|Phones on eBay, the elusive S46, and mobiles in Asia that will work stateside |
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!
Should I buy from eBay?
Q: I am currently in the market for a new cell phone and came across some upcoming models on Nokia's and Motorola's Web sites. My friend told me to browse eBay, which may have the models I want. I was surprised to see that phones such as the V60i were on sale on eBay. My question is, how do people acquire these phones for sale even before they are released to the public? Does the manufacturers know about this, and if they do, do they approve? And lastly, are they legit phones? I wanted your opinion before possibly bidding. Thank you.
A: Since there is no telling the origin of the phone, purchasing mobiles that haven't been officially released to the public is a gamble, regardless of where you buy it. It could be a sample model that's not up to full specs, or it could be from another country altogether. If that's the case, the phone might need some slight alteration in order for it to work in the states. However, many manufacturers such as Motorola have authorized stores on eBay. If the prereleased model is on that part of the site, you can bid with more confidence.
Also, before you buy a cell phone without service, call your provider to see if it will support the model. Be sure to ask what it'll cost to activate the phone and if you can keep your number. You'll be amazed at the amount of clarity this will give you on the mobile you're about to purchase.
I want my S46
Q: Please help! I hate having two phones. I live in Washington, DC, and travel a bit all over. I would love to have one phone for the states and Europe. I tried to get AT&T to sell me a Siemens S46 but no luck. Assuming the phone searches for the preferred network, it shouldn't theoretically matter whether AT&T has introduced GSM to Washington, DC. The only GSM carrier here is VoiceStream, but I would like to be able to keep AT&T.
A: Here's the deal with the S46: AT&T Wireless is selling the phone exclusively but only in markets where it's rolled out GSM/GPRS service. That means you couldn't get the phone from VoiceStream even if you wanted to. In theory, you could buy the phone from an auction site, but it can be activated by only an authorized AT&T store in such a market. In your case, the closest one is currently Raleigh, North Carolina. Let's say you want the phone so badly that you decide to take a road trip and buy the S46 there. Will you be able to keep your phone number? Not exactly. The phone will most likely be activated with a number and an area code from North Carolina.
AT&T is committed to launching GSM service nationwide, and Washington, DC, is a major market. If you don't need the new phone immediately, be patient and check back with the company in a few weeks. I can say this for certain, however: we really liked the S46 when we reviewed it. If you're a heavy business user, it's probably going to be worth the wait.
Cool mobiles from far-off lands
Q: I've heard that some Asian countries have more technologically advanced cell phones than the ones in the states. I've also heard that those Asian mobiles can be brought back to the states to be used as long as some kind of chip inside the phone is changed. Is this true? Thanks!
A: It's true that some phones from Asia will work here; cutting-edge mobiles often get released abroad before they make it to the United States. Essentially, you can buy a phone there and use it here, as long as our networks support it. But before you buy overseas, check with your preferred GSM carrier in the states to make sure you can buy a SIM card and a plan from them without actually buying a phone. You can get more information on compatible phones from our story "Asian phones you can bring home."
Find and buy ring tones, images, and games for you phone
Check CNET editors' favorite cell phones
See how your phone's radiation level compares to others'
Joni Blecher is a section editor for CNET Reviews.