Showing posts with label Cell Phones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cell Phones. Show all posts

Friday, July 19, 2013

Best Verizon Free Phone: Droid RAZR M

Best Free Phone from Verizon Wireless

My wife and kids switched their cell phone service from AT&T to Verizon recently.  I was still considering my options, so stayed with AT&T until I saw the free phones that my kids got.  I have gotten free phones before, in fact I have always gotten free cell phones.  If you sign up for a 2 year cell phone service contract, you always have some free cell phone choices.

Store display for free Droid RAZR M cell phone
Free Phone- Motorola Droid RAZR M from Verizon Wireless!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Droid RAZR M- Best Free Phone

I was pleased when my wife informed me that the kids got free phones.  I wasn't expecting much from a free phone, but the Droid RAZR M is amazing.  It is a great Android device as well as a great phone.  It runs the latest Android Jelly Bean (4.1).  My son likes it better than his 4th generation iPod touch for playing games and watching videos.  Of course, I was concerned about data utilization.  The Verizon Family Plan we signed up for includes 2GB of data to be shared each month.  Playing games and watching videos for a few hours could easily burn through 2GB of data.  But the Droid RAZR M does a good job of automatically using Wi-Fi networks when available.  We have a Wi-Fi network at home, and have taken advantage of free Wi-Fi in restaurants and coffee shops when we are out and about.  The Droid RAZR M clearly shows on the display when you are using Wi-Fi data to download vs using 4G or 3G cell phone service.  The kids know to watch for this and only use data when they are connected to a Wi-Fi network.  Our data utilization has been almost zero so far.

The display on the Droid RAZR M is bright and clear.  The phone is very responsive, sporting dual 1.5GHz processors and 1GB RAM.  The Wi-Fi capability has been seamless, which is important since we plan to do almost all data utilization over Wi-Fi instead of the cellular network.  I have tried out the 4G wireless service for data access a couple times, and this seems to be about as fast as access over our home wireless network.

Cell phone options displayed on a wall display
Verizon Wireless Cell Phone Display- RAZR M is the best free phone
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

I switched to Verizon to Get a Free Droid RAZR M

After playing with my kids' phones and reading about the Droid RAZR M, I switched to Verizon so I could get a RAZR M as my free phone.  The RAZR M is the best free phone from Verizon.  The size of the phone is just right.  The screen size is 4.3 inches, which is small for a modern smart phone.

However, I prefer this size.  You can use the phone with one hand, and it is smaller in your pocket.  It is still plenty big for using the internet or watching videos- the screen extends all the way to the edges of the phone and is very easy to view.  The display is intuitive to zoom in and out to view pictures or web pages.  The larger cell phones now have 4.8 inch displays or even larger.  Droid DNA has a 5 inch display and Samsung Galaxy Note II has a 5.5 inch display.  A phone this large seems more like a tablet than a cell phone to me. I have heard these giant cell phones called "phablets"- for phone-tablets.  I want something smaller that is easy to carry in my pocket and use with one hand.

The best free cell phone you can get- RAZR M
Motorola Droid RAZR M- Best Free Phone!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The Droid RAZR M may be small in size, but is packed with features.  This phone has a compass built in.  The GPS seems to work very well.  The 8MP camera has a lot of features- I still haven't figured all of them out yet.  The back of the RAZR M is make of Kevlar and the body is made of aircraft grade aluminum.  The entire phone is treated with water repellent nanocoating   Here are more features of the Droid RAZR M for new owners from Motorola's blog.

If you are looking for a new cell phone, check out the Droid RAZR M- it is a great size, durable, light, thin, really quick, and FREE!

Recommended reading:

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Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Sell your Old Cell Phone and Get Cash

How to Get Cash for your Used Cell Phone

If you have an old cell phone that you are not using, you can quickly and easily get cash for it.  It is easier than ever to sell a used cell phone, with more businesses buying used cell phones to sell in secondary markets.  Prices offered by phone buyback companies are competitive since they want to buy your cell phone and resell it for a profit.

There are four ways to get cash for your old cell phone.  The best method for selling your cell phone will depend on how quickly you want to get your cash .  Also, the condition of your phone and the local demand for your phone are factors to consider.  If your phone is in excellent condition, you may get more selling it yourself to an individual buyer through craigslist or eBay.  If your cell phone is in average or worse condition, you may be better off selling it to a buying company rather than an individual.  If your phone is a few years old, you may have trouble finding a local buyer unless it is a very popular model such as an iPhone.

