LTE Coverage in Seattle

April 28, 2013

If you compare the most current LTE coverage in the Seattle area (as of April 28th, 2013), you’ll see the following:

Sprint 4G LTE Coverage

sprint_4g_coverage

So, the 4G LTE coverage for Sprint should be the orange colored regions on the map. Did you notice something? There is no orange colored regions! So, there is no LTE coverage in the Seattle area.

The map below shows the AT&T 4G LTE coverage in the same Seattle area:

AT&T 4G LTE Coverage

att_4g_coverage

The dark blue regions have 4G LTE coverage, and as you can see that is almost the entire Seattle area! The light blue regions are 4G coverage, which is still pretty fast for data speeds. Quite a drastic comparison between Sprint and AT&T 4G LTE coverage in Seattle. So, does it make sense for me to keep paying for unlimited but very slow data speeds for the next year or more when I can have very fast data speeds (albeit 3 GB capped) for nearly the same monthly charges?

A note about data coverage for Sprint and AT&T:

With my HTC 4G EVO LTE Sprint phone, I could only get the very slow 1xRTT data connection, 3G, or 4G LTE connection. The “4G” data connection (called WiMAX) was not available to me since my Sprint phone didn’t have a radio that could connect with it. And rightly so, since WiMAX is now a defunct protocol in lieu of LTE. So the best I could do in the Seattle area was a 3G connection, with the 1xRTT as a fallback when the 3G wasn’t available.

With my AT&T, they have several levels of fallback for data connections. First is 4G LTE which is the fastest, and then if that wasn’t available it would fallback to 4G (which is also fast). 3G would be next, then there’s the slow 1xRTT equivalent. With AT&T’s 4G there’s actually two different levels of connections, so you have several different tiers you can fall back with and still have good speeds. With Sprint, it’s either 3G or the 1xRTT for the HTC EVO phone.

Now, maybe Sprint will have their LTE up and running in 2014-2015 and it could be great. But I would guess it might be until the end of 2015 before they work out all the kinks and have a good portion of Seattle adequately covered. Until then, I’ll stick with AT&T and enjoy the consistent faster speeds.

 


Finally, got to see LTE in action!

April 14, 2013

images-2I’ve got an HTC EVO 4G LTE Android smartphone, but Sprint hasn’t turned on LTE for the general Seattle, WA area yet (just some very small test areas). I was surprised to find the “4G” icon light up on my HTC phone while traveling to Orange County in Southern California last week. The LTE signal was strong and consistent at the Orange County Airport (SNA), and it was spotty in the Disney Grand Californian Hotel lobby. I used the Android app called, “SignalCheck Lite” which verified that I was connected to the LTE network and not EV-DO. Pretty cool, as the SpeedTest I ran showed approximately 7 Mbps download speed. Can’t wait until Sprint lights up my home town in the near future.


EVO 4g LTE + Ford Sync = Goodness!

June 9, 2012

On the same day as when I picked up my new Sprint EVO 4G LTE smartphone, I also bought a new Ford Explorer car with the Ford Sync system. Ford Sync is a feature which allows me to connect my phone to my car’s system via Bluetooth so I can use my EVO for hands-free phone calling. It also has other features such as automatically call 911 (through my phone) if I get into a car accident and the airbags deploy, or I can access weather and traffic reports, etc. Really cool system.

Another feature is the ability to stream audio via a Bluetooth connection from my phone to my car’s stereo system. So, I can wirelessly have music from Pandora or audio from my pod cast app (Podkicker) playing from my car speakers. What’s really nice, is that I can skip songs or advance my podcast by tapping a “Seek” button on my steering wheel. Since I drive for one hour each way to and from work, this is a great feature to have. So instead of using my ear buds in the car, I can use Ford Sync to stream my Bluetooth audio to the car’s stereo system.


New EVO LTE Smartphone has a defect– what to do?

June 3, 2012

I reported in some previous postings that I recently bought a Sprint EVO 4G LTE smartphone. It was a simple process of going to my local Sprint Store and having them activate my new phone and deactivate my old one. After about 20 minutes I was out the door holding my new EVO LTE (which is a great smartphone). I then put the phone on the passenger seat and drove about 2 miles to my house, after which I placed the phone on my desk and went off car shopping. After being gone for most of the day, I went to my desk to go about installing my various favorite apps, etc. when I suddenly noticed a small nick at the edge of the screen. The light was coming in from my office window from the left, and the nick was quite visible (but, small). I ran my finger nail along the edge of the screen glass and I could definitely feel the small nick.

Now, there was no way that I created this nick in the screen for the following reasons:

  1. I ever put the phone in my pocket or near anything that could have caused such a nick. I had it sitting on the passenger seat of my car during the brief drive home.
  2. The phone sat on my desk charging for several hours with no one touching it.
  3. The screen is made of very hard Gorilla Class by Corning, so how could I have created this nick in the absence of any true physical abuse?

I do have to say that this nick is very small, but since I know it’s there it pops out like a sore thumb when the room light strikes it from the left side. I can certainly live with this minor defect, but I don’t think I should since I just bought this phone from the Sprint Store and it shouldn’t have such a defect. Let’s say later I want to sell this phone to someone and they notice this nick and wants me to reduce the price? I believe I paid full price for this phone to be defect-free and it shouldn’t have such a nick when I first get it.

