, CNET's cell phone guru, wants to answer your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories. Send him a question!
Push-to-talk on Cingular
I have Cingular and heard that it is coming out with a push-to-talk network. Is this true, and when will it happen? Also, do you know if the Nokia 5140
will work with Cingular?
A: Yes, Brian, Cingular is coming out with a push-to-talk (PTT) network, and I expect the formal announcement on October 13. The first confirmed PTT phone from the carrier, however, will be the LG F7200, not the Nokia 5140. An attractive silver-and-blue slider mobile, the dual-band (GSM 850/1900; GPRS) LG F7200 offers features text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, voice dialing, polyphonic ring tones, a color display, instant messaging, a wireless Web browser, and Java (J2ME) support. Charges for the PTT service should come to an additional $9.99 per month for unlimited minutes or $19.99 per month for family plans. Though I've heard rumors that the service is delayed until November, LG said just last week that the service would launch this month. Regardless, the introduction is exciting, as it will mark the first PTT for a GSM carrier in the United States.
As for the Nokia 5140, the rugged mobile supports the GSM 850 band, so it is compatible with Cingular's basic calling network. And though it has PTT capability, it may not automatically work with Cingular's PTT. I suggest checking with Cingular to make sure.
Sony Ericsson's Walkman phone
Q: I am thinking of purchasing the new Sony Ericsson W800i Walkman phone. Do you know if Cingular is going to pick up this phone any time soon? Also, if I were to buy an unlocked version off the Internet, what would I have to do to use it with Cingular?
Sony Ericsson W800i
A: You ask a timely question, Isaac. Since we took our first look at this phone earlier this year, the Sony Ericsson W800i has hit stores in the United States. We think it's a promising phone, and we'll have a full review by the end of this week. No carrier has yet announced that it will pick up the phone, but I'm guessing T-Mobile will. The W800i supports the 900, 1800, and 1900 GSM bands, which makes it perfect for T-Mobile's network but less so for Cingular's (T-Mobile concentrates on the 1900 band while Cingular uses 850). That said, we're testing our review W800i with a Cingular SIM card; technically, you could use it with either carrier.
Regarding your second question, if you buy an unlocked phone that works with Cingular, there's not much you'll have to do to use it. Just slip in your SIM card and fire away. Remember, though, that you'll need to get the correct data setting from Cingular to use features such as messaging and Web browsing.
A different kind of carrier
Q: What is an MVNO?
The acronym stands for mobile virtual network operator
, which is basically a "lifestyle" carrier targeting a particular demographic. Typically, MVNOs offer prepaid phone service with themed phones and services. Also, since they are virtual carriers, they don't own or operate equipment. Instead, they buy huge batches of minutes from traditional wireless carriers, essentially piggybacking on those networks. Two youth-focused examples are Virgin Mobile, which operates over Sprint's network, and Boost Mobile, which uses Nextel. We'll also see two new MVNOs by the end of the year: ESPN Mobile will offer a made-over Sanyo handset
complete with sports content, while Amp'd Mobile
promises new Kyocera phones targeted toward urban hipsters. And since all Amp'd phones will support Verizon's 3G
EV-DO network, you can expect plenty of multimedia features. For more information on choosing an MVNO, visit CNET's quick guide to prepaid phone service.