Pantech cell phone
Sell your used cell phone and get cash!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Piincher

How to Sell A Cell Phone

Get Money for your Cell Phone from ecoATM

This is an interesting way to get money for your cell phone.  ecoATM machines are artificial intelligence kiosks that use automatic image analysis to examine the condition of your cell phone.  ecoATM uses electrical diagnostics to make determine whether it is in good working order- you are offered a connector so you can plug your phone into the ecoATM for evaluation.  ecoATM will offer you a price for your phone and you can decide whether or not to sell it.  As you might expect from the ATM part of the name, you can get instant cash for your cell phone.

ecoATM does use a remote human operator to compare the photo on your ID with the video feed from the ecoATM.  The identity of sellers is tracked carefully to allow investigation if stolen cell phones are cashed in at ecoATM.

a machine that evaluates your cell phone and dispenses cash
ecoATM: an intelligent kiosk that buys cell phones
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Sell your Phone at an Electronics Store

Electronics stores such as Best Buy and GameStop will buy your used cell phone at the store.  Best Buy calls their program a trade in, but you don’t need to buy a new phone in order to sell your old phone.  At the service counter, they will look up your phone in a database by make, model, and condition and offer you a price.  They will also power up your phone and check that it is good working order.  You can get instant cash for your phone by selling it at an electronics store.

Best Buy store sign at night
Electronics stores such as Best Buy will buy used cell phones for cash
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Ship your Cell Phone to a Buyback Service

There are a number of buyback services that will buy your used cell phone by mail.  Here’s how it works:
  1. On the website, enter the make, model, and condition of you phone to get an estimate.
  2. If you are satisfied with the estimated price for your phone, ship your phone to the buyback service
  3. The buyback service receives your phone and evaluates it
  4. You payment is issued

Many cell phone buyback services offer free shipping if your phone value is over a certain amount.

Some popular cell phone buyback services to consider:
Best Buy mail service:
buymytronics (part of GameStop network):

An advantage of using buyback services is that you can quickly check offers for your phone on websites and pick the best offer.  However, it may take a couple weeks to ship your phone, have it evaluated, and receive your payment.  If you are looking for fast cash, you'll want to consider another method.

I checked out the value of my 2 year old BlackBerry Torch 9800 (AT&T).  I expected the value to be around $100.  The phone is in good working condition and has no water damage.  Here are the offers I received to buy my used cell phone:
  • Gazelle: $40
  • Best buy trade-in: $70
  • uSell: $27
  • recellular: $61
  • buymytronics: $50
  • casholdphone: $85

As you can see, there is a big difference in the value of a used cell phone depending on which buyback service you get an offer from- it pays to look at multiple offers and pick one of the best offers.  

I took my phone to the ecoATM at the local shopping mall.  ecoATM examined the BlackBerry and gave me a generous offer of.... $36.  I declined the offer from ecoATM since I should be able to get $70 at the Best Buy store if the offer at the store is the same as from the Best Buy on-line service.  However, I learned that the offer from Best Buy is for store credit at Best Buy- not cash.

I checked out the highest cash offer from casholdphone again.  I found that Casholdphone received an F rating from BBB and has complaints listed.  Maybe a $70 gift card at Best Buy is the best of these deals after all... 

After considering my offers, I decided to sell my BlackBerry myself on eBay.  This brings us to another way to get cash for your phone.

Sell you old cell phone yourself on craigslist, eBay, etc. and get cash

You might be able to get the most money for your cell phone if you’re willing to sell it yourself.  However, selling your phone yourself is a lot more work than selling it to a buyback service.  You'll want to check the market price for your cell phone on a couple of the buyback service websites above.  For it to be worth the effort, you'll want to set the asking price higher that the offers from buyback services.

One drawback of selling the phone yourself is that there is no way to predict how long it will take to sell.  It could sell in a day, or it may take one week, or it may take longer.  

If you sell on a eBay auction, you will know when the auction ends, but you will not know if you will get any bids.  If you offer a Buy It Now option, your phone could sell at any time.  Check some listings for phones of the same model and condition that you are selling to get an idea of the market price.  You will be able to see how high the bidding has gone on auctions that are near the ending time.

I ended up listing my BlackBerry with wall charger and USB cable on eBay with a starting price of $51 and Buy It Now price of $100.  The phone sold within 2 hours for $100.  eBay turned out to be a good way to sell the phone myself.  The payment was received through PayPal and was very easy- the money just showed up in my account.  I printed my own shipping labels through eBay and dropped the package off at the post office.

