Android this week: Google Wallet demo; 10-cent apps; free voice calls over data

Written on:December 10, 2011
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Google rolled out its Wallet software earlier this year, but few people have been able to try the mobile payment service. Sprint is the main Google Wallet partner and the applications requires both the Wallet Android app and a near-field communications (NFC) chip in a phone. The Google Nexus S that launched last December meets both of these requirements, but new Galaxy Nexus only meets one.

My newest smartphone has the NFC chip, but Google didn’t pre-install the Wallet software, so I decided to do that myself. It meant that my Nexus had to be rooted first, and since Google doesn’t offer the Wallet software in the Android Market — very few handsets can use it — I turned to the XDA-Developers site. There I found the Wallet software and installed it on my Galaxy Nexus.

Once I configured Google Wallet with a PIN for security and a linked credit card, it was off to the local gas station. The transaction worked as smoothly as a regular credit card purchase, although you may have to trust me because the video demo turned out poorly. This is mainly because I was juggling two phones and trying to hide personal information. Regardless, you can see that simply by holding up my phone to the gas pump, the transaction occurred.

Watch this video for free on GigaOM

With Google Wallet working so well, I’ll probably be spending more money. Luckily, there’s an Android app sale going this week: To celebrate 10 billion Android app downloads, Google is offering 10 apps a day for $ 0.10 each. The 10-day promotion started this past Wednesday and continues through this coming Friday. A new set of low-priced apps appear every day in the Android Market, so be sure to check daily during the promotion; it’s a cheap way to load up on some solid Android apps.

Another cost-cutting idea hit me this week when I realized that Android has built-in support for SIP, a protocol used to transmit voice and video over a data connection. I originally thought that Android 4.0 added this feature, but later found out it’s available in Android 2.3. However, carriers have been stripping this feature out, presumably to ensure you purchase a voice plan with your Android phone.

I have a data-only plan and SIM card with T-Mobile for my Galaxy Tab, so I popped that SIM in the Galaxy Nexus. With support for both AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks, the phone works just fine with a SIM from either carrier. But this particular SIM has no voice plan associated with it, so trying to make a call over the network simply doesn’t work. But voice over IP calls do.

There are many ways to make this work because there are many VoIP apps and SIP providers, so if you go this route, do some research. I ended up getting a phone number from Callcentric for $ 2.50 and a free VoIP plan that offers no-cost calls to other VoIP users and no charge for any incoming calls. Outgoing calls are under $ 0.02 per minute and I don’t make many of those. Once my Callcentric credentials were input in the Google Android Phone app, I was good to go for voice calling over a data network; both 3G or Wi-Fi.

I also included Google Voice in this solution, since most people have that phone number to reach me. I set up Google Voice forwarding to my Callcentric number so I don’t miss any phone calls. Again, there are many ways to do this, so look around. Many readers recommended I look at GrooveIP, which is a $ 5 app that works directly with Google Voice, so I may take a closer look at it myself.

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