Getting the Most Out of Your Samsung Galaxy S III – Part Two

Last update: January 26, 2012

30 Great Tips & Tricks for the Samsung Galaxy S III

In part one of this article, we talked about what you need to get started with your new phone. This week were going to go much deeper and discuss more than twenty more tips that every Samsung Galaxy S III user should know.

    1. Learn how to access Google Now – There is some confusion how to access Google Now on a Samsung Galaxy S III. You don’t swipe up like you do on other Android smartphones. To access Google Now, long press the Home button and touch ‘Google.’ Now you’ll need to set things up by clicking ‘Next’ until you see ‘Yes, I’m in.’ Then choose which email account you want to use. Now you should start receiving cards with useful information on them. Say ‘Google’ to ask you phone questions without touching the screen.

    2. Try the new live camera filters – Android 4.1 has some cool new Instagram-style live filters that work on photos or video. To enable these, go to the Camera app and touch the magic wand icon. You’ll be able to choose from presets including warm vintage, cold vintage, black and white, sepia, solarize and many more.

    3. Edit video on-the-fly without editing software – Android 4.1 also lets you make your own movie by simply pressing the pause button in the Camera app and then starting to record again. When you’re finished press the stop button and you can watch your edited shots in sequence. This is simple, but really useful addition.

    4. See how widgets automatically resize – As you drop widgets onto the Android 4.1 home screens, everything else automatically moves to make room. When a widget is too big it, it resizes itself.

    5. Quickly speed up bogged down apps – I love the Zite app, but after you use it for a while it gets slower and slower until you can hardly scroll the page. This problem is easy to fix however. First, long press the Home button and touch ‘Remove all.’ Then, touch ‘Task manager’ and ‘Clear memory.’ Finally, hit the Back button and go back to the problem app. You’ll find the problem is gone.

    6. Capturing a screen – To capture anything on the screen press the home button and the power button together for 2 seconds OR use your palm to swipe from right to left. If you’ve done it correctly, you should hear a copy machine sound and see the screen flash white. Video instructions.

    7. Turn off 4G to increase your battery life – If you’re in an area without 4G LTE reception there is no reason to have your phone continually scanning for a 4G signal. This can take a toll of your battery life. Unfortunately carriers like Verizon do not let you disable 4G from the Settings pages. Fortunately there is a solution to this problem although it’s not as easy as it should be.

    1. Download the ‘Phone info‘ app from Google Play.
    2. Click on ‘Device info’
    3. Scroll down till you see ‘LTE/CDMA/EvDo’
    4. Touch ‘LTE/CDMA/EvDo’ and choose ‘GSM/CDMA auto (PRL)’

    You should be now be connected to Verizon's 3G network. Because the phone is no longer constantly searching for a 4G signal, this will conserve battery life.

    Here are some more great tips to preserve battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S III.

    8. Mute your phone by turning it over – Go to Motion and ‘Turn over to mute/pause’ to on. Now turning your phone over so it’s screen is down automatically mutes incoming call ringtones and alerts sounds. This feature also works with music and videos when you use the stock Samsung players.

    9. Make your graphics smoother – Normally your CPU handles rendering of 2D graphics. By going to Settings > Developer options and making sure ‘Force GPU rendering’ is checked, you can free up CPU clock cycles so your graphics are rendered faster and smoother. In the unlikely event that you encounter an app which doesn’t support this, you’ll want to disable this setting before running that app.

    10. Pick your favorite contacts – To do this launch the Phone app and touch ‘Contacts,’ then mark your best friends and family members with a star to identify them as Favorites. You’ll find the star in the upper right-hand corner of the screen after you select a contact. Favorites are displayed first in the Phone app so you can quickly call or message them.

    11. Toggle screen rotation – By now you’ve probably figured out you can enable and disable screen rotation from the Notification bar which is displayed when you swipe down from the top of the screen. I recommend that you disable this when you’re not viewing photos or video.

    12. Enable Driving mode – Another useful Notifications bar option is Driving mode. When this is enabled, all incoming caller ID and text messages will be read to you.

    Driving mode and Sync disable are useful settings

    13. Disable sync when you’re not working – You can save battery life by disabling account synchronization when you don’t need it. This is done by scrolling to the right and touching ‘Sync’ in the Notification bar.

