MacInTouch Amazon link...

phone services

Channels
Products, Questions


Dave G: Have you considered a MagicJackGo? I have been using one for my business line for over 5 years with almost no issues and, yes, you can get text message,s and you can port your existing number over. $35/year!
 


Dave G: Have you considered a MagicJackGo? I have been using one for my business line for over 5 years with almost no issues and, yes, you can get text message,s and you can port your existing number over. $35/year!
Rob, I just went to the MagicJackGo web page and didn't see any mention of text messaging. How would that work? The price is very good!
 


If your broadband carrier offers a digital voice service, you can get a good quality digital simulation of landline service reasonably cheap in a package with broadband (or broadband plus cable). Depending on the carrier, you may be able to get a battery backup for the phone part of the service, giving you some protection against short-term power outages. One big benefit is good and dependable voice quality for business service or if you have elderly or hearing-impaired family members that you talk to regularly.
Jeff, based on your post, I just called Spectrum to double-check, as I thought I remembered that texting does not work on their VoIP "Voice" plan. And, no, texting does not work with that setup. This is just as with VoIP companies, like Ooma, Vonage, and MagicJack.

But, after talking to a Spectrum sales fellow and and explaining what I wanted, he did tell me that Spectrum now has good old cell service plans, partnered with Verizon.

They have one plan where you pay $14/gig per month and rent/buy one of their phones. They have a cheapie LG K30 phone for $7.50 a month. If I went with this option, I would pay $21.50 a month for two years with a cancel-anytime policy. At the end of two years, you own the phone, and your monthly cost is $14 going forward.

If I paired this LG K30 cell phone with this home phone system:
it would be another option for a home phone that can receive texts. I'm still considering all options, but this might work well for what I want.
 


The Ooma QoS (Quality of Service) that I have now is awful. A cell phone used as a landline cannot be any worse than what I'm currently using. If we want high QoS, then we all need to go back to copper wire landlines and get rid of cell phones. There is no lower QoS then when someone calls you while driving from their cell and they are using it on speaker phone. Very, very frustrating.
We now have phones that are small, portable, work almost everywhere, are cheap, and have long-lasting batteries.

We gave us QoS for this. It is not possible to get a good quality call anymore. I have ATT cellular, VOIP with a local operator, and Comcast. Not one assures me that any call will work well.

But they're cheap!
 


With the new Android LG phone, I only have calling enabled - no texting, no downloaded apps from the Google Play store, no connection at all with Google...
The pre-installed Google and LG apps on your phone are yearning to phone home.

Google Play Services is surely on your phone; it's how Google pushes changes to Android without having to wait on cell carriers or even manufacturers and is also the vehicle through which Google attempts to manage malware. Play Services shows up on the phone's app list, but it is really an indivisible part of Google's Android.

While I think we'd agree that Google's primary way to tie individual users to their phones is by having users set up Google accounts, which provide a wealth of information, there are many other unique identifiers that Google, LG, and app developers can use to track users.
Developers.Android said:
Best practices for unique identifiers
...In most use cases, you can avoid using hardware identifiers, such as SSAID (Android ID) and IMEI, without limiting required functionality...
Note: developers aren't prohibited from using hardware identifiers...
GSM Security said:
What is an IMEI?
The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a unique 17 or 15 digit code used to identify an individual mobile station... An IMEI is only used to identify the device and does not relate to a specific individual or organization. Other numbers such as the ESN (Electronic Serial Numbers) and MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifiers) can link an individual to a phone. Usually, an IMSI number stored on a SIM card can identify the subscriber on a network.
Also, I don't have a data plan. The only way Apple or Google can force an upgrade to either phone is to have a data plan or be connected to WiFi. I never connect these seldom-used phones to WiFi, so I'm left alone.
As memory serves, we can credit Apple for first coming up with the idea to turn a phone's WiFi on, sniff around, and check for networks. Whether my memory is correct or not, modern Android phones do just that. If a user sets WiFi Off, the default setting, which can be turned off only deeper in Android's menus, is for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanning.
  • Wi-Fi scanning: Improves location for apps and services by scanning Wi-Fi networks even when Wi-Fi is off.
  • Bluetooth scanning: Improvies location for system services by scanning for Bluetooth devices even when Bluetooth is off.
Raising the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas to sniff around for connections is integral to "services", like Apple's iBeacon that can track users around stores. It also raises the prospect that when Wi-Fi or Bluetooth find an open connection, saved logs (which may be only bytes of data) can be transmitted.
I purposely turned off SMS text messaging, because when I had it enabled, I was getting unsolicited text messages
T-Mobile should confirm that SMS is a carrier service that's independent of Google, unless you use Google's "Messages" app. Though if your LG is like mine, it came with an LG app with the same name, and even less insight into what data it might capture.

