What's the best government subsidized phone?

Episode 1472

Marla from La Crescenta, CA
Woman on cell phone

Marla wants to know which free government phone has the best reception. The idea behind the so-called "Obama phone" is that everyone needs a mobile phone and the government subsidizes phones for those who can't afford it. But unfortunately, nobody really tests for reception anymore because there's so much congestion out there.

Verizon is the ideal choice for cell coverage in Los Angeles. It will give Marla the best coverage. And Verizon offers Universal LifeLine service here.

Should I leave Google Fi?

Episode 1461

Rick from Torrance, CA
Person using smartphone

Rick switched to Google Fi and now the other carriers are offering unlimited. Should he go back? Leo says that Fi wasn't designed to be competitive, just transparent. So if he has a family plan and needs unlimited, then Fi isn't really practical. If he's getting a better deal with Verizon, Leo says that is likely a good move then. But he should remember that Google Fi is riding on three different carriers, so it offers him a wider reach in terms of signal and connectivity.

How can I make phone calls without a cellular plan?

Episode 1441

Bernie from Washington State
Verizon JetPack

Bernie wants to know about his data. He's worried that he's going over his data caps. Leo says that cell phone companies are moving towards Voice over LTE, which will use data to do phone calls because the quality is better. Can he get a data only device and do that? Leo says he can use apps like Tango and Skype to do that, but he's still paying for data. No cell company offers a mobile phone with just data only.

Can I use my iPhone X with another carrier?

Episode 1441

Mark from Thousand Oaks, CA
Apple iPhone X

Mark ordered an iPhone X from Apple and he's worried about the order. He ordered an AT&T model, but his wife moving to Verizon. Can he swap it through the Apple store? Leo says that's probable. He'll definitely want to do that since the phones are locked to the carrier. The Verizon model would work with AT&T, but not the other way around. That's because Verizon's phone is unlocked, but have different radios in each. Leo suggests not even opening the box. He should just take the phone to the Apple Store and swap it out.

Why can't my phone work with my new carrier?

Episode 1435

Mark from Vienna, VA
Cell Phone Tower

Mark's wife got a mobile phone through Verizon and he had it unlocked to use with an MVNO carrier, but it doesn't work. Leo says that it could be due to radio frequency issues. Leo says that unlocking doesn't guarantee that he'll be able to use the phone anywhere. But it's the first step. That's why everyone is going to LTE. That will smooth out the system and make it easier to transfer from one carrier to another.

What new Android phone should I buy?

Episode 1434

Richard from Poway, CA
Pixel 2 XL

Richard really likes his phone, but the battery is starting to run out and Verizon says that since the battery is built-in, it can't be replaced. He'll have to replace the whole phone. Leo says that drives him nuts. Richard has a perfectly good phone that he likes, but he has to go to the extra expense of upgrading a phone and throw his old one away. What phone should he get now? Leo says that Google's Pixel 2 XL is exclusive to Verizon and it's a great phone. It runs pure Android. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is another great option, with a great screen.

What are my options for rural internet access?

Episode 1428

Lucas from Santa Barbara, CA
Network cable

Lucas does a lot of video streaming and gaming, but he's moving to a rural area and will have to find new high speed internet. What can he do? Leo says that rural internet access is a real issue here and Leo doesn't believe the FCC cares enough to make it happen. Satellite isn't the answer because it's got terrible latency and bandwidth caps. That being said, the best satellite provider is WildBlue's Exede. It's that or dialup.

Why can't my Pixel make phone calls?

Episode 1399

Naomi from Denver, CO
Google Pixel

Naomi bought a Google Pixel as her first smartphone. It takes great pictures, but she couldn't make a phone call unless she cleared the cache and rebooted. It was very frustrating. Leo says that there's clearly something wrong with Naomi's phone since it shouldn't do that. She can't get any help except through the online chat feature. She also got the wrong replacement phone. Leo says she'll have to go to where she bought it and have them replace it with the right model. Only the place she bought it can fix it.