Definitely a superlative title for what actually is a pretty simple process, but I thought I’d document what I’m doing to dump my Verizon Droid Bionic and move to an unlocked Galaxy Nexus phone. I’ll spare you my complaints about Verizon and just summarize by saying they’re beyond overpriced and I don’t like all the evil crap they do.
What is relevant to this discussion is the fact that I am sick and tired of having my phone be controlled by a carrier. From not keeping up with new versions of Android to forcing applications on my phone that I don’t want and can’t delete, I’m done with it. “Famous last words” may apply here, but at this point I’ll state that I will never buy another phone from a carrier.
It’s worth it to pay the extra money for a phone (and in the case of the Nexus it’s only about $100 more than I paid for my abandoned Droid Bionic) and have more control over the phone as well as choice of carrier. (Relevant Lifehacker article on this topic if you want to learn more about how the carriers are the driving force behind Android fragmentation and stifle innovation every chance they get.)
But enough about all that — here’s specifically how I’m going about making this switch.
First, I ordered a Galaxy Nexus phone since it’s the best bet on being able to upgrade the phone continually and since it’s unlocked, I have a choice of carriers (within the limitations of the phone being GSM of course).
I’ll keep my review of the Nexus phone itself brief and simply say: awesome. Thin, light, beautiful screen, ships with Jelly Bean, extremely smooth, fast UI, no crappy carrier/Motorola customizations I don’t want — simply a fantastic, fantastic phone that’s so good it makes me mad I didn’t get one a long time ago.
Next step in the process — I ordered a SIM from Straight Talk. One of my many major gripes about Verizon is I was sick of paying for a ridiculously overpriced phone plan when I’m on Wi-Fi the majority of the time. Straight Talk offers an unlimited everything plan for $45/mo with no contract. You buy the SIM for $15 and give them a credit card number to bill you for the phone plan, and that’s it. I’m already saving over $100/mo simply by changing to Straight Talk.
Straight Talk SIMs are either AT&T or T-Mobile. You do not get to choose, they choose for you based on your area (and I assume other business-related factors). I wound up on AT&T which is fine — I have AT&T for my work iPhone and the signal is great in my area. If I were able to choose I would have chosen T-Mobile, but of course with an unlocked phone if I really don’t like what’s happening with AT&T and Straight Talk I can always switch. So far AT&T is working very well and I actually see a stronger signal on the Nexus than I do on my contracted iPhone.
Both the SIM and phone were delivered today, and setup was extremely simple. You follow the instructions that come with the SIM to activate it, which basically involves filling out a form on the Straight Talk web site and giving them your billing information, then stick the SIM in the phone. By the time I got the SIM into the phone and powered it on I was already able to make calls.
Note that when you activate your SIM you have the opportunity to port your existing number to Straight Talk. I didn’t do that because I have a slightly different plan in mind (see below).
Next, to use the data features in the phone you have to enter a new Access Point Name (APN). Here’s how you add a new APN on the Nexus:
- Open “Settings”
- Under Wireless & Networks, click on “More …”
- Click on “Mobile Networks”
- Click on “Access Point Names”
- Click the three vertical boxes on the bottom right of the screen to bring up the menu, and click on “New APN”
- Enter the information included with your SIM