The $25 phone with free service
My FreedomPop ZTE Force 4G LTE (what kind of name is that?) arrived yesterday. I got this from FreedomPop directly, for $25, no contract, and the plan has 200 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB a month, all free for life. I’ll dig more on how they do that later, but I kinda suspect this may be similar to Valentine’s plot to destroy the world…
The phone itself is nothing special: it’s a low-end Android phone running ICS. It has everything a normal smartphone has: back camera with flash, front camera, a touch screen covering the front of the phone, microUSB charging port to the left. Not as thin as my Nexus 5, but not too thick, either. Not so common features include a dedicated 2-stage shutter button for the camera, removable battery, and a microSD card slot. The screen is dim, but totally usable at max brightness. No IPS, of course, but viewing angle is not too bad either.
I was pleasantly surprised that FreedomPop included a 4GB card in the phone. But what had me screamed in delight was that the phone ships with clockworkmod recovery! Not even Google does that with their “developer” version of their devices. No carrier nor phonemaker wants you to even be able to root the device, or unlock the bootloader, not to mention freely flash whatever you like. I was always worried that this $25 device would be full of ads and all locked down. I had never thought a carrier would give me a phone along with the tool for me to brick it (not like I wanna brick all my phones anyway).
Immediately after powering it on, something was odd. There was no standard phone dialer. The dialer has been replaced with something that looks like CSipSimple, and after just a bit searching in their forum, FreedomPop did confirm that their dialer is a derivative of CSipSimple, which means all the voice minutes are done via VoIP. Going into Phone Status confirmed that the cellular number reported there doesn’t match the number I have. Sure enough, texts are done over IP, too. With people being on wifi most of the time, this means that they can avoid using cellular bandwidth for the majority of the calls.
I have nothing against VoIP. I think it’s the way of the future. However, CSipSimple has a problem with bluetooth calling, which is kind of a turn-off, because I wanted to use this to replace my home phone plan, by pairing it with my bluetooth-enabled cordless set.
Luckily, rooting this phone is super easy, since it already has CWM recovery. And so I flashed the CWM superuser. Sure enough, SIP login information and configuration parameters are stored in data/com.freedompop.phone/databases/com.freedompop.phone.db. A simple SQLite viewer was all I needed to extract all of those out and login using siodroid. However, using a different dialer would work for outgoing calls, but I mostly need the home phone for incoming calls, and I have yet to figure out a way to replace the default dialer without breaking everything else in the phone. Also, none of the SIP client I tried so far worked properly with Bluetooth anyway, so I needed some other way.
I know that the default ICS dialer has a SIP client built in, and being a default dialer, it works very well with bluetooth devices. So I just need to find something that has the stock dialer – a stock ROM! A bit more Googling around led me to a stripped stock ROM for the ZTE Force. Voila! Everything works.