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!
Call me old-fashioned
I was looking at switching cell phone plans, and the only mobiles I can find have cameras or color displays (which are hard to read in the sunlight) but nothing that focuses on good quality. If I want to play games, I'll buy a Game Boy. If I want to take pictures, I'll use my Nikon Coolpix. If I want to browse the Web, I'll use a computer. Where's my phone?
I hear you, Harvey--or, considering the phone I use, maybe I don't. I have always asked what good is a phone if it can't do the basics well, in other words, make a freakin' phone call. There's nothing more frustrating than being on a call and having to say, "Wait, I can't hear you now!" While it seems like every phone available from carriers these days tries to be all gadgets to all people, truth be told, about third of all handsets offered by each service provider should be bare-bones, "simply make a call" mobiles.
Since I don't know which carrier you use, here are selections that solidly cover the basics from each of the major providers. Many of the phones I've included have a color display since it's considered a pretty basic feature these days. You'll often find that Web surfing is included on bare-bones phones, too, since it gives carriers a way to sell ring tones and games--not that you're interested in those. My advice: If you don't want them, don't use them, but don't let extra features deter you from getting the phone you want. If you care about battery life, check out a Nokia model; those mobiles are renowned for having long-lasting cells.
Siemens C56 (AT&T Wireless): AT&T's line of GoPhones are a good choice since they have the basics down.
Nokia 3595 (Cingular Wireless):
If you can live with the, shall we say, interesting keypad layout, this phone won't let you down.
Samsung VI660 (Sprint PCS): Most Sprint phones have some extras that are geared toward taking advantage of the company's PCS Vision service, but this is one of the few that concentrates on the fundamentals.
Samsung SGH-x105 (T-Mobile): The company doesn't offer a load of mobiles, but this one is a rock-solid good deal.
LG VX3100L (Verizon Wireless): This simpleton of handsets is no village idiot, thanks to its decent battery life, its impressive call quality, and its monochrome display.
Are there any cell phones available that support both GSM and CDMA? I like my current provider (Verizon), but I travel to Europe a lot and would like to use the same phone over there.
Funny you should ask, Brian. At CTIA, Motorola
recently announced such a phone: the A840. It supports CDMA 800/1900, 1xRTT, GSM 900/1800, and GPRS. What do all those acronyms mean to you? The ability to make a call in most places in the world.
Have SIM, will travel
I have AT&T and was looking at a couple of overseas cell phones. Can I just switch my SIM card with the overseas phone? How does this process work? Could you explain how I can make this happen and if I should contact my carrier?
First, before you travel overseas expecting to use your own phone number, call your carrier at least a week before your departure date. You'll want to ask how much it costs to send and receive calls while abroad since these calls typically come at a premium. If your current handset has an unlocked SIM and supports the bands (GSM 900/1800) used in Europe, you can take the phone with you and simply purchase a prepaid SIM card for use while out of the country. For making calls, it's often cheaper than the rates you'll get from your carrier back home. But if, for whatever reason, you want to use your own SIM card and phone, talk to your carrier first.