Smartphone With No Phone Service?

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I've been wondering if it's possible to use a smartphone with no phone service. I'm not talking no data plan, I'm talking no phone service at all.

I see all of these smartphones and think they're really neat but I have absolutely zero use for an expensive data plan and pretty much no use for even a cell phone. However, I'd like to have a smartphone to use on my home network and free wi-fi spots in public. I envision using it for things like music, GPS software, VNC software, games, internet access via wi-fi networks, etc.

Is this doable? I've done some searching and can't seem to find a clear answer. It seems clear to me that you can't do this if you buy a new phone from one of the cellular companies as they force you to buy a 2-year plan, etc., etc. From what I can tell it seems like it might be possible, though, either by using an 'unlocked' phone or by using a phone which has passed it's contract period and is no longer in service.

Can anyone enlighten me on this? Any suggestions on a good site that will help me sort through this mess? Everything I find online centers around avoiding a data plan only...

For what it's worth, I have a cell phone (dumbphone, I guess) with Verizon service. I've had it for over 2 years and I rarely use it, but if having that SIM card would help me accomplish what I want with a new/used smartphone then that may be an alternative as well.

Any advice is appreciated as I'm completely ignorant when it comes to cell phones.

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I picked up a refurb Samsung T401G for $20 direct from Net10
.com a while back and many of it's features work even though I still haven't activated it yet. It has a slot for a microsd card. Both Still and video cameras work and it plays mp3 and encoded video(3gp). However, it does not have wifi.

You may want to look into a GPS unit that has built in wifi like the Garmin 295w that sells for about $100 on Amazon or another GPS unit with wifi that you can load miopocket 4.0.

Verizon doesn't have SIM cards, since they have a CDMA network. Only the GSM network providers use SIMs, like T-Mobile and AT&T.

You can use an old iPhone without cell service. Apple has a guide on how to do it:

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3406

Of course, Apple also has the iPod Touch, which is basically an iPhone without cell or GPS. There are GPS add-ons for the iPod Touch though.

The iPad 3G has built-in GPS, and no contract.


It should be possible to use an Android phone without cell service as well. It will depend on the phone what steps you may need to take. I know my old G1 required a cell data connection to activate it, but could work without a cell connection afterward, so most sites recommend borrowing someone's T-Mobile SIM for the activation process.

Note that the phones don't have to be unlocked if you don't plan to use it for cell service at all.

There's also Wifi-only Android devices, though they'd also likely lack GPS. Archos has a whole line of "internet tablets" that range from iPod Touch sized screens to an iPad competitor:
http://www.archos.com/products/ta/index.html?country=us〈=en

The wifi-only Android devices also lack the Google Apps and official access to Google Marketplace, although they typically have another application store installed on them.

I've had several Windows Mobile based phones that were Wifi enabled and worked fine on a wireless network. Just change the default data connection from MediaNet to Wifi.

ChinaRider said: I've been wondering if it's possible to use a smartphone with no phone service. I'm not talking no data plan, I'm talking no phone service at all.

I see all of these smartphones and think they're really neat but I have absolutely zero use for an expensive data plan and pretty much no use for even a cell phone. However, I'd like to have a smartphone to use on my home network and free wi-fi spots in public. I envision using it for things like music, GPS software, VNC software, games, internet access via wi-fi networks, etc.

Is this doable? I've done some searching and can't seem to find a clear answer. It seems clear to me that you can't do this if you buy a new phone from one of the cellular companies as they force you to buy a 2-year plan, etc., etc. From what I can tell it seems like it might be possible, though, either by using an 'unlocked' phone or by using a phone which has passed it's contract period and is no longer in service.

Can anyone enlighten me on this? Any suggestions on a good site that will help me sort through this mess? Everything I find online centers around avoiding a data plan only...

For what it's worth, I have a cell phone (dumbphone, I guess) with Verizon service. I've had it for over 2 years and I rarely use it, but if having that SIM card would help me accomplish what I want with a new/used smartphone then that may be an alternative as well. This would probably be the only benefit of a phone vs a PDA.

Any advice is appreciated as I'm completely ignorant when it comes to cell phones.


Sure, but you may be able to find better PDA handheld devices such as the ipod touch.

Many GSM smartphones require a sim to be in the phone to work. The sim doesn't have to be active, however. You can probably obtain one for free from someone or somewhere. Otherwise, it is as simple as buying a prepaid sim for that provider.

Though I no longer use it, my old HP microsoft phone worked great as a PDA. It just failed as a phone as it missed many calls. After getting a new phone, i continued to use it for a year or so as a PDA.

Some GPS softwares use the cellphone towers to triangulate position. I suspect it could be done without service, but wouldn't count on it. All phones are required to have GPS active whether the account is active or not. This is so you can call 911 and they can trace your location.

marsilies said: Verizon doesn't have SIM cards, since they have a CDMA network. Only the GSM network providers use SIMs, like T-Mobile and AT&T.
Some Verizon phones have sim cards and slots. Verizon might not use the sim cards, but they do come with some of their phones such as the blackberry tour. Such a feature probably exists so users can use their phones when they travel to GSM only areas.

