Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mobile Phones QnA to have 3G or no 3G

By Kent German, CNET Reviews

On Call: Answers for your cell phone questions.

3G or not 3G?

I have just purchased the Sony Ericsson K800i and was wondering if I can use the 3G capabilities in the United States. I have AT&T service and neither the AT&T nor the Sony Ericsson people seem to have an answer. Everything else works including e-mail, text and multimedia messaging, and the Internet. -- bmaberryjr
3G or not 3G? // Sony Ericsson K800i (© CNET)
A: Though the K800i is a great phone, it does not support the necessary 3G bands for use in the United States with AT&T service. While AT&T uses the 1900 UMTS (a type of 3G) band, the K800i uses the 2100 UMTS band, which is used mainly in Europe. As you note, you will be able to use the phone for all other functions, but unfortunately 3G is not one of them. If you're looking for a comparable phone that will be compatible with AT&T 3G network, I would suggest the Sony Ericsson K850i.
Buying a phone without a contract

Q: I have had my Motorola Razr V3xx for about a year and two months. I dropped it recently and the hinge broke, but I was able to tape it so that everything held together. But now the screen doesn't work, and the battery runs out very quickly. So what are my options for a replacement phone? Should I buy a phone on eBay until my contract runs out, or will AT&T replace it? Would you advise some sort of haggling? I don't have insurance. -- Sean
3G or not 3G? // Motorola Razr V3xx (© CNET)

A: Since you don't have insurance, AT&T won't replace your phone for free. But since you've been with the carrier for more than a year, there is a very good chance they'll allow you to upgrade by getting a new phone at a discount or even for free. Carriers differ on their exact policies, but most will reward longtime subscribers with rebates that are normally reserved for new customers. But I'm sure you know that rebates and free phones come at a price, and signing a new contract is usually the price you pay. From what I can tell from your e-mail, signing a new contract is something you'd prefer not to do, but I'd advise you to consider it. You could get a great deal on a dream device, and if you're not planning to leave AT&T after your service agreement ends, then maybe there's not so much harm in signing.

That said, you do have other options. You should be able to buy a new phone from AT&T without signing a new contract. You'd have to pay full price for the handset, but if cost isn't an issue, then you should see what is available. If cost does matter, you could try haggling, but the outcome will depend on a lot of variables. Sometimes you'll talk to a very accommodating customer service representative, and other times you'll get someone who does things by the book. Just keep in mind that carriers are more interested in keeping you as a customer than they are in selling you a phone at full price. Sometimes they'll work with you, but remember that if they do something for you, they'll expect something in return. And as I said, new contracts are what carriers love most.

Another option you should consider is buying an unlocked phone. These are handsets that will work with any GSM carrier, including T-Mobile and AT&T. Not only can you avoid purchasing your phone from your carrier, but also you can take the handset with you if you decide to leave. You can buy unlocked phones online or you can purchase them from third-party retailers such as Best Buy. Finally, you can buy a phone from eBay, but I advise caution when using that route. Simply, put, you never know what you're going to get. But if you decide to make the eBay plunge, just be sure the handset you buy is certified to work with AT&T's network. To do that it must be an AT&T-branded handset or it must be an unlocked model that supports the GSM 850 and 1900 bands.

A Samsung on Verizon

Q: I am currently looking at a Samsung E420 on eBay, and I am under a Verizon Wireless contract. How do I go about activating this phone on a Verizon network? I've heard that Verizon phones do not have a SIM card. Also, the Samsung E420 is a GSM 900/1800/1900 tri-band cell phone. Is this OK for the United States? I've read that the 1800 band is used overseas. -- Annie

A: Unfortunately, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the Samsung E420 will not work on Verizon's network. The E420 uses a technology called GSM, while Verizon uses an incompatible technology called CDMA. As you point out, Verizon's phones do not use SIM cards. But on the upside, the E420 will work in the United States on T-Mobile or AT&T. You're correct that the 1800 band is used in Europe (the 900 band is used there as well), but the GSM 850 and 1900 bands are used here.

3G or not 3G? // Nokia N95 (© CNET)

A 3G N series phone

Do you know which of the Nokia N series phones support AT&T's 3G service? I believe the N95 does support the service but do the N82, the N96, and so on? -- Greg

A: Besides the Nokia N95 North American Edition and the 8GB N95, the other Nokia N series phone to support AT&T 3G network is the N75.