiries into the Carrier IQ issue. I personally feel that Carrier IQ themselves are responsible for much of the confusion. Instead of giving words like “IQ Agent”, which is their software’s name, they gave words like “metrics” and “profile”, which require a working understanding of their software. Eyes glaze over as people read technical explanations, and they give up, deciding to just say, “Carrier IQ”.
Responsibility is perpetually deferred using this ambiguity. Carrier IQ says the data belongs to the carriers. The carriers have the software installed by the manufacturers. The manufacturers say they’re simply following instructions from the carriers. The carriers say the data is aggregated by Carrier IQ. Carrier IQ says they send the data to the carriers. Nobody shares the information with anyone else. And the FBI never sought or obtained information from Carrier IQ. Except they did. And they didn’t. Maybe.
Examine Sprint’s response to Franken’s seventh question, “Has your company disclosed this data to federal or state law enforcement?”
Sprint has not disclosed Carrier IQ data to federal or state law enforcement.
The ambiguity even here is dangerous. Does this response mean they don’t share data collected by the software on individual phones? Does it mean they don’t share the aggregated data from Carrier IQ, the company? Does it mean they don’t share the kind of data collected by IQ Agent? Does it mean they don’t tell law enforcement what they know about Carrier IQ, the company?
Franken has every reason to be dissatisfied with these answers. I implore members of the media and their readers to do their part in clarifying the issue in their articles, and by demanding clarifications in their interviews.
The LG Nitro HD rounds out the trio of AT&T 4G LTE launch devices, which also includes the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, and the HTC Vivid. The Nitro HD packs a high res 4.5″ 1280×720 IPS-TFT display, granting it a PPI of 326. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon APQ8060 CPU coupled with 1GB of RAM. It has a rear-facing 8MP camera that can take 1080p video, and a front-facing 1.3MP camera. Click on to the LG Nitro HD XDA forums!