    14. Display a world clock for notifications – Touch the time in the Notification area to display a world clock. Touch ‘Add city’ to display different zones around the world.

    15. Access your phone, mail, texts or camera from the lock screen – You can simply quickly swipe up from any of the four icons on the Lock screen to immediately launch the associated app. This is a real time saver.

    Notice Instagram has been added to the Lock screen

    16. Access any app from the Lock screen – You can replace any of the four icons on the lock screen. To do this, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Security’ > ‘Lock screen options’ and make sure Shortcuts is on. Then touch the word ‘Shortcuts’ and four icons will appear. Touch the icon you wish to replace and choose a new app. The access the new app when your phone is locked, quickly swipe up to launch it.

    17. Quickly switch between all running apps – Press and hold the Home button to see all of the running apps. Touch the screenshot for any app to switch to it.

    It’s easy to free up lots of memory

    18. Free up memory to improve performance – To free up memory and make your phone run faster, press and hold the Home button and touch ‘Task manager.’ Then touch ‘RAM’ near the top of the screen and ‘Clear memory.’

    19. Close all running apps – To close all apps that are running in the background, press and hold the Home button and touch ‘Remove all.’

    20. Zoom in or out using hardware buttons– You can use the volume and volume down buttons on the left to zoom in or out which in the Camera app.

    21. Connect to your corporate mail – To access your work email click on the ‘Email’ app on the home screen shown to the right. Then click on the ‘Corporate’ icon and enter your name and password. If it doesn’t connect with you exchange server the first time, check your user name and try again. To save battery life, change from ‘Push’ to a time interval like 30 minutes or Manual for Off-Peak.

    22. Access all of your email from a single app– To add all of your different e-mail accounts (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo mail, Outlook mail, etc.) touch the icon for the red Email app and go to Settings. Then touch the ‘+’ sign and choose which account to setup.

    You can use any song as your ringtone

    23. Getting the pan image trick to work – The trick to getting the pan to browse feature to work (after you’ve enabled it under Motion settings) is to hold one of your fingers on the screen when you are zoomed in on an image. Then when you move the phone in wide sweeping motions from left to right and back you should see different parts of the photo.

    24. Use your favorite song as a ringtone – You can use any song as a ringtone for all calls, calls from an individual person, or as an alarm. Launch the stock ‘Music Player’ app and touch and hold on the song you wish to use. Then touch ‘Set as’ and choose from the available options.

    25. Upgrade your browser – The stock Browser is fine, but you should download and install Chrome and use it instead. It’s much faster and links with your computer and tablet.

    26. Buy a wireless charging doc – Most people don’t know it, but the Galaxy S III supports wireless charging. To take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to purchase a special doc from Samsung. These docs should go on sale any day now.

    27. Prevent your phone from switching to Wi-Fi – You may want to consider turning off Wi-Fi when you’re in an area with great 4G data speeds, because it will make your phone faster. The reason for this is because your phone will always use Wi-Fi when it’s available — even if it’s much slower than 4G. Since the Galaxy S III automatically turns Wi-Fi back on when you do certain things, you’ll have to go to Settings/Wi-Fi and uncheck the first option which says “Notify Me – When launching high data usage applications…” Important: You should only do this is you have a 4GB data plan, or are sure you’re under your monthly allowance.

    28. Download some great new apps – If this is your first Android phone, you should download some of the best Android apps. Here is a good list of the fifty best.

    29. Fix your auto-brightness – Your phone has an auto-brightness setting, but it doesn’t work that well. You should download Lux Auto Brightness to fix this problem. Lux automatically adjusts the brightness of your display based on your environment. When you go into a dark room and unlock your screen, Lux will automatically lower the brightness of your display to make reading more enjoyable.

    To setup Lux you need to go through their setup wizard. I suggest you leave the factory default settings as is. After you do that, you’ll need to go back and launch the app again and touch ‘Press to enable Lux.’ Lux will adjust every time you unlock your screen. If you sometimes use your tablet in a totally dark room, I suggest you go to the settings page and set ‘Night Mode’ alpha to 10.

    30. Share your screen with other devices – It’s possible to share the screen on your Samsung Galaxy S III with Samsung phones, tablets or TVs. Learn how to do this here.

