Thursday, October 12, 2017

Using Google Voicemail with AT&T or Cricket

Over past few years I have been using Android since the Galaxy S3 came out.  My only gripe with Android is you don’t get the same integrated visual voice mail like iPhones have.  Yes AT&T / Cricket have apps to give you visual voice mail but it’s a watered down version with few features that does not integrate well with Android. 

Then I read about CCF (Conditional Call Forwarding).  This is a feature that most carriers support.  It allows you to call forward unanswered calls to a different service.  Many of us already use gMail and can setup a free Google Voice account.  By forwarding your unanswered calls to Google Voice you get much better integration with the Android operating system.  The notification bar works beautifully with voice mails now. You also get transcribing in your notification bar!  I rarely listen to my voice mails anymore, I can read them easily with excellent results.  And another great feature, I can manage and listen to my voice mails from my Windows PC. 

To use CCF you bring up your dial pad on your phone.  You need to type this into the phone:


So replace ‘yourgooglevoicenumbergoeshere’ with your GV phone number including area code.  You then press the send/talk button and the code is sent to your carrier.  You should get a response from your carrier if the code was accepted.

That’s it!  AT&T / Cricket will now forward unanswered calls to your Google Voice account.  Make sure to install the Google Voice app to access your voice mails.  If you want to disable CCF type the following into the dial pad:


Then press send/talk. 

** 2018 update **

It's been reported that Pixel phones won't work with the CCF.  You have a couple of options.  You can call Cricket support and ask them to configure your CCF for you.  The issue here is many of the support staff at Cricket won't know what you are talking about.  The other option which I feel is easier is find a friend with a phone you can borrow for a couple of minutes.

Shutdown both your friend's phone and your Pixel phone. Then swap your SIM into the other phone and power up and enter the CCF. Then power down your friend's phone and move the SIM back to your Pixel phone.  The CCF is stored on the Cricket network, not your phone so it will work with any phone. 

Google Voice app:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Nexus 6P experience

The Nexus 6P was a phone made by Huawei for Google.  I bought my Nexus 6P when it first went on sale. I anxiously waited for it to arrive in November 2015.  I was excited at the time to get an Android phone with no bloatware installed on it.  It would be my first Android phone with stock Android.

I have to admit the 6P was a total disappointment for me.  The monthly updates Google sent out for the 6P made me feel like a beta tester.  The updates frequently had Bluetooth updates that royally broke the phones ability to connect to other Bluetooth devices.  One of Google’s Bluetooth updates caused my Toyota 2015 Highlander’s Entune system to reboot continuously while I was driving the car (It used to work perfectly before the update).  I was ready to make an appointment with the car dealer assuming the radio had a loose wire but I researched the program and found out it was the Nexus 6P causing my car to reboot!!  Once I unpaired the phone from the car, my Toyota was working perfectly.  I paired my Toyota with several other branded cell phones and they all worked fine, it was the 6P causing my issues.

Google sent out monthly updates, it was comical to see how my Toyota could work for one update and then go broke for the next update.  My background is software development, it was clear to me Google was doing a lousy job testing their software. 

Then in August 2017 came a total surprise when I discovered my Nexus 6P screen had pushed itself out of the phone!  For the first few seconds I thought my 6P came out of my Spigen case.  Once I took the case off it was clear the glass display had separated from the phone.  My 6P had never been dropped or serviced.  There was no reason for the screen to lift off like that…..  Well there was.  My first thoughts were the glue/tape had simply let go.  But when you tried to push the screen back on the phone it resisted you like a strong spring.  Then the bell went off in my head, the Lithium battery most likely had puffed which would cause something to have to give.  In this case the glass screen.  It could have been much worse, sometimes when a Lithium battery expands it could push against a sharp edge and damage the thin foil casing the battery is made of.  If it were to get punctured the battery could catch on fire. 

Lithium batteries when they start failing have a nasty habit of expanding in size, commonly known as puffing.  I have seen this in old Apple iPods that used the click wheel.  I had done a video on how to repair a stuck click wheel on an older iPod which was caused by a Lithium battery that had puffed over the years. In that case the battery was many years old and it was understandable that it eventually failed.

The surprising part here is my 6P was not even two years old.  How could a Lithium battery start to puff so quickly?  I suspect the amount of faulty battery failures in the 6P can be blamed on the ‘Rapid charging’ technique that Huawei used.  It was not based on the Qualcomm’s quick charge technology which is what most modern day mobile phones use.  More than likely the technique that Huawei used to rapid charge the 6P is a design flaw.  Charging Lithium batteries quickly is a tricky set of logic that monitors amps, voltage and temperatures. 

What came next really bothered me.  I decided to call Google even though my one year warranty had expired.  My reason for calling them was I felt the Nexus 6P’s battery failures was a manufacturing defect and should be covered by Google since it's their brand.  With no surprise the person from Google support was not in the USA.  It was some overseas support member who dazzled me with total stupidity.  She asked me where I got the phone and I said directly from Google.  I tried explaining to her that my glass screen had separated from the phone due to a puffed battery and was well aware that these batteries were failing prematurely. I had informed her this was a common problem and was well documented from many complaints online.  She informed me that there had been no issues with batteries or screen coming out. That was clearly a lie and I told her to use Google’s search engine to see how many customers were having issues. Her next statement was a jaw dropper. She asked what recent apps do you have installed on the phone, the screen probably got pushed off from an app you installed ………  Yeah think that one over for a second.  She is claiming an app from the Google Play Store has the ability to push the screen out of the phone……. 

