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Old 11-03-2016, 03:35   #1
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International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just
data...

US and Bahamas Cell phone hack with Google Voice?

I'm not nearly educated, let alone a guru, on the subject of exploiting cell
phones and internet access, but...

It appears that we are able to take advantage of Google Voice' ability to
ring many phone numbers, and act as a transfer point. The end result is
that my cell phone (on which more, anon) rings in the Bahamas as my local
(US) number. Here's how:

I'd been a Vonage customer for MANY years, and it used to work well afloat,
through our WiFi adapter. One particular feature we liked (aside from having
my phone ring aboard whenever I had the bandwidth to support it, allowing
multiple-handset conversations with friends and family, on the same number I
have had for over 40 years, thanks to LNP) was that we could get phone calls
any place we had WiFi connectivity, and the caller would be dialing a
regular US number.

However, apparently, based on an extensive 'chat' with their techies,
they've changed their setups so that WiFi, regardless of bandwidth, is not
adequate to the task of transparent, no-lag/no-cutout connectivity, instead,
now, requiring a DSL or Cable connection. They promise a Wi-Fi friendly
router in the future, but we're in the now. It doesn't work as it is. So,
the search for alternatives was on.

We arrived in the Bahamas in Spring 2015, and, having the wind up our backs
from fellow cruisers who said that Wi-Fi connections were scarce without
being pay sites, and, depending on which one, not very good and pretty
expensive, we went looking for a hotspot phone - one which would use data
only. After looking over what we wanted at the Marsh Harbour Batelco (the
Bahamas monopoly phone service), we selected an inexpensive Samsung Galaxy.

Once in operation, we found that bandwidth was so good on that data-only
hotspot phone - at a net price very nearly that of Vonage's monthly
charges - that we nearly always wound up using it for our internet
connectivity on our first trip to the Bahamas last summer. That included all
the usual suspects - laptops and my built-in computer - but also the
admiral's US smartphone for Facetime (which is considered data, and may be
available only between other ATT customers - which her kids and grandkids
are). We could not use it for voice-only; for that we used Skype, whether
in-house (to computer) or to landline numbers, at the small per-minute costs
to do so.

However, we still need to be able to have folks call us, which doesn't work
on Skype unless we're up/online and the other party is, as well. Google
Voice has the same functionalities, but we've not used it much, as it's just
another Skype in that regard, and we didn't have a money account set up with
Google, let alone having to rely on someone being on the computer at the
time we might have wanted to reach them.

However, there are 'hangouts' - like a voice call, including conference
calls - which work on GV. In mucking around with my son, we confirmed that a
non-active (not connected to any cell provider) smartphone, if using the
hangout app, would make and receive calls and texts to 'normal' numbers, so
long as it had internet connectivity (smartphones usually can use WiFi
instead of a cell network; apparently that's so whether the phone is
actually ever used as a cell phone).
Soooooo....

The data phone could have a hangout app, with its number set to ring
from GV, to which I'd LNP my original number.

(My case is unusual. I had a number I'd used for most of my life. Google
Voice will only accept LNP - local number portability - porting of cellular
numbers. So, I had to port my number from Vonage - a process which took
weeks longer than it should have - to a cell phone before I could port it up
to Google. Once in my cell phone, that port went smoothly and was finished
a day later. They charge you $20 for that porting process, giving you your
chosen number as what Google Voice 'sees' when someone calls you. You can
get an assigned number free.)

So, the way it works is any device you have on which you've opened Google
Hangouts (and signed into the account you want, if you have more than one)
will ring if someone calls your Google Voice number. It could be your
laptop, your computer, or your data phone. Google Voice also allows
multi-ring, for when you might need to have more than one person get calls.

So, when we're in the states, it would ring both the admiral and my cell
phones, and, perhaps, if we were ashore somewhere for an extended period,
our hosts' phone. As the hangout would be a data, not voice, call, the fact
that we are in the Bahamas does not impact the end result (any more than it
did for Vonage) if the US number assigned to that phone was someplace ex-USA
at the time of the call. In the end, it behaves as a cell phone, but uses
either your provider's bandwidth chip or a WiFi hotspot's bandwidth to
complete the connection, and it doesn't care where it is that the bandwidth
comes from.