    Connect your phone to any Apple speaker dock

    Connect your phone to any Apple speaker dock

    31. Connect your phone to a speaker dock – Now you can buy a cable which connects your Samsung Galaxy S III to any Apple-compatible speaker dock.

    In addition to the above tips, here are five little-known features for Your Samsung Galaxy S III that you’ll be able to appreciate after you upgrade to Android 4.1. If you’re wondering why I left out S Beam, I’ve devoted a whole post to that feature alone. Check it out.

More Android 4.1 tips from Samsung.
– Rick

Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1


Ten Popular Myths about Google Wallet & NFC

Last update: May 15, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About Google Wallet and NFC

You can make a purchase without opening the Google Wallet app

With all the talk about Google Wallet being hacked, I thought it might be nice to do a story about it. In case you don’t already know, Google Wallet allows you to make purchases by tapping your NFC-enabled smartphone at PayPass cash registers or terminals. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and allows two devices to communicate when they’re moved close together. NFC builds upon earlier RFID-based systems like smart cards by allowing two-way communication. Smart cards are only capable of one-way communication. NFC also has advantages over wireless standards like Bluetooth, because it doesn’t require pairing. It also sets up faster, requires less power, and has a shorter range than Bluetooth, which reduces the chance of unwanted interception. Although NFC has been in products for more than six years, there is still a lot of misinformation about it. Let’s start by addressing some of the biggest myths:

Ten Myths about Google Wallet and NFC

  1. Myth: Google Wallet was hacked and is unsafe to use – Reality: While it’s true that the original Google Wallet was hacked, there was little risk to anyone who used a PIN, or pattern-based screen lock and no risk unless your phone was taken by someone with access to the hack. Besides, this issue was fixed by a software update. Even if your phone was stolen by a hacker, the same rules apply to Google Wallet which apply to traditional credit cards. In most cases you have no liability, and unlike your credit card, a hacker can only spend money which was added to your Google Wallet.
  1. Myth: Google Wallet only works with Citi MasterCard – Reality: Not true. Back in August, Google rolled out a cloud-based version of Google Wallet which supports all major credit and debit cards. Since that time Google Wallet usage has more than doubled. You just link one or more of your cards with Google Wallet and it remembers all of your data.
  1. Myth: Only a few phones support NFC today – Reality: Nine out of ten cellphone makers have phones on the market this year with an NFC chip inside them [Source: ABI Research]. Examples include the Samsung Galaxy SIII, LG Nexus 4, HTC Droid DNA, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google Nexus S, LG Intuition, HTC Evo 4G LTE and Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket. Over 60 other devices support NFC today as well including other phones from RIM (Blackberry), HTC, LG, Nokia and Samsung. Here is the full list. ABI forecasts that 285 million smartphones and tablets with embedded NFC chips will ship in 2013, up from 102 million this year. Google Wallet is also preloaded on the NFC-enabled Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. Soon you may not need your carriers permission or an NFC-enabled phone to buy things using Google Wallet. Google’s new credit card is rumored to work anywhere that accepts traditional credit or debit cards.