I use my Droid phone with PagePlus 1200 talk/1200 text plan. I only use data with my wifi.

riznick said: marsilies said: Verizon doesn't have SIM cards, since they have a CDMA network. Only the GSM network providers use SIMs, like T-Mobile and AT&T.
Some Verizon phones have sim cards and slots. Verizon might not use the sim cards, but they do come with some of their phones such as the blackberry tour. Such a feature probably exists so users can use their phones when they travel to GSM only areas.

Yes, those are what Verzion calls "Global Phones." They contain both CDMA and GSM radios, with the SIM for use overseas in Europe (and most of the rest of the world) where GSM is the standard.

Verizon only has a handful of these phones, and they're almost all smartphones and/or they cost significantly more than a CDMA-only phone.
http://b2b.vzw.com/international/Global_Phone/index.html

Thanks for all of the responses, I'm learning a lot...

I was under the impression that an iPod Touch would be the easiest way to get what I wanted, but they're so darn expensive and never go on sale. I thought maybe there was a cheaper solution available by purchasing a used smartphone and taking advantage of its features without using its phone capabilities. Sounds like this is an option.

It also sounds like there are competitors to the iPod Touch out there, such as the Archos devices that marsilies references.

Anyone care to share their opinions on the Archos devices or similar non-iPod devices that have similar functionality? I'm not a fan of iTunes or high prices, so an iPod Touch is my last resort... On the other hand, they seem to have a great product, which is why they can continue to charge so much for it.

ChinaRider said: I was under the impression that an iPod Touch would be the easiest way to get what I wanted, but they're so darn expensive and never go on sale. I thought maybe there was a cheaper solution available by purchasing a used smartphone and taking advantage of its features without using its phone capabilities. Sounds like this is an option.
If you want a cheaper option than a new iPod Touch, and don't mind used, you could keep an eye on the refurbished iPods Apple sells:
http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/ipod?mco=OTY2...

An 8GB iPod Touch (previous generation) sells for $149.

Anyone care to share their opinions on the Archos devices or similar non-iPod devices that have similar functionality?
The main differences with the Archos devices is that they use Android OS. Now, I've had 2 Android phones and like the OS a lot. It's similar to the iOS used in iPods and iPhones, but with more customization options. The main difference would be the apps. The Apple App Store has been around for longer and is hugely popular, meaning it has a lot more apps. Most developers seem to create apps for iOS first, then port to Android, maybe. You'll probably be able to find enough quality apps on Android to keep you happy, and there's some nifty apps on Android that just aren't in the Apple App Store. However, if you're looking to use/play some specific apps, you may want to check to see what platforms the app is available on.

The other thing that separates out the Archos from Android phones is that the Archos devices don't come with the Google Apps, including Android Marketplace. This is the main app store on Android, and it where nearly all the Android apps can be found. Archos has put their own app store on their devices, which should have a subsection of what's on Android Marketplace. Also, you can install apps from other app stores, or even from downloads online. Still, some miss the Android Marketplace, which is why users have created a hack to put it on the Archos devices:
http://technologer.net/2010/10/13/archos-32-tablet-gets-android-...

Remember that if it's a wifi only device like the iPod Touch or Archos, you're not going to have GPS. They can probably do rough network location when on wifi, but it wouldn't be useful for navigation while on trips.


One last thing to consider is how you really plan on using the device. I have a co-worker who bought an iPod Touch thinking he could use it to check email and the web while he was out and about. However, after getting the device, he noticed the dearth of places where he could actually access free wifi, limiting his online access. It's still fine for playing music and movies, or running apps that don't need internet, but for internet access he's limited to his home or places he specifically has to seek out. So depending on how you want to use it, it may be smarter to get a smartphone with a cheap data plan.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have introduced reduced-rate data plans. Verizon's and AT&T's are $15 a month, while T-Mobile's can be as low as $10 a month:
http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2010/10/20/ve...
http://phandroid.com/2010/11/01/t-mobile-launches-200mb-data-pla...

Another option would be pre-paid. Virgin Mobile has a $25/month plan for 300mins with unlimited data and texting, and have one Android phone available:
http://www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-phones/samsung-intercept-pho...

There's a Hot Deals thread about getting the Samsung Intercept for about $200:
http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/hot-deals/1043227/

marsilies said: riznick said: marsilies said: Verizon doesn't have SIM cards, since they have a CDMA network. Only the GSM network providers use SIMs, like T-Mobile and AT&T.
Some Verizon phones have sim cards and slots. Verizon might not use the sim cards, but they do come with some of their phones such as the blackberry tour. Such a feature probably exists so users can use their phones when they travel to GSM only areas.

Yes, those are what Verzion calls "Global Phones." They contain both CDMA and GSM radios, with the SIM for use overseas in Europe (and most of the rest of the world) where GSM is the standard.

Verizon only has a handful of these phones, and they're almost all smartphones and/or they cost significantly more than a CDMA-only phone.
http://b2b.vzw.com/international/Global_Phone/index.html

Exactly. I was just stating that some verizon phones do have sim's. Considering we are discussing smartphones, the chances increase that they have a sim.

Just buy an iPod Touch.



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