|How to pick a carrier, replace a phone, and know when to upgrade |
By Joni Blecher
(May 8, 2003)
Section Editor Joni Blecher, a.k.a. the Cell Phone Diva, wants to answer all your questions about cell phones, service plans, and wireless connectivity. Send her a question!
Q: GSM or CDMA--which should I choose for my next mobile phone? Currently, I'm using Sprint 1xRTT service. The voice quality is good, but connecting to the Internet takes forever. I'd love to change phones every three months, so I'm tempted to go with GSM since it will give me that flexibility, in addition to international roaming.
A: If you're looking for speed, GSM will disappoint you even more than your existing Sprint service. GPRS (the high-speed data network for GSM) runs even more slowly. On the flipside, GSM does give you international roaming capabilities; if you travel overseas a lot, that's a definite plus. But before you make a decision based on roaming capabilities alone, look into how much it will really cost you to make and receive calls from abroad. You'd be surprised at how quickly they can add up.
That said, your best plan of attack is to ask your friends and neighbors how they feel about their service. It's a great way to find out which carrier is best in your area. You can still change your phones every three months, regardless of whether you choose CDMA or GSM. Since you won't be signing up for a new service that often, you won't get a better deal with either network.
Q: I recently lost my new cell phone. Can I buy one that I like and use it on my existing phone plan? Or do I have to buy another phone from my service provider? I'm interested in getting one of those new camera phones.
A: If you bought insurance for your phone, you can probably get a replacement for about $50. But if you didn't and want to keep your existing phone number, you'll have to get a phone that your service provider supports. Since I don't know which carrier you currently have, I can't tell you which camera phone would be best, but I can tell you that most carriers have some sort of camera and phone solution.
Call the carrier, and explain your situation. If you're a longtime customer, the company will probably be able to give you some kind of break on a new phone--a service credit or a manufacturer rebate, at the very least. The key is to check out the deals. While you're at it, ask the customer-service representative how much it will cost to activate the new phone. If you go into a store, you may have to pay a service fee (as much as $35); some carriers offer free activation online.
A trio for Treo
Q: I am looking for a phone that's similar to the Treo 270 but a little smaller. I need a GSM (T-Mobile), Palm-based phone with e-mail (AOL). Do you know of any new products that meet these specs?
A: There won't be anything coming soon that meets those needs. If you didn't require a Palm-based phone, I'd suggest you look into a few Symbian OS-based phones, such as the Sony Ericsson P800. Admittedly, it's not the slimmest mobile on the block, but it has a lot of features. If you can forgo GSM service, you'll have a lot more choices among Palm-based phones, such as the upcoming Samsung I500. As it stands, the Treo 270 is your best option for the near future.
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Joni Blecher is a section editor for CNET Reviews.