|Verizon's new services, cool world phones, AT&T Wireless plans for your home, 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!
Taking on the world
Q: Joni, please, some quick help! I need a world phone with the following minimum features: a calculator, a voice recorder, a speakerphone, and a large Web-browsing screen, with or without a camera. What are your top five choices? Thank you!
A: Since many world phones don't support the speakerphone feature, picking five is tough. A better bet would be to look into PDA/phone hybrids such as the GSM versions of the Handspring Treos or the recently released Pocket PC Phone. These mobiles are too big for my tastes, but they get the job done. Don't forget to double-check with your service provider to make sure that you'll get coverage in all the countries you plan to visit.
Flippin' for Verizon
Q: What are your thoughts on the new Verizon phones coming out soon? I am looking to purchase a new phone in the next few months, and I have been shopping a bit online. I prefer flip phones and find many of Verizon's current models a bit disappointing. What are your thoughts on the Samsung SCH-A310? Have you had any experience with it?
A: I'm glad to hear that you haven't bought a new phone from Verizon yet. The company plans to debut at least a half-dozen mobiles to support its new, pay-as-you-go Get It Now downloadable apps and services for Brew-enabled mobiles. The company marked the launch of the new service with the announcement of the Motorola T720, a sleek flip phone with a color display. If that's any indication of what's to come, I'd say Verizon is sprucing up its offerings.
That said, I've tested the A310 and liked it a lot. It's compact and easy to use, with a decent menu interface. Plus, it works with Verizon's Express Network high-speed data service. But don't get your hopes up; the wireless Web-surfing experience isn't exactly smooth. Would I buy it? It's hard to say. Before you sign a contract, take a close look at the A310, the LG VX1, and the Motorola T720.
Q: I have a Motorola Timeport P8767 and Sprint PCS service. If I'm in a roaming area, I can't receive calls. My voicemail picks it up, but the phone doesn't ring. I've spoken to Sprint, and the company wasn't able to help me. Also, am I stuck with the ring tones that came with this phone?
A: I've had the same connection problem, and sadly, there's not much you can do about it. According to Sprint PCS, the roaming partner doesn't always have the proper parameters loaded in its switch and can't find the phone. However, you can try making a call from the area where you're encountering problems; this registers your phone number in that area. In any other instance, yes, the phone would ring properly.
As for the ring tones, what you hear is what you get. That phone won't let you compose your own or download additional tones.
Q: I live in upstate New York and have AT&T for my home phone service. My monthly fees are around $50, even if I don't use the phone. I also travel a lot within the United States and don't currently have a cell phone. Can I substitute a wireless service that's cheaper and offers long distance? Is there a service that I can use while traveling that doesn't come with roaming charges or connection fees yet offers free minutes (at least 800 per month), as well as free nights and weekends? If so, what plans are available? What kind of a phone do I need to purchase? Which services will I still need on my home phone, if any? Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide.
A: You're not alone. Consumers across the country face a similar dilemma: Should you cut the proverbial cord? Many people have found that going wireless is indeed more economical. For example, AT&T Wireless's national network plans should fit your needs. You can get a plan that includes 700 anytime minutes, free long distance, free nights and weekends, nationwide roaming, and voicemail for $50 (though you have to pay extra for calls made in analog mode or when you roam onto another carrier's network, as is the case in the Washington, D.C. area). Tack on another $10 for fees and taxes, and you're looking at a monthly bill of $60 for all calls.
I would definitely invest in a headset for whichever phone you pick. Mobiles tend to heat up after about 20 minutes of usage, which can be uncomfortable for long conversations. Also, if you decide to cut the cord, check out the products by Vox2. Depending on the cell phone you buy, you may be able to purchase a Vox.Link, which lets you connect your cell phone to every landline phone in your home. Just place your mobile in the cradle and hook it up to your home phone. This way, you'll use your home phone but make calls via your wireless service.
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Joni Blecher is a section editor for CNET Reviews.