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.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

10 Things Your Mobile Phone can Do that you might not know

10 Things Your Mobile Phone can Do that you might not know

Read on some of the stuff that your cell phones can do and how to utilize them on the future.

Everyone knows you can make calls and send messages with your cell phone, but even the simplest handsets have a variety of uses. You don't need to download extra applications or purchase any accessories to use these features; rather, they exist on your phone from the moment you take it out of the box. While cell phone junkies should see nothing new here, other users may find new ways to use their cell phone that they didn't know before.

Flashlight: Drop your keys in the dark, or perhaps you need to read a map on a rural road? If your camera phone has a flash you should be able to use it as an emergency flashlight. If you can find a "steady" setting in the flash menu, your flash will remain on until you turn it off. If there is no such setting, and your phone has a camcorder option, try activating your flash while recording a video. The flash will remain active for the duration of the shoot, though keep in mind some camera phones cap recording time at just a few seconds.

Voice recorder: Many phones have this feature, but you might be surprised at just how useful it can be. Let's say your short term memory is down to a few seconds. With your voice recorder, also called an audio recorder on some handsets, you can record short notes to yourself and play them back later. It can be a great way to remember an address or a few random facts, or to record a shopping list. What's more, some recorders allow you to save your important notes for posterity.

Camera and notes: Most people know that camera phones can be useful for car accidents or fighting parking tickets, but they also can be great for shopping as well. Say you're shopping for a new gadget and you want to take home a full list of the specs for the models you're considering. Instead of using a pen and paper, you can take a picture of the product's placard and then refer to it later. This method is also useful for remembering rambling or unintuitive product names.

Google search: If you're on a trip in an unfamiliar city and you have a burrito craving, your cell phone can be a much better tool than the Yellow Pages. Google offers a free service that delivers a variety of information through text message. By texting simple queries to 466453 (or "Google" on most devices), you can find the closest Mexican restaurant in addition to things like the current weather forecast or movie show times at local theaters. Texting the name of a restaurant will give you the address and phone number, which you can then call for information or reservations.

Send a voice message: There may be times where you want to send your friend a message that's too long to send by text. Or maybe it's after 11 p.m. and you don't want to disturb him with a phone call. Some phones allow you to send voice mails directly to another phone's voice mail without actually placing a phone call.

Bluetooth file transfers: Everyone knows about Bluetooth headsets, but Bluetooth has a long list of other uses. Previously some manufacturers and carriers restricted how Bluetooth was used on their phones, but most of those limitations no longer exist. Using Bluetooth, you can transfer photos and other files off your camera phone to another Bluetooth device. The process is exceedingly easy, and it's free since you won't have to use your carrier's messaging service.

Record calls: Some handsets allow you to record your conversations. This feature may be buried under an obscure menu, and it may record only for a limited time, but it works much better than trying to use any kind of external recording device. But before you start taking cues from Linda Tripp, it's important to remember that some states require you to notify the person that you're recording the conversation.

Organizer features: Every cell phone on the market has at least a couple of organizer features. The alarm clock is one of the most useful offerings, particularly when you're traveling, and most of the time your phone does not need to be on for the alarm to sound. Other features can include a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a world clock, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, and applications for converting currencies or units of measurement. But the best feature of all has to be the convenient tip calculator. You can punch in the total bill amount, calculate the tip, and divide the total cost by the number of people down to the last penny. Though it's not available in every cell phone, it can save a lot of drama at group dinners.

POP3 e-mail: If your phone has a Web browser, and the vast majority do, you can access POP3 e-mail accounts like Yahoo or Hotmail. The interface will be different than on a PC, and graphics may not render properly, but if you need to read an important e-mail while on the go, this is the way to do it. After opening your browser, just type in the correct link then enter your login and password as normal.

Ringtone composer: Many phones, particularly Sony Ericsson and Motorola models, allow you to compose your own ringtones. Not only does this allow you to add an extreme level of personalization to your phone, but you can avoid buying new ringtones from your carrier. You don't need to be musically gifted, but it can help.