June 11 2015 Update
With the latest version(s) of the RW app rolling out, some folks have noticed that the data settings warning message cannot be permanently disabled. This is causing some problems with those who use Wander: every time you enter a roaming area you are presented with the same pop-up window again and again, always telling you the same thing. this is due to Wander toggling the Android settings for mobile data coupled with the RW app constantly checking to ensure this setting is enabled (never toggled to disabled).
This is a frustrating thing for many, I’m sure, but it is part of a very well-reasoned update to the RW app (something I’ve looked into and I absolutely agree with: the RW app wants to be the sole controller of whether your mobile data settings are on or off; you can flip a switch in the app if you like but the Android settings should no longer be used to turn off mobile data) .
Good News: I contacted the folks at RW and they were already tackling this usability issue; they’ve got good solutions in testing already and will roll out the best one ASAP!
For those struggling with these pop-up messages and wondering how much longer you can deal with them, the message is clear: you won’t have to deal with them much longer. Hold out a little while more (or uninstall Wander then later reinstall if you wish). Exactly how RW will help us get rid of these messages is not yet clear but I’ll update this post when the time comes.
In the meantime I must admit something that at least a few folks may not have realized yet: After migrating my data to a new device I found out that, while I still have all of the Wander source code, I lost the security certificates required to update the app in the Google Play Store. I’ve been hesitant to create a duplicate app just to publish a small update, but…
(note: at the time of writing the Play Store hasn’t updated to actually list it yet… it should be available in a few hours)
**Please note that you’ll need to manually uninstall the OLD version of Wander - you won’t be automatically updated to this version (it is a new entry in the play store despite looking and behaving the same way).
By publishing this new version in the Play Store I’ve now re-enabled the option for me to make improvements to the app. I still look forward to to the RW app’s new features making Wander entirely unnecessary, but from now till then if any changes are absolutely required I’ll be making them available via this new Play Store entry.
- We all consume roaming data at times when we didn’t need to use any data (e.g. email updates while traveling through a roaming area)
- Roaming data is now more tightly constrained than it used to be
- It will be useful to many RW members if they can budget their roaming data so it isn’t used up on features we don’t care about
- **I’ve written a utility app to help us all budget our roaming data usage: **Wander (Google Play Store)
Roaming Data Is Expensive
We’ve all known for a while know that roaming data is something of a big deal. Republic’s recent announcement certainly reminds us all of this fact. Now that roaming data limits are a bit more restrictive there are two realities we should all consider, as end users:
- We should budget our roaming data use, to be sure we’ve got some left when we need it
- When roaming data buckets become available we’ll still want to budget our roaming data use to keep our costs low
Roaming Data Is Not Always Needed
We’ve got access to roaming data when we need it, but what about all those times we DON’T need it?
My Moto X constantly updates my work email, gmail, Google+, weather, and much more - but I don’t personally care if that happens on roaming data or native data. It just needs to happen with some regularity.
For those who don’t live deep inside Roam-ville USA it makes great sense to simply disable roaming data most of the time and to enable it again specifically when you need it.
Android Settings Are Cumbersome
Manually switching roaming data on and off can be a pain. I don’t want to browse the community and read about people running out of roaming data because they forgot to turn it off, or that they couldn’t place a call because they forgot to turn it back on again. What we need is an automated solution to turn mobile data on and off based on whether we are roaming and which apps we are currently using.
Not All Who Wander Will Roam
Amid my little addiction to Tasker (for those who aren’t aware, Tasker is an Android app in which you can write small utility programs)** I’ve written a free app to help us all budget our roaming data usage. I call it WANDER.**
Wander disables your mobile data (entirely) whenever you start roaming, then enables it again when you enter native Sprint coverage. Wander also watches for your use of specific apps and turns mobile data back on immediately when you launch one of those apps. Specifically, Wander supports re-enabling mobile data while roaming for:
- Republic Wireless (the RW dashboard app)
- Phone (the standard app to make/receive phone calls)
- Messaging (the default built-in SMS/MMS app)
- Chrome (the default built-in browser)
- Google Maps
Wander can be configured to ignore Messaging, Chrome, and/or Google Maps; Wander will ALWAYS force mobile data back on any time Republic or Phone are opened up though, as these apps require mobile data in order to behave properly.
You can see screenshots and install Wander for free from the Google Play Store: Wander (Google Play Store)
Wander includes an in-app tutorial which opens automatically on first launch; Very little interaction is expected of folks to setup Wander for use, but if the tutorial doesn’t explain the features well enough then I invite you all to discuss the app in the comments below. I’ll be happy to help anyone get started with Wander.
Here’s a screenshot to whet your appetite:
Sorry folks, I know some of you would really like other apps to be supported. My hope is that the above list of apps is sufficient to cover the vast majority of users. For those who want to use Wander but need roaming data at other times, there are two mechanisms available to you:
- You can manually disable Wander any time you like; this is somewhat more convenient than navigating Android’s roaming data settings (Wander -> Service button)
- While mobile data is disabled (by Wander) a notification will be present in your status bar; down-swipe with two fingers on that notification to expose an option to force roaming data back on for 5 minutes.
Either of these two options will enable data use while roaming regardless of which apps you are (or are not) running. Hopefully these options satisfy most folks who want for data outside of the few apps otherwise supported.
Wander Is Voluntary
Republic Wireless launched in late 2011 with a clear intent: to provide amazingly inexpensive cellular service for WiFi people. We are a community of members with a culture all our own. We have the opportunity to affect the overall business model here, not just by participating in the ThinkTank but also by proactively adjusting our usage habits to reduce costs and make these amazingly inexpensive service plans work for us. I hope Wander can help us accomplish this without requiring significant effort on our part or harming our user experiences. Remember that Wander is not required and is not an official Republic Wireless application; it was written by a RW member, for RW members. I hope you like it.
Thanks folks - see you in WiFi land!