You can use Google Wallet anywhere you see these images

  1. Myth: Google Wallet is only accepted by a few merchants – Reality: Google Wallet is currently accepted at over thirty different retail chains including 7 Eleven, American Eagle, Banana Republic, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Champs, Chevron, Container Store, CVS Pharmacy, Duane Reade, Einstein Bros Bagels, Foot Locker, Guess, Home Depot, Jack in the Box, Jamba Juice, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Noah’s Bagles, Office Max, Old Navy, Peet’s Coffee, Pinkberry, Radio Shack, Rite Aid, Sports Authority, Sunoco (gas station), Toys R US, Whole Foods, Yellow Cab (NYC) and others. That doesn’t seem like much, but it means you can use your Google Wallet at over 300,000 MasterCard PayPass-enabled terminals. The Google Market has an app called MasterCard PayPass Locator, which helps you to locate places you can use Google Wallet, but it’s missing many places which accept it. Look for these symbols above to find merchants who accept Google Wallet. Google Wallet can also be used for in-app payments on your mobile devices although there has been some controversy over this. Experts say in five years 86 percent of all North American merchants will have NFC-enabled terminals. However, only 53 percent of merchants will support NFC worldwide by 2017.
  1. Myth: NFC is new and unproven – Reality: NFC phones have been around since 2006. NFC has been used by consumers in Japan, South Korea and European cities for several years without problems. London buses now accept payment from NFC-enabled phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III.
  1. Myth: Most carriers are still preventing Google Wallet from being installed on their devices – Reality: Google Wallet can now be installed on every mobile device in the U.S. running Android 2.3 and later. It can even be downloaded on devices without NFC support and formerly carrier blocked devices like the Verizon Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4. That’s the good news. The bad news is, for now, Tap and pay functionality is available in the US, and requires one of the following NFC-enabled Android devices shown here with a Secure Element chip, on select carrier networks. In other words, if you’re not on Sprint or have a Nexus device, you’re still screwed.
  1. Myth: No signature is required when buying things using Google Wallet – Reality: Although this is generally true, a signature may be required when purchasing items costing $30 or more.
  1. Myth: Apple doesn’t plan to support NFC – Reality: According to Bloomberg, future generations of iPhone, iPod and iPad will support NFC. Windows Phone 8 is also rumored to support NFC.
  1. Myth: Google Wallet will quickly drain your battery – Reality: Although this was true earlier, the problem was fixed by a software update. Enabling NFC consumes some power, but on my phone it’s responsible for less than 2% of total battery usage.
  2. This explains how you can purchase things without an Internet connection

    This explains how you can purchase things without an Internet connection

  1. Myth: You need to have an Internet connection in order to buy something using Google Wallet. Reality: Not true. You do not need to be connected to a Wi-Fi or 3G/4G network in order to Tap and Pay using Google Wallet. That means tablet users without cellular service can use Google Wallet for purchases.

How To Secure Your Google Wallet

As mentioned earlier, the best way to protect your Google Wallet is to lock your screen. “Face Unlock,” “Pattern,” “PIN” and “Password” are all ways to do this. If you’re still worried, here are some more extreme steps to secure your Google Wallet:

There are several easy ways you can secure your phone

  1. Make sure “USB debugging” is not enabled – When enabled, the data on mobile devices can be accessed without first passing a lock screen challenge unless full disk encryption is also enabled.
  2. Enable full disk encryption – This will prevent even USB Debugging from bypassing the lock screen.

If your phone is stolen and you have Google Wallet installed, Google recommends you call 855-492-5538, and ask them to disable your prepaid card.

Not Just For Financial Transactions

NFC isn’t just good for financial transactions. Google Wallet also includes support for SingleTap, enabling users to redeem coupons and earn reward points. NFC can also be used to share contacts, photos and other files. If you’re running Android 4.0 today, you can Android Beam web pages, contacts, maps, YouTube videos and more, from one phone to another. Users of the popular Foursquare app can now bump phones and transfer places visited or lists. They can also check-in or initiate friend requests wherever NFC tags are. Imagine going to a venue and touching on a sign with an embedded NFC tag to check in. Pretty cool.

NFC isn’t just good for mobile payments, in the future NFC may even help you set up Wi-Fi connections, or enter multiplayer mobile games. There are so many things NFC is good for. I’m looking forward to using my phone to pay for mass transit. That way I won’t have to take out my wallet on a crowded train platform. You can even order business cards with an NFC chip into them, which will take the person you give them to a URL of your choosing. The main advantage to these is the fact that the URL can be changed without reprinting more business cards.

NFC isn’t limited to smartphones either. Next generation computers like the Sony Tap 20 and Duo 11, will include NFC support so you can beam data from your phone to computer, by simply touching them together. You can also purchase a Nexus 7 tablet for only $199 which has full support for NFC and Google Wallet. That’s one of the easiest ways to try Google Wallet at the moment, since carriers like Verizon are still trying to block it.

Google Wallet Isn’t the Only Game In Town

There are other mobile payment systems as well. One of the most promising is called Isis. Like Google Wallet, Isis lets you add your credit cards to your mobile wallet, but that’s not all. Isis is also supposed to let you add debit and loyalty cards to your mobile wallet, and provide access to personalized offers. That means after you use your phone to pay for a Starbucks coffee, you can tap again to get a discount or add the purchase to your Starbucks loyalty card. Isis is currently being tested in two U.S. cities, and coming soon to NFC-enabled phones from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

According to an article in Mobile Week, Isis has some distinct advantages because it’s setting up a system that can give financial institutions the reassurance that transactions conducted by smartphone will be secure. Isis has also lined up cards from Chase, Capital One, American Express and Barclays. Its transactions are supported by the Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover payment networks.

