VoLTE working on Nexus 6

Google has released Android Lollipop 5.1 for Nexus devices. I installed build 5.1.0 (LMY47E) on my Nexus 6. I had to do this manually (as opposed to waiting for Verizon’s OTA update) because I was not running a stock ROM on the phone.

Bear in mind that I was happy with the phone’s functionality using LiquidSmooth, but because modern phones do not have separate CDMA/LTE antennas, I could not use data services (to include my unlimited-data hotspot, which serves as my primary internet connection) and make voice calls simultaneously. This was extremely frustrating given that I spent over 700 dollars on the phone. Hence the motivation for upgrading the OS to Lollipop 5.1, which provides support for VoLTE.

The process is arcane and non-nerds should not undertake it. Even with my vast system administration and programming experience I found it to be somewhat less than straightforward. The update has to be done over a USB debugging connection on a computer that has the Android SDK installed. Everything on the phone will be wiped out in the process (a fact I became aware of after I saw that all my music was gone following the update). Once you’ve completed the update, it’s easy to reinstall TWRP recovery and apply the SuperSU patch to enable root access.

Incidentally, VoLTE has to be enabled through your carrier account (in addition to device-level support), so I went to my Verizon account settings and did just that. For some reason, this resulted in my inability to send or receive voice calls (data continued to work fine). A quick chat with Verizon technical support and the problem was resolved. I believe this issue was related to my phone not being a Verizon device.

At long last, my Nexus 6 is fully functional and has the capacity for simultaneous voice and data. But achieving this level of functionality took entirely too much technical expertise and intervention on my part. Conclusion: the device is great, the software is okay, and the support sucks.

VoLTE working on Nexus 6

More on the Nexus 6, and voice over LTE (VoLTE)

If you haven’t already, please get up to date on my cell phone drama by reading this and this.

After a few days of the Nexus 6, I found that I was having some extremely annoying orientation sensor issues that appeared to have their basis in software. For example, various apps would not reorient based on how I held the phone, even though the orientation sensor itself was working correctly. I also noticed that unlike the Samsung Galaxy S3, I could not conduct voice calls and transmit data simultaneously. This is a major issue and is completely unacceptable given the cost of the phone and the fact that I actually utilized that ability with my S3 on a regular basis.

I decided to try a custom ROM, specifically, Liquidsmooth. I used their “DarkUI” build and loaded GAPPS for CM12. After backing up my stock ROM with TeamWin Recovery, I flashed the LS and GAPPS zip files and rebooted. Everything worked pretty much flawlessly, and my orientation sensor issues are gone. I also have a few convenient features that were not present in the stock ROM, and I have not yet experienced any stability issues. Overall, I’m very satisfied with LS 4.0 as of now.

Regarding voice/data simultaneity, the situation is not as rosy. The reason that older phones like the S3 had the capability is that they had separate CDMA and LTE antennas. So while voice was transmitted over the CDMA antenna, data could transfer simultaneously on the LTE antenna. However, modern phones such as the Nexus 6 and iPhone 6 have only a single antenna, and consequently do not support true simultaneous voice and data. The workaround for this is using data for voice calls (voice over LTE, or VoLTE), something that Verizon supports currently on the iPhone 6. This feature is not supported for the Nexus 6 on Verizon as of now, most likely because the Nexus 6 itself is not supported yet. However, it is expected that Verizon will introduce support for this on the Nexus 6 very shortly as their support for the phone itself is imminent.

Overall, I am disappointed in the stock ROM (software) that came with the Nexus 6 because it introduced extremely annoying orientation sensor issues that a brand new, $650 device should not have. I am disappointed in the hardware for requiring carrier-level support for basic functionality that I took for granted on my older phone. The bottom line is that the end user should not be expected to jump through hoops and spend hours performing potentially risky procedures with brand new hardware (flashing the recovery partition and wiping out existing software) just to have things work acceptably. I am rather technically inclined and have done these types of procedures on several phones and other devices and the process still makes me cringe. It is well beyond what the average user is going to undertake.