Ergo, Bahamas, the Caribbean, etc., all behave as though it was a US cell
phone ringing wherever you are. In our case, it's a GSM bands phone, as
used in most of the world...

What we bought was a supposedly-unlocked Samsung Galaxy J1 GSM. We are in
the Bahamas as I write this, and will take up the matter with the local BTC
office, but it WASN'T unlocked. Do not believe them. If you have a
Micro chip from a US provider, you can demonstrate that it won't work while
you're there. If you already HAVE one of those phones, you can get it
unlocked at a variety of sites on the internet, but my particular model,
sold for Batelco, required two false starts before the third time was a
charm. Instead, if you're starting before you get there (or any other
foreign country!), buy some other unlocked smartphone, and go from there.
When you get to the Bahamas, a visit to the local BTC office can get you on
a data program quickly and cheaply. For example, our plan is 5 gigabytes
per month, at $40, billed monthly in arrears. If you overrun, it's $10/G
extra, limit 5. There are larger and smaller plans available at lesser and
greater costs, but we never overran our limit, despite having used it
heavily (no streaming, though - just internet and emails).

Now, here we are in the Bahamas, and I just got off a half-hour phone call
with my mother-in-law. From the above, you'd have expected that. But what
about the time you need to call the local auto parts retailer to ask about
something? Many cruisers use a cheap flip-phone with the ubiquitous money
card-supplied minutes and text. Each purchase, at whatever money level
keeps that number alive for 90 days, or until the money runs out, whichever
comes first. BTC minutes and texts are expensive compared to US plans.
AND, if you let it lapse, the longest they will keep the number open is 90
days. Thus, if you're out for an extended period of time, your number will
be dead. That's not the end of the world, but a new sim (and number) will
cost you $10 each time, along with even as little as $5 of time/texts. You
also have to be at an open BTC office. If you're sailing into the Bahamas,
likely you'll have cell service long before you actually go ashore, rather
than the delay of having cleared Customs and Immigration, and finding an
open office (for example, they're open Thursday - only - in Green Turtle
Cay). We were online before we even actually entered the territorial waters
(we had our sim from our earlier trip installed when we left the US).

As the number of times and length of conversations was not very much in our
usage, it made a great deal more sense (for our purpose) to make those local
Bahamian calls part of our data usage, on Google Voice/Hangouts. Google
Voice charges for non-USA calls, at varying rates. In the case of the
Bahamas, it was 10 and 22 cents per minute to land line and mobile phones,
respectively. That's not far off of what BTC charges, and doesn't involve
chasing sim cards or topping up money cards before they expire. Like Skype,
you make a small money purchase, and your calls are charged against that.
Thus, after I'd started my account with $10, when I called the NAPA (auto
supplier) store, I saw at the top of my screen $0.10 per minute. The call
completed as any other would, and I determined that they had what I needed.
It cost me all of $0.20 - and it might possibly be the only call I make on
this trip - yet, I was able to do it with the same phone...

Voice mail is by Google, and has voice recognition software which will send
you an email transcript of any message left. You can also do SMS texting
between phones, either by the quick-thumb method, or with the microphone
function allowing you to dictate what it is you wish to text. Until you
train it, you may have to make corrections, but it beats banging away with
your thumbs!

All in all, for the price of a data plan, we get all the advantages of a
cell phone but it's really a hotspot. Or, it's somebody else (like the
restaurant, or whatever you're visiting, including someone else's home - or
yours, of course - where you have WiFi access) providing the bandwidth.
Either way, you have an internationally reachable US number at no
(international - if they have a minutes plan, those minutes are the same as
to any other phone) cost to the caller, SMS messaging, ditto, and access, if
you want it, to the internet.

We like it...

L8R

Skip



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Old 11-03-2016, 05:59   #2
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Can you post a summary? I gave up about a 1/4 of the way in.


We simply set up a Skype account with a phone number for like $9/month. As long as we have decent internet (wifi/cell/whatever), it works anywhere. In spain we are paying $12/month for a 2gig data plan on our US cell phone with a new sim card.


That' $21/month (can be turned off when not in use) for phone coverage anywhere you have internet access.
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Old 11-03-2016, 06:02   #3
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Quote:
Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Can you post a summary? I gave up about a 1/4 of the way in.


