, CNET's cell phone guru, wants to answer your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories. Send him a question!
I currently have T-Mobile service and would like to know when I might be able to send picture messages to my non-T-Mobile friends. I think I remember hearing somewhere that some carriers already have agreements set up for multimedia messaging. I believe Cingular, Sprint, and Verizon are in cahoots, but Sprint will play with T-Mobile only. Is this an effort to exclude T-Mobile from the party?
A: That's a very timely question, Sebastian. As a T-Mobile customer, you can exchange multimedia messages with Sprint, Cingular, and--as of last Friday--Verizon customers. You can't trade messages with Nextel subscribers at the moment, but T-Mobile promises that Nextel will be onboard at the end of this month. And in the more distant future, interoperability will include smaller carriers and overseas providers. So go ahead and snap away, and you might even consider picking up a new T-Mobile camera phone, such as the Nokia 6101.
Sony Ericsson W800i
Are there any disadvantages to using an unlocked phone?
A: I wouldn't call them disadvantages per se, but there are a few points you'll need to keep in mind when using an unlocked phone, such as the Sony Ericsson W800i. First off, any phone you want to use in the United States should support either the 850 or 1900 GSM bands--ideally both. If a phone supports only the 900 and 1800 bands, you're out of luck, as those frequencies work only in Europe. Second, carriers don't particularly like their customers using an unlocked phone because they don't make any money off the purchase, so customer support can be dodgy; the carrier may decline to help you if the handset breaks, for instance. And even if you get technical assistance, carriers won't replace a faulty unlocked phone free of charge.
The handset's settings may also cause some problems. Every phone requires a number of settings to access the Web, send and receive text, and process multimedia messages and e-mails. If you buy a phone from a carrier, these settings come preinstalled, but if you buy an unlocked phone, you'll need to enter them yourself. Your carrier can help you, but you can also try other sources as well: The Nokia and the Sony Ericsson Web sites have tools that will send these settings to your phone in a text message. But if you still can't get your settings after trying the above methods (they vary by make of the phone and the carrier), try searching CNET's cell phone forums or the Howard Forums.
Motorola Razr V3c
Do you have a release date for the CDMA Motorola Razr V3
? An answer that isn't "sometime before Christmas" or "early next year" would be greatly appreciated.
A: Tom, due to the Motorola Razr's phenomenal success, everyone has been waiting with bated breath for the CDMA Motorola Razr V3c. And up until last week, the CDMA Razr's release date was one of the worst-kept secrets in the cell phone world: It was common knowledge that the V3c was coming, but Motorola didn't formally unveil the new Razrs until November 9. Of course, the official release date and carrier are still under wraps, but considering the V3c will support CDMA, EV-DO, and BREW, it's clearly meant for Verizon Wireless. According to the cell phone rumor mill, the Razr V3c will go on sale November 28. Verizon has even added an alert on its site where you can sign up for a notification of the official debut, but I have to warn you that the date is far from certain.
Which cell phone are you waiting for?
In general, carriers such as Verizon would rather shut down their network for a full day than preannounce a phone and promise a release date. They may tell you something's coming, as Verizon did with the Palm Treo 650
, but they'll rarely give an exact date (see below). There are exceptions, of course, but this scenario is largely the rule. Employees in a carrier's store may have release information beforehand (not that these employees are always correct), but carriers rarely pass their secrets on to journalists.
Bringing a new cell phone to market requires the carrier and the manufacturer to agree on the design, the features, the services, and the price--a complicated dance. The process takes months sometimes, and if the two don't agree or work fast enough, delays occur. Carriers also spend a lot of time testing new phones on their networks. If there are any operability issues, the testing period will take a long time. That's why release dates change constantly, sometimes even days before a device is set to launch. The Motorola Rokr E1, for instance, was first set to launch in March 2005, then got pushed back to May, then the summer. Finally, after months of hubbub, the Rokr E1 hit stores in September.