Ok Houston we have a problem, I got a bonafide dumb ass on the line.  I told her no app would cause this sort of problem, this was a hardware problem and not software.  It did not matter to her, she basically shut me down. She stated the phone is out of warranty and you have to contact Huawei and pay them to repair your phone.   So Google does not even arrange for the repair! It’s the usual finger pointing game.  I was not happy with her answer and requested a supervisor.  She told me none were available and I could be put on a call back and the maximum wait would be 30 minutes.  I waited 5 hours and no call was ever made.  They never called me back.

So I did my research on Huawei’s repair process and was not surprised to find out they stink.  You don’t get your own phone back.  It will be someone else’s phone that they ‘maybe’ repaired.  It was common to read user experiences where they sent back a phone in perfect cosmetic condition and get back a phone with scratches and dents.  And in most cases Huawei does not even replace the battery!!!  They can send you back a refurb where the battery won’t even hold a charge for half a day.  So clearly Huawei’s refurb process is poor.  I’m used to companies like Apple where their refurb process includes a new battery and a new shell.  The device looks like new.  After reading all the complaints it was clear to me sending my phone back was not an option. 

There are numerous articles that explain how to get a Nexus 6P apart.  I watched several videos and decided to try it.  I ordered a new OEM battery on eBay and some double sided stick tape to bond the glass back to the phone.  You will need a heat gun or hair dryer to successfully take the 6P apart.  The heat gun is required to help melt the glue that holds the back glass on by the camera and the lower edge which is plastic. You will need a hobby knife, some old credit cards or guitar picks and a small Philips screwdriver.  It’s a royal pain to get the 6P apart but it’s doable.

Once I got the phone apart, it was surprising how difficult it was to remove the battery. They glued the battery in.  And you cannot use a screwdriver or knife on the battery, if you puncture that thin layer the battery could easily catch on fire.  I used a credit card very carefully to wedge under the battery to release the glue.

Once I got the battery out and installed the new battery the screen easily went back into the phone.  So the battery was puffed enough to force the screen out. I used some double sided tape to hold the screen down and used a couple of strips on the new battery.  Reassembling the phone was easy.

The new battery is doing a lot better than my original.  I can only hope this battery will last maybe 18 months?  But will the Nexus 6P last that long?  While researching all the battery issues another hot topic was discovered – boot looping.  It’s a huge issue, the Nexus 6P won’t finish booting and gets stuck in a loop.  It’s not software, the motherboard has a CPU issue.  There are many possible reasons for this problem but they all point back to another manufacturing defect caused my Huawei. 

So where is Google on this?  This is where I feel Google is a total failure.  They contracted Huawei to manufacture their flagship phone for 2015.  The Nexus line is Google’s brand.  But in spite of that fact, Google passes the buck and tells their customers to call Huawei.  Does Apple tell their customers to contact Foxconn when their product fails?  No, of course not.  And just this year (2017) Google has surpassed Apple in worth yet Google offer’s support that feels like a 3rd rate company.

This is what my phone looked like with the puffed battery:

And a video:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Facebook Purity – Finally a solution to make Facebook what you want

Let’s face it, like it or not many of us use Facebook on a daily basis. But Facebook has some very annoying things about it and until recently I was putting up with the non-sense.  Then I found a comment on the Facebook community page of a user telling everyone about Facebook Purity. The problem was they could not share the link, Facebook was blocking it!!!  No surprise because this program is awesome.   And it’s Free. 

Purity has several pages of settings.  You can tweak your Facebook as you like.  Some of the best features are being able to disable Suggested Posts which is nothing more than advertising.  Games people are playing, I don’t care about that non-sense and with Purity you will never see that again.  You can finally disable those auto-play videos.

Purity has a feature to filter content on keywords that you define.  So if you are fed up with your friends complaining about Donald Trump for example you can filter those posts from your timeline.  Maybe you don’t want to see spoilers for your favorite TV shows, now you can do it.

Here’s another good one you can filter on image content likes cats, selfies, dogs or food.  On a diet, I would filter the food photos. 

Do you want to know when a friend removes you from their list?  Now you can with Purity.  You can hide all photos or videos if you wish.  You can hide the chat bar if you don’t use it. The list goes on and on.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Block ads with Adguard Adblocker

I have been a user of Adblock Plus (ABP) for many years.  But lately many web sites I visit can detect this technology and block viewing their web site until you disable ABP.  Android Central is one example.  Their web site is riddled with ads and it is necessary to use an ad blocker to control all the popups and an animated ads they run.  I understand these sites need revenue to continue providing content, but some go too far and don't properly vet the ads they present on their web pages.  It's their own fault that ad blocking technology is needed.

I recently tried an app called Adguard Adblocker and this app is invisible to these same web sites allowing me to view their web pages with no ads.  It also uses less memory and seems a tad faster than ABP.  They make a Chrome app for free that works really well.