Penny Pinching Tips:
  • Get at least a couple offers for your used cell phone to consider.  Check offers from mail-in buyback services on their websites so you can compare offers.
  • The convenience of getting instant payment makes selling your cell phone at a local store or ecoATM kiosk appealing.
  • If you have a relatively new phone, or a popular model, you may be able to sell it yourself on craigslist or eBay and get the most money for your phone.  But it will take some work to advertise your phone.  With craigslist you'll need to meet with buyers to close the deal.  With eBay, you'll need to pack and ship your phone.
  • My pick if you're getting a new phone: get a Droid RAZR M free

Recommended reading:

Penny Pincher Journal
Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cell Phone Plans for Existing Cell Phones

Can I get cheap cell phone service for my existing cell phone?

Store sign for Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile Cell Phone Carriers offer Alternatives to the Major Carriers
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

I have an existing Blackberry cell phone on AT&T.  My 2 year contract ends in June and I will be the proud owner of a Blackberry cell phone.  Can I take advantage of the fact that I will have an existing cell phone that is paid for to get a lower cell phone bill?

The payment for a new cell phone is included in the contract plan when you sign up for service when you buy a cell phone.  For example if you get a $300 phone, you’ll pay $300 over 24 months at $12.50 per month to pay for the cost of the phone.

Since my phone is paid for, it seems like I should be able to find a plan that is about $12 per month cheaper.
If I go with a smaller carrier, I would prefer to have a no-contract plan in case I am not satisfied with the service or coverage.

My current monthly usage:

  • 100 minutes of voice calls
  • 150 texts including some with pictures
  • 100 Mb per month of data

I would be willing to give up data if I could save $20 per month or so.  I can use wi-fi instead of the cell network for data.  What options are available to get service for an existing cell phone?

Cell Phone Network Compatibility

One limitation of using your existing cell phone on a different network is compatibility.  GSM and CDMA are the major cell phone network types.  Your cell phone will be compatible with only one of these network types.

  • AT&T  and T-Mobile uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
  • Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)
  • Sprint has a "closed" list of ESN's so Verizon or US Cellular CDMA phones cannot be activated on Sprint network.

So my best bets among major carriers for an AT&T Blackberry are AT&T and T-Mobile.  There are also smaller carriers that use cell towers from the major carriers to provide service.  Some of these may be options as well.

Major Cell Phone Carriers

Following are highlights of offers from major cell phone carriers:


AT&T cell phones in store display
AT&T Store Display
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

  • $39.99 for 450 minutes voice
  • $20.00 for 300Mb data
  • $20.00 for unlimited texts

Expensive, but definitely compatible with my AT&T Blackberry.


Verizon Wireless store sign
Verizon Store Sign
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

  • $50 prepaid plan: unlimited voice, text, data on basic devices
  • Blackberry won’t qualify since it is a smart phone.  
  • I was not able to check the price for a smart phone plan on the website

As mentioned above, Verizon is not compatible with AT&T phones.


Sprint cell phone store sign
Sprint retail store
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Option 1:

  • $39.95 450 minutes voice.
  • $5.00 add 300 messages

Option 2:

  • No-contract: $50/mo for unlimited voice, data and messages (on Sprint network)
  • $70 for smart phone plans

However Sprint network is not compatible with AT&T phones.


Bring your own phone plan: T-Mobile's website has links to help you unlock your phone if necessary.

  • $70 for unlimited voice, text, data.  
  • T-Mobile will sell you a SIM card to use in your existing phone
  • Family plans for $60 per line.

T-Mobile uses GSM like AT&T, so my old Blackberry may be compatible.
This may be a good deal if you use a lot of voice minutes or data, but I don't really need much.  I would like to find a plan for under $40 per month.  iWireless is a T-Mobile affiliate in Iowa and offers T-Mobile cell phone service.

U. S. Cellular

U. S. Cellular store sign
U.S. Cellular retail store
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

  • $50 for unlimited voice and text, 1GB data
  • $65 for unlimited voice and text, 2GB data
  • $35 for 400 minutes voice, 400 texts, 400 pics ($20 activation fee)

The U.S. Cellular website noted that pre-paid plans were not yet compatible with smart phones and indicated that must U.S. Cellular customer's phones would work with the pre-paid plans.  I didn't find information that indicated whether or not existing cell phones from other companies could be used.

Smaller Cell Phone Carriers

The smaller carriers use cell towers and infrastructure from the larger carriers to create their own plan offerings.

Boost Mobile

  • $60 unlimited talk and messaging, 2.5GB data
  • Payments shrink from $60 to $45 gradually as you make on-time payments
  • Service on Sprint network.

