Don't just roam, WANDER!


#1

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…

The latest version of Wander has been re-published as a new app

(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).
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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.


Quick Summary

  • 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:

  1. We should budget our roaming data use, to be sure we’ve got some left when we need it
  2. 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:

Screenshot_2014-09-14-11-21-08.png

Unsupported Apps

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:

  1. You can manually disable Wander any time you like; this is somewhat more convenient than navigating Android’s roaming data settings (Wander -> Service button)
  2. 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!

-bit


#2

Bit you are great to come up with an app that does this this should stop most accidental roaming data usage fo it be there for that 1 time it’s need (I currently installing this and will play with it a bit in the morning


#3

thanks - I hope it works well for you


#4

Wow, nice app! I’ve got it installed and ran through the excellent tutorial.


#5

Just installed - thanks! I’m looking forward to trying it out. I spent this weekend in a place with marginal Sprint coverage and was amazed at how much data was consumed unintentionally just driving through roaming areas (3 MB roaming in about an hour on Friday evening). There was absolutely nothing that couldn’t have waited until I reached native coverage. I wish I’d had the app installed before my trip.


#6

you’re the man


#7

@bitflung

Is there a way to tap into the mobility app for (ok google now) to turn it on and off with the new customization that will be available to everyone soon as google decides to release it. What can I say I like the voice system in my Moto X.

Otherwise Thank you for your efforts on the app making RW better for everyone. Your the best !!

~~bocephous


#8

Awesome, thank you for this.


#9

Fantastic! I’m downloading right now even though I am presently using the $10 plan. I will use it on those times when I’m in the $25 plan. Very cool.


#10

Would Commandr provide the functionality you’re talking about? It doesn’t look like it has a built-in command for that specific functionality, but it looks like it also supports integration with Tasker.


#11

Great job Bit! This is infinitely useful!


#12

The best aspect of this from my perspective is the ability to reduce RW’s cost by eliminating unnecessary roaming. For the most part I have Sprint or Wi-Fi coverage but occasionally I pass through a whole in Sprint’s coverage and roam for a short time. I set all but the Republic app and the Dialer to roam.


#13

I can see this being useful, I am just curious if the google services function will also be taken care of because it is a integral for Maps? Because right now Google play services is utilizing my roaming data more then any other apps right now, and I know there are other apps that uses Google Play services as well.

Was curious if the disable function in this app would also include google play services?


#14

Is there a way to tap into the mobility app for (ok google now) to turn it on and off with the new customization that will be available to everyone soon as google decides to release it.

What can I say I like the voice system in my Moto X.

there exists a plugin for Tasker called AutoVoice - this just might enable such a feature. I’m hesitant to use the plugin though since it is not free and all users would have to buy it in order to run the app (i could publish 2 apps, Wander and Wander +Voice, perhaps, to retain the non-voice version for those who don’t want to buy the plugin?)

this is the same issue that affected DriveFi users - while that app was installed by a good many users I can’t help but think that it would have improved the RW experience for even more folks if it didn’t require a paid plugin to work.

Otherwise Thank you for your efforts on the app making RW better for everyone.

Your the best !!

~~bocephous

thanks @bocephous! right back at ya


#15

jigamo wrote:

Would Commandr provide the functionality you’re talking about? It doesn’t look like it has a built-in command for that specific functionality, but it looks like it also supports integration with Tasker.

Commandr looks cool, thanks for linking to it (i’ve just installed it now)!

I don’t think Commandr could tap into Wander as a standalone app, but if someone wanted to use Commandr’s integration with Tasker to control Wander then I’d be happy to share the source code (Tasker project XML file) for them to play with. For anyone seeking this, feel free to add me as a friend here and send a direct message and I’ll get a copy of the XML file in your hands.

-bit


#16

The best aspect of this from my perspective is the ability to reduce RW’s cost by eliminating unnecessary roaming.

that’s definitely one of the major benefits. Another is that we can now budget our roaming data consumption so we don’t waste 25MB on useless background data only to find we are all out of data when we really need it later on. When RW releases the option to buy roaming data buckets (as they’ve suggested in the giant thread about the roaming data announcement) I hope this app finds a use in helping folks control the financial impact of buying/using those buckets too

For the most part I have Sprint or Wi-Fi coverage but occasionally I pass through a whole in Sprint’s coverage and roam for a short time. I set all but the Republic app and the Dialer to roam.

i’m in the exact same boat. while at work and at home i generally have zero sprint coverage (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile all fail miserably at both locations) but have solid wifi so am generally very happy anyway - regardless, it seems i sometimes roam in these places. if the wifi happens to fail (or is being purposefully shutdown, as it was last week for maintenance at work) my phone finds a way to suck down a good amount of roaming data while i’m sitting here in front of a regular PC and have no need for data on the phone.

