, CNET's cell phone guru, wants to answer your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories. Send him a question!
The Nokia 6030 is a good basic phone.
I'm a senior citizen who has never had a cell phone. I won't be using it much, but I'll need good coverage as my home is in Idaho. I don't think I'll need a lot of minutes, and I prefer a plan that I can count on each month, where they don't add charges they didn't tell me about. Finally, I'd like a simple model with a speakerphone.
A: Thank you for writing and for your interest in CNET. You have a couple of good phone and service options. On the one hand, you could get a prepaid plan, ideal for people who plan to use a phone only rarely. You pay a fee up front (say $15) that will cover a certain number of calling minutes. Then as you make calls, you deduct a few cents from your balance for every minute your call lasts. Once you use them up, all you need to do is buy more minutes for your account. There are no contracts or monthly fees. CNET's quick guide to prepaid plans will give you more information and help you determine if a prepaid plan is good for you.
Alternatively, you could go with a normal plan and pick the least expensive option available. At the moment, the cheapest plans with the major carriers range from $29 at Sprint and T-Mobile to $39 at Verizon Wireless and Cingular. The number of minutes you get with each plan varies, so think carefully about how often you'll be calling. Of course, a monthly plan will stick you with a flat fee each month, plus taxes and other fees. Read our quick guide to your cell phone bill for an analysis of the typical charges a monthly cell phone bill entails. And whatever carrier you go with, make sure it has adequate coverage in your area. I suggest asking your neighbors and friends which carrier they use and if they're satisfied with the service. Q:
Is there a particular make or model of phone that works better in areas with poor reception?
The Samsung SPH-A640 is an analog phone.
A: It's difficult to name one particular phone as having the best reception in rural areas, but I suggest getting a handset with analog roaming. Analog is an older cell phone technology that has stronger penetration than the newer digital networks. Though that's beginning to change and analog will go away eventually, it's still a good bet for now. If your phone has analog roaming, it will support the AMPS 800 band. You can usually verify your phone's bands in the specifications area of your user manual. The only caveat is that only CDMA phones or handsets from Verizon Wireless and Sprint still support analog roaming.
Are you worried about cell phone radiation? Talk back to me below.
Will a phone with a higher SAR have better reception or signal strength than a phone with a lower SAR, all other things being equal?
A: I've never heard of any direct correlation between a cell phone's reception and its radiation level or SAR. In my experience, they rarely match up. For example, the Motorola V195 has a high SAR of 1.6 watts per kilogram, but its audio quality isn't the greatest.