I use the open-source Silence SMS app, downloaded from F-Droid.
Silence said:
Privacy Policy
Silence does not collect or transmit any personal information...
After realizing that the handy GBoard Google keyboard was turning what I typed into search results, meaning it was monitoring my text messages, I uninstalled it, and downloaded the open source AnySoftKeyboard from F-Droid.
AnySoftKeyboard said:
Free as in speech and Free as in beer.
Incognito Mode - will not track your typing
The only issue I have with the AnySoftKeyboard is that the "Incognito Mode" seems able to turn itself off, though that may be my fumble-fingered typing. There's a clear icon showing it activated as part of the "return key."

I just plug it in via USB and then use a free application called "Android File Transfer" to move files back and forth. Neither Apple nor Google is involved in this procedure.
I've long used "Android File Transfer." It makes connecting an Android device to a Mac, and managing its files, much easier than my experience with connecting iOS gear through iTunes.

But "Android File Transfer" is a Google application. Without researching what it may be doing "behind the scenes", I wouldn't presume it isn't phoning something home to Google. I haven't needed it for some years but will install on a Mac that has Little Snitch enabled just to see if Little Snitch alarms.

Here's a recent article that's a "reasonable" overview of Android settings for users with an interest in some privacy:
Dedoimedo said:
Guide to reasonable privacy on Android
Almost daily, there's an article telling of this or that privacy breach, or how user data gets shared without consent, or similar. So I wanted to take this opportunity and share my approach to a privacy-oriented Android setup, without compromising too much on usability or going over the top.
 


Poor cellphone audio quality remains a serious problem. The old copper-line phone sounded a lot clearer. I often work around this by using FaceTime Audio for people who have that. WiFi Calling may also be better than normal cellular audio.
It's absolutely shameful how we have all completely abandoned audio quality standards in favor of portability. I used to work in broadcast radio, where we obsessed daily over obtaining excellent quality audio for our broadcasts (including when we were reporting by phone). Today, we settle for the most embarrassingly poor audio when we make phone calls and when we listen to radio and TV audio.

The cell phone service companies have done this to us, including by abandoning even the option of buying copper-wire service.
 


My IEEE Spectrum article on cellular voice quality is a few years old now, but it explains the problem in more detail. Sadly, the improvements promised then have yet to make their way through the phone system. I maintain a Verizon FiOS digital voice line as my primary business and home line and only use a cell phone (a dumb flip phone) when I'm traveling.
Yeah, we went from "You can hear a pin drop!" to "Can you hear me now?" Video is the same way, with motion artifacts, moire patterns, stutter and skipped frames not just accepted, but cheered because it's digital.

This race away from quality was discussed by Hirschner 40 years ago in "Exit, Voice and Loyalty" in his description of the Kenyan railway. MacInTouch is Voice, by the way, and Apple used to price Loyalty. Guess what is left?
 



It's absolutely shameful how we have all completely abandoned audio quality standards in favor of portability. I used to work in broadcast radio, where we obsessed daily over obtaining excellent quality audio for our broadcasts (including when we were reporting by phone). Today, we settle for the most embarrassingly poor audio when we make phone calls and when we listen to radio and TV audio. The cell phone service companies have done this to us, including by abandoning even the option of buying copper-wire service.
I was interviewed on the phone several times this year about a book of mine that just came out. Canadian public radio is still fussy enough about audio quality to ask me go to a nearby audio studio, so they got excellent sound quality. Podcasters asked me to use Skype or a landline in a quiet room. On the flip side, one interviewer for a web site that was not posting the audio used an awful cell phone, apparently on speakerphone, because I could hear her typing as I spoke. So, competent audio professionals still care about sound quality.