Sprint network is not compatible with AT&T phones, so this won't work for my AT&T Blackberry.


  • $40 unlimited talk, text, and data.  
  • First 500MB is at high speed 4G speed, then you get slower rate data for the rest of the month.  
  • You can pay $10 more to get 2.5GB of 4G data before it slows down.  
  • For $60 per month, you get unlimited 4G data.

It was not clear from the website whether I could use my 3G AT&T Blackberry on their service or not.


  • No contract plans, $50 for unlimited voice, messaging, and unlimited data, 1st 1GB at high speed
  • $60 +2.5GB high speed data
  • $70 5GB high speed data

The Cricket web site explains that existing phones can be flashed to Cricket service, but not all Cricket network features may work.

Page Plus Cellular

  • $12 plan with 250 minutes, 250 texts,  10MB data
  • $29.95 1200 min, 3000 texts, 250MB data

The Page Plus website says that only the small set of phones sold by Page Plus Cellular for use on their network is guaranteed to work.  So bringing an existing phone would be at your own risk.  The Page Plus Cellular phone prices range from $50 to $150.

The $12 plan sounds great…  I explored compatibility further and found that the following phones are compatible with Page Plus Cellular:

  • Page Plus
  • Alltel
  • Verizon
  • AMP’D

Unfortunately AT&T phones are not compatible on the Page Plus Cellular network,

Virgin Mobile

  • $35: 300 minutes, unlimited messaging, 2.5GB 4G data
  • $45: 1200 minutes, unlimited messaging, 2.5GB 4G data
  • $55: unlimited talk, unlimited messaging, 2.5GB 4G data

Uses Sprint network, so not compatible with my AT&T phone.
Also, the website says that you cannot use a phone from another network.

Straight Talk

  • Bring your own phone, keep your phone number
  • $45 unlimited data, talk, and text
  • $30 All you need plan:  1000 minutes, 1000 texts, 30Mb data
  • Bring a T-Mobile 4G phone and keep 4G service

Straight Talk services uses cell towers from several major carriers, so can support many types of phones including GSM phones like AT&T and T-mobile.  Straight Talk is a promising option if you have an existing cell phone and are looking for a good deal on cell phone service.

Recently, Straight Talk sim cards for AT&T are no longer sold in Walmart stores- you need to order these on-line.  Also, the Straight Talk website no longer talks of compatibility with AT&T phones- instead the description talks about compatibility with GSM phones.  This makes me nervous about future support for AT&T phones from Straight Talk.  Perhaps AT&T is realizing that AT&T customers are leaving AT&T to use the AT&T cell network through Straight Talk for half the cost.

Republic Wireless

  • Uses Sprint network and wi-fi to provide phone and data service
  • $19 and $29 unlimited plans with phone purchase

Republic Wireless use specific phone models for wi-fi service- their web site suggests the Motorola DEFY XT, so my AT&T Blackberry is not compatible.

Net10 Wireless

Net10 Wireless uses GSM networks, so is compatible with T-Mobile or AT&T phones.  The Net10 website says you can bring a T-Mobile compatible GSM phone, or an unlocked GSM phone that operates on compatible frequencies (850 and 1900 MHz).  You can purchase a Net10 standard or micro SIM card to get your phone on Net10 Wireless service.  Net10 has a $45 per month unlimited talk, text, and data plan renewable 30 days at a time that sounds promising.

Penny Pinching Tips

  • Cell phones and cell phone service are expensive- so choose wisely.  Pick the lowest cost phone and plan that meets your needs.
  • Cell phone network compatibility limits your ability to take your existing cell phone and move it to a different network
  • Some no-contract cell phone plans are likely compatible with your existing phone and may save you money
  • The $12 plan from Page Plus Cellular sounds promising, but you'll need an Alltel or Verizon phone
  • Straight Talk with a $45/month unlimited plan looks to be a good deal for my existing AT&T Blackberry phone and probably for existing phones from most other carriers as well
  • Net10 Wireless with a $45/month unlimited plan looks promising for T-Mobile and AT&T phones

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What the BlackBerry Digital Pen Could Be: All-Knowing Digital Pen Dream Wish List

New Blackberry: A Sneak Preview...

"The pen basically sees everything that you see using its forward-facing HD video camera, and hears everything that you hear using its integrated microphone.  It records and analyzes the video and audio so that you can search for anything you have ever seen or heard."