We simply set up a Skype account with a phone number for like $9/month. As long as we have decent internet (wifi/cell/whatever), it works anywhere. In spain we are paying $12/month for a 2gig data plan on our US cell phone with a new sim card.


That' $21/month (can be turned off when not in use) for phone coverage anywhere you have internet access.
Summary:

Research Google Voice and Google hangouts

Assigned number is free; if you want to keep what you have, it costs $20

US calls are free. Bandwidth handles internet access and Google Voice.
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Old 11-03-2016, 06:09   #4
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Based on a quick read, you can do the same thing with a Skype account and a "Skype In" number. It assigns a real phone number to your skype account, and anyone, from any phone, can call it just like a normal number. Been doing this for 10+ years while traveling. Same thing as Google, will ring on every device that has Skype installed and logged in. You can set up voicemail so if you are not online, or don't have a device turned on, the caller simply leaves a message just like normal.

Not sure you can port a number to Skype, but if that is not important, and you already use Skype, adding a Skype In number is easy.
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Old 11-03-2016, 06:41   #5
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Quote:
Originally Posted by kiltym View Post
Based on a quick read, you can do the same thing with a Skype account and a "Skype In" number. It assigns a real phone number to your skype account, and anyone, from any phone, can call it just like a normal number. Been doing this for 10+ years while traveling. Same thing as Google, will ring on every device that has Skype installed and logged in. You can set up voicemail so if you are not online, or don't have a device turned on, the caller simply leaves a message just like normal.

Not sure you can port a number to Skype, but if that is not important, and you already use Skype, adding a Skype In number is easy.
Skype is free but if you want an actual phone number that can dial and receive calls, you need to pay a small fee. It has voice mail and all the usual phone options. You can also forward another line to the Skype number.

Lots of IP phone systems available for cheap. I expect at some point in the near future, you will see the cell companies only offering data plans and any phone use or texting just comes out of your data allotment.

If you have wifi or other internet connection, you don't need the cell data plan.

At some point, the whole idea of a "phone number" will go away. In the early 1900's asking for a person by name didn't work once a phone network got bigger than a few hundred lines. Almost immediately, they started using numbers. With modern technology, it's actually the opposite. It's easier to provide the name of who you want to call and let the internet figure out how to route the call.
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Old 11-03-2016, 08:43   #6
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

I've had a Skype Local Number for more than 2 years. It rings on my cell, iPad and my PC's.... It can be comical when they all ring at the same time...

You pay for outbound calls to land lines but not inbound.

I can reach out and ask whomever to simply call me back on my local number to minimize the cost.
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Old 11-03-2016, 10:01   #7
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

When we vacationed in Playa del Carmen a couple of years ago, we forwarded our calls to a Google Voice number, and turned off our cell service on the phone. It was nice to get back to a Wifi and catch up on messages that were left. The dictation was nice as well. Didn't cost us anything extra on our cell bill for a change!

I figure at some point, there will be nothing but a data charge. There will be infrastructure around the world, like our pick whoever you want for your electricity provider where I live, networked together, and then providers settle among themselves who gets a cut. You just run whatever you want on top of it, wherever you are, on any provider. Ah, to dream...
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Old 11-03-2016, 12:26   #8
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

I have been using google voice since it was in beta. The advantage over skype is you can put a substantial ruleset around the numbers. Route numbers you know to forward to your cell phone, send other groups to specific voicemails. IE adding a group of friends and relatives with a voicemail that states where you are, etc. VM to others, especially sales calls to a default greeting.

Connected with an OBI device OBiTALK - Google Voice, you can connect any regular old style phone as well. In the states, we have had the best luck connecting that device to tmobile and working flawlessly and no major bandwidth for call. It does need to be clean more than fast. Meaning if you go to your command prompt and type ping google.com the MS number should not be too high or see any timeouts.

But Google Voice is my main number that routes to the office, cell, or vm and can be dependant on the number calling. Helped immensely on sales calls with the trick of recording a not in service recording for known sales numbers and they stop calling.

From hotel rooms or marinas that require a web page logon, we use an older linksys router rooted that will pass that information.

Google has warned that they will start charging for the service at some point, but recently made an announcement it is currently off the table except for business services. Google is known to change policy at any time, though.

