, CNET's cell phone guru, wants to answer your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories. Send him a question!
Nextel Motorola i870
Do you have any info on the health effects of iDEN compared to CDMA and GSM?
A: Like all digital phones, iDEN mobiles from Nextel, such as the Nextel Motorola i870, put out radio-frequency (RF) energy when in use. The amount of this energy absorbed by the body is then measured with a SAR, or specific absorption rate. For a handset to receive certification by the FCC in the United States, it must have a SAR rating of 1.6 watts per kilogram or less. We list most SAR ratings in our popular cell phone radiation charts. To answer your question, SAR levels vary more by the individual phones than by the technology they use. So theoretically, iDEN phones are not more dangerous than CDMA or GSM mobiles.
Tekkeon EzTalker Mini
I have a hard time hearing, and my hearing is worse when there are competing sounds. Can you suggest a relatively loud Bluetooth headset that maybe delivers its sound into the ear, as opposed to sitting outside the ear and pushing the sound "at" the ear? I'm on my fourth headset, and the trial and error is getting to be too expensive.
A: Like you said, John, Bluetooth headsets typically have one of two earpiece designs: resting on the ear or reaching into the ear slightly. While Bluetooth headset volume depends on other factors as well (the strength of the phone and the connection between it and the headset), the earpiece design unarguably plays a major part. Two of my favorite headsets with internal earpieces are the Plantronics Discovery 640 and the Tekkeon EzTalker Mini. Q:
Now that AT&T (the old SBC) acquired Cingular and the new company plans to brand itself as AT&T, what changes can we expect?
A: Now here's a confusing mess. On the heels of the Cingular/AT&T Wireless merger in 2004 and the SBC/AT&T merger in 2005, AT&T announced last week that it would purchase BellSouth for a hefty $16 billion. Besides the obvious (a big bloated company controlling almost everything), this most recent marriage will impact Cingular without a doubt. Originally, Cingular set up a partnership between SBC (then AT&T) and BellSouth. SBC owned 60 percent of Cingular, while BellSouth owned 40 percent. But now that they're one big happy family, that means AT&T owns 100 percent of the nation's largest cell phone carrier. Though some have speculated Cingular will change its name back to AT&T--talk about going full circle--it's unclear as of yet exactly how this will affect Cingular customers. Stay tuned. Q:
I have a contract with Cingular and am moving to Oregon. How can I find detailed coverage maps of Oregon that go beyond the national coverage maps in carrier brochures? Also, what can I do if Cingular does not have coverage in the area I move to?
Have you found accurate carrier maps?
Carrier maps are mostly useless when it comes to determining whether coverage is available in your area. Not only is it difficult to narrow down the maps to a few square miles, but they also don't show any dead zones in a covered area. For example, all of San Francisco may be colored in on a carrier's map, but dead pockets exist all over the city. Unfortunately, you're left to your own devices to find them. And if the carriers have their way
, this won't change. While most carriers have localized maps for certain regions such as the Bay Area (you usually have to ask for them in the store), they don't do a better job than the national maps. And while you can search for coverage by your zip code when talking with a carrier customer-service rep, this isn't a very accurate method either.
One solution is to try consulting a few Web sites that track carrier coverage. Though they're not perfect either, they might give you more detailed and unbiased information. There's not one site I really like overall, but you can try Dead Cell Zones or cellreception.com. If anyone has other recommendations, I'd love to hear about them. TalkBack to me below.
In regard to your last question, you may have your work cut out for you. Don't despair yet, however. If you move to an area where you get no Cingular coverage, fight as hard as you can to end your contract without paying the termination fee. After all, Cingular says in its contract, "We may terminate this Agreement at any time without notice if we cease to provide service in your area." If the company has the right, so should you.