Pandora As A Phone


javaJake

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So, lately I've been griping a lot about how expensive cell-phones are. Really quite a pain. The Pandora, and all its fanciness, made me consider my various options. This is a summary of the last two or three months of research.

The only phones that'll work on the Pandora are the VoIP phones. Needless to say, this implies something like Skype or Gizmo. (I know about SIP, but I can't find any companies that give me a good gateway into the "real" world.) First, being the most popular, I looked at Skype.

Skype is really something else. $3/month, plus $30/year, and I have myself unlimited calling. At least in the US. In the UK it's more like $6/month. Since I plan on using whatever software I pick as my primary phone, paying for Skype Credit wouldn't be worth it after 150 minutes of usage, which I easily run over. The subscription would save me money, in the US. Compare this to Gizmo, which, while they have slightly lower rates, has no subscription package, which means I'd end up paying more than I would with Skype.

However, things started to go downhill once I remembered Skype only works on Intel machines. I'd have to buy a whole new device of some kind to get Skype on the go. As I gazed across the list of $200 phones, I noticed that they were all wifi phones, and would only work in the confines of my home. The Pandora is also limited to wifi zones, however, so that wasn't going to work either.

Skype was a no go, but I tried to ignore that for a long time. My experience with Gizmo's software on Windows machines is subpar, creating a slightly foul taste in my mouth whenever I hear the name "Gizmo5". Maybe, just maybe, I could hack Skype onto the Pandora with Nokia binaries.

Finally, today, I returned to Gizmo. Reviewing my old account, I remembered I had registered a free 775 call-in number. I downloaded the software onto my Mac, ran it, and thought "hmmm, not so bad". This still wasn't going to work, though, because Gizmo, like Skype, was only able to run on Intel processors and Nokia devices.

*click* <-- that's the sound of the lightbulb that went off in my head when I remembered that Gizmo is different than Skype in one very very important aspect: their protocol, or at least the service, is not locked down into their network. They support the SIP protocol. :) The pieces started falling together. I found a nice page on what configuration values are needed for SIP communication on an Asterisk server. I trashed the Gizmo client, and downloaded a nice, sleek, simple, OSX-friendly piece of software aptly named Telephone. Configuring the account was a snap once I knew what 1747 number my Gizmo account had linked to it.

Oh my, I'm totally missing a very important piece of the puzzle. *rewinds a month* *clicks play* Google Voice was announced under private beta, and I wasted no time in signing up for that. (This is right in the midst of my research, you see.) The basic idea is this: Google Voice gives you one phone number you can pass out to all your contacts. Then, using Google, you can filter your contacts to a very nice (transcribed!) voicemail inbox right in Google Voice or to other various phone numbers you own, based on what time it is, or who's calling.

So, fast forward to today. I plugged in my previously-mentioned 1775 (not 747) number into the interface. This was a mistake. The free "Area 775" numbers, for whatever reason, are completely incompatible with Google Voice. Next, I tried the 1747 number (in blind hope it'd work). To my shock, Google Voice recognized it as a "Gizmo" number! I called my 1747 number via Google Voice and, sure enough, Telephone rang on my OSX machine!

Brilliant! I had a free call-in number anyone could dial, and I could route to any phone, and I could receive the calls via the standard SIP protocol. But what about call-out?

This is where Google Voice becomes so very helpful. See, the way Google Voice connects you, while still retaining your Google Voice number as your caller ID, is by calling you first and then calling the recipient. You can initiate this through the web interface. You can also do this by calling your own phone number, and then dialing the number you want to call when prompted. However, this is why the web interface is perfect: in order for me to call out with Gizmo, I'd have to buy Call Out credit. Now, however, Google Voice allows me to call out for free, because, as far as Gizmo is concerned, I'm receiving a call!

