Monday, November 15, 2010

When can I upgrade my Verizon Wireless cellphone, how do I get an early upgrade from Verizon Wireless? How much do cell phones cost?

How often can you upgrade your Verizon Wireless cellphone? How do you get an early upgrade from Verizon Wireless? How much do cell phones cost?

Well, this is a pretty easy one; let me start by telling you how buying cellphones works. That Droid cellphone you're looking at has a 'real' retail price in the $500 range. When you sign up as a brand new customer, Verizon will give you a few hundred dollars off the cost in order to get your business, so you pay $200 (or less at Amazon!) Now, Verizon needs to make that $300+ dollars back plus some profit from your monthly plan in order to stay in business and keep providing their great network (contrary to popular belief, even expensive monthly plans don't make a huge profit). This is why Verizon Wireless will charge you an early termination fee (of about $350 on a smartphone for example) if you cancel your account early. They want to get back their subsidy.

They also want you to resign your contract on a regular basis because then they can rely on your future spending as a customer. Thus, they make you wait a certain amount of time between the last time you got a big discount on a phone and the time when you resign your contract and get another big discount on a phone. You're always able to buy a new phone, just not always at the discounted price. (And yes, they really do cost a lot of money. Compare the price of a phone to another piece of consumer electronics like an Ipod Touch! Thats why you should treat your phone as nicely as you treat your Ipod!) 'Upgrade' is also a misnomer; technically they should call it 'Discounted Pricing.'

Long story short, how long do I have to wait to get an upgrade?

Plan Cost                                                    Months
(Tracked per phone, not per account)      (Until you can get another discount on a phone)
9.99-59.98                                                  20
59.99 +                                                       12 (or wait 20 and get an even bigger discount)

A sales associate can also move you update ahead by 7 days in a store.

Hope this helped someone!

Friday, November 12, 2010

How do I block a number that keeps calling me on my Verizon Wireless cellphone?

It is never a good thing when you get annoying or harassing phone calls from the same number over and over again. What options does Verizon Wireless offer to block a phone number from calling you?

The only official method provided by Verizon to block a number from calling you is to use Usage Controls (you can get a description and sign up for them here). Usage controls costs $4.99 a month, and it lets you do a lot of other things too. You can set up usage allowances that set limits for voice minutes and messages used during a billing cycle (to prevent overages) as well as set up time restrictions that allow you to limit and control cell phone use by day and time (no texting in school, for example)!

You also have the option of changing your number, but that is usually.

There are a few other options which won't outright block calls from being received but may make them less annoying. If you have a regular feature phone just add the annoying number to your contact list, and then give that number a custom ringtone that is silence. If they call your phone, you won't here it ring, although they'll still be able to leave a voicemail if they choose. Some newer feature phones even allow you to send a contact straight to voicemail.

If you have an Android powered smart phone like these, you get a lot more options. You can download many different call blocking programs from the Android Market, but my favorite is Call Blocker Gold. Again, it can't stop a call from coming to your phone, but you can tell it to hang up, send straight to voicemail, or answer with silence for any number, or a string of numbers (like 1-800 numbers). It even works with text messages!

Hope this helped someone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I forgot my VZW account password, aka How do I reset my Verizon Wireless account password?

So, you've gone into a Verizon Wireless store or gone online and they asked you for an 'account password' aka 'billing password' that you either don't remember setting up or just plain don't remember. What is it and how do you reset it?

A billing account (or just account) password is a special password used to protect your account from just about everyone (including people who work at the store!) It is different from your My Verizon online password, voicemail password, or handset lock code. It will be four to five characters (letters or numbers) long (although sometimes if you think you think you set it as something longer the first five characters may have been recorded as the password).

An account password can be set up at any time by the account holder (in store, online, or over the phone). Users who set one up may do it for any number of reasons when they feel that the default account security code (the last four digits of their social security number) is not secure enough (ie, someone you don't want in your account knows it: kids, an ex, an identity thief, etc). 

Users also must add an account password if they add someone to their account as an authorized user (someone you allow to access your account and make changes without you: a kid at college, a spouse, etc). If you ever 'added someone's name' to your plan, you had to set up a password that both of you need to know to do anything with the account. Finally, the automated system for making payments over the phone by credit card or electronic check prompts you to make up a password if you don't already have one. If you've used the automated system you may have set up a password without realizing it.

