|Bargain mobiles from nationwide carriers and what next-generation networks really offer |
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!
Q: Can you please comment on the relative merits of using a dedicated GPRS PC Card for my laptop rather than using a data-ready mobile phone?
--Brent A: The main benefit of using a GPRS PC Card is the speed of your connection. You'll typically get speeds of about 28Kbps on a GPRS connection (even though they're rated at up to 64Kbps), as opposed to the 9.6Kbps to 14.4Kbps you'll get from using your phone as a modem. That said, these speeds are not sufficient for surfing the Web or sending e-mails that have attachments.
If you need a faster connection, consider a 1xRTT PC Card or 1xRTT data-ready phone. For example, we recently tested the LG VX1 with Verizon's Mobile Office Kit, which we used to surf the Web and send e-mail over a 54Kbps connection. That's still not too fast, but it's a lot better than 9.6Kbps or 28Kbps.
Pick a winner
Q: I'm in the market for a personal cell phone. At this point, I'm not interested in the advanced features that are available today. My priorities are price, size, clarity (dual mode), and battery life. Can you recommend one or more phones that fit my criteria?
--Kevin A: It's difficult to recommend a phone without knowing your service provider, so I picked out mobiles that fit your criteria from each of the major carriers. You can get most of these phones for less than $150.
AT&T Wireless: Nokia 3360 and Panasonic DuraMax
Cingular: Nokia 3360 and Siemens S40
Sprint PCS: Kyocera QCP-2255, Samsung SPH-A400, and Sprint PCS TP5250
Verizon Wireless: Kyocera 2235 and Motorola V120c
VoiceStream: Samsung N105
Q: I'm switching to Sprint to get features such as voice dialing and wireless Web. Most of the newer features are still being rolled out. Does it pay to get a 3G-compatible phone now, or will that phone be the bottom of the line by next year?
--Marc A: You don't need to wait for 3G to get voice dialing and wireless Web. Sprint phones support those features now. As for 3G phones, a bunch of new models will be coming out this summer. If you can wait a couple of months before buying, you should. However, there's no need to wait much longer than that. Regardless of the phone you purchase now, it will be outdated next year. That's just the cycle of phones.
Also, since you're switching to Sprint, you should be aware that the company has a Technology Assurance Program that is available with a two-year contract. At the end of the 24 months, Sprint sends you a check for $100 that can be used toward the purchase of a new phone.
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Joni Blecher is a section editor for CNET Reviews.