Long distance calls are fairly inexpensive and the other thing we have found is skype may be blocked or throttled from some carriers, have not found that to be the case with google voice yet. It has been around for at least 10 years, I don't recall the exact dates.
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Old 11-03-2016, 13:48   #9
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Google Voice can be a very good thing, but there are caveats. I've used it for years now, and no matter who provides the broadband service (DSL, cable, different ISPs) the GVoice connection often suffers from "picket fencing" and call drops. Way too often, and it is hard to blame the ISP when there have been 4 or 5 different ones, all supplying gobs more bandwidth than needed.


Then, even when it is working properly, GVoice only gives you four "rings" before it goes to voicemail, and you can't turn off the voicemail. It can be set to forward your voicemail to text or email or both, often with hilarious renderings that aren't quite right but are entertaining.


Free is certainly good, and it does work fairly well most of the time, but like most Google products it is still "in need of adult supervision".
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Old 11-03-2016, 14:12   #10
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Thanks.
I'm in Australia where the Internet availability is sooo last century compared to the Med . But I Need it for income... So trying to find solutions that I can actually afford
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Old 11-03-2016, 21:36   #11
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

I skipped through a lot of your writeup, but I think I got the gist of it. I've been super happy with Skype VM that will pass calls to my cell depending on how I set it up. I pay for my own number and have the Skype app on my computer and on my phone so outgoing and incoming calls go directly to my phone, but as a Skype call. There's a method to the madness to get Skype VM set up correctly, but Google voice was quirky to say the least and having a business that depends on getting calls and messages, Google voice was not engendering confidence in its product.
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Old 11-03-2016, 21:44   #12
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Quote:
Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
At some point, the whole idea of a "phone number" will go away. In the early 1900's asking for a person by name didn't work once a phone network got bigger than a few hundred lines. Almost immediately, they started using numbers. With modern technology, it's actually the opposite. It's easier to provide the name of who you want to call and let the internet figure out how to route the call.
A very interesting and true take on today's communications. I can have almost an infinite number of "lines" directed to my cell phone these days, email, voice, text, fax, whatever.
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Old 12-03-2016, 05:06   #13
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Before we went cruising in 2012 I did the following:

- Ported my cell phone to Google Voice ($20 one time)
- Signed up for a Skype US phone number ($20 annually?), and Skype unlimited ($60 annual I think)

Google Voice, by default, has been configured to ring to the Skype number. GV won't ring a non-U.S. number. But with Skype on my smart phone or computer, people can reach me.

GV will also transcribe voice mails, which is handy.

And GV will receive texts and forward them to e-mail, which is also handy for all those services that want to validate your ID with a text

Skype is setup to try my local (wherever I am...) cell phone if I'm offline with Skype. So again...if you try to call me on Skype it will ring through. Depending on where you are, this may cost me a little (e.g. NZ land lines are free to call, but my cell phone costs Skype Credit). But I'll get the call.

When I visit the states I pick up a burner phone SIM and stick it in my phone, and forward Google voice to it...so everyone can use the cell phone number that has been in their Address books for 20 years.

All that is completely moot though, because NO ONE, and mean virtually no one, back in the U.S. ever thinks to call my old cell phone number. It doesn't matter how many times you tell people "Yup, you can just call me at my old number any time...", they never think of it because they figure we've gone cruising, so we might as well have moved to the moon.

So in spite of the steps I've taken to make it essentially idiot proof for land bound people in the states to call me, it rarely happens.
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Old 12-03-2016, 05:16   #14
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

I have a Time Warner land line and using their app, Phone-2-Go, I can route and receive calls through my land line number as long as I have wifi (no need for Skype account). The monthly cost is $10 (promotional) to $20 (after first year).
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Old 21-03-2016, 17:33   #15
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Re: International Cell Phone Hack - no cell phone minutes or texts bill, just data...

Get a talkatone account. Just download the app on your phone and you're assigned a US number. Calls to your number are free to answer over wifi or whatever cellular data plan you have. Calls out cost a couple cents a minute. Comes with voicemail feature that automatically forwards a recording of caller messages to your email, so you can turn off phone completely and just retrieve messages at your convenience. Anyway, another decent option, amongst many nowadays.


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