Nov 242012

Recently made the switch for 3 cell phones on an AT&T family plan with 550 shared minutes to Straight Talk (ST) for unlimited minutes. It was not all smooth sailing, and underneath it all, the phones will still run on the AT&T mobile network just under a different brand & billing package, with Straight Talk being a “mobile virtual network operator.” These are the quirky things we had to figure out, since explicit and clear info was hard to find, and unfortunately marketing to the masses tends to mean communicating less #YMMV (your mileage may vary) ::
First, ordered the SIM cards via for their BYOP (bring your own phone) program ($14.99/ea) – that means you can use existing phones from AT&T or T-Mobile or an unlocked GSM. (Read the fine print because not every GSM phone necessarily works.) Wait a few days for convenient home delivery. Phones using this ST BYOP program must purchase SIM cards with an unlimited service plan (starting at $45/mo) and cannot be downgraded to their $30 “all you need” plan.

After receiving the SIMs, go online to activate each one for each phone via, selecting the “Activate/Reactivate” > “Transfer Number” menu item, then select “Activate my Straight Talk Service with a number from another company” to submit the request to port your number. This is so you can keep your phone number. Do this one SIM card at a time for each phone number. I found out you need to use your AT&T account number, not your phone number, not your username, when ST asks for your current AT&T login info, for the transfer request to work.

At this point, the new SIMs from ST are still in their card holders, not in the phones.

I made the transfer request in the evening, when I was not expecting phone calls, just in case. And the transfer request supposedly can take up to 2 or 4 business days, but in our case, it took less than 12 hours. I’m not sure exactly how fast it was, since we submitted the transfer request at 8:00pm Pacific Time, and the transfer had happened when I woke up the next day.

When the cell phone (with the current AT&T SIM still in them) stops working, as denoted by some kind of “no service” message, then turn off the phone. Remove the old SIM card from the phone. Carefully remove the new SIM card from its holder, and insert the new SIM card from ST into the phone. Turn on the phone.

Follow instructions from the activation card about changing the APN settings in your cell phone to use the Straight Talk network. Here where different phones require can take divergent paths.

For the iPhone 3GS, you actually do not have to jailbreak it nor unlock it. To get mobile data working, you can use this iPhone APN changer to change its network setting. Visual voicemail is a lost cause, it doesn’t work with this ST BYOP program. We have not yet changed settings to get MMS to work, but there are several ways to do that.

For my Android smartphone, an HTC Inspire 4G, I had to change my APN settings as follows (note I have more fields to fill out than what was provided on the ST instruction card):

Name: Straight Talk
APN: att.mvno
Port: 80
User name: (not set)
Password: (not set)
Server: (not set)
MMS proxy:
MMS port: 80
MCC: 310
MNC: 410
Authentication type: PAP or CHAP
APN type: (not set)
APN protocol: IPv4

|| [update 11/2013] go to to lookup your Straight Talk APN Settings based on Phone Number or last 15 digits of SIM card ||

Straight Talk has a web discussion forum at with some helpful info. You do have to register for an account, and post like 3 messages, in order to activate private messaging, for their customer service to reply to specific issues in private. [update] also see discussion thread over at Fatwallet: Specific Instructions For How To Switch Your AT&T iPhone To A $45 a Month Unlimited Plan >>

The switch will save us around $400 per year, gets us unlimited minutes, no more contracts, and enables data plan for all 3 lines (up from 2). We did have to pay the ETF (early termination fee) for 2 out of 3 phones because they were still under contracts, and according to the math, we still save in the end.

What has your experience with Straight Talk been like?

For Straight Talk tech support – call 877-430-2355 or for SIM customers 855-222-2355

Jun 152011

There are times when you want to get a message to someone and typing a text message takes too long or won’t fit in 140 characters. Or, you don’t have the time to talk on the phone so you don’t call because you’re not sure they won’t answer and you don’t want to wait for voicemail. And you don’t want to be “that guy” who calls someone in the middle of a meeting.

Talking is faster than texting. What if you can send a voice message?

There’s an emerging genre of mobile apps that let’s you send voice messages! These apps go by a different names, like: voice messenger, push-to-talk, touch-to-talk, walkie-talkie, voice notes, multimedia messaging. Here’s what’s out there:

KakaoTalk app on Android and iPhone. Send/receive text, photo, voice, video. 16 million users.

WhatsApp app on Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia. Costs $1.99USD per year. 15 million users.

TiKL – app on Android and iPhone. 10 million users.

HeyTell – app on Android and iPhone. 4 million users.

TalkBox – app on Android and iPhone. [ed.note: I like the name, its simplicity, and easy-find of my Facebook friends] app on Android and iPhone. [ed.note: best looking design]

PingChat app on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. Send/receive text, photo, video, voice notes.

Palringo app on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, Windows mobile, and PC or Mac desktop. Send/receive text, voice, and photo. $$ for extra features. [ed.note: seems like a multi-network IM that can send audio]

CloudTalk app on iPhone and Android, has multi-media messaging (voice, text, photo, video) and public forum to meet new people.

Voxer app on iPhone only. Send/receive text, voice, photo, location. Android app on the development road map.

Jawbone Thoughts – sender must have the iPhone app, receiver can listen via app or web

Voice/multi-media messaging could be the next big thing, and will be mainstream if more people get smartphones and install these apps. Down-side: it requires a smartphone with a internet data plan; instead of using minutes on your calling plan. These apps have been around for months, but, unfortunately, most people in my contacts aren’t “in network.” Yet. I’d love to connect. My username = djchuang.

My hunch is that many of these voice/multi-media messenger will be around, like how we still have multiple instant messenging networks, a la AOL, Yahoo, Google Talk, QQ, etc. Will Facebook or Google or Twitter get into the game or buy out one of these? We will see.