So, I went back to my local Sprint Store and explained the situation. The Customer Rep who helped me looked at it, and explained that since it is a “cosmetic” defect (being at the edge of the screen) they couldn’t swap it for a new one for free. Besides, they didn’t have any extra EVO LTEs available anyways. She said she could swap it for a new phone if I paid the $36 activation fee and did it within the 14 day period from my initial upgrade. I guess they would consider it as a return and would let me get the same phone again which I would need to pay the activation fee.

So I thought about it and $36 isn’t a whole lot of money to get a new phone with no “cosmetic” defects. Some might say that I should protest paying that amount on principle, but I don’t want to go through the hassle. If I can swap it out relatively easily for that price, I’m good with that. So, that’s what I’ll be doing later this week when they get their shipments of EVO LTEs in.

The lesson learned for me, is next time visually inspect your smartphone while you’re still at the Sprint Store before you pay and leave for home!

Update: I stopped by the Sprint Store and explained my situation to the customer rep, and he said plainly, “that’s cool. I understand, because I’m the same way”, referring to being picky about having a defect-free phone. So, he quickly exchanged my EVO and didn’t charge me any additional fee. So, that shows you need to deal with the right person to get the job done right!


Upgrading my Smartphone

June 1, 2012

Sprint is releasing the HTC EVO LTE Smartphone tomorrow (Saturday, June 2nd), so I’ve decided that I will be upgrading to that phone. Since I’m only about 9 months into my 2 year contract with Sprint, I couldn’t take advantage of the “Upgrade” heavily subsided price. So to make my new purchase as affordable as possible, I did a “Upgrade Buyout” which means I pay a certain amount of money (based on the remaining number of days on my contract) to move my upgrade date forward to today. This fee is normally $5 less than the Early Termination Fee (which in my case is $150-$5=$145). So my upgrade cost would total to $145+$199=$344, which is much better than the $550 list price. To do this upgrade, I dialed *2 on my phone and selected the menu item for canceling my line. I then explained I wanted to do the early upgrade buyout and after the Sprint Rep made the change, it became active at 9 am the next morning.

BTW: To check your upgrade status, send a text message to “1311” with the word “upgrade” in the body of the message. You’ll get a response with your current upgrade status.

Now armed with an upgrade, I stopped by my Sprint store today to see if they had any HTC EVO LTE available for tomorrow. Unfortunately, I was told their small shipment of EVOs (which arrived today) were all earmarked for people who have preordered them through the store. They took my name down, stating that they would call me if someone canceled their pickup or didn’t pick up their EVO after 24 hours. Fortunately for me, I got a call back from Sprint after about 1 hour stating that I could pickup one of their EVOs tomorrow morning!

So the adventure begins tomorrow, but first I need to scrub my current Nexus S 4G phone completely of all my personal data and reload the original ROM on it (since I’ve been running the Ice Cream Sandwich OS for the last few months now). Luckily for me, this was a one-click process from the tools on this link.


Pondering switching cell phone carriers

April 29, 2012

Up until 10 months ago, I’ve never owned a personal cell phone. I did have a phone, but it was a company phone which I used for both business and personal use. I started with a LG candy bar phone back in 2000 on Sprint, migrated to a popular Nokia phone, then a few Motorola phones, then over to my first smartphone, the Motorola Q running Windows Mobile 5 OS. At that point, my employer switched from Sprint to Verizon, and I finally got an iPhone 4 to use for about 6 months before I left that job for new one. My current position with my new employer doesn’t provide a cell phone, so I needed to venture out in cell phone land and make some decisions on which phone and carrier I should choose for my first personal cell phone purchase.

Since my wife had been using Sprint for the last 10 years or so, it made sense for me to just add a 2nd line to her account and get a shared minutes family plan, especially since Sprint offers offers unlimited data on smartphones. So I made my first cell phone purchase to be a Palm Pixi WebOS phone (mainly because I had planned to do some WebOS app development on the side). That worked out great, and I loved the cool animated windows popping up, and swiping them off the screen when done. I stuck with the Pixi for almost 2 years, and when Palm started to falter as a company I decided to switch to an Android smartphone (again, so I can do some Android app development) and I chose the best at the time which was the Nexus S 4G. Read the rest of this entry »


Sprint Nexus S 4G – Bad Radio

February 12, 2012

I love my Nexus S 4G smartphone because of the bright screen, quick operation, and the fact I can install custom ROMs if desired. The one thing I really am disappointed with is the cellular radio performance. I routinely only get 1 or 2 bars with my Nexus S on the Sprint Network, while with my old Palm Pixi I almost always got a full set of bars. In fact, it seems that I often get zero bars and switch from 3G to 1x while driving around the Seattle area. What’s up with that?

From what I’ve read in various forums, this issue is common with the Samsung Nexus S 4G phones, so I don’t think it is because I have a defective device. Before I began installing custom ROMs on my Nexus I notice the same issues with the the stock Gingerbread OS as well.

Since the life of the Nexus S for Sprint seems limited with the upcoming release of the newer Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I may need to do an early upgrade to that new device. I’ll only do it if I know for sure the radio signal strength has been improved over my Nexus S phone. I’ve also contemplated switching off Sprint and move to Sprint or AT&T for better phone selection, however, I would have to give up my unlimited data plan which I don’t want to do.