Adventures with burners
Ever since I started watching The Wire last year I've been interested in the science behind stingrays and wire taps. I know I'll never be in a position to use this stuff, although I can't say conclusively they haven't been used on me. Can any of us really? But I can get behind the idea of a burner.
A burner is basically a disposable cell phone. It's for... um... well, you can use your imagination. While I don't make any calls to people that I don't want to hear back from, my motivation here is to make sure I'm not paying outragous roaming fees. Case in point, the gentleman who was hit with a $20,000 bill while on vacation.
Comes in regular SIM size. You'll have to punch it down to micro size if you need it smaller.
I first heard about it at Ars. This is a one time only SIM you buy with a preloaded about of calling/data. I ended up paying 30$ (all told with shipping) for a 1 week SIM. Unlimited Calls/Unlimited International Texts/500 Mb of data. I was going to be at a conference in the United States for 3 days.
Interestingly enough this SIM is very much a burner in The Wire scheme of things. If you buy one for cash, you are pretty much untraceable. The Ars story has the details.
Setup & Prereqs
- An Unlocked GSM Phone... that's it
By defintion, unlocking a cell phone allows you to take it to another service provider. The politics of unlocking has been in the news heavily as of late. Thank you very much Librarian of Congress. If you have a smart phone, generally if you root it and add a custom ROM to it that should be all you need.
You pop out your old SIM, put in the new one, & boot your phone. Send a text message with the Zip Code of where you'll be staying. You get a response with your phone number.
I apparently don't know how big a Zip Code is.
Setting up data takes an extra step. On an Android phone you actually need to go to:
- System Settings
- More... Under Wireless & Networks
- Mobile Networks
- Access Point Names
- Then you add a new empty APN. (Click the + give it a name something like Roam and hit save)
If you don't you'll constantly be redirected to login to the T-Mobile network, and nothing will happen. For a day I was stuck at this point. (I didn't have internet to check these instructions)
Here's the text I got from Bell (my original carrier) as I landed in the States before I swapped out the SIM:
So. I used 7.96 MB of data about 30 minutes of talk
Conference had good wi-fi.
$1.45 * 30 + $6 * 7.96 = $91.00
Yup $91 of fees if I didn't use a burner. (Would of been more if I had the data working on the first day) Plus I'm sure there is some surcharge that I'm missing here.
Know your Rights
Why am I posting this? I'm really psyched to have saved myself a few bucks and well, if for no other reason to promote consumer rights and to add weight to the argument that unlocking your phone is a right we should all enjoy. Open Media has lots of information on the topic.
Actually unlocking your phone is for another post, but really you could just buy an unlocked Nexus 4 right from Google and forego the legalities.
I'm not trying to avoid you Lester, I just wanna save some bucks.