This makes me incredibly tied down to wifi hotspots, however. This is the one wrinkle in my plans. Mobile broadband is the immediate solution, and Verizon is the only one that specifically supports VoIP in their plans. However, $60/month is not nothing, especially compared to $8.33/month for 80~ minutes a month via prepaid phones. I'd have to spend over 600 minutes on the phone to make mobile broadband worth the price. On the flipside, just prepaid alone is not enough at 80~ minutes a month for my usage (easily surpasses 150 minutes, remember). Moving up a notch, I don't come close to 450 minutes in a basic plan.

Thus, the solution: use SIP as my primary phone when I am not on the move, which gives me unlimited voice and text, and supplement with prepaid when I need to communicate elsewhere. This works for me, because I am always in a wifi zone whenever I am not on the road. In the future, if my usage climbs high enough, and mobile prices drop enough, I will be more than ready to jump in. Until then, this is as close as I can get to the cheapest, but usable, phone system.

What are your thoughts on this plan? Are there any options I'm overlooking that would work with the Pandora (without hacking, or spending lots of money)?

Edit: Thanks to the folks working on the Pandora now, who made this possible! :)
 

Drack

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Great plan. Have google voice make both the phone and the VoIP number ring when someone dials your GV number.

Don't give out the cell #, only the GV number.

When you're in a wifi hotspot, pick up on your voip. Elsewhere, use the cell if you have to

That's a lot cheaper than the (admittedly cooler) Verizon mifi (which is $60/mo), but you wouldn't get the benefit of internet anywhere (which is still somewhat limited with the MiFi which caps at 5GB a month).

Use GV for voicemail.

What are you using for the Pandora for sound input and output, bluetooth headset?

The only problem I can see is that you won't be able to receive calls when the Pandora is in sleep mode! You'll have to configure it to just shut the screen off and underclock while keeping everything running instead, which means you'll lose some battery life.
 

WizardStan

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Many moon ago, I remember someone posting a USB dongle that had voice as well as data capabilities. I've been trying to find this post again, but I'm beginning to believe I dreamt the whole thing. If such a thing exists, it would virtually solve all your problems (assuming we could crack the drivers for it)

edit: ahah! I am not totally crazy, at least not for this reason. (I'm sure there are other reasons)
Here're two GPRS USB modems that also have voice functionality. It looks like they rely on the bluetooth earpiece to support the voice portion, but that shouldn't be a problem. The Pandora doesn't lend itself too well to phone communication.
 

javaJake

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Drack said:
What are you using for the Pandora for sound input and output, bluetooth headset?
Yes, a bluetooth headset for sure. I have two well-rated headsets (link (advantage: very discreet w/ mono, stereo otherwise; like this best) and link (advantages: stereo, use own higher-quality headphones)) in my Amazon wish-list, and will likely pick one and order it when my Pandora ships.


WizardStan said:
edit: ahah! I am not totally crazy, at least not for this reason. (I'm sure there are other reasons)
Here're two GPRS USB modems that also have voice functionality. It looks like they rely on the bluetooth earpiece to support the voice portion, but that shouldn't be a problem. The Pandora doesn't lend itself too well to phone communication.
Hmm, these products look dodgy and/or possibly not >80% bug-free. Plus, there's a lot of talk about "data" and little about "voice". This is an interesting idea, though: give the Pandora the tech it needs to establish a voice connection to the cell network, and save on data plans. While this means I wouldn't have to carry the cell-phone around too, this doesn't actually save me any money, since it's simply a swap-out of hardware, not services.

Neat idea, though. I will definitely keep that in mind for the future. :)
 
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rabidpoobear

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I'm not sure I understand what's going on. Where is the telephone network -> VoIP transition happening? Say you're calling me. I don't have VoIP. So you initiate a call through the web interface, pick it up with your SIP client, and then GV calls me? Is that right? And you don't have to pay for this?
 

lulzfish

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He has something called Gingo or Ginkgo or Dingo or Dingus or whatever that's like Skype, it gives him an SIP phone number with free incoming calls.
Re-read the OP.

edit: Gizmo.
 

rabidpoobear

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lulzfish said:
He has something called Gingo or Ginkgo or Dingo or Dingus or whatever that's like Skype, it gives him an SIP phone number with free incoming calls.
Re-read the OP.

edit: Gizmo.
They're not free, though, you have to pay for a Gizmo number. That was my question, however poorly phrased. Gizmo numbers are $35 a year.
 