Isis isn’t the only new player. Retailers including Walmart, Target, Sears and others announced their own own payment system back in August called MCX. Since then they’ve gone dark however.

ISIS is conducting a mobile payment trail in two U.S. cities

ISIS is conducting a mobile payment trail in two U.S. cities

October Updates

  • Customers in Salt Lake City and Austin can now download the Isis Mobile Wallet from Google Play. Although Isis hopes to have twenty phones supported by the end of the year, only three Verizon phones are support at the moment: the HTC DROID Incredible 4G LTE by HTC, the Motorola DROID RAZR HD and the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD. Before Verizon customers can use Isis they must first get a new SIM card, then add their credit, debit and loyalty cards into the Wallet. T-Mobile currently has three Isis-ready devices: the Samsung’s Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S II and Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G.
  • With or without Apple, the NFC mobile payments will hit $100 billion in by 2016.
  • Other Recent NFC-related Announcements

    November Updates

  • It appears Google will be releasing their own Google Wallet Card. You can add money to it like a debit card, and use it anyplace credit cards are accepted. Money added to this card can also be spent using the Google Wallet app running on supported NFC devices like the Nexus 7 tablet and more eligible devices. More info.
  • Google Wallet will soon let you make purchases on mobile sites. Soon you’ll be able to buy things from websites using your phone and Google Wallet. Google will auto-fill your name, billing address and card information into the proper fields of the website, making purchases faster and easier. More info.
  • Visa’s mobile payments platform also recently emerged from a year long beta and is now available at 23 retailers and 53 different banks.
  • Chinese smartphone manufacturer GEAK recently announced an NFC ring that stores your identity, unlocks your smartphone and can share your contact info with others.
  • Soon you'll be able to use your phone to unlock your door

    Soon you’ll be able to use your phone to unlock your door

    Spring 2013 Updates

  • Hyundai is showing a concept car which allows users to unlock their car by tapping their phone on an NFC tag on the car door. They plan to release this publicly by 2015.
  • Belkin’s new HD Bluetooth music receiver uses NFC “tap-and-play” pairing.
  • LG Electronics is coming out with new NFC-enabled smart appliances that will let the user start a load of laundry while driving home from work, tell a robotic cleaner to vacuum the floor, or view what’s in a refrigerator from their smartphone.
  • Soon you will be able to unlock your door using an NFC-enabled Android phone like the Galaxy S III. The ShareKey app will also allow you to grant access to others for a specific time period. That way a repair person could enter your residence when you aren’t home.
  • At the end of January, Google updated Google Wallet with a new Holo-style user interface, better application stability and improved battery life.
  • A new app lets users users to add digital information to Near Field Communication (NFC) business cards.
  • Google Wallet now allows you to attach money to an email just like a photo or file.
  • Summer Updates

  • Google Wallet launched a new promotion with popular Android apps and websites in a bid to increase its brand recognition. Gives financial incentives of $15 to $25.
  • Brother announces the first NFC-enabled printers, which let consumer to tap their NFC-enabled smart device to the printer and print (or scan) a document or image.
  • Other Updates

  • Google is bringing NFC-enabled app vending machines to Japan. More info
  • Google is testing NFC security tokens that could get rid of the password for good. More info.
  • Mobile payment service Isis plans to celebrate their (better late than never) nationwide launch with 1 million free smoothies. More info.
  • Using NFC, IBM brings dual-factor authentication to mobile. More info
  • 7-Eleven, Best Buy cease NFC trials – “Near-field communication trials at some Best Buy and 7-Eleven stores are ending, as the retailers haven’t seen a payoff for the costs involved in enabling the technology, Rebecca Borison writes. “For various reasons NFC-based mobile payments options have yet to gain traction, and NFC provides no real benefit to the customer over other less costly options,” 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said. Best Buy and 7-Eleven may implement the mobile-payment service to be offered by the Merchant Customer Exchange.” Source
  • Isis claims to have activated 20,000 accounts a day over the past month, doubling its March activity. They now have 600,000 subscribers and are supported on 68 phones. Source
  • – Rick

