How I Got an Android Smartphone in Ontario Canada for Just $6.25 per Month

My method is not for the person who wants to be able to spend time on their cellphone, chatting it up, nor the person who wants to have blazing Internet speeds on their phone while they’re hiking through Algonquin Park. This is for those of us with very basic requirements, who need a phone out of necessity… for emergencies… and don’t want to spend a bunch of monthly cash to do it.

Let me tell you a little bit about me, and perhaps shed some light on why you may have received an answering machine or two when reaching out to me. I’m not one to spend much time on the phone. In fact, I do almost all my communication either in person or by email.

I’m not a brain surgeon, nor the President of the United States, so I’ve never felt “important enough” to need to be accessible 24/7 no matter where I am. So I’ve never gotten myself into a costly phone contract, because it simply wasn’t a necessary expense.

However, recently we had our new alarm installed at the studio thanks to Froggy.ca, and the alarm monitoring company needs to be able to get a hold of me in event of break-in or other emergency. Otherwise, they might send the Police to false alarms should they occur, resulting in a hefty fine from the local emergency service.

So I started doing research, and realized a few things about my needs.

  1. I am almost always within reach of a WiFi connection, and when I’m not, I don’t want to be. For example, I don’t need to have Internet while I’m at the beach or eating dinner at a restaurant with my darling wife.
  2. I never use the phone. I need it for emergency use only, and perhaps the rare short call, but nothing to warrant the 500 minutes a month of a standard phone contract.
  3. I want a phone out of necessity, not desire for constant contact, and therefore I do not want to have to spend the $35+ per month on a phone contract.
  4. I use an iPod Touch 4 to keep on top of my inbox. I know it’s on its last legs (they’re not built to last), plus I don’t want to have a phone and iPod in my pocket–so a smartphone makes more sense to me than a flip phone. I want to remove the iPod from the mix entirely and just have a single device for both purposes.

With some back-and-forth between the Category5 TV chat room, and discussing with a few friends, I came up with a brilliant solution, and I must say it’s working great!

I now have a smartphone–a Samsung S730m Discovery Galaxy–with no contract, and I pay just $6.25 per month for it.

Here’s how I did it:

First of all, I bought the phone. That’s right. I paid outright for a refurbished unlocked smartphone. I’ve never done this before, but the freedom is wonderful! I got to choose my phone from dozens of available options, and got a great deal (I paid $90 Canadian) since it’s a refurb, and not the most current of phones. Check out the amazing selection on Amazon! One of them is bound to work for you.

By purchasing the phone outright, I am not tied to a contract. It’s how the phone companies get you: they promise a free smartphone, or one for very cheap, but you have to sign up for $35 per month for 2 years (Wind Mobile). So I’ve avoided the contract, and the high monthly fee (but had to pay nearly $100 up front for the device–a fair trade-off).

The other advantage to buying the phone is that for less money in the long run, I actually end up with a better device. The ones being offered at the $35 / month contract level don’t hold a candle to the one I bought for just $90. You can get an unlocked phone for as little as $40 from what I saw, but again, I wanted to replace my iPod Touch at the same time.

Secondly, we know I have easy access to WiFi. What about you? I think it’s pretty rare to be out of reach of a WiFi connection where you truly need it, at least for me. I have it at work, I have it at home, and my favorite coffee shops also give me free access. I do not need Internet while sitting on a park bench watching my kids play. I’d prefer to cheer them on and show some interest in what they’re doing.

So scrub the need to have cellular Internet on my phone. I set the phone to disable using Internet on cellular networks, and I can still have high-speed Internet on my smartphone whenever I am within reach of a WiFi connection… which is practically always.

Third, I shopped around. You’ll never guess where I found my service.

Wait for it…

After weighing about 15 different providers against one another, I walked into my local Petro Canada gas bar and picked up a SIM card and pay-as-you-go minutes. Whaaaaat?

Yeah, you heard me right.

Why did I choose Petro Canada? For starters, it’s easy to activate my phone. I bought the SIM card for $10, which gave me the local phone number and activated my new phone. All I had to do was enter some numbers into a web site as per the instructions, and I was up and running.

Not to mention, you get Petro Points for your phone service. That will mean free gas, free groceries, whatever I choose to redeem them for.

So here’s how I got my phone service for $6.25 per month…

I actually purchased a single $25 pay-as-you-go card. That’s it. Having read all the fine print, Petro Canada’s $25 card expires in 4 months. That’s 4 months of phone service, with no Internet (I’m getting that via WiFi) for just $25, assuming I don’t make an abundance of calls using up the card prematurely (which I won’t do unless there’s an emergency, in which case I won’t mind reloading early). $25 every 4 months is $6.25 per month.

It doesn’t give me a lot of talk time. Roughly 50-100 minutes per month, but that’s actually more than I need.

So for those who are like me and only need cellular service in an emergency or in a bind, I wanted to post how I did it and share with you that you too can get phone service in Canada for just $6.25 per month.

Already have a cellphone? Cancel your phone plan and do what I did if you are paying more than you need to! Even $35 per month to have a “phone for emergencies” is too much now that we know it can be done for so much less.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of my solution, and certainly if you opt for the same, I’d love to know about it.

