Tracfone is America’s largest prepay-only wireless provider. They have good service and great rates for people like me that only talk around 30 minutes a month. Unfortunately, the phones they sell are a bit dated and decidedly low-tech. Their new Motorola w370 looks and feels an awful lot like the RAZR, but unfortunately, it’s crippled in a lot of ways. For example, the box advertises (heh – almost screams about) customizable wallpaper and MP3 ringtones. But, like all things in life, there’s a catch. Although the w370 has a mini-USB port, the phone’s locked, and the USB port doesn’t work. So to the Average Joe, the only way to get customized ringtones or wallpapers is to buy them through Tracfone’s website. The manual even says that explicitly: “Want cool wallpapers and ringtones? Go to Tracfone.com today!” Now, nothing I’m about to tell you is “illegal” or “immoral”… But it’s information that Tracfone usually isn’t very willing to give.
First of all, add the following addresses to your email address book:
where “myphonenumber” is your full 10-digit Tracfone number. We’ll need these addresses in a minute.
Creating and Installing Wallpapers
Open up your favorite photo editor and create a wallpaper of your choice. The file should be a JPEG or GIF, 128×160 pixels in size. You can also simply resize an existing photograph, but I prefer using Photoshop, as this lets me customize the scale of the photograph to the correct proportions. In any case, take care to make the file size as small as possible – my phone only has 500kb of storage space on the SIM card, so one 400KB picture would almost fill the entire card. I like using Photoshop’s “Save for web” feature, as this seems to consistently create the smallest possible file size at the best possible quality… but that’s just me.
Anyway, once you have your wallpaper just the way you like it, save it and email the picture as an attachment to the email@example.com address (making sure to substitute your 10-digit Tracfone number for “myphonenumber, of course). In around 30 seconds, you should get a new message on your phone. Click Details > Downld > “Waiting for download” will appear on the screen, then will change to “1 New Msg Downloaded”. Click “Read” then press the button in the center of the 4-way directional button and click “Save Content”. You will be prompted for a filename, enter it, and press the “OK” softkey. Your wallpaper is now saved to your SIM card!
To use it as a wallpaper, go to the main screen and choose Multimedia > Pictures > Additional Storage Device. You’ll then see a list of the picture(s) you’ve sent yourself. Select any one of them, then press the the button in the center of the 4-way directional button and select “Apply as” > Wallpaper. You can then press the “End” button to return to the home screen and see your new wallpaper in action!
UPDATE (01/07/2008): jimcofer.com reader Art contacted me via Yahoo! Messenger today to say that AT&T (Tracfone’s MMS provider) has recently started blocking MIDI attachments to MMS messages. This means that the procedure below won’t work – at least temporarily. I’ve already started looking into work-arounds, but nothing is looking promising at the moment. I’ll keep you folks posted with updates as I get them!
First, the bad news: you can install ringtones using the same email method as above… but you can only email MIDI files. For some reason, AT&T strips MP3 attachments to messages (probably as a way to get you to buy ringtones instead of making them yourself). Of course, since the phone only has 500KB worth of storage space, using MP3s as a ringtone is really a non-starter anyway.
But you can, in fact, send a MIDI file attached to an email to the firstname.lastname@example.org address and use the file as a ringtone. Follow the same procedure as above to save the file to the SIM card. Then click Multimedia > Sounds > Additional Storage Device and select a MIDI file. Then press the center button on the 4-way pad and choose “Apply as Ring Tone” then “Line 1”. Presto! You’ve just saved yourself a couple of bucks by emailing yourself a crappy MIDI file!
SMS Messages Via Email
The second address at the start of the article – email@example.com – allows you to get text messages which are sent via email. Maybe your girlfriend sends you text messages from the office and would prefer typing up a short message in Outlook instead of pecking away at her phone’s keypad. Maybe you need to have your company’s servers send you a text message when something goes wrong. Whatever the reason, if you want someone to be able to email you a text message, the @txt.att.net address is the way to go.
Recharging via USB Cable
If you have a spare mini-USB cable sitting around – and they come with most digital cameras and external hard drives these days – you can try hooking the phone up to a powered USB port on your computer. Windows won’t find a driver, and the phone won’t install or do anything interesting on your computer… but you can use the USB connection to recharge the phone. Just make sure that you’re using a powered USB port (or hub) – you should see the recharging light on the front of the phone. If not, it’s not a powered port.
A Call To Hackers
I’ll admit that this isn’t much of a “tweaking guide”. You probably have hoped for something a little slicker, like how to unlock the phone, reflash the firmware, or maybe even connect it to a USB port and do something interesting with it in Windows. Alas, you won’t find that here.
However, if you do know a trick or two that I’ve missed, please consider sharing your knowledge with me via the Contact Me page. I’m dying to figure out how to get this thing to pull addresses from Outlook!