Section 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!
Cutting the cord
Would you please discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using a cell phone as the only home phone? Is it a good choice for a household on a tight budget? Thank you for any insight or advice.
The first advantage of using a cell phone as your home phone is obvious: you can always take it with you. Second, once you decide to go cell phone-only, you'll have one fewer bill to worry about. However, before you ditch your landline, make sure you read the fine print on your carrier's contract.
If you talk on the phone a lot, don't get a plan with an off-peak time of 9 p.m. Chances are you'll burn through your minutes in the first week or two, most likely leading to some hefty bills. Also, it's a good idea to make sure you have coverage in all rooms of the house. If you can use the phone only when you're standing by a window with your head turned in a certain direction, what's the point?
Overall, I think using a cell phone as your home phone is not a bad idea, but it's good to have basic landline coverage for the times when your mobile doesn't get a signal. Either way, ask your carrier a lot of questions up-front so that you know exactly what is and isn't
covered before you sign on the dotted line.
Can you hear me now?
Are there any cell phones manufactured for the hearing impaired?
Right now, you can't find a cell phone manufactured specifically for the hearing impaired, but headsets such as the Nokia Loopset
address this need. Even better, that's all about to change. The FCC recently issued a ruling that requires carriers to ensure that a quarter of their mobiles are hearing-aid compatible within two years.
According to David Woodbury, vice president of Damax International and former director of government relations for the hearing industry, one of the main obstacles to designing phones for the hearing impaired is that the RF signal from cell phones interferes with hearing aids. One possible solution could come in the form of an antenna, such as the one Damax is developing. The antenna is expected to both block the signal that interferes with hearing aids and improve battery life.
A red-hot mobile
Do you know if the Siemens SL55 will be released or sold by any U.S.-based carriers this year? I understand that the SL55 is already available in Europe.
Yes, there will be a version of the SL55 sold here in the United States, but it will be called the SL56. Unlike the European version, the SL56 will not support international roaming. So if you want a model that will work on multiple continents, pick up one the next time you're traveling in Europe. Another difference is the color. We'll get only the gray version of the sleek, podlike cell phone here--not the model with ruby-red coloring. I've had a chance to play with the SL55, and it's one cool mobile that garners its fair share of cell phone envy from onlookers.