Here’s a video where Sasha Dirmeitis and I discuss how I did it:

Studio D: Day 17

Wow! We’re really getting into the exciting stuff now.

Christa and her hubby Brad arrived to start putting up the drywall, and my friend Jean Bamford from Labar Sales & Distribution also paid us a visit to figure out the colors for our new studio. I’m glad she came by on a night when Christa was around since it was her who designed our logo and she has a good vision for our image. This is getting exciting!

We also got our first piece of furniture donated by my friend Chelsea: a coffee table!

You’ve got to see the video! So much going on.

Please don’t forget, we need to buy a new video camera for Studio D, and we do not yet have the funds. We need our viewers’ help, and every contribution makes a huge difference. Please consider contributing to this need here:  http://shop.category5.tv/?product=upgrade-the-cameras

You can also read about the camera and post your comments on my blog: http://www.baldnerd.com/new-camera-for-studio-d/

Thanks for all your support!

-Robbie

New Camera for Studio D

I started this thread over in the Telestream forums and have been getting some excellent feedback from the community.

We need to buy a new camera for Studio D.

Basically it boils down to this: right now we use a webcam. We get away with it because we’re confined to a very small space. But Studio D is a much larger space, with more potential “screen area”, and a webcam just won’t work in that environment.

This living blog is where I’ll way the pros and cons of each possible camera, and welcome your feedback either here in the comments below, or directly on the Telestream thread.

1080p vs. Ultra HD vs. 4K

  • 1080p gives us 1920×1080 pixels to work with.
  • Ultra HD provides a source of 3840×2160 pixels, and
  • 4K provides a source similar to Ultra HD at 4096×2160 … a bit wider than Ultra HD.

HDMI vs. HD-SDI

  • Both provide full resolution/framerate.
  • HDMI at 1080p, we do not need to purchase additional hardware. Anything at Ultra-HD or 4K, we will need to purchase a new capture device, regardless of whether it is HDMI or HD-SDI.
  • HDMI maximum cable length is hard to gauge. Some say it’s 25 feet, some say 50 or more. However, in our experience (having tested with our old HDMI consumer camera) a 6 foot length is safe, but 15 feet or more starts to lead to problems (eg., dropped signals). We would not feel safe to use more than say, 10′ of HDMI, which means the broadcast server needs to be extremely close in proximity to the camera itself. You’re already familiar with HDMI: it plugs in and could easily be accidentally unplugged if the cable gets snagged or pulled. HDMI does offer wireless options in 1080p, but at this point I haven’t seen a 4K model. Also, HDMI to SDI converters can be purchased cheaply.
  • HD-SDI is generally safe at a maximum of 300 feet. This means our broadcast server can be well away from the camera, and we can move the camera around much more freely within our studio space. HD-SDI “locks” into place. It will not come out of the camera or the server if it gets snagged. For these reasons, HD-SDI is preferable over HDMI. HD-SDI traditionally adds a fair bit to the cost of a camera: it is the “professional” option, whereas HDMI is the consumer option.

So… which camera should we buy? Please comment below and send in your contribution here to help us make this upgrade a reality.

Prices shown are in USD. To see how much it would actually cost us in our local currency, click the amount.

These are listed by price, highest to lowest. Higher price does not necessarily mean better. That’s what we need to weigh.

Blackmagic Design Studio 4KBlackmagic Design Studio 4K
B&H List Price: $2,995*
Pros: Ultra HD. Multiple camera angles from one camera, including lossless digital zoom. Built-in HD-SDI. Professional (studio) form factor.
Cons: *Does not include lens. Rather expensive (although comparatively cheap compared to other studio cameras of this quality and featureset). No WiFi controls (but does have LANC controls for Iris and Focus, if we buy a separate controller). Auto-focus only available with specific lenses and not realtime.

Sony FDR-AX100 4KSony FDR-AX100 4K
B&H List Price: $1,998
Pros: Ultra HD. Includes lens. 1″ CMOS sensor. WiFi control. Realtime auto focus. I really like the “camcorder” form factor. Built-in ND filters. Includes a wireless remote control which allows optical zoom.
Cons: Maximum 30fps when shooting in Ultra HD mode (60p available in 1080p mode).

Panasonic Lumix DHC-GH4Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
B&H List Price: $1,697.99*
Pros: 4K (higher horizontal resolution than even the Blackmagic camera above). Multiple camera angles from one camera, including lossless digital zoom. WiFi controllable.
Cons: No HD-SDI. HD-SDI may be added via an interface accessory which costs an additional $2,300 (making this camera cost more than the BlackMagic Studio 4K to get HD-SDI). Could we use an HDMI to HD-SDI converter instead? *Does not include lens. Has auto-focus if you buy specific lenses, but it’s not as good as the Canon units (but can use WiFi app to control focus). DSLR form factor (bleh).

