Solving iPhone reception blues one app at a time

Aug 19, 2011
Tech

Cell phone reception in urban areas can sometimes be the pits. I’ve been to enough places to know it’s not a Chicago thing exclusively, which is some sort of cold comfort when I am contorting my body in just the right way to squeeze one measly bar of service out of my iPhone. Sometimes it […]

Cell phone reception in urban areas can sometimes be the pits. I’ve been to enough places to know it’s not a Chicago thing exclusively, which is some sort of cold comfort when I am contorting my body in just the right way to squeeze one measly bar of service out of my iPhone. Sometimes it feels like an AT&T thing, but no carrier has a perfect reception record among the people I see regularly. Everyone I know, whether we call T-Mobile, Sprint,Verizon, AT&T or someone else our cell provider, has dropped calls and blamed the carrier.

But after living in the quaint, five bar baller-status suburbs for a year, I forgot about the city phenomenon. Within two weeks I’ve quickly readjusted and learned certain important facts: my iPhone is not a phone when it is:

  1. In my pocket
  2. In my bedroom
  3. Anywhere else that is not my balcony, living room and kitchen.

I can live with that. It’s sort of nice being disconnected from anyone calling you when you’re in your bedroom, even. But I’ve reacquainted myself with some great VOIP apps that seem worth mentioning in this space, just in case anyone else out there keeps nervously pacing and worrying that the pizza guy’s call is just not going to get through.

My old standby for this sort of problem was Vonage Mobile for iPhone (free). It’s a little long in the tooth now but still gets the job done. You can pay $24.99 for the Vonage Mobile service, or opt to pay as you go at the regular Vonage rates. It absolutely works, but many people remain irked that if you have a Vonage Home account you still either pay-as-you-go or have to get a mobile account.

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If you like the idea of Vonage but want something newer, there is the strange Vonage Time to Call app. I say that it’s strange because it really cuts out most of your options from the other Vonage app but might be better for international callers. In Time to Call, you pay $1.99 for a fifteen-minute call. The end. An iTunes reviewer noted that Vonage has reintroduced the payphone to your iPhone, and that does seem to be the case. Whether those rates are acceptable to you depends on how often you’re making international calls, and not talking much longer than fifteen minutes.

If you don’t give a hoot about Vonage you could give either Skype WiFi (free) or Talkatone (free) a shot. Skype WiFi is hot off the presses new, letting you make use of Wi-Fi at international hot spots and make Skype calls for 6 cents a minute. That’s probably better than those Vonage rates unless you’re going to be talking on the phone a ton. Skype WiFi is useful for international data roaming.

Talkatone uses Google Voice to allow you to make free calls to the U.S. and Canada, but of course the catch there is that you’ll need to have a Google Voice account. And getting a full-blown Google Voice account means giving up your loving relationship with your current cell phone carrier. And I could never do that, because AT&T promised me the last time they dropped a call that they’ve changed and that they’ll never hurt me again.

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And I believe them. If you need me I’ll be hanging upside down from my balcony. I get three bars that way.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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