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musicalwoods

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rabidpoobear said:
I'm not sure I understand what's going on. Where is the telephone network -> VoIP transition happening? Say you're calling me. I don't have VoIP. So you initiate a call through the web interface, pick it up with your SIP client, and then GV calls me? Is that right? And you don't have to pay for this?

Google Voice is a free service (minus international calling). When you want to call through your GV number, you go to the web interface and initiate the call. GV then calls your phone (VOIP in this instance). Upon connection, it announces itself and immediately rings the person you chose to call.

As Gizmo5 is a VOIP service with free incoming, you pay a total of $0 for the call.

It's part of the reason I want an Android phone :) This tactic gained notoriety by using the GV app to make free calls on the G1.

EDIT:

I might as well talk about every service GV offers while I'm at it.

You can send and recieve SMS text messages for free.

GV can screen unknown callers so that when they call they must provide their name. When you pick up the line it will tell you who is calling and then you can choose to pick up, send to voicemail, send to voicemail and listen in, or pick up and record the conversation. At any time during the call you can hit # to switch phones.

Voicemail and SMS are presented in a visual inbox that looks like Google Mail. Voicemail can be transcribed automatically. It is really bad about picking up some words, but you can get the gist of the message that way usually.

Voicemail greetings can be personalized to various groups of people (friends, coworkers, unknown, etc.)

Any number can be blacklisted. If they call, they will recieve the standard "*beep beep beep* I'm sorry, but this phone number is no longer in service." message.

You can enable all unknown calls to go directly to voicemail.
You can enable a Do Not Disturb mode where all calls are sent to voicemail.

When a voicemail is left, an email is sent to you and the transcribed message is sent to your phone.

Voicemail and call functions can be accessed through dialing your GV number and going through menus similar to standard voicemail services.


Over all it is an excellent service that only got better when aquired by Google. It was previously called GrandCentral when I signed up.
 
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Drack

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lulzfish said:
wtf, why did you just quote yourself and then say nothing?
Sorry, hit reply instead of edit.
 
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rabidpoobear

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musicalwoods said:
rabidpoobear said:
I'm not sure I understand what's going on. Where is the telephone network -> VoIP transition happening? Say you're calling me. I don't have VoIP. So you initiate a call through the web interface, pick it up with your SIP client, and then GV calls me? Is that right? And you don't have to pay for this?

Google Voice is a free service (minus international calling). When you want to call through your GV number, you go to the web interface and initiate the call. GV then calls your phone (VOIP in this instance). Upon connection, it announces itself and immediately rings the person you chose to call.

As Gizmo5 is a VOIP service with free incoming, you pay a total of $0 for the call.

It's part of the reason I want an Android phone :) This tactic gained notoriety by using the GV app to make free calls on the G1.
Ah, thanks for the explanation, it's very interesting stuff. So GV is providing the phone number -> VoIP bridge for you then? That's cool. It just kinda disturbs me that Google can offer so many services for free. It makes some sense though, it's probably incredibly cheap to provide this on a large scale and they don't need to make a profit from it (since they make plenty of profit elsewhere.)
 
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musicalwoods

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rabidpoobear said:
So GV is providing the phone number -> VoIP bridge for you then?

Well, actually, as I understand it Gizmo5 offers you a landline number as well, so it probably handles the landline -> VoIP services, but GV recognizes the number as a Gizmo5 number and accommodates it as such.

I added on the rest of the services GV provides to my previous post for the hell of it.
 