    Where to Learn More

  • Learn more about Google Wallet.
  • Learn more about NFC.
  • Learn more about Android Beam.
  • Learn more about Foursquare’s support for NFC.
  • How to get Google Wallet to work on a rooted Verizon Samsung Galaxy SIII. Step-by-step instructions. For advanced users only.
  • Here’s a great story about a Wired writer who went without a wallet for an entire month.
  • How the fragmented world of mobile wallets will sow confusion.
  • 8 scenarios where NFC makes sense
  • NFC: Not just for mobile payments anymore (CNET)
  • NFC becoming more main stream with operators driving SIM-based NFC. As an example, Samsung teamed up with Visa to make mobile payments common place.
  • The first NFC payment service is being launched in China, in a joint collaboration between China Unicom and China Merchants Bank (CMB).
  • Copyright 2013-2014 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    Ooma Telo is the One of The Best Land Line Replacements

    If you’re still paying for local phone service, it’s time to switch to an Internet-based phone system. Over half of Americans no longer use a land line, according to government data. Internet-based phone systems let you to make long distance calls for a fraction of the cost of a traditional landline. In some cases, there is no monthly charge whatsoever. There are quite a few different companies offering voice over IP (VoIP) phone solutions, so it’s important you do some research before buying.

    What The Experts Say

    Speaking of research, I came across this blog post which compares most popular VoIP systems. After reading this, I decided Ooma was on my short list of products to consider. This wasn’t the first I’d heard about Ooma. I first heard about the Ooma Telo at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters. One of their senior technical managers told me he was using Ooma at home and recommended it highly. I also noticed Consumer Reports ranked Ooma as the #1 phone service. In their study, Ooma beat Skype, Verizon FIOS, Vonage, Cox, U-verse and all other VoIP services. These two recommendations were all I needed to take the plunge and purchase an Ooma Telo.

    How Much Will You Save?

    Phone rates vary. I was paying about $45 a month for my landline. The Ooma website has a nice little calculator, which estimates how much you will save using Ooma. In my case, the savings were considerable. I’ll save at least $1245 dollars over a three year period. Also, my Ooma hardware will pay for itself after only 5 months, not 7 months as the chart shows. That’s because I paid only $180 after tax and shipping.

    Ooma Pros

    This is a partial list of the advantages Ooma has over a conventional landline and other VoIP systems.

    • Unlimited free local and long distance anywhere in the U.S. Save hundreds of dollars a year over the cost of a conventional landline
    • Ooma Telo Handset

      • Does not require a computer like magicJack or Skype. This results in extra savings because your computer does not need to be left on
      • Better voice-quality than Skype, magicJack or any mobile phone
      • You can use your existing wired or wireless phones with it
      • Cheaper than Vonage – Even with the hardware cost and the optional $10 a month Premier Plan, Ooma is still often cheaper than Vonage for a year of service
      • Setup is easy and only takes about 10 minutes
      • Has an built-in answering machine for voice-mail. Caller ID, voice mail, call waiting are all free
      • Doesn’t have the annoying delays that VoIP systems like Skype sometimes have
      • Has a wide range of features and accessories, including a wireless handset, wireless adapter, Bluetooth adapter and a mobile HD app


      How Good is the Sound Quality?

      If you use Ooma with a good DECT 6.0 wireless phone, it sounds much better than Skype, magicJack or any mobile phone. It would probably sound even better, if the 2-Wire Gateway provided with AT&T’s U-verse service allowed me to give Ooma priority. Even with Ooma sharing bandwidth with everything else on my crowded network, I never get any echos or delays. Is it perfect? No. Occasionally, I hear other artifacts and small dropouts, but they aren’t very obvious and normally go away after a few seconds. I also bought their Ooma Telo handset because I heard it had even better sound quality, but it sounds a lot like my Panasonic phone. Since I’m signed up for their Premium package, I can have two different conversations going on at once. I have noticed the sound quality does drop when I do this, but it’s still acceptable.

