Another Way to Stick It to Your Canadian Carrier

Robelus Tablet

This country’s Big Three carriers — Bell, Rogers and Telus — are clearly not happy with our government’s recently-mandated Wireless Code. What really sucks is that they’ve taken some big steps to make sure that we share in their misery.

Standard contracts for service are now two years instead of three, which is great. Here’s what’s not so great:

  1. Monthly fees are more expensive. Yes, the balance on subsidized devices must now be reclaimed over two years instead of three. But rates are still higher even if you don’t take a subsidy.
  2. The upfront price of subsidized hardware has also increased, for no apparent reason.
  3. Data overages are now more expensive. The new going rate is $15/GB instead $10 — except for Telus, which seems to think that $50/GB is totally fair.

Canadians are clearly worse off now than we were last spring. So what can we do about it? My own solution has been to relegate as much data as I can to a humble hotspot. But if you don’t want to carry two devices around, here’s another idea:

Switch to a tablet.

Why? Because data, that’s why. Would you rather pay $120/month for a phone plan with 6GB of data, or $40 for a tablet plan with 8GB? Check the Big Three’s rates, they’re all the same. Data plans on tablets are a steal right now.

The catch is that, obviously, you have to use a tablet.

You can lie to your carrier and say you’re using one — as some of our brave kin are discussing right now — but since the IMEI of your phone is likely captured every time you access the network you might well get caught and face the consequences.

So what about voice?

Replacing the voice minutes from your phone plan is honestly the least of your worries. Voice is a commodity item now; you can get it for free or at very low cost from Skype, Viber, Vonage, Fongo, others… I use with an Android SIP client; I was able to port in my landline number of some twenty years with nobody the wiser. And it works like a regular phone line. Better, in fact.

And what about SMS?

This one’s a bit trickier.

The aforementioned voice services come with messaging as well — problem is you can usually only message others who are using that same service. Canada-based Fongo is the exception, offering a $1.99/month add-on that lets you message anyone.

Another paid solution that’s been around for ages is FishText, which uses data to send and receive SMS. The catch is that there’s no official Android app as of yet; the very janky combination of WebSMS and the WebSMS FishText Connector will get the job done for now.

I honestly don’t know why carriers and tablet makers don’t include support for SMS. Thankfully there’s another messaging standard you may have heard of that’s perfectly suited for always-on data access. It’s called IM.

Why This Might Not Work For You

So tablets are big, right? They’re not at all suited for one-handed use. At best you’ll look like a dork taking phone calls and photos; at worst you’ll need to wear a headset all the time and an inferior camera will make your photos suck.

This is why I’ve gone with the hotspot option.

But if, for whatever reason, you’re carrying around a tablet anyway, you might want to consider making it your primary device. You stand to save a lot of money if you do.