|Family plans, hard-to-find ring tones, wireless mobile connections, and more |
By Joni Blecher
Senior 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!
New carrier in town
A: There are two options. Depending on where you live, you might be able to try out a new carrier called Cricket, which sells no-frills cell phones and service. You buy a phone from the company (it's sold at places such as Staples and Office Depot) and prepay about $30 per month for unlimited local calls. If you want extra services such as caller ID, voicemail, and call waiting, you'll have to pay extra. But it doesn't sound like you'll need them. While $30 per month for multiple phones can be expensive, you can always start with one or two phones and limit use between family members.
The other option is to get an inexpensive service plan from your local carrier and add a mobile-to-mobile-type addition to the plan. For example, Cingular Wireless offers this feature for $10 per month, which will get you unlimited calls to other Cingular customers within your local mobile-calling area. You'll often find local promotions that advertise this feature and offer free phones with activation.
The mobile connection
A: Unfortunately, that phone doesn't have an internal data/fax modem, so you can't use it with your laptop. Your best bet is to get a wireless PC Card modem for your notebook. Verizon Wireless sells the Sierra Wireless AirCard 555 PC Card that works with the company's 1xRTT high-speed data network. While I haven't had a chance to review this product myself, I have reviewed other Sierra Wireless modems and know that the company produces a quality product.
Go, fight, win!
A: The search is over. Cingular Wireless has the ring tone available for download on its site. In order to download the ring tone, you need to be a Cingular Wireless customer, and your phone needs to support SMS. Not to worry, though--most Nokia phones support this feature.
A: GSM and TDMA are two different networks, though they are quite similar, which is why TDMA carrier AT&T Wireless is migrating to GSM to deploy next-generation network services. But don't worry; AT&T Wireless will keep its TDMA networks up indefinitely. In fact, in the coming months, you'll start seeing phones that use both GSM 1900 and TDMA 850, so roaming won't be a problem.
Here in the United States, we have the GSM 1900 network. The only carriers that support GSM are VoiceStream, Cingular Wireless, and now AT&T Wireless. So while GSM coverage here is not as widespread as CDMA's (Verizon Wireless/Sprint PCS), it's getting better. Most of Europe supports GSM 900 and 1800. If you have a world phone, it will work on all three GSM networks (GSM 900/1800/1900). In the United States, most metropolises have decent GSM coverage, so world phones work well here. However, GSM mobiles don't have analog roaming, so if you go outside of the GSM coverage area, your phone will be just another pretty accessory.
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Joni Blecher is a section editor for CNET Reviews.