Dec 112008

While interaction is what makes the web more webby, I’d like to think there are more ways to use the web/ internet.

What I’m thinking of is inbound web content. That is, one-directional internet; you could even call it mobile broadcast.

For years, the President of the United States can freely turn on cable tv to watch CNN or Fox News, so why couldn’t the POTUS pull out a modified blackberry device or gphone or iPhone and get mobile web content?

Having worked at a telecomm company in the past, I’ve heard colleagues say that the said company provided customized telephony to the White House. So, it’s already been a business and government precedence set for custom services to be developed. And, there are cell phones now that get their built-in cameras turned off, right?

It’s reported that Obama will be the first president with a computer on his presidential desk [mobile ver] in that Oval Office. That computer is most likely going to be a MAC. Will Obama using a Mac accelerate its adoption into mainstream? This month was the first time that Windows dropped below 90% market share. [aside: this blog post was composed on 2 Apple products, iPhone and MacBook Pro]

I think he oughta have a unidirectional mobile smartphone to receive near instant inbound web stuff. That’ll keep the questions about the Presidential Records Act moot, and we can keep technological progress progressing. I’m with Bill Brenner, that Obama’s BlackBerry is no security threat: Taking it away could isolate him from the real world.

NOTE: I confess that I haven’t kept up with the news on developments with this issue, so I don’t know if it’s already been resolved. Someone can quickly fact-check and inform me in the comment section.

Yeah, there are possibly many more ramifications and implications that I haven’t considered. Want to voice how frustrating it is for me to see how the laws of the land isn’t able to keep up with the ever-changing ever-developing digital technologies. We’re in an increasingly paperless society.

Jul 182008

Having been an AT&T customer for years, way back to when it was AT&T Wireless, became Cingular, then becoming the new AT&T (formerly known as SBC), my current mobile phone of choice is a Blackberry Curve 8300. Curve I’ve had it for just over a year, actually decided to get the Curve instead of the 1st iPhone launched a few days later. The Curve has served me well, and still does.

With the frenzy over iPhone 3G launch last weekend, I took a look at my cell phone upgrade elgibility, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m eligible on 7/19/08! That’s this weekend!

Since the prices and calling plans are plain confusing, I don’t know how much more an upgrade to iPhone 2.0 will cost me over the 2-year contract. My calling plan + data plan already pushes me past the 3-digit mark every month (i.e. $100+). My monthly communications allowance is $180, which is inclusive of my cell phone and internet (DSL).

Right now I’m leaning towards getting the iTouch, which would have everything except the phone part — I can still get music, videos, photos, use apps, and browse the internet via wifi. And by keeping the Curve, too, I’d more have overall longer battery life on the road — the Curve and the iTouch. So that’s what I’m thinking — what do you think? I’ll put it up for a vote:

Now, the voting results will not be binding, but (just like the election) your vote does count! And, remember, this is an exhibition not a competition so please, no wagering.

[update] hmmm.. Gadgetress found 6 ways to win a free iPhone

[update 2] talked with 2 different AT&T CSRs and they say my monthly costs will remain the same! So, now it’s deciding when to get in on the iPhone bandwagon, and whether 8gb or 16gb!

Jan 082008

Being stuck out in the sticks at a place outside of Houston called Trinity Pines last weekend, I didn’t have readily available access to wifi Internet. Technically speaking, there was an open wifi signal at the campground office 2 buildings over, but in the midst of cold weather and a packed schedule, I didn’t feel like lugging my laptop over there. Plus, there were so many great conversations to be had at that conference, and great conversations are hard to find, even for me, and I’m looking for them high and low, all over the country for them.

I had wanted to make a coupla blog posts while in the moment there, but wasn’t able to do that. Certainly have yet to figure out how to do it on a WordPress-powered blog like this one is, and I’ve tried a bunch of things to no avail. And I’ve just checked again, and it is not yet possible to post via email on

However, you can use to blog post with a compatible mobile smartphone! So there you go. Gotta bookmark that in my Blackberry Curve. Had I known that, I woulda made several live blog posts over at the L2 blog as the conference happened. [update] couldn’t get this to work via the bb built-in browser, but it works great with the Opera Mini browser!

Now, I’ll have to blog in retrospect as I find time in the next week or two. And, just made last-minute plans to make a trip up to East Bay this Saturday for the ISAAC‘s Consultation for East Bay Chinese Churches and to make a site visit at Bay Area Chinese Bible Church (a 50-year old church pastored by a 4th-generation American Born Chinese and has a Chinese Christian school). Very grateful for that opportunity, where I’ll be presenting about reaching next generation Asian Americans. I hope to share the slides and the audio post-event with you.

Right now I’m playing catch up at work, since I’m 3 weeks behind(!), having taken 2 weeks off for holiday vacation and then another week being at the Render conference. It was an incredible time for me personally, and I would mark it as a personal milestone for my growing in self-awareness and being more comfortable in my own skin.

Sep 132006

Wireless mobile technology is almost good enough to make internet (almost) anywhere, in the 100+ larger metropolitan areas around the USA. I might be jumping the gun here, but individuals (and not businesses only) should be able to easily get untethered access to the Internet without having to rely on WiFi hotspots and access points. But why is this so buried with the mobile carriers’ websites? And, what do you call it anyways: mobile broadband? high-speed cellular network? wireless internet? wireless broadband? EVDO? EDGE?

So I’m digging around for (what seemed like) hours, trying to find info like this:

EVDO claims to be faster than EDGE. Ed Bott laments a similar dilemma to choose between the two. This December 2005 article gives more detailed comparisons on some of the above.

Here’s what I’m looking for: lower cost, wider coverage, more reliability, faster speed, less fine print nickel & diming, no contract, in order of priority. Help?