The Pixel Tells Me About HD Calls

Google Pixel In-callThroughout 2016 I carried a Nexus 5 mobile phone. So did my wife. Hers is the red one. She loves it.

My Nexus 5 suffered a crack in the display the very week that I bought it. In fact, that happened the very day that the screen protector was to arrive from Amazon. In frustration, I merely applied the tempered glass screen protector and kept using the phone for a year!

Over that time, although the phone worked perfectly, the crack grew. By the end of the year it was something of an embarrassment, so I broke down and bought a Pixel from Google.

Some have heard me rant that the move from Nexus to Pixel was disappointing. I maintain that the Nexus phones were an outstanding value, whereas the Pixel, while a fine instrument, is just another costly device.

My experience with the Pixel has been great. It’s a big step up in performance. Nougat is nice. I really like the fingerprint unlock feature. Battery life is exemplary, at least in my use case. USB C fast-charging is ok, although I do miss wireless charging.

One of the things I liked about the Nexus 5 on T-Mobile was that I enjoyed HDVoice calling to the few people I call most often. They are also T-Mobile customers, with suitably capable handsets.

This morning, for the very first time, I noticed that the Pixel indicates when it’s connected in HDVoice. I’m not sure if this indication is a new thing, or I simply never noted previously.

There aren’t too many people who get excited about HDVoice. I still do. It’ll be great we can pass HDVoice between carriers. Some say that’s happening now, but I see no evidence of it.

T-Mobile Moves Beyond HDVoice

T-Mobile Nexus5 EVSI’ve been a T-Mobile customer for a long time. In fact, my transition to T-Mobile happened when I bought my first smart phone, a Blackberry 8100 (aka Pearl).

More recently I’ve been using an LG-made Nexus 5. No, not the newer 5X. Late last year I semi-regressed from a One+ One to a Nexus 5. One of the reasons for that step backward in time was to finally be able to enjoy mobile HDVoice calls to my wife, who also carries a Nexus 5.

T-Mobile, who lead the US in the rollout of mobile HDVoice, supports it’s use for in-network calls between a list of supported handsets, including the Nexus 5. That initial rollout of HDVoice came before the big build of their LTE network. They enabled the AMR-WB codec (aka G.722.2) over their existing 3G HSPA+ network.

Most other US carriers waited until their LTE rollout to launch HDVoice. An LTE network is natively an IP network, readily supporting advanced voice codecs and video. When the voice calls are handled over the LTE network it’s called Voice-Over-LTE or VoLTE, which is very different from how voice was handled on 3G networks.

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Q1-2016 Broadband Update: Bye Bye Global Capacity, Hello Tachus!

According to Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changing.” I certainly hope so. I’ve made some changes to our broadband service hereabouts, and I’m hopeful about a new alternative. The details of these two things are worth sharing.

I’ve long held that someone in a technology business, who works from a home office full time, should have redundant forms of internet access. If you’re going to have redundant access they should use different modes of connection. That way a single errant truck or backhoe doesn’t take out both of your services.

This belief was strengthened by our own experience in events like Hurricane Ike in 2008. We lost Comcast service for several weeks, falling back to our stodgy old DSL circuit. The DSL meant that we had IP phones running the morning after the storm, when even cellular service was down, amazed and confounded our neighbors.

Our first broadband service to this location was a DSL circuit. The name on the bill changed numerous times. What started out as Sprint Ion devolved into Earthlink, then Covad, Megapath, and most recently Global Capacity. The data rate was slow, but reliability was high.

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User Experience: T-Mobile’s Continental Plans

TMobile-Phones-CoOmpositeEarlier this year T-Mobile altered their US Simple Choice Plans to include coverage in Canada and Mexico without roaming charges. The plans eliminate roaming while out of the country, but also eliminate international long distance when calling Canada and Mexico. Further, they include “4G LTE data in Canada & Mexico.” Since we go to Canada to visit family at least once a year the new plan sounded quite useful.

Change is hard…

Last month we made our annual trek to the Great White North. While making plans an associate, who is also a T-Mobile customer, recommended that I call T-Mobile and make sure that we had the correct plan. Failure to do so would result in us incurring the usual roaming charges for platinum-plated voice and data service while travelling.

On the very eve of our departure I remembered to call T-Mobile and make the change to the account. In fact, I called from the airport (IAH) while we were awaiting the departure of our initial flight to Toronto.

Of course, I called the from my mobile phone. The automated system advised that there would be some on-hold time, and I could opt to have them call me back, which I did. The callback took about ten minutes.

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Daniel Berninger Samples AT&T’s Mobile HDVoice in Chicago

Samsung S4 Mini 300pxHere in the US the mobile carriers are finally getting something done with respect to rolling out HDVoice. T-Mobile has been offering HDVoice since January of 2013. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been able to try this myself using a Nexus 5. They added a little sport to the game by launching VoLTE in Seattle earlier this month.

Sprint is trialing HDVoice in limited markets pending a national rollout in June.  AT&T has launched VoLTE/HDVoice in some mid-western markets. Verizon must be feeling laggard as they recently started some PR/social media hand-waving with respect to their VoLTE/HDVoice initiative.

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A Simple Test For Verifying Mobile HDVoice

nexus-5-200pxT-Mobile has been supporting mobile HDVoice for over a year. However, my sense is that not very many people are actually experiencing HDVoice. If they are, they might not even know it.

For example, two of my associates have the Google/LG Nexus 5 handsets on T-Mobile’s network. Both are the sort of people who would hear and appreciate the difference that HDVoice makes. That said, both were initially of the impression that the Nexus 5 did not support HDVoice on T-Mobile!

This gave rise to the idea that we should devise a simple way to verify that a call was in HDVoice. If convenient, this would allow anyone interested to make a call between two handsets and know with certainty that the devices and call path was actually delivering HDVoice.

Devising such a test turns out to be very easy in a world of smart phones. All you need is a tone generator or a recording of a specific continuous tone.

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