Canon Vixia HF-G30Canon Vixia HF-G30
B&H List Price: $1,399
Pros: Includes lens. Larger sensor than the G20. Has WiFi controls. 60p recording mode (not necessary, but could be neat for slow-motion reviews). Improved positioning of the output jacks. Switch to control the use of the manual dial ring. Realtime auto-focus. I really like the “camcorder” form factor.
Cons: No HD-SDI. HDMI only. Will require multiple cameras to attain multiple angles. Seems like a pretty high premium, approaching a little too close to the 4K price range.

Canon Vixia HF-G20Canon Vixia HF-G20
B&H List Price: $899
Pros: Includes lens. Comparatively cheap for great picture quality at 1080p. Realtime auto-focus. I really like the “camcorder” form factor.
Cons: Interlaced at 60p. No HD-SDI. HDMI only. No 60p. No WiFi controls. Will require multiple cameras to attain multiple angles. Controls are largely based on touch screen.

Since this is a living blog, please check back often. I will update this with any new findings or other changes, and I welcome (and appreciate) your comments below, and contributions to the project.

Studio D: Day 16

Well, more water is not something we’d expected, but our chins are held high, and we’re all working hard to make this happen!

On day 16, I visited Studio D with two of my children to go over where we’re at, and what needs to happen next.

Anthony from Froggy.ca arrived and did some more setup to finish off our alarm system, and symbolically placed the “Protected by Froggy.ca” stickers on the doors.

Have a great night!

-Robbie

Studio D: Day 15

Paulo made the trip to Studio D with the intention of putting up the drywall. However, we hit a major snag that prevented us from putting up any of the drywall.

While that was disappointing at the time, it was not a lost day: we got the walls pretty well prepped, and Paulo was able to get some more electrical ready.

I also learned a lot about electrical wiring differences, and Paulo explained mudding and what we need to do when the drywall goes up.

See how our day went in the Day 15 video!

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Thank you for supporting the Studio D project!

-Robbie

Studio D: Day 14

The drywall and all the supplies have been purchased, and somehow it makes all this seem oh, so real.

With just 3 hours sleep in my system, I met up with the landlord in the morning to get the power turned on to the lights. Did they arc? Explode? Did I get electrocuted and lose all my hair? You’ll have to tune in to find out!

My kids and I visited the studio in the afternoon to try out a tool which should help us cut the drywall since I had no luck securing a Sawzall. For $33 could this tool actually work in place of a several-hundred-dollar tool?

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Thank you for supporting the Category5 Studio D project!

-Robbie

Studio D: Day 13

Sirens, dead animals and 2 hours sleep. That’s what Anthony and I were in for on “lucky” Day 13.

Hillary Rumball came by to open the doors, and Anthony from Froggy.ca made the trek northward once again… this time to install the studio’s alarm system. He also had a good deal of knowledge to share regarding things electrical and otherwise.

Due to heavy Friday night traffic, it was a fairly late start to the night, and we didn’t wrap up until 3am.

We were fortunate that studio lights also work very well to illuminate an empty studio with no power to the ceiling lights!

I finished wiring all the ceiling fixtures, gave them a quick inspection and put in 40 light bulbs, ready for the landlord’s visit the next morning.

Check out our “all nighter” in the video below.

Huge thanks, of course, to Anthony from Froggy.ca for all his hard work on Day 13.

And thank you for supporting Studio D!

-Robbie

Studio D: Day 12

It’s nice to be refreshed! I took a week off and just baked in the sun, and spent time with my wife and kids. It was well needed, and now I feel like I could build 11 Studio D’s!

So, here’s the story… one of our viewers from the GTA contacted me about our security system needs, and on Day 12, he made the trip up the highway to visit Studio D and start laying the wiring needed to keep the studio protected from bad guys and robots.

My secret motivation also surrounded the fact that I didn’t want to be doing electrical work without someone spotting me.

This viewer’s name is Anthony, and on today’s Backstage Pass video, you’ll get the introductions.

As you know, the Teespring campaign ended, and my sweatshirt just arrived. It’s really awesome! So you’ll get to see that today too! And if you want one, well, head over to teespring.com/category5 and tell them you want them to re-open the campaign by clicking the “WAIT! I still want one” button. All proceeds go to getting us a brand new camera to make my shiny head even shinier, and give you the bestest show ever.

Check out today’s video!

Thanks for your continued support of our Studio D project! It’s happening, folks!!

-Robbie

Studio D: Day 10

Behold, the most epic of all days, day 10  ;)

Seriously! Imagine a 10 hour work day where you had the video camera running the whole time thinking “Oh, that’ll be a great idea: means I’ll have a recording to work with”.  And then, sit down in the editing room and gasp and wonder what on earth you were thinking!

So, here it is! Edited down to a 1 hour mega super day special!

On this incredible, productive day, I bought a cute little fridge to keep cream and drinks cold for the studio crew, and also welcomed a viewer–Paulo–into Studio D. He is a combination electrician, contractor and all-round good guy who volunteered to help with a lot of the stuff I’m just not capable of doing… or at least until I’m shown how. He proved to be a great teacher and fun guy to work with … and it’s a good thing too, because it was a LONG day!

Enjoy the special! Make sure you set aside some extra time this week and let’s get these lights up!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=479e2nhUwWk

-Robbie