From what I have read, long-distance telephone voice quality was poor in its early days in the first half of the 20th century, and gradually improved afterwards. The high point was in the mid-1990s, when a guy who lived about five miles away in the Boston suburbs called me one evening from Cairo but sounded like he was in Boston, thanks to fiber-optic transatlantic cables. It's largely been downhill since the spread of cell phones, but it does not have to be. Several years back I called a Mongolian official at her home halfway around the world and had a remarkably clear interview on her cell phone. I suspect that call went onto fiber close to her in Mongolia and stayed on fiber all the way to my home.
 



I pay less than $40 per month from AT&T POTS in California. Lower costs are available for lifeline service.
I don't quite qualify for Lifeline, but I appreciate the thought. When I left AT&T about 1.5 years ago, I was told by the retention department that with taxes it would be about $95 here in the Los Angeles County area where I live.
 


Going back a ways, there were comments about getting texts on landlines. If you get a cheap VOIP line from Callcentric, you can get texts sent to you by email. I've tested it and it works. Callcentric is also quite cheap. The downside is their voice quality is, at least on the cheap phone box I have, quite poor. Maybe if you get better phone-box hardware, it works better?

Ooma, on lines that you designate as “fax lines,” is the only independent VOIP service I could find that my alarm company says is acceptable... and I did test it. No problems sending faxes even without QOS, and the alarm works fine.
I don't really fax much anymore, so the Ooma fax advantage is moot for me.

I will take a look at Callcentric later today. Geez, you'd think if they can receive texts and email them to you that Ooma and Vonage could figure it out too. This company or similar may be the easiest/quickest solution for me in the long run. I really just need an "Ooma" that can receive text messages.
 



I use it solely as a phone, but will occasionally use it to shoot video or record audio. If I want to transfer any audio or video files to my Mac, I just plug it in via USB and then use a free application called "Android File Transfer" to move files back and forth. Neither Apple nor Google is involved in this procedure.
But "Android File Transfer" is a Google application. Without researching what it may be doing "behind the scenes", I wouldn't presume it isn't phoning something home to Google. I haven't needed it for some years but will install on a Mac that has Little Snitch enabled just to see if Little Snitch alarms.
Just installed Android File Transfer on a Mac running Sierra and Little Snitch. As the application launched, it wanted to contact the Google Software Updater, which, hey, could be good. When I had my Android Phone mounted, Little Snitch reported ksfetch and curl wanted to contact Google. I let them do that.

ksfetch is part of the Google update mechanism on a Mac.

curl is an open-source data transfer program. curl has been in the news lately because two Cisco router models were open through remote curl access and have been reportedly exploited in the wild.
threatpost said:
Cisco Finally Patches Router Bugs As New Unpatched Flaws Surface
Part of Cisco’s January fix included blacklisting the so-called client for URLs (or cURL) on the modems. CURL is a command line tool for transferring data using various protocols. Presumably, blacklisting the user agent for cURL would keep attackers out. That wasn’t the case, and Cisco critics chimed in, stating that the blacklisting could easily be bypassed.
The connections Android File Transfer makes with Google may be entirely benign, for example, intended to be sure the software is securely updated. But, at least per Little Snitch, there are connections.

Makes me long for the days when computers worked just fine with applications and data on floppy drives and without having to worry about what the company that sold me the computer, OS, or programs are extracting without my knowledge.

P.S. As I'm able to connect my Android phone to my Linux PC without a Google program, I'll be deleting the Android File Transfer from my Mac, though that's no assurance that instead of the computer possibly data mining my phone, my phone isn't data mining my computer, and as far as I know there's no Little Snitch equivalent for Android.
 


