Experiment: Turning an iTouch + MiFi into a No Contract iPhone

11 Apr
Turning iPod to iPhone Apps

Out of sheer frustration from the lack of AT&T service on the iPhone 3GS in some parts of San Francisco and at home, I started looking at alternatives in service without signing up for another contract. In this quest, I stumbled upon Virgin Mobile and their MiFi card for only $149.99 which is the exact same MiFi card as sold on Verizon and Sprint for much more. I thought I would connect through Virgin Mobile MiFi (uses the Sprint network) when AT&T didn’t have service. This is a reposted from my personal blog.

This post is long overdue, if you googled iPod Touch and MiFi together, you would have come across a LifeHacker article which details how to use this combination as a solution. While having two devices is not ideal, I find it’s much better than when I was using my iphone which had NO SERVICE at home. At best I had intermittent service to send and receive occasional texts but not enough bandwidth to have a conversation without sitting in perfect stillness or contorting my body by a window to get the signal. Ironically, I pulled the SIM card out of my iphone and put it in a Motorola RAZR and the RAZR received phone calls. The calls weren’t perfect on the RAZR yet I had enough of a signal to hear a conversation. On the iphone people would cut in and out that I would miss half the conversation and was completely frustrated between that and the dropped calls.

Apps to Talk & Text on the iTouch
First, I’ve tried several voice over IP (VOIP) apps on the iphone and forwarded my google voice number to the VOIP apps. These apps usually make you select a new phone number without the option to port in an existing number. I use google voice (GV) for the business and forward it to a phone number with a signal or answer calls on the computer. A previous guest post on GenJuice details how to make free voice calls, video chats, and texting.

Here are the apps I’m using to give the iPod Touch cell phone functionality.

Textfree with Voice by Pinger

Textfree with Voice

I was using the beta version when Pinger introduced voice-functionality at TechCrunch Disrupt last year, it crashed a lot and I received the servers were not available dialogs. It has since improved, then added the ability to received free incoming calls, send picture messages from a textfree email address which is [your_username], and facebook chat from within this app. Sometimes, calls take a bit longer to connect because GV will route the call to all of my available numbers. I haven’t tested how quickly calls come through if you dial the number directly. The caveat with this free app is if you don’t use the app for 30 days, you will lose the number you selected and I still occasionally get the Textfree servers are not available message.


  • Free incoming calls
  • Send picture messages
  • Facebook chat within the app
  • Notifications popup on the screen when you get incoming texts
  • Calls sound pretty good when using home WiFi
  • Takes awhile for incoming calls to activate even after you click answer when using the MiFi card to connect to the internet.
  • Calls on 3G are still somewhat hollow sounding for the recipient.
  • Can’t receive MMS or picture messages to your iTouch unless the sender sends the message to your Textfree email address.



I pay $2.99 a month for unlimited outgoing calls to the United States and Canada on Skype. I don’t need to call internationally which is why this plan works for me. I also signed up for the SkypeIn or an online phone number which was about $12 for three months before I learned Textfree had the free incoming calls. Dropping the online phone number since I can receive calls via my computer on Google Talk.


  • You select the number that will show on the caller ID for your outgoing call. I like this because my GV number is what people see call their mobile or landline either from my iTouch or the desktop version of Skype.
  • Video calls on the go when in a good 3G area or ideally on WiFi.
  • Voicemail – there is currently voicemail on Skype and I don’t know how to get rid of it. I prefer the GV voicemail since it transcribes my messages.
  • Calls when in a non-3G area don’t sound very good.
GV Connect

GV Connect by Andreas Amann

Of the Google Voice apps I’ve tested, I like GV Connect over the app released by Google. In composing a new SMS or text message, you can type in the name of the person you want directly in the TO field, tap out your text, then send. In the Google Voice app, unless you have the number memorized, you have to go to the address book to select the person first, then select text, before you can even tap out your message. It was too many steps, come on Google, really!??


  • Sending a text uses my address book without having additional steps.
  • Select which phones to forward calls and texts to from within the app.
  • Select do not disturb directly from the app.
  • Regular updates to the app to fix bugs and add features.
  • Integrates with Talkatone if using that for VOIP.


  • Not a VOIP app.


This app doesn’t add calling or texting capabilities, I had to add it because I use it to check battery life on my MiFi card and to see the signal strength. It supports MiFi from Virgin Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.


  • Connectivity bars (0 – 5 bars)
  • Battery level (0 – 4 bars)
  • Data received and sent (in/out)
  • IP address
While the experience with the iTouch and MiFi is not ideal, it was good enough for me to put my AT&T account on hold until announcements of the iPhone 5. I will detail that later along with the other apps I’ve tried and ultimately deleted from my ipod because they didn’t do what I wanted well enough.
Have you tried these apps on your ipod or ipad? If you have better suggestions for a VOIP app let me know in the comments, I would love to try them out!
1 Comment

Posted in Technical