Shame on Google and Motorola for releasing a product that is not ready for prime time right out of the box, and expecting us to pay almost $700 for it.

More on the Nexus 6, and voice over LTE (VoLTE)

Cell phones: update

I received my Google Nexus 6 today and went to a Verizon store to activate it. The man I spoke to told me that the phone’s IMEI number was not in a range supported by Verizon, but that if I called Verizon tech support they might be able to work some magic. So I went home and, after calling multiple Verizon tech support numbers only to be told to call back from my mobile handset (!!!), decided to open up a chat session.

Bottom line up front: as with most organizations, the first tier of support is staffed by utter morons, or maybe just people who are so constrained by protocol that they appear to be utter morons. The second tier, on the other hand, was not only helpful, but inordinately helpful. The supervisor I spoke to actually went out of his way to speak to tech support on my behalf and have my (technically unsupported) phone activated on the VZW network. Furthermore, it appears that any phone which is physically capable of communicating with the VZW network can be activated; the IMEI number is irrelevant and any VZW tech can bypass that restriction effortlessly. If a VZW tech is telling you that you can’t activate your phone because the IMEI is out of range, they are lying, and you need to find another tech who is willing to help you.

With the phone activated, I was able to root the phone using a free utility, and subsequently enable WIFI hotspot capability (transparently, without having to deal with Verizon). It works flawlessly.

The following is a copy/paste of my chat with Verizon this afternoon.

Please hold for a Support Representative to assist you.

Thank you for contacting Verizon Wireless. 

Your Chat Session ID is RT6936739724.

My name is Juanita , how may I assist you?


dirtbag: Please give me a phone number for Verizon Wireless technical support. I called the number on the website and it tells me to call from my handset. Of course, the reason I am calling is that my handset is not functioning.

JuanitaI do understand, our tech support number is 800-922-0204 option 3.

Juanita :

dirtbag: I just called that number and it says the same thing. It tells me to call from my handset, and then hangs up on me.

JuanitaAre you calling from a cell phone that is a verizon number?

dirtbag: No. I’m calling from a Google Voice number.

JuanitaDo you have a cell phone you can call from?

dirtbag: No, I do not.

JuanitaYou would need to contact our tech support team on a cellular device

dirtbag: That is not acceptable. I do not have access to a cellular device, which is precisely the reason I need to contact technical support.

JuanitaI totally understand and I do apologize!

Juanita : Would you like to see if I can fix your issue?

dirtbag: I would like to speak to a person on the phone. I was told explicitly by Verizon personnel at the Mohegan Lake, NY store to call Verizon technical support to attempt to resolve my issue.

JuanitaI totally understand and the only number is 800-922-0204 option 3

dirtbag: So there is no way for someone who does not have access to their cellular device to contact technical support? What are people supposed to do if their device stops working and all they have access to is a land line or internet phone?

dirtbag: That is completely antithetical to the concept of technical support.

JuanitaI understand and I do apologize but at this time they don’t have a chat so the number is the only way to contact our tech support

dirtbag: So what are people supposed to do if their phone stops working?

dirtbag: I was already at a Verizon store and was told to pursue this course of action.

JuanitaI go through the steps that we have on available and after that provide the number to tech support.

dirtbag: Can you please escalate this to a manager or the next tier of support?

JuanitaI can definitely find a supervisor who is available for you.

dirtbag: Thank you.

JuanitaI am sending you to a sup now

Please wait while I transfer the chat to (Sup) Sean.

Thank you for contacting Verizon Wireless. 

Your Chat Session ID is RT6936739724.

My name is (Sup) Sean, how may I assist you?

dirtbag: Good evening, I need to contact Verizon technical support but I do not have access to my cell phone (hence my need to speak to them).

dirtbag: The only phone I have access to is my Google Voice account.

dirtbag: When I call the tech support number, it tells me to call from my handset, and hangs up on me.

(Sup) SeanI apologize for the circumstances that you are in right now. If i can ask, what is currently wrong with your device?

dirtbag: I believe it’s some sort of hardware failure. I purchased a new phone that I would like to activate but the Verizon store I visited today had an issue with the IMEI number and directed me to contact technical support to see if they could activate it.

dirtbag: My current phone will not power on at all.