      Ooma Cons

        No system is perfect. Here are some of the negatives of the Ooma Telo system.
      • Higher initial cost than most other VoIP systems ($179 currently)
      • Ooma is not entirely free. You still have to pay monthly taxes of $3 to $4
      • Some cable-based phone systems have slightly better voice-quality than VOIP systems.
      • Ooma does occasionally have short drop outs in sound. You hear these most often when you're listening to your messages.A loud click occurs when the Ooma answering machine starts recording
      • International calling costs an additional $9.95 a month for 1000 minutes. Right now, you can call Canada is free3-way calling and some other optional features cost an extra $10 a month
      • Not as good for travel as magicJack or Skype, because it requires a 5.5” x 7.5” box


      Ooma is not entirely free. There is a small monthly fee.

      Activating Your Ooma Telo

        Setting up an Ooma system takes about 10 minutes. First you go online to
      • Next, type in the activation code found on the back of the Ooma Telo box.
      • Then enter the area code for your new Ooma phone number. It doesn't have to be the same as your old area code. If you want to keep your old phone number, you must pay a one-time $40 fee which  is waived if you subscribe to Ooma Premier.
      • Now enter your contact info and address. This is used for 911 services.
      • Next, enter your billing information. This is used to pay your monthly taxes and any upgrades you decide to add.
      • Finally, select a password and answer a security question.


      Setting up an Ooma Telo is easy

      System Setup

        Once you’re activated, you’re only three steps away from making a phone call:
      • Connect your Ooma Telo box to your cable modem, DSL modem or home gateway. Although it’s best to connect your Ooma box between your modem and router, it works fine if you connect it to an integrated modem/router.
      • Connect your corded or cordless phone to the Ooma box.
      • Power up the Ooma Telo and wait for it to update its software. This took 5-10 minutes on the first Ooma box I installed and was not required on the second one.

      That’s it! Now you’re ready to make free local and long distance calls. When you turn on your phone you should hear Ooma’s special dial tone.

      Is Ooma Right for Everyone?

      No. Ooma is a good system but it’s not right for everyone. VoIP-based phone services are not ideal for:

      • People who can’t lose phone service when their power or Internet is down
      • People with alarm systems that communicate via landline. Ooma recommends you maintain a basic landline  for the purposes of your alarm system, or move to a cellular-based alarm panel
      • Someone who doesn’t want to have their Ooma answering machine in the same room as their modem or router. Installing a Ooma Wireless Adapter or HomePlug network addresses this problem
      • Those with wireless phone systems where the base station can’t be moved near the Ooma phone box
      • Those without a high-speed Internet connection (like all other VoIP systems except cable)


      Scare Tactics

      Porting your phone number can be a little intimidating for DSL users.

      • They say you need to contact your broadband provider and request a dry loop DSL
      • They also warn there could be cancellation charges. No one I know has been charged for this
      • They also say it could take up to two weeks to port your number. In my case, it took about 4 days
      • They also warn your broadband or TV service could go down if the the port isn’t done correctly. We didn’t lose service.
      • They also say you must call your phone company after the number port to cancel your service

      I’ve done two separate number ports so far, and had no problems with any of the things listed above. Both were in homes with DSL and an IP-based TV system (e.g. AT&T U-verse). The only thing that you should be aware of,  is the fact your communications bundle pricing could go up if you got a discount for bundled phone service before. Normally this will be about $10.

      Ooma Extras

      Ooma charges $10 extra a month for their Premiere features. The Premiere package has so many features, I can’t go into them all here. I listed a few highlights below. You can read about the rest here.

      • Instant Second Line  – Allows you to make or take two simultaneous calls from a single phone number
      • Blacklists – Help you block telemarketers. This is one of my favorite features and the main reason I spent the extra $10
      • Multi-ring – Lets you answer calls from your home phone or cell phone
      • Message Screening – Allows you to listen-in as the caller leaves their message
      • Send to Voicemail – Allows you to transfer a call to your voicemail
      • Voicemail Forwarding – Lets you forward voicemail, so that you can listen to it from your favorite email program
      • Do Not Disturb – Allows you to roll your calls into voicemail without ringing your phone
      • Personal Numbers – Allows you to select additional phone numbers in any calling area in the U.S.



      I’ve been using Ooma now for about six months and have no major complaints so far. My only gripe so far is the loud click the person calling you hears when you pick up the phone (or the answering machine starts recording). No one in my family has said much about the switch so far, which is good news. I love the ability to blacklist telemarketers, and have it setup so they hear a disconnected number message when they call. The bottom line is, Ooma Telo a good replacement for your landline and the savings are substantial.

      – Rick

      Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

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