Developer Phone

December 22, 2010

I bought a Palm Pre 2 from HP and received it a few days ago.  HP is offering a $200 discount to webOS developers, which is a great deal.  After waiting for the discount code for about a week, I ordered the phone from the HP Small and Medium Business website.  A glitch kept me from getting the phone for about a week, but I finally got it last week.

It’s an unlocked GSM phone and it won’t let you do anything without activating it.  I didn’t have a SIM card or anything so I was out of luck for a little while.  After searching the Internet for information, there were two different routes I could take for using the phone as a developer device: I could bypass activation or I could get a SIM card and an account (preferably pay-as-you-go) with a wireless provider.

Bypassing activation has the advantage of being free, but it seems like you cannot access the Palm App Catalog this way, which is a pretty serious drawback.

The pay-as-you go option seemed a little better because I didn’t expect to use the phone for phone calls and I planned to use a Wifi connection for all data.  So except for any signup cost, I expected it to be free.  Unfortunately, it was a little difficult to get a straight story from various Internet posts.  I ended up going to an AT&T store and getting a SIM card with the cheapest pay-as-you-go plan ($2 per day with an initial payment of $15).  No one seemed to know what would happen if I tried using data on a smartphone with this plan, so I figured I’d try it and, in the worst case, I’d be out $15.

I put the SIM card in and booted the phone.  It went through the normal first-time setup and I created a new Palm Profile with no trouble at all.  Everything worked fine.  It looks like there’s a $.01 per KB charge for data on this plan, which is pretty steep.  I did notice that the phone does do some data transmission in the background, about once per hour.  I’m not sure why this happens, and it was costing about $.25 per hour, which would quickly deplete my balance.  Fortunately, the phone app has preferences that allow you to turn off data, and I haven’t had any charges since I turned it off.  I just connect via Wifi and everything works.

So anyway, so far so good with this plan.  I can access the App Catalog and download my app for testing, and the total up-front cost was only $15.

Unfortunately, there are some recurring costs with this plan, although those costs are very low. When you add money to your account, the funds actually expire if they’re not used. The minimum refill amount is $15. If you add $15-$24, then the funds expire in 30 days. If you add $25-$99, the funds expire in 90 days. If you add $100, the funds expire in 365 days. I believe the refill amounts are limited to $15, $25, $50, $60, and $100. When funds expire, you have a 60-day grace period before the account is cancelled. So, assuming you don’t use any minutes, you can get away with spending $100 every (365 + 59) days if you wait until the day before the end of the grace period to refill your account. I suppose you could just let the account expire if you’re not using any minutes, though. I want to keep my account active just in case I need to test it on a cell network.

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