cell phones

Why can't I use my cell phone at home?

Episode 1427

Paul from La Jolla, CA
AT&T MicroCell

Paul is having an issue with dropped calls and limited cell reception. He's told he needs a receiver to boost the signal. Leo says that receiver is called a FemToCell that plugs into his internet access and routes his calls through the net. He should call his carrier and tell them he can't use their service in his house and ask them to provide a FemtoCell. In most cases they'll provide it for free. He may need to threaten to cancel his service to get it.

Should I be using a VPN when tethering my phone to my computer?

Rob from Tarzana, CA

Episode 1244

Rob wants to know if he should use a VPN when he pairs his smartphone to his laptop. Leo says no. Modern digital cell phones are encrypted and no one has yet hacked their way into that signal. It wasn't like the analog days when you could listen in to cell phone calls with the right software. That can't happen with digitally encrypted mobile phones.

How can I find out if my phone will work where I travel?

Tim from Cape Cod, RI

Episode 1170

Tim is looking to get a cell phone that is GSM compatible for travel, and he wants to get the most compatible phone he can. Where can he find a good breakdown of that? Leo says that GSMArena.com is great because it provides the specs for all the phones and what radio frequencies they support. There's also WillMyPhonework.net.

How can I use my phone in Europe?

Andre from Burbank, CA

Episode 1161

Andre is taking his wife on a trip overseas and he wants to use his phone to post to Instagram and other social networks. Leo says that data oversees is a huge and expensive topic because people are wired everywhere, even when they travel. But he won't want to roam in another country because data roaming in obscenely expensive. The first thing he'll want to do it disable data roaming. He'd be surprised how many people come home to a data bill in the thousands and they hardly even used data.

Will Verizon unlock my cell phone?

Episode 1147

Jerry from Alta Dena, CA

Jerry has a cell phone and he's traveling out of the country. He's out of his contract. Can he get it unlocked? Leo says yes, he can just go to Verizon and ask them politely. They are supposed to do it, and AT&T does this for its customers too. Verizon is under a consent decree not to lock their phones, so they should unlock it. Then he can put a local SIM card in when he gets to his destination.

Will the SIM from an AT&T phone work in a Verizon phone?

Dianne from Williamsburg, PA

Episode 1146

Dianne's 81 year old mother's cell phone was deactivated and she needs a new phone. Dianne wants to know if she could use the AT&T SIM in her old phone with an "Obama Phone" from Verizon on the Lifeline Assistance program. Leo doesn't think that would work. If not much time had passed, there's a chance that she could have her old number ported over to Verizon. But Dianne says it's been about a month since the old phone was cancelled, so that would be unlikely.