|Better service, phones on the horizon, and a second look at prepaid plans |
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!
A: Unless I had a mobile that was failing miserably, I probably wouldn't upgrade yet. Typically, more cell phones become available in the summer, so you'll have more options.
That said, here's the skinny on the models you suggested. The 3390 and the T60 are a bit old. The latest version of the 3390 is the Nokia 3395, which is almost identical to its predecessor. However, it has some enhancements, including more downloadable ring tones, animated screensavers, and wireless Web access. And the update to the T60, the T61z, works on GSM (no analog roaming) and GPRS networks for high-speed, data-access rates of about 24Kbps.
Between the two newer mobiles, I'd go with the compact Nokia 3395 over the bulkier Sony Ericsson mobile. I've used them both, and while the Sony Ericsson T61z will work with GPRS networks, surfing the wireless Web on the phone is still slow.
Prepaid back step
A: This is a switch. Most people go from prepaid to full service, but if you don't use your phone a lot, then a prepaid plan is probably the most economical choice. As to keeping your current phone, that depends on the service provider. Chances are you'll probably be able to keep the same phone but not the same number.
In your area, the best prepaid plan seems to be Verizon Wireless's FreeUp. For $30, you can have service for up to 60 days. If you use the phone only on weekend nights (after 9 p.m.), that adds up to 300 minutes. Otherwise, the 35-cents-per-minute fee for weekdays can pile up quickly, and you'll end up with less than 100 minutes of talk time per month. Be aware, however, that minutes are also deducted if people call you.
Sprint vs. Verizon
A: Even if two carriers support the same network, you may not get the same call quality. Generally, it's pretty difficult to rate service quality because so many variables are involved, such as how close you are to a cell site when making a call, environmental factors (for example, wind conditions), and the type of phone that you're using. In theory, next-generation voice networks will offer better call quality.
Right now, Verizon Wireless supports CDMA 1900/800 and has 1xRTT voice capability in areas where its Express Network is up and running. The company plans on having more than 75 percent of its coverage on 1xRTT networks by year's end and currently offers two 1xRTT-ready phones, the Kyocera 2235 and the LG VX1.
Sprint PCS says its 1xRTT network will be up this summer. The company currently supports the CDMA 1900 networks and offers more 1xRTT-voice ready phones, including the TP5250, the Sanyo SCP-5150, and the LG-4NE1.
Since you won't really notice the effects of the 1xRTT networks yet, upgrading to a new phone and plan probably won't make a huge difference in call quality. That said, if you're currently using a phone that's more than two years old, you'll notice an appreciable difference in call quality in just about any newer mobile. But if you decide to get a new phone, get one that is 1xRTT ready. As for plans, those are always changing and typically only get better.
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Joni Blecher is a section editor for CNET Reviews.