swappa-ing things around

So Better Half and I are looking into possibly changing our cell phone service provider, as well as upgrading our phones.  The former is actually the easy part these days… the latter is a bit more complicated. 

Since we are looking at pre-paid plans, we generally cannot get subsidized phones, which leaves us with the “unlocked” phone market.  Amazon carries more than a few of those, of course, but you will end up paying something near list price, or at least probably above what you are willing to pay, cheaper pre-paid plans or not. 

Enter Swappa, at least for Android users.  They differentiate themselves from EBay and Craigslist in one fairly important way: 

All listings on Swappa meet the following criteria (according to the Seller):

  • All devices are fully functional
  • All devices have clean ESN/MEIDs (have not been reported lost or stolen) and are ready for activation
  • All devices are free of water damage and screen cracks

If you buy a device on Swappa with a bad ESN, cracked screen, or water damage then the seller has violated Swappa Terms of Use and acted fraudulently, giving you, the buyer, recourse.

The difference between Swappa and alternatives is that other services don’t have any rules against selling junk devices (Swappa does). And other services don’t necessarily require disclosure of damage or state of the ESN (if a seller doesn’t reveal that information, then it’s the buyer’s responsibility to ask).

A buyer on Swappa could still get cheated as they could on eBay or another service. The difference is that with Swappa the burden is on the seller to act fraudulently to do it, rather than the burden being on the buyer to make sure they ask all the right questions. And if a seller acts fraudulently the buyer legitimate recourse through the payment provider.

(Emphasis in the original.) 

I have no idea how well any of that would hold up in a dispute, but they seem to believe “quite well”, and just the deterrence factor alone is probably worth it.  Folks who do this kind of thing a lot seem to agree

The only catch is that its userbase is still somewhat limited, so if you are looking for something other than a mainstream phone, they might not carry it.  Of course, the only fix for this is to spread the word, and get other people to start using it – we plan on offloading our HTC Incredibles through Swappa once we figure out our future plans. 

And speaking of phones, what are people’s opinions regarding the Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus, and LG Nexus 4 in its two sizes?  Those seem to be the phones we have narrowed our shopping down to.  Amusingly, we are “overpaying” for our Verizon service so much that it would almost be just as cheap to buy an Nexus 4 at their currently-inflated prices than wait the 6-8+ weeks for them to get back in-stock at their amazingly affordable prices.  Or, barring those four, does anyone have any other good Android suggestions? 

what he said

Make it a phone and I’ll buy one.

No, really:

Smartphones are constantly getting better at imitating compact cameras, but so far we haven’t seen many cameras that attempt to mimic smartphones. That changes today with the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera, a 16-megapixel compact camera unveiled at CES. It’s a point-and-shoot camera that’s pretty much a smartphone without the phone. Powered by Android, the camera features a 3x (36-108mmm) optical zoom lens, a 3.2-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi connectivity, 720p video recording, and geotagging. The Android OS means that users can install and use Android Market apps on the camera (e.g. Instagram once it becomes available). It’ll be available starting in April for $300.

I might hold out for a different/better brand than Polaroid, and “16 megapixels” does not necessarily mean anything when those sensors are stacked on top of each other like tribbles, and a 6.5mm lens (am I reading that right?) is freakishly small for point-and-shoots these days, but, yeah, include actual “phone” functionalities in that device, and I will be interested.

As it is, people have largely stopped carrying around point-and-shoots in favor of those strange little devices that can take pictures and make phone calls… slapping a phone’s OS into a camera will not really change that equation significantly.


Earlier this month, I wrote up a post on some essential (as I see them) Android applications, and from comments and online reactions, it appears to have been one of my more popular and helpful posts of late.

Well, today I bring you the seamier side of smartphone applications, complete with a helpful, and all too disturbing, graphic.

There are two short takeaways from that surprisingly in-depth article: 1. Most applications will tell you what data they will be mining while you use them, but, especially on Android, you are trusting that the application writers are telling the truth, just like you are trusting them to not misbehave with the information they do collect.

2. I have forgotten where I first read this, but if you are not paying for something, you are the commodity. Companies do nothing for free. By and large, individuals do nothing for free. However, user data (even if it is anonymous) on thousands, if not millions, of users is valuable to advertisers, programmers, and countless other entities, and they are more than willing to pay app designers to harvest it.

As is so frequently the case, our modern world has developed into a balancing act between “convenience” and “privacy”, with the latter losing ground every day. The only question for you, one of the millions of mostly-faceless datapoints, is, “How much of one are you willing to sacrifice for the other?”

the times are a-changing

There is something definitely strange about being in an almost-48-hour power outage, and being able to keep up with, and update, the internet on our phones.  Connectivity has been rough at times, and we have had to rely on the generator to keep the phones charged, but we have been watching the weather, checking the news, and poking Facebook the whole time. 

Bit better than huddling around a hearth, this…

this ain’t star trek

As I write, and post, this entry, I am about 32,000 feet over Kansas City, Missouri, hurtling along at around 500 miles per hour in a very large metal tube packed with people.  The device I am using to do the writing was all but unimaginable within my grandparents’ lifetimes (in fact, just one of these would have turned the tide of any of the wars they witnessed or were involved in), and when I push “publish”, countless other absurdly powerful machines will be involved in allowing this post to be seen by possibly millions. 

As the title says, this is not Star Trek, but you would not have to go very far back in time for someone to regard the above paragraph much the same way we see those television series. 

So, where is my tribble?