Texting May Work When Everything Else Fails

Our recent experience with hurricane Irma confirms the wisdom of not putting all of your communication eggs in one basket. The storm interrupted communications for hours and days. Immediately afterward, my phone had a good wireless RF connection to T-Mobile’s cell site, but no IP (Internet Protocol) connection. Text messaging using SMS (Short Message Service) worked fine. (SMS is a telephone — not Internet — protocol. It uses the telephone industry’s venerable Signaling System 7 to transport its messages.)

On the other hand, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and SnapChat rely upon IP to transport their messages. Without an IP connection, these messaging apps wouldn’t have worked. The plain Jane texting program that’s built into my Android 5 phone doesn’t need IP. SMS originally used GSM for message transport. Now it also uses LTE, CDMA, etc.

T-Mobile provided SMS and voice calling service for days after the storm, before they restored my IP connectivity. They said that about 700 cell sites in Dade and Broward counties had been degraded by hurricane Irma. 

Caveat: SMS isn’t secure, as its transport mechanism, Signaling System 7, lacks an authentication protocol. 

Non-Replaceable Phone Batteries Make No Sense

My recent experience with hurricane Irma confirms my scepticism of cell phones whose batteries aren’t user-replaceable.

Most of the newest phones, in an effort to make them thin, use batteries that can’t be quickly replaced. Apple began this sorry trend and Samsung followed suit.

Even in good weather, I’m often away for 14 to 16 hours, during which I use my phone. When its battery dies, I pop in a freshly charged battery and keep working.

Apple wants us to think that eliminating the replaceable battery is a step forward. Actually, it’s a step backward.