The pre-installed Google and LG apps on your phone are yearning to phone home.
Google Play Services is surely on your phone; it's how Google pushes changes to Android without having to wait on cell carriers or even manufacturers and is also the vehicle through which Google attempts to manage malware. Play Services shows up on the phone's app list, but it is really an indivisible part of Google's Android.
This is why I don't connect my cell to WiFi. I turned on my LG Aristo 2 Plus yesterday and went through and turned off, deleted, and/or disabled everything I could find. It hadn't been connected to WiFi since I bought it about 6 months ago. I figured it couldn't do too much with most everything disabled. As soon as I connected, it downloaded and updated about 8-12 items (as best I could count) for about a minute or so. I believe most or all of them were LG-related. As I've said numerous times now in this thread, I just want phone service and nothing else from my phone.
T-Mobile should confirm that SMS is a carrier service that's independent of Google, unless you use Google's "Messages" app. Though if your LG is like mine, it came with an LG app with the same name, and even less insight into what data it might capture.
You are correct. I did call my local store yesterday to double-check, and they confirmed your statement.
After realizing that the handy GBoard Google keyboard was turning what I typed into search results...
I believe I've turned off GBoard Google keyboard and everything else on this phone that says "Google" or is a feature I want no part of.
I've long used "Android File Transfer." It makes connecting an Android device to a Mac, and managing its files, much easier than my experience with connecting iOS gear through iTunes.
Yes, I completely agree. I think I learned about this app here at MacInTouch, so it may very well have been from you.
Here's a recent article that's a "reasonable" overview of Android settings for users with an interest in some privacy:
Guide to reasonable privacy on Android
Excellent! I noted the link and will take a look later tonight (although I still plan to rarely, if ever, turn on WiFi in the future). Thanks again, George. I always look forward to your posts.
 


Dave G: Have you considered a MagicJackGo? I have been using one for my business line for over 5 years with almost no issues and, yes, you can get text message,s and you can port your existing number over. $35/year!
Has anyone successfully ported a number away from MagicJack, to another carrier?
 


Just installed Android File Transfer on a Mac running Sierra and Little Snitch. As the application launched, it wanted to contact the Google Software Updater, which, hey, could be good. When I had my Android Phone mounted, Little Snitch reported ksfetch and curl wanted to contact Google. I let them do that.
ksfetch is part of the Google update mechanism on a Mac.
curl is an open-source data transfer program. curl has been in the news lately because two Cisco router models were open through remote curl access and have been reportedly exploited in the wild.
Cool. Thanks again for doing the leg work for me/us here. I'm still on Sierra, too, with all my three laptops. I had Little Snitch some years back but gave up on it when I got a bit lazy and was so busy that I felt better off not knowing everything going in the background. I'm very afraid to look these days. I don't have time for yet another obsession. I'll stick with this privacy thing.
Makes me long for the days when computers worked just fine with applications and data on floppy drives and without having to worry about what the company that sold me the computer, OS, or programs are extracting without my knowledge.
P.S. As I'm able to connect my Android phone to my Linux PC without a Google program, I'll be deleting the Android File Transfer from my Mac, though that's no assurance that instead of the computer possibly data mining my phone, my phone isn't data mining my computer, and as far as I know there's no Little Snitch equivalent for Android.
Yep, "long for them days"...

On the bright side, at least Linux not only feels to me more like Snow Leopard (my all-time favorite OS), but I don't fear that I will be data mined. Good to hear that Linux "just works" for Android data transfers.
 


One of the annoyances we experience with our phones (iPhone or Android) is when we get a robo-call or even a cold-calling human attempting to sell something we neither need nor would ever want.

Some of the carriers have added half-hearted attempts to control this by using some allegedly updated spam list of numbers to identify the incoming calls. Unfortunately, the identification often fails and fake caller IDs don't help you separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

But I've found a solution that works well for me. I have a MagicJack account. Before you discount this idea, read on. Here's how it works:

1. Set up conditional forwarding on your cellphone so any calls you don't answer or swipe to dismiss are sent to your MJ number.​
2. Log into your MJ account and turn on call screening. This requires any caller to enter a randomly chosen number between 0 and 9 in order to be connected. Of course, that eliminates all robo-calls. Cold-calling salespeople will enter the proper number, but here's the good part...​
3. In your MJ account, turn on email the voice message and provide your email address. Any messages left on that number will be emailed to you as an audio file attached to an email. The caller's number will be included as text in the email so a call to that number is a tap or two away. Cold-calling salespeople may not want to waste their time leaving a voice message which they know you'll delete within the first two seconds.​

If you've set up an automatic call-back from, let's say, your doctor's office, you'll see the caller ID and answer the call. If the caller ID is from someone you don't recognize, just swipe it away and, instead of ending up in your phone's voicemail, it goes to your MagicJack number, where the call screening kicks in.