Blackberry cell phone with keyboard buttons and screen
Blackberry Cell Phone
Image courtesy of Zuzu CC-BY-SA via WikimediaCommons

It is the eve of the release of the BlackBerry Digital Pen.   I don’t know what the BlackBerry Digital Pen will turn out to be, but I immediately thought of about 20 cool functions for a digital pen that will change the world.  Today, I will write about what the BlackBerry Digital Pen could be.  Tomorrow, we’ll find out what the BlackBerry Pen actually turns out to be…

Security Features

Since it’s a BlackBerry, business users will expect serious security features.  The first is biometric access control.  The pen knows its owner’s fingerprint and has in integrated sensor.   Only the owner or those authorized by the owner can access data on the pen at all.  The data on the pen in encrypted as well to ensure privacy for both business and personal information that may end up on the phone.  You’ll see later why security features are so important.

The owner can send commands to the pen from a web page (via a computer or cell phone).   If the BlackBerry pen does get lost, the owner can send a command to clear the data on the pen remotely.  Naturally, the owner can also command an upload of all data from the pen to secure storage in the cloud before clearing it.
Gold Ink Pen
Ink Pen
Image courtesy of kangshutters at


The surface of the pen is a touch-screen LCD wrapped around the pen.  It can display a few lines of text or some graphics to support a user interface.   You can send and receive text messages.  Text-to-speech voice recognition is the main input method for entering your outgoing text message.  The phone can also display relevant information such as time, temperature, and stock quotes on its display.  There would be an interface for at least entering digits- to dial the phone.  Perhaps some sort of keyboard scheme could be accomplished by showing part of the keyboard at one time and scrolling to access the rest of the keys.  There just isn't much real estate to work with on the surface of a pen.


The pen supports Wi-Fi to upload its data to secure storage in the cloud.  For convenience, the pen also has an integrated cell phone transceiver.  Yes, you can also make cell phone voice calls and send/receive text messages with the BlackBerry pen.  Bluetooth is also integrated to allow the pen to share its files conveniently with computers.  For example you can use the pen like a memory stick to haul around large files like PowerPoint presentations or videos and then share selected files with a computer to share with others.  The pen can also send a video stream to TVs via Bluetooth, or you can stream live video to the Internet via Wi-Fi or cellular link.

The pen also has built-in infrared (IR) to allow it to function as a universal TV remote control.  Of course it also has GPS so that it knows its location (and thus your location) at all times.   This is also handy if it gets lost, it can let you know its location.

Pen Features

That’s right, it’s also a pen.  It can write on normal paper.  A good feature for a pen!  It has integrated sensors so that it can 1) reproduce anything you write in a graphical format file and 2) use its on-board OCR to generate a text file of all text that you write.  The sensor is likely a combination of digital video to obtain images of the written page, and motion sensors such as accelerometers built into the pen to determine its writing motion.  Not only does it record what you write- it records what you write on as well.  For example, if you fill out a form, the pen stores both the form and all of the information that you write on the form.  It will also record the date, time, and location where you filled out the form.  You can also retrieve the audio recording from the time when you were filling out the form.

The  pen also has a digital voice recorder with integrated text-to-speech.  Also included are many of the features from Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s) of the past, such as storing business contact information and keeping your schedule.  The pen’s high resolution camera can be used to scan business cards and business documents.  The pen uses its connectivity to automatically synch with the rest of your life and move its data to secure storage on the cloud as needed.


The pen has a forward facing high definition (HD) video camera.  When you place the pen in your shirt pocket, its HD video camera faces forward.  This means you can use the pen as a sort of dashboard video recorder for your life.  The pen can record a video of any meeting you are in.  It can record the scene while you are driving or snowboarding, etc.  Why would you want to record all of the events in your life?  So you can search it later.  The pen uses MIT’s new state-of-the-art FFT algorithm to compress the video files to the point where it can all be stored in the cloud.  Face recognition algorithms and voice-to-speech algorithms automatically create a transcript of events that can be searched.  Who was at the party?  Where was I driving when I saw that cool recumbent bike for sale along the road?

Not only that, but the camera records documents that you view.  When you are looking at your computer screen , the pen is looking at your computer screen.  It uses OCR so that any document you view can be found later.  This works for paper documents as well if you have your pen on so that it can record them.  The pen basically sees everything that you see in HD, and hears everything that you hear.  It records and analyzes the video and audio so that you can search for anything you have ever seen or heard.

If you wish, the pen can automatically Tweet or update your facebook status:   the pen "knows" where you are (GPS) and who you are with (calendar & face recognition).

You can see now why I listed Security Features first…

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