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SNESFAN

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Greetings, I've been working with google voice as well if you guys haven't read my writings on the subject yet they start here and go down.

http://www.gp32x.de/board/index.php?/topic/48327-pandaphone/page__view__findpost__p__746226

Also same link, the first page kind of summarizes my work trying to get gsm/gprs radio into the pandora. For "normal" cell phone calling.

I've kind of taken a break from working on the gsm/gprs/cdma portion and am waiting on google voice to interface with google talk. It's comming, check out my most recent post in the thread above. It briefly explains how it works.

Google had a blog (find link?) explaining gizmo5 and google voice's handshakeing. Google worked it on their end to expand popularity and see how xmpp to sip would work together. I think gizmo5 has changed their stance recently though to charge/limit calling to outside atd mobile and land lines. I feel you shouldn't rely on a outside interfacing for a primary means of phone service, it's just bad juju. latency, protocol upgrades, etc etc

Now, when you sign up for google voice you have to link it to some sort of atd phone. Once it's registered you're done. You can then, very easily, configure google voice and turn off routing your voicemails and sms's to your phone and just use your google voice account and website. I'm also working on making a standalone application, it uses the hodgepodge api's here http://posttopic.com/topic/google-voice-add-on-development untill google voice releases their official apis. This would be 2/3rd's of the puzzle. The last, being what you said, voice. I personally am going to wait for google talk to interface with voice because it's the same company's software/protocol, it will be much cleaner across the board, but if I had to make a recommendation, and you had to choose a service, gizmo5 or asterisk would be it. There's plenty of guides on how to hook them up if anyone wants I can dig one up.
 
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rabidpoobear

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musicalwoods said:
rabidpoobear said:
So GV is providing the phone number -> VoIP bridge for you then?
Well, actually, as I understand it Gizmo5 offers you a landline number as well, so it probably handles the landline -> VoIP services

Are you sure? I tried to set it up so I could call into Gizmo and it said I had to pay $35 for a number. But the number is free with GV, so I guess GV does the PSTN->SIP.
 
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musicalwoods

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rabidpoobear said:
Are you sure? I tried to set it up so I could call into Gizmo and it said I had to pay $35 for a number. But the number is free with GV, so I guess GV does the PSTN->SIP.

Lol, that's why I did a strikethrough before you quoted me.


I was hoping GV would interface with GTalk eventually. Now with the *just* announced Pidgin compatibility with GTalk Voice and Video, that is even better to know.
 
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javaJake

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rabidpoobear said:
I tried to set it up so I could call into Gizmo and it said I had to pay $35 for a number. But the number is free with GV, so I guess GV does the PSTN->SIP.
That's a regular ol' Call-In number. The 1747 number I mentioned in my post is actually the SIP number assigned to my Gizmo account. Everyone gets one of these numbers when they sign up for Gizmo.

musicalwoods said:
As Gizmo5 is a VOIP service with free incoming, you pay a total of $0 for the call.
This generalization is incorrect: Gizmo costs the same as Skype. However, they provide a SIP number which is free, and that's what GVoice interfaces with.

jb0yx said:
I'm also working on making a standalone application, it uses the hodgepodge api's here http://posttopic.com/topic/google-voice-add-on-development
As am I! Currently, I am writing a new Python API (pygooglevoice doesn't cut it) which is object-oriented, and then I'll begin writing software on top of that. I've never written in Python before, but already I can send an SMS, and in an object-oriented fashion. The features I hope to add, without overloading my schedule, are:

  • Notification of new SMS, with the ability to reply (just automatically fills in recipient phone).
  • Turn on or off "do not disturb" based on Google Calendar. Something like "[gvoice:dnd]" or something in the description field would work. This gets into an entirely new level of protocols, so I'm holding off on that for now. I'd like to extend this functionality into more than just "do not disturb", too.
  • Also decide which phones are to ring (home, mobile, Pandora) based on what wifi network I'm connected to (essentially, location-based configuration).
  • Ability to initiate calls, and a speed-dial option.
 
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