Radio-woe-is-she?

Internet radio. I can live without it, but my girlfriend loves it. She listens in the car all the time on her smartphone. We’re both Android users; me since my first day with a smartphone, and her since becoming fed up with her iPhone 3GS. Until recently, she’d been using a Samsung Infuse on AT&T, and I rocked on old worn out Verizon Motorola Droid 2 on Page Plus. This was fine until we realized her AT&T bill was huge, and my D2 had a failing touchscreen making it alternate between pretty cool cheap phone and quarter-pound paperweight. I had gotten somewhat accustomed to listening to Digitally Imported on my slow commute home from work anyway, so you could say we were regular internet radio users. Unfortunately, I almost cost her the ability to use it, or so I thought.

Those that know me from before this blog know I’m cheap and poor, but don’t let that keep me from having nice things. The difference is that I don’t think something is not-nice just because it’s not new; thus the Droid 2. Well, we both wanted nicer phones, and wanted to drop her bill a few bucks, so I picked us up a couple like-new Samsung Galaxy Nexus phones (the Verizon model) to use on Page Plus. At under $200 each, they were a steal, and you’d never know either wasn’t brand new to look at them. There is a long process involved in flashing a 4G phone to a 3G CDMA carrier (any of the prepaids on Verizon and Sprint, such as Page Plus, Boost, and Talk For Good), and I intend to write up a tutorial for this particular phone and carrier combination soon. The issue at matter here is that when I gave her the new Galaxy Nexus, she lost her internet radio.

Well, lost is a strong word, but I was stumped. She said it just kept cutting off while she was driving. It would only work when she was sitting still. She said she couldn’t get through a song while moving. I had a look at the phone later that evening, and there was in fact no data at all being transferred over 3G at that point. I could use wifi, but when switching it off, we’d get a 3G signal and show data access, but nothing would load. What’s the deal?

Digging in the settings, I discovered she had left wifi on, and also left it set to connect automatically to unsecured networks. Typically this is good, but when going down the road, this will cause you to try to connect to every network set up by a not-quite-savvy suburbanite. Indeed, this rampant network hopping between 3G and wifi seemed to have tied up the 3G connection entirely.

So we rebooted the phone. 3G came back in about 15 seconds, and a speed test showed us getting a good 800kbps even in our house where signal is at an amazing low. Outside we got one and a half megabits handily. That’s good enough to watch Netflix.

This morning she tried her internet radio on her commute, and with wifi turned off, it worked a charm. She said it didn’t drop out at all! So, while the fix was simple, the diagnosis was a bit confusing. I was relieved she didn’t lose her favorite feature of her phone, and also that I hadn’t made a mistake in modifying the phones for use on our prepaid.

So what’s the lesson here? Be careful with your network settings. Might I recommend if you live in an urban area, turning off wifi while driving or wandering? Maybe your phone will handle it better than this, and maybe it was just a fluke, but if you find yourself with nothing loading despite your 3G icon being lit up, you may well have locked up the software. Give it a reboot and check your settings.

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