| | Kent German
, CNET's cell phone guru, wants to answer your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories. Send him a question!
Motorola Razr V3
I just saw another version of the Motorola Razr and was wondering if Motorola comes out with a new version every week. So far, I've seen these versions: the V3, the V3i, the V3c, and the V3x! How many versions are there, and will more keep coming out? Which one is better or newer? And what's the difference between them all?
A: With its sexy and popular Razr, Motorola must believe that too much of a good thing is wonderful. Telling the different models apart takes some homework, but once you have, you'll quickly notice they have sharp differences. The first Razr was the V3 for Cingular. It made its debut in November 2004 and was followed by a black version (also for Cingular), then a silver version for T-Mobile. The V3 is the most basic Razr model, with a VGA camera, Bluetooth, and a speakerphone, and it became phenomenally popular. In fact, the V3 was the most popular cell phone of 2005, and you can now get it in magenta (T-Mobile), pink (Cingular), and ice blue.
Next to debut was the Razr V3c for Verizon in December 2005. Highly anticipated and long delayed, the V3c is the first and, currently, only CDMA Razr. It features some minor design improvements and adds more extensive features, including EV-DO support and a megapixel camera. The V3c is available in pink and silver versions for Verizon, and it's now sold with Alltel as well. Next up is the Razr V3i: A GSM phone, it drops the support for 3G networks, but it comes with a megapixel camera, a TransFlash card slot, and support for Apple's iTunes. Although it's now available in the United States, the V3i has not been picked up by a carrier, but we expect that to change in the next couple of months. The last Razr is the GSM V3x--the top-of-the line model. Features on this version include a 2-megapixel camera, an MP3 player, a TransFlash card slot, and support for 3G UMTS networks. This phone is also sold stateside; however, it will be some time before we see it with a carrier. Blame it on the lack of a well-developed 3G network here.
As for which model is better, it all depends on what you want out of your phone. Sure, there are some differences in design and performance among the Razr models, but your primary determinant should center on which features you want. For a look at all Razr models, see our complete list.
I have a Motorola V600 that I've been using for about a year and a half on an old AT&T Wireless contract. Cingular wants me to switch to one of its plans, but I'm better off staying with my current plan. My phone is starting to have problems, though, and Cingular doesn't sell the V600. When I look on eBay, I find lots of unlocked V600s, but when I click its "see if this phone works in your area," it says the V600 isn't supported. But I'm using one now. What's up?
A: First off, as I say in the sidebar, you don't have to switch to a Cingular contract if you don't want. Regarding the V600, if that's the cell phone you want, I would go ahead and buy a replacement model. Since the phone worked in your area before, there's no reason it wouldn't work again. Also, the V600 is a quad-band (GSM850 900/1800/1900) world phone, so you'll have no problem using Cingular's network. Q: I'm going out of the country for three months, and I want to know if I can keep my number without having the service from my carrier. When I come back, can I have the same number and start a new contract?
A: It all depends on your carrier, Hassan, but most wireless providers do allow you to put your contract on hold for a period of time while keeping your number. As with any offer from a carrier, it will cost you, plus there are restrictions, but you won't have to give up service entirely. For example, T-Mobile offers a program called seasonal suspend. For $10 a month and a three-month contract extension, T-Mobile will stop service for up to 90 days. When you return, you can resume service, keep your number and your phone, and return to paying your normal monthly fee. Also, if you return early, you'll get a prorated bill. Q: If you can get an unlocked phone, can you bypass a carrier's contract altogether and just have a month-to-month arrangement on a new service?
A: It depends on what you're looking for. If you want a flat monthly fee for your service, the answer is no, unfortunately. Even if you don't buy a phone from the carrier, both of the major GSM providers (Cingular and T-Mobile) will require you to sign at least a one-year contract before you can transition to a month-by-month basis. Alternatively, Cingular and T-Mobile offer prepaid plans that don't require a contract. You can also use any phone; you only need to sign up and have them send you a SIM card. Just be aware, as we caution in our quick guide to prepaid cell phone plans--this type of service won't be economical for frequent callers.
Have you avoided a carrier contract?
News for former AT&T customers
I get a lot of queries from readers who are customers of the former AT&T Wireless. Although the customers are now a part of Cingular, they're still using AT&T service plans and phones. In most cases, these AT&T plans are more economical than the current Cingular plans, so understandably, they're reluctant to switch over. Take CNET reader Ashok: He wants to buy a new phone, but he would like to avoid switching to a Cingular contract. As I said in the January 10 edition of On Call
, it's possible for Ashok to buy a new unlocked phone and use it with his old service. Yet, he closed his e-mail with a more interesting question. He asked, "Long term, what will Cingular do with us AT&T subscribers? Will they just grandfather our plans into theirs, or do they just want to freeze us out?"
According to reps from Cingular--and let me be clear, I went beyond customer service and talked to a couple of company execs--for the most part, the carrier will not require AT&T customers to adopt Cingular plans. But before you get too excited, there are a couple of caveats. If you do buy a new phone from Cingular and don't purchase an unlocked phone from a third party, in all likelihood, you will have to switch. Let's say you're a former AT&T customer who has an old TDMA phone and rate plan, and you want to move to a new GSM phone. In that case, you will be required to sign a new contract because the first TDMA phones didn't even use SIM cards. You'll also be required to change over, even if you have an AT&T GSM phone and want to upgrade equipment. That's because AT&T SIM cards won't work in locked Cingular phones.
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