Sometimes the billing account password is the same as the last four digits of the account holder's Social Security number.

You have a password and you've tried to guess it, using all your common passwords and everything else you can think of, but you still can't get it. What do you do next?

The best thing to do is to go into a store (find one here) with photo ID and get it reset there. If you're the account holder and have photo ID, it is the most secure and preferred method for changing a password (especially if someone else set it up without your knowledge!)

Alternatively, you can reset the password over the phone. You can call into customer service and talk to a live representative and try to get it reset. Unfortunately, they cannot allow you to change the account without knowing the password! Some representatives will allow you to verify other information on the account or might be willing to call you back on an alternate number listed on the account to verify your identity before they'll make a change.

To prevent customers from calling in constantly and taking representative's time up (as you can see above, it can be a long process!) Verizon also has an automated system you can use to reset your account password.

- Dial *611 from the primary handset on the account.
- Choose option 4, Other Options
- A voice menu will ask you what you want to do, say "Change my password" or "Reset Password"
- Choose option 4 for billing account password
- Choose option 1 to reset the billing account password
- Enter the account verification information it asks for (zipcode, last 4 of the account holder's Social Security number, or last four of the account holder's Tax ID number)
- Enter a new four to five digit password
- Choose option 1 to confirm your new password

The new billing account password will be updated to the account almost instantly!

Hope this helped someone!

Tags: reset Verizon Wireless account password, forgot Verizon Wireless account password, don't know my Verizon Wireless account password

Monday, November 8, 2010

My phone isn't charging! My phone isn't holding a charge! My phone dies fast!

So, your Verizon Wireless phone is having power problems. Maybe your phone isn't charging at all, it isn't 'holding a charge,' it is dying quickly, or your phone goes from a full charge to dead whenever you make a call.

First, we'll assume that your phone has not been physically busted or water damaged. (A future post will talk about water damage).

The cause of your problem could generally be one of four things (or a combination of four things if you're very unlucky). Your battery is bad, your charger is bad, the charging jack is broken, and/or the charging circuitry (the hardware in the phone that regulates charge) inside your phone is bad.

The simplest way to find out what, exactly, is wrong with your phone is to take it into an authorized service center. These tend to be larger corporately owned Verizon Wireless stores. You can search for one in your local area here. Service centers will be locations that list Technician Hours alongside Store Hours. When you get to the service center, you'll want to sign into the queue for service rather than sales. The technician can hook your phone up to a diagnostic machine which will put a load on the charging circuitry and battery and record how the power is regulated, stored, and discharged. This test will help them figure out exactly what is wrong with your phone. 

Stores that are not service centers will not have this diagnostic machine. What do those stores do? Well, a good store with trained employees can usually troubleshoot and 'guess' with pretty good accuracy what the problem is, but you can do the same thing yourself and save a trip to the store (if there aren't any service centers in your area, of course! That is easiest!) It is really a process of elimination. 

Charging Port
The easiest thing to check is your charger port. Look right in there! Is it mangled, has bent pins, or is full of lint? That could be a problem. If your charging port is busted, you'll need to get a new phone.

If your charger is loose when you plug in your charger that can be a big problem especially if you have to wiggle it to get it to charge. DON'T WIGGLE YOUR CHARGER! EVER! (A future post will talk about loose charging ports).

If your charging port looks good and isn't loose, try a different charger. A bad charger could simply be delivering the wrong charge to the phone; the phone and battery think it’s getting a proper charge but it isn't. If you beg/borrow/buy a replacement charger for your phone, you’ll know your old charger was bad if your phone is working correctly and lasting longer within a couple charge cycles (a day or two). 