I’ve setup my Wander app to allow roaming for Messaging as well though, just in case. I don’t need roaming in chrome or Maps on a day to day basis, so i’ve left them disabled just as you have.


#17

jimmyk wrote:

I can see this being useful, I am just curious if the google services function will also be taken care of because it is a integral for Maps? Because right now Google play services is utilizing my roaming data more then any other apps right now, and I know there are other apps that uses Google Play services as well.

Was curious if the disable function in this app would also include google play services?

very good question!

and the answer is a little complicated at first, but will be very simple to understand once i’ve explained it.

the answer is: NO, Wander doesn’t account for Google Play services, and YES google play services will have roaming data access while you use Google Maps.

Wander watches which app is currently running in the foreground. If you’ve setup Wander to allow roaming data while Maps is being used, then ALL roaming data will be allowed while Maps is running as the foreground app (that is, while Maps is actually being shown on your screen). This means that Google Play Services will have mobile data access while Maps is displayed on your screen.

Conversely, Wander doesn’t know or care about Google Play Services itself. So if Google Play Services tries to access mobile data while it is otherwise disabled by Wander, the data access will fail (intentionally). This means that OTHER apps that use Google Play Services will be unable to consume large amounts of roaming data in the background while your phone just sits idle in your pocket.

You may note that the mechanism I’ve used enables ALL apps to consume any amount of roaming data any one of the “allowed” apps is actively running in the foreground. Depending on your view this is either a fantastic feature or a frustrating kludge. This means that library components (like Google Play Services) will have data access when it is needed by an allowed app (great feature!), but it also means that disallowed app will have unrestricted background data access while any allowed app is running (bug?)

If the potential bug in the design is an issue for you (anyone) then you might want to disable background data while using Wander. I’m currently looking into options to programmatically control this feature but, sadly, Tasker is a bit limited with which system settings I am allowed to control (it may simply not be possible for me to control this from a Tasker based app).

Weighing the pros and cons I’m still pretty happy with Wander: it will block roaming data access while you are NOT running any “allowed” apps, therefore should significantly reduce the amount of roaming data consumed on a regular basis for most users.

Hope this helps,

-bit


#18

Ah! So when the App detects roaming it will disable mobile data altogether, even Google play services (except if I pull up maps and then it re-enables, which is what I have set now on the app). This will work I think, because I do go into a few spots that are roaming but I do not use my phone because I am driving through it. I was just concerned because it looks like Google Play Services consumes most data when I am roaming even though I am not doing anything on the phone.

Thanks again @bitflung , this will help a lot of members


#19

I shut off messaging simply because I’m always on the road and don’t respond to text messages then anyway. I know I’ll get them when I get back to Sprint or to Wi-Fi. I wonder if it’s possible for RW to configure their text process to tell people when we simply aren’t available. I realize Motorola has a responder that works when driving but I think that requires a data path to the phone.


#20

bitflung wrote:

Wander watches which app is currently running in the foreground. If you’ve setup Wander to allow roaming data while Maps is being used, then ALL roaming data will be allowed while Maps is running as the foreground app (that is, while Maps is actually being shown on your screen). This means that Google Play Services will have mobile data access while Maps is displayed on your screen.

I know we discussed this a bit already, but I think it’s worth some wider consideration. I think disabling the “auto sync” option in Tasker while Wander is in roam mode might help with this particular issue, or at least reduce the amount of data that will piggyback on a whitelisted app. I know you’ve said it’s not the same as Restricting Background Data, but is there a reason why it wouldn’t help some?

So the flow would be something like:

  • Roaming detected
    • Disable mobile data
    • Disable auto sync
    • Watch for whitelisted foreground app
      • If one running
        • enable mobile data
        • leave auto sync disabled
  • Native coverage detected
    • Enable mobile data
    • Enable auto sync

So the only change would be in the main entry and exit blocks for a change in roaming state.