the other me might even be better than this one

Phone freedom: making the JMP

June 12, 2023 — Gideon Mayhak

JMP celebrates their official launch today after being in beta for over 6 years. I have been a customer since October 2022, and I ported my main phone number in January. If you've called or texted me in the last five months, it went through JMP.

I have never been happier with a paid service. The quality of the service, the support from the staff and community, and the response to reported issues have all been top-notch. I've literally had bugs fixed within hours of reporting them, and I get to chat with the main developers on a daily basis.

In this post I'll recap my personal history using the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and detail why you should consider switching to JMP. It could save you hundreds of dollars a year!

What can I say? It was college

I was about to type a whole paragraph about my childhood experience with landlines, but really it was pretty typical. If you were a child in the '90s or earlier in the US, you get it. My mom got a cell phone in the late '90s for emergencies, but it wasn't until college that I got my own cellphone.

I got my first mobile cellular telephone sometime in 2006. It was a Kyocera KX12 through Alltel. I was on my dad's plan, and neither of us thought we'd need to pay extra for this SMS thing. Why would I want to type out text-based messages on this tiny thing? I used instant messaging services on my computer to chat with friends. This phone was for voice calls.

A funny thing happened on the way to the classroom

There I was, settling in for a physics class when I decided to call my friend Alex to see what he was doing later. I forgot he was working in the school library at the time, and he didn't answer. A moment later, he sent me a text message. Two thoughts crossed my mind: Hey, that just cost me 15¢! and Texting is so convenient!

Shortly after, I decided to pay for a texting plan, probably $3/month for 150 text messages or something like that. I became quite good at T9 typing, and I sent way more texts than I made phone calls.

Meanwhile, I started running Fedora Linux on my home computers and diving into the world of free and open-source software (FOSS). This will become important later.

These are the droids you're looking for

Fast forward to 2010 and Element Mobile bought out Alltel in my area. The changeover was pretty messy, and it seemed the perfect time to switch carriers. Android phones were starting to get interesting and affordable, and Sprint had some tempting deals.

Android being based on the Linux kernel made it a clear choice, though I didn't know at the time that most Android phones still had a lot of closed, proprietary software. Nevertheless, my budget dictated I get an LG Optimus S that I then used for a couple years. I got my first taste of "custom ROMs" on that Optimus S.

In 2011, Sprint and Google made an integration available that gave Sprint customers all the features of Google Voice on their regular cell number. This meant you could text and call from a web browser or other devices, and all your text messages would be stored with Google so you could view them and back them up apart from your phone. I signed up for it as soon as I heard about it, and I still have backups of text messages as old as September 2011.

I stayed with Sprint for several years, getting a Samsung Galaxy SIII when it first came out and later a used LG G3 after it had been out for a couple years. It was then announced in 2018 that the Google Voice integration was going away. I had come to depend on that functionality, so I knew I couldn't stay with Sprint and would need to find an alternative.

The Google years

I wasn't anti-Google yet. I used their services and depended on their navigation software on my phone. Their own cell service, Google Fi, was available in my area by the time I was looking to move away from Sprint, and Fi included all the niceties I had grown used to. I was with Fi from April 2018 to January 2023.

As the years went on, I became more and more disenchanted with Google as a company and platform. I broke my dependence on Google Maps over a year ago, switching to OsmAnd and Organic Maps.

Software freedom will make you JMP, JMP

Not wanting to give up the phone features of Fi made it difficult to break free from Google completely. I was reminded of JMP, which I had seen mentioned a few times over the years, as I explored the idea of running Fedora on a mobile device instead of Android. Special shout-out to on Matrix for encouraging me to give it a try. I installed LineageOS on my old Moto X4 and got a new temporary number with JMP back in October, and I was hooked. I ported my main phone number to a new line in January, and I picked up a data-only SIM so I could still have cell service sans Fi.

JMP gives me all the features I've grown accustomed to: texting and calling from web browsers (via Movim), text history available across multiple devices, and phone service on Wi-Fi and other data connections. In addition to that, the software stack that JMP is built on is completely FOSS. Many pieces of the system can even be self-hosted.

JMP runs atop the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). This is an open, federated standard also known as "Jabber" that has been around for over 20 years. There are many client and server applications available with varying functionality. Jabber can be used without JMP to provide modern real-time communication including audio and video chat. Jabber is a free and open alternative to other proprietary chat networks, and it supports end-to-end encryption. I like to think of it as "email for real-time communication".

Getting started

I hear you say, "I'm convinced! How do I sign up?" If you have an Android device, my recommendation is to install Cheogram (either from their website, through F-Droid, or through the Google Play Store). Otherwise, you can follow the instructions on the JMP website. There are Jabber clients for other operating systems, so it's not Android-only.

To the PSTN and beyond

JMP runs on any data connection, and it doesn't even require cell service. I still like to be able to access the Internet on the go, so I needed a data-only connection for my phone. I initially got a prepaid SIM from T-Mobile, but then I switched to JMP's own data-only SIM offering. What is cost effective for me may not be for you, but for our limited data usage Sarah and I will save about $300/year by switching to JMP's phone and data services.

This is all a lot of work just to have phone service. The real goal should be to move off of the phone network altogether and switch to XMPP/Jabber. I encourage everyone to consider what it means to their privacy, freedom, and well-being to switch to something that is open and free. You don't have to pay for JMP to get the benefits of the Jabber network today.

Feel free to message me if you want to talk more about it.

"A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a trustworthy envoy gains healing."

Proverbs 13:17, WEB

Tags: about-me, technology