The iPhone is available for Ting. Here’s how it works.

I’ve been a long-time user of Ting, the pay-as-you-go Sprint partner. You sign up, purchase an Android device or bring your own Sprint-friendly Android device, and they charge you just for what you use each month. Services fall into three buckets: minutes, texts, and data (in megabytes). Here’s how my dashboard usually looks each month:

Ting Dashboard

I don’t use any minutes or text messages. This is because my typical setup has been a mixture of Skype and Google Voice, combined with a wireless hotspot device (I’ve been using the Sierra TriFi, which I can easily recommend, though you do have to buy them off eBay most likely). The costs are pretty simple: you pay $6 a month for each activated device in your account, and then anywhere from $3 on up for your usage in each “bucket”.

Using an iPod Touch with Skype and Google Voice on Ting

Why such a convoluted setup for this service? Because Ting hasn’t ever supported the iPhone until a beta announcement about a month ago. With that announcement, Ting is now allowing people to bring their own iPhone 4’s and 4S’s to the Ting party. These being older devices (the 5S/5C are the current up-to-date models Apple offers at the time of this writing), they’re clearly treading lightly into the iOS waters.

Since I’ve never wanted to use an Android device and I work from a place with constant, good, WiFi connectivity, I’ve put up with the use of the iPod Touch/Hotspot device setup, though it is clunky. The biggest downsides to this setup:

  1. Skype works worse and worse every day. Sometimes it’s practically unusable even on a good WiFi connection.
  2. The iPod Touch is lighter than an iPhone, but it doesn’t have any battery monitoring (with a percentage that is), an earpiece speaker, a true microphone, or proximity sensor. If you want to call someone, everyone’s going to hear it over the speaker.
  3. iOS is designed to work “lighter” on a cell connection to save data usage; using a hotspot makes iOS think it’s constantly on WiFi, so it can dig into your data if you just keep it on all the time.
  4. If you’re a guy, shoving two devices along with keys and a wallet in your pocket is too much. Ladies may find it works well with a purse, though. Or, if you carry a backpack or messenger bag.
  5. GPS tracking through Maps is pretty rough sometimes. It’s hard for it to track just via WiFi triangulation, and the hotspot being “just another WiFi network” adds to its confusion.

Today I unpacked an iPhone 4S that arrived via an eBay purchase. The lure of a single device running affordably for what I use it was strong. If, like me, you have to buy an iPhone on eBay to get this to work, remember that it must be a Sprint-capable iPhone. Old Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile phones won’t work. And, it helps to ensure you get one with a clean ESN.

Acquiring and Activating an iPhone 4S

For my money, I bought a $168 iPhone 4S on eBay from a guy with a solid track record. It was dinged up a bit on the edges, it came wrapped in bubble wrap, with no headphones, cables, or original packaging. It’s the online equivalent of buying a phone out of some guy’s trunk on the street corner. The downsides here are obvious: you don’t really know what you’re getting unless the photos are spot-on and the phone is obviously used, so the battery life may be weak. I haven’t used mine too much yet, but with a 59% charge I went for a 40 minute jog and came back to a phone at 50%. Screen brightness was at 50%, WiFi on, Bluetooth on (but not connected to anything), and playing a podcast — all with iOS 7 installed. A 9% drop seems dramatic to me. Charging this phone has been slow, too. Don’t let this experience sway you, your mileage will vary. If you’ve got your own phone and you know what shape it’s in, even better for you.

I turned the phone on, activated the phone through Ting’s online activation process, restarted the phone, it re-activated for Ting/Sprint service, and I was off and running. I live in Indianapolis, so Sprint coverage here varies. I have 1 bar of 4G in my apartment. Down the street a bit and it’s full-on 3G. Again, your mileage will vary. I’ve not been dissatisfied with Sprint’s service in the metro area here, though.

Once activated, the iPhone restored from my iCloud backup with all my apps and data. Looking at my Ting dashboard now shows it’s used a couple texts (from a verification I setup through PayPal where it wouldn’t accept a Google Voice number), and about 5 minutes of talk time, which was me testing the voice quality. My experience with Skype just flat not answering calls was enough to make me care about the voice quality.

The iPhone on Ting is going to be a big deal when they support the iPhone 5 and newer models. This 4S has the smaller screen, the 30 pin connector, and feels like a brick compared to newer models. But, it’s a start, and so far I’m satisfied. I’d highly recommend Ting’s service if you know Sprint can work for you in your area.

The Drawbacks

I’m sure I’ll be paying more than I was with just using my TriFi Hotspot because the iPhone is going to do things like check email, sync snippets of data to iCloud, and other piddly tasks that will always be on. My iPod Touch would just go offline when my hotspot wasn’t on, which was most of the time until I needed it. To recreate this, I’d have to use Airplane Mode on the iPhone, which I’m likely to forget to do.

Plus, with all the trickery going on to make Ting quasi-separate from Sprint, Google Voice doesn’t play nicely with it. Trying to activate your Ting number with Google Voice makes Google think you’re on Sprint, which you are, but not really. You can still use Google Voice’s app on the iPhone to make calls and receive texts to and from your number, but it won’t integrate with the Phone app built into iOS. Likewise, voicemails and calls won’t get forwarded or redirected through Google Voice. The way around this is to ensure you always make calls from within the Google Voice app (or GV Mobile+). Ditto for texts. If you don’t use or care about Google Voice, hey, perfect!

I love Ting enough that I’m going to open it up to all of our team members here at SuperPixel to use as a work perk. The savings are just too much to pass up. Going from a $70 a month bill to $15 is a big savings.

Sign up and get $25 of service credit

If you’re ready to sign up for Ting, use this link and you’ll get $25 in service credit, and we will too:

About the author

Justin Harter