Brand new chargers in a store will cost between $20 and $30 dollars depending on the phone's make and model. Be aware that most stores do not stock chargers for older phones. Since most phones all use different chargers, they usually only have stock space for current model phone chargers (if any at all)! You can usually find chargers much cheaper and easier online than travelling from store to store. Just make sure it is an Verizon branded or OEM charger. Some people have had very bad luck with off-brand or after-market chargers. Still, you can find chargers on Amazon for most phone models for much less than a store will charge to ship it to you (when they don't have it in stock). Definitely take the time to search Amazon for cell phone chargers.
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The next easiest thing to check is the battery. If you have a charger that you know works properly and your phone still isn't holding a charge, then you should move on to the battery. If you take the battery out of your phone and it feels fat in the middle, you have a bad battery. Batteries should be flat. If you're not sure whether or not your battery is fat, place it on a flat surface. If it has a bulge in the middle, you'll notice. It’s bad. If the battery spins freely when you flick the corner, it is fat (and therefore bad). Beg/borrow/buy a replacement battery. If it is just the battery that is bad, your phone should be working correctly and lasting longer within a few charge cycles (two or three days).

Brand new batteries in a store will cost between $30 and $50 dollars depending on the phone's make and model. Be aware that most stores do not stock batteries for older phones. Since most phones all use different batteries, they usually only have stock space for current model phone batteries (if any at all)! You can usually find batteries much cheaper and easier online than travelling from store to store. Just make sure it is an original or OEM battery. Some people have had very bad luck with off-brand or after-market batteries. Still, you can find batteries on Amazon for most phone models for much less than a store will charge to ship it to you (when they don't have it in stock). Definitely take the time to search Amazon for cell phone batteries.
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The Phone Itself
If you know you're using a good charger, battery, and charging port, then the problem lies in the phone itself. Some circuitry somewhere has gone bad. There isn't anything you can do to fix this. If your phone is less than a year old and has no physical or water damage, you should be able to get it replaced under your one year warranty for free (longer if you purchased the extended warranty from Verizon at the time of purchase). If it is older than a year and you have insurance on it but no extended warranty, then you can get it replaced for a fee through insurance.

Hope this helped someone!

Tags: bad battery, Verizon Wireless, VZW

Friday, November 5, 2010

Android Market has disappeared or Android market is gone from Droid X after Android 2.2 Froyo update

Many users are reporting that after applying the 2.2 Froyo update to their Motorola Droid X, the android market application disappears or 'the Android market is gone.' The loss of the android market on a Droid X after updating to Android 2.2 Froyo can occur immediately after the update, or a few days later.

This is a known bug with the 2.2 update; it seems to effect a small percentage of users who update to Android 2.2 Froyo. Motorola (hopefully working with VZW and Google) is working on a fix for this error that will be pushed out as an OTA over the air software update, but there is currently no time frame for the fix.

In the meantime, it is possible to restore the Android Market on a 2.2 Froyo updated Motorola Droid X. However, it requires a factory reset of the phone, which can be annoying. You won't lose much though.

Your contact list is saved to your Gmail account (as well as Backup Assistant if you set it up), your pictures/videos/mp3s are saved to the micro SD memory card in the phone (this is not erased by a factory reset), your email is saved by your email host (like Google, if you use Gmail), your calendar is saved IF you have set up a Google Calendar account, and you can re-download all your apps (even paid apps) after the market reappears. So, what you really lose are your text messages, which most of us can deal with. If you can't, forward the important ones to your email account or write down the important information before doing a factory reset.

The instructions for doing a factory reset can be found on Verizon's website as well as eHow.

(excuse the ad links, but they keep the blog alive. Bear with it and it will take you safely to the necessary page)

That's it! After the hard reset, you can sign back into your Google (etc) accounts and recover your data. I have used this solution with two Droid Xs, and although a bit of a pain the market hasn't gone away again (5+ days and counting at least!)

Hope this helped someone!

Stilll interested in the Droid X? You can get one from Amazon: Motorola DROID X.
If you're looking for a (currently) stable Android 2.2 Froyo cellphone, try an HTC Incredible.

Tags: Droid X, VZW, Verizon Wireless, Android Market, Glitch, Bug, 2.2 Froyo, update

Thursday, November 4, 2010

First Post

Welcome to VZW tips and tricks. Hope its helpful to you; don't expect anything illegal, secret, confidential, or dangerous here. This is just a place to get some good (sometimes better) advice that saves you a trip to the store or some time on the phone.