The cost: About $45 per year (with the first year of service included when you buy the MagicJack).

Extra equipment needed: Any touchtone POTS phone, just for the setup (or plug it into your Mac/PC), a router on your network (anyone's network, set it up anywhere there's an Ethernet port that can get you to the Internet). Once the setup is complete, disconnect the MJ box, as you'll never need it again. It's the MJ account that enables this, not the MJ box.
 


One of the annoyances we experience with our phones (iPhone or Android) is when we get a robo-call or even a cold-calling human attempting to sell something we neither need nor would ever want.

Some of the carriers have added half-hearted attempts to control this by using some allegedly updated spam list of numbers to identify the incoming calls. Unfortunately, the identification often fails and fake caller IDs don't help you separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

But I've found a solution that works well for me. I have a MagicJack account. Before you discount this idea, read on. Here's how it works:

1. Set up conditional forwarding on your cellphone so any calls you don't answer or swipe to dismiss are sent to your MJ number.​
2. Log into your MJ account and turn on call screening. This requires any caller to enter a randomly chosen number between 0 and 9 in order to be connected. Of course, that eliminates all robo-calls. Cold-calling salespeople will enter the proper number, but here's the good part...​
3. In your MJ account, turn on email the voice message and provide your email address. Any messages left on that number will be emailed to you as an audio file attached to an email. The caller's number will be included as text in the email so a call to that number is a tap or two away. Cold-calling salespeople may not want to waste their time leaving a voice message which they know you'll delete within the first two seconds.​

If you've set up an automatic call-back from, let's say, your doctor's office, you'll see the caller ID and answer the call. If the caller ID is from someone you don't recognize, just swipe it away and, instead of ending up in your phone's voicemail, it goes to your MagicJack number, where the call screening kicks in.

The cost: About $45 per year (with the first year of service included when you buy the MagicJack).

Extra equipment needed: Any touchtone POTS phone, just for the setup (or plug it into your Mac/PC), a router on your network (anyone's network, set it up anywhere there's an Ethernet port that can get you to the Internet). Once the setup is complete, disconnect the MJ box, as you'll never need it again. It's the MJ account that enables this, not the MJ box.
I will correct myself: If you plug the MagicJack into your Mac, you may use your WiFi connection to the Internet to accomplish the MagicJack setup; no Ethernet required.
 


A landline has many advantages over a cellphone, and for me the advantages were always worth the price. I kept my landline for over 20 years (that's how long I have lived in my present apartment in NYC). I had 3 lines, actually – an additional roll-over line and a fax line.

As I have chronicled in these pages before, Verizon has decided to severely curtail repair activities for copper lines, which effectively means that if your copper-wired landline conks out, it won't get repaired; Verizon customer service will tell you to subscribe to its FiOS system. This so infuriated me when our landline expired that I ported the main number over to a cellular line (from Credo), and cancelled the roll-over and fax lines. The home cell is connected via bluetooth to the same Panasonic KX-TG9541 that we used with the landline, so, aside from my forgetting to charge the cellphone every so often, the rest of the household has seen little change in how the physical phone is used (as long as we remember to punch the "cell" button to make a call).

Fortunately, the reception here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is pretty good, so sound quality is close to what we are used to. I miss the security of knowing that the phone will work when the power goes off on the eastern seaboard (phone lines underground), but c'est la vie.
 


Yeah, we went from "You can hear a pin drop!" to "Can you hear me now?" Video is the same way, with motion artifacts, moire patterns, stutter and skipped frames not just accepted, but cheered because it's digital.
This race away from quality was discussed by Hirschner 40 years ago in "Exit, Voice and Loyalty" in his description of the Kenyan railway. MacInTouch is Voice, by the way, and Apple used to price Loyalty. Guess what is left?
Yes about phone service, but I have no problems with video - shooting mostly 4K stuff now.
 




