October 18, 2014

Nexus One and Consumer Cellular

We have two Nexus One phones, one of which is used as our internet connection (no broadband here) and long-distance phone. The other is almost never used as a phone or an internet terminal. Both of these phones are on an AT&T family plan, which is ridiculously expensive given the poor quality of the service (internet almost unusable during the day). So I started looking for alternate services, and decided to try Consumer Cellular. This is a service that piggybacks on AT&T, but offers much lower prices; it looked like we could switch both phones and cut our bill by 50%.

To avoid disruption to our internet and long distance service, I decided to experiment by switching the lesser-used phone to Consumer Cellular, and if it worked well, I could switch the other phone. The company lets you use your own device and ships a SIM card for this purpose. This went smoothly, and after I activated the SIM card through the company’s web site, the phone was able to make voice calls.

But there was no data service. After a lot of head-scratching and Google searching, I found the solution: switch the APN (Access Point Name). In Cyanogenmod 7 (the Android variant being used on the phone I switched), hit the menu button, and select Settings, then Wireless & networks, then Mobile networks, then Access Point Names. There were now two APNs to choose from, where there had been only one before the switch in service. Select StraightTalk ATT (att.mvno), which is the APN used by Consumer Cellular. After this, the data service was functional and the phone could make a 3G connection, do tethering, etc.