(Sup) SeanWhat kind of new phone did you get?

dirtbag: It’s a Google Nexus 6.

(Sup) SeanNice choice. I actually have that phone myself.

dirtbag: Thanks, I look forward to using it.

(Sup) Seanlet me see what i can do. Can you provide me the device id and the sim card/iccid number

dirtbag: I don’t have a sim card for it yet (that’s why I stopped by the Verizon store today), but the IMEI is 355458061158680

(Sup) SeanWhat did the verizon store tell you today when you tried to get a sim card.

dirtbag: They said that the IMEI number was out of range but that technical support might be able to “make something happen” and send me a sim card for the phone.

(Sup) SeanSo the situation here is that yes, The nexus 6 was never released officially by verizon that is why the store and myself are not able to add it. It does have to be added by technical support. However Technical Support can add the nexus 6, i have seen it done before. 2nd issue is that for 4g phones like the nexus 6, we can not activate them onto the system without a sim card. A sim card needs to be in the phone for us to activate it.

dirtbag: Okay, so I need to purchase/acquire a sim card, and then it can be activated?

(Sup) Seanyes sir that is correct. If we try to just enter the device ID, it asks for a 4G sim card right away.

dirtbag: If you can hang on for a moment, I will try a trick I saw online that involves trimming the edges off a micro-sim to make it fit a nano-sim slot, and then we can see if it works.

(Sup) Seanok

(Sup) Seannot a problem.

dirtbag: Okay, sim card is in the phone and it’s powered on.

dirtbag: it says “activating cellular service”

(Sup) SeanOh yes…….mine did that for a while as well. let me know how it goes.

dirtbag: It seems to be working

dirtbag: it has LTE signal

(Sup) SeanAwesome can you try to dial #832 to place a test call.

dirtbag: It says it was successful.

(Sup) SeanAwesome. I am very glad you got it working.

(Sup) SeanI am surprised that cutting the sim card down worked.

dirtbag: Thanks, I appreciate your help.

dirtbag: Haha, I wasn’t sure it would work either

dirtbag: But the phone it came from is totally shot so I had nothing to lose

(Sup) SeanI understand, nothing to lose everything to gain. Enjoy your new phone….it is an awesome device.

dirtbag: Seems so. Thanks again, have a good evening.

(Sup) SeanYou too.

Cell phones: update

Rant: cell phones

I’m very disappointed with the state of the art in cell phones and data plans. Years ago, you could get an unlimited data plan from every major carrier; such plans are now unheard of. I am only able to maintain my unlimited data Verizon plan by foregoing their phone upgrades and instead buying phones at the full retail price. I use an enormous amount of data, the cost of which would far exceed that saved by purchasing a phone at “upgrade” price and accepting data charges.

I have done everything in my power to avoid shelling out $500 or more on a cell phone. This includes hanging onto old phones as backup in the event that my current phone suffers a hardware failure, as well as actually repairing phones (I used a heat gun to replace the microphone module on my Samsung Galaxy S3’s mainboard). All the while I have dealt with completely inexplicable errors which would be considered totally unacceptable if they occurred on a PC (which costs the same amount of money): random reboots, wildly varying rates of battery charge consumption, slowness during multitasking, unresponsive touchscreens, the list goes on. A friend of mine says this is because I purchased a used S3, but I don’t accept this explanation. If I buy a used laptop, I expect its performance to be the same as when it was new, provided I install a fresh copy of the operating system. I expect the same of a cell phone.

In response to my S3 finally keeling over and dying yesterday, I am about to give Android/Google its final chance. I have ordered a brand new Google Nexus 6, which came to just over $700 after tax and shipping. For that much money, I expect it to “just work,” no bloatware, and easy modification (root access, WIFI hotspot, etc.). I expect it to be fast; switching between Google Navigation and Pandora Radio while driving had better be damn near instantaneous. Put bluntly, I expect zero bullshit.

Rant: cell phones