The most recent problem that I've had with Ooma is that unlike a real landline, when someone tries to send you a text, Ooma can't receive it nor does it send back a "failed" response to the sender. I'm up to about 2-3 missed communications now a month...
Ooma has been okay up until now as a substitute landline. The quality of service is not great, but most importantly, I can't receive SMS text messages, nor is there an error message given to the sender telling them that the message did not get through, so it falls into an SMS black hole. I'm finding more and more people assume that they can text to any phone number in 2019.

I've been busy the last couple of weeks with a moving project, but here's where I'm at with this as of today:
  • A landline is much too expensive and it cannot receive text messages.
  • I'd like to keep it simple and find an Ooma VoIP-type company that also can receive SMS texts, but I have a bit more research to do with companies like CallCentric, Consumer Cellular, 1-VoIP, LinkCentral, and others. I do know that texting doesn't work with Ooma, Vonage, my broadband provider Spectrum, or MagicJack (without an app on your phone).
  • Neither one of my pay-as-you-go cell phones (an iPhone and an LG Android) work at my house, and I've tested all carriers with neighbor phones. Verizon is the best, but I still only get 2-2.5 bars, and it's just not good enough.
  • I don't want to connect my cells to the wi-fi, as then I'm also connecting to Apple or Google, which I really don't want to do. I just want to use my phones as phones and nothing else. I have a laptop that I'm on all day and I can take it with me to check email and such when needed.
  • I've talked extensively to my carrier, T-Mobile, about the poor reception here, and the best they can offer is a cell spot that would connect to my wi-fi and amplify the cell signal. The problem with this solution is that I would have to upgrade my plan to a more expensive one, which I don't want or need, and I'm also concerned about the EM radiation emitted from the cell spot. Also, because it's an actual mini cell tower, anyone within 3000 ft. can connect to my mini cell tower.
I hope to get the final research done and make a decision this week. I am hindered by the fact that I value my privacy, don't want extra EM radiation in the house, and I can't get a cell phone to work at home without walking about a block away.

If there is no great solution, I will just have to miss the occasional text and hope the sender will figure out to call or email me. I think the best solution for me would be my second bullet point, which is to find an Ooma substitute that can receive text messages.
 


... If there is no great solution, I will just have to miss the occasional text and hope the sender will figure out to call or email me. I think the best solution for me would be my second bullet point, which is to find an Ooma substitute that can receive text messages.
You could make your life a lot easier if you abandoned texts. I rarely find them worth the trouble, particularly because I rarely use my cell phone and avoid giving the number to people. SMS is a horrible system, because it never gives an indication of failure (although a few texting systems do send voice messages when landline voice mail picks up).

I also discovered another problem with texts recently. Although it is possible to send email to text numbers in certain cases (e.g., for ATT Wireless lines), the recipients cannot reply to you from their mobile line, although the message acts like you can reply to it. I had been sending texts through email from my desktop, because I find it much easier to send information that way than texting on a phone.
 


I also discovered another problem with texts recently. Although it is possible to send email to text numbers in certain cases (e.g., for ATT Wireless lines), the recipients cannot reply to you from their mobile line, although the message acts like you can reply to it. I had been sending texts through email from my desktop, because I find it much easier to send information that way than texting on a phone.
I could have sworn that replying from phone via SMS to SMS sent via email got emailed back, so I tested it (Consumer Cellular/ATT), and it works:
  • Sent email to number@txt.att.net
  • Received SMS at number
  • Replied from number via iOS Messages app.
  • Received reply at original email address.
Also successful was text and reply to an Android device.

Is it possible replies are going into a spam bucket?
 


I could have sworn that replying from phone via SMS to SMS sent via email got emailed back, so I tested it (Consumer Cellular/ATT), and it works:
  • Sent email to number@txt.att.net
  • Received SMS at number
  • Replied from number via iOS Messages app.
  • Received reply at original email address.
Also successful was text and reply to an Android device.

Is it possible replies are going into a spam bucket?
I just tried it to my cell, and it came through without getting caught in a spam filter, which surprised me. I did check the spam filter, but it's possible that my wife's brief reply (something like OK) was blocked by my server or I might have missed it in the spam filter.

It's good news that it works at least some of the time. As a touch typist, texting is like typing with mittens, and I hate it.
 


Amazon disclaimer:
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts