Cellular Phone Buying Guide

Cellular Phone Buying Guide Cellular phones are now owned by one out of three people living in the United States. It is believed that this number will approach, and probably reach, one out of two within the short future. With so many companies producing and marketing the use of cellular phones, rates for their use have dramatically reduced within the last four to five years. The size of the phones has decreased, while their number of features and ease of use has increased. Analog connections are now becoming obsolete, in favor of the clearer and battery-saving digital connection. Many units on the market now are tri-mode, meaning that in addition to analog they use the digital signals of TDMA and CDMA.

Strides like these have made mobile communication increasingly popular as well as reliable. With this popularity, companies have been able to reduce their monthly rates while offering many features free of charge, features that the user is accustomed to paying for on their house phone line. This competition has led many to use their cellular phone as their main phone, or even their only phone. Some of the features that have made cellular communications so popular are the following: free nights and/or weekends, caller identification, call forwarding, three-way calling, voice mail, text messaging and Internet access. Many of these features are either free or of very low cost.

When combined with the intelligent use of peak minutes and free nights and weekends (usually between 8 am and 8 pm), a consumer can quickly find that a cellular phone plan is cheaper than their home phone plan. The problem is finding out which provider, which plan, and which phone make the most sense for each individual. Within this report is a comprehensive guide to the plans now offered by the three major providers of cellular service in our area. These providers are Sprint, Verizon, and Cingular Wireless (formerly Cellular One). Although their many plans are similar, they can become extremely confusing.

A calling plan should be chosen based on the following: 1) When the phone will be used. 2) For how long each day it will be used. 3) Where the phone calls will be made from. 4) Whom the user will be calling. These factors can quickly get confusing when you take into consideration the different home/roaming areas of each provider. Both Verizon and Cingular now offer three plans for coverage. One a local coverage area, which generally covers from Buffalo to Albany from east to west, with a limited coverage north and south of the I-90.

The second plan offered by both covers a good portion of the east coast, down through Maryland for Verizon, and through Virginia for Cingular. Both Verizon and Cingular have recently added national plans to their available coverage options, and although these plans are more expensive than the local and regional, they can make sense for many. Although some areas are not covered within these National Plans, they generally cover the entire continental United States. A good portion of the Midwest for Cingular is not covered while Verizon does cover most of this area. However Verizon does not cover much of the breadbasket of the US, namely Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, all of which have no coverage. Sprint’s plans are all national, but only for “300 major metropolitan areas” which excludes millions of Americans, this leads to exorbitant roaming charges which can be accumulated out of necessity in one’s home town.

This is true especially for the Midwest and the west coast. Contained on this page are the national coverage areas of the three providers. The complicated coverage of these maps is often forgotten while one is on vacation or making long-distance calls, that is why choosing a local or regional plan can often times make more sense. Sprint’s “Free and Clear” plan, as you can see by the map, is neither free nor clear in all areas. Although their coverage is expanding, they are truthful when they claim that their system was built from “the ground up”.

Only their phones use their Personal Communication System (PCS) towers, and many of their phones do not operate on an analog signal at all, and those that do must use the towers built by other companies. For this the user is charged thirty-five cents for each minute spent outside of the Sprint PCS network. This applies even if the user is within their own home. With over twenty different mobile phones now compatible with the three major networks, choosing a phone is a very difficult task. Many plans have phones available at no cost with an agreement to a one or two year contract. Sprint is the one company that offers no reduction in price with an accompanying contract, while Verizon and Cingular offer reduced costs with an agreement.

Oftentimes the retail prices of dual and tri-mode phones can be well over $250, but this can be significantly reduced to between twenty and fifty dollars if a new contract is signed. This quickly makes Sprint an expensive choice because as of March 1st, 2001, they did not offer a phone for under eighty dollars. On the following pages are some of the most popular phones offered by each provider, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. These are only some of the phones offered by these providers, as availability changes from region to region. Cingular Wireless Motorola V2290 Pros: Can receive/send text messages Many different faces and rubber covers available for customization Has a mode where phone acts as pager Cons: Very little talk time in digital mode (100 minutes) Only holds 99 numbers in phone book Cost: $30 Ericsson T18d Pros: Tri-mode Data/Fax capable (it acts as a modem with proper connections) Built in vibrate call alert Profiles (different sets of settings easily switchable) Cons: Expensive Ericsson accessories hard to come by Cost: $130 ($80 with possible $50 mail in rebate) Nokia 7160 Pros: Infrared (IrDA) for communication with PC Profiles (different sets of settings easily switchable) Wireless access to Internet (service at additional cost) 4 games Cons: Largest phone offered Sliding number cover flimsy; possible breakage Cost: $100 Ericsson A1228d Pros: Easy read menus Free with contract agreement Cons: Newer model available (2228-mysteriously not available as of 3/18/01) Heaviest phone (8 oz) with terrible talk time (digital-105 minutes) Cost: Free with agreement Sprint Note: All sprint phones have Internet access available at an additional cost Motorola Touchpoint 2100 Pros: Voice activated dialing Games Data/Fax capable Cons: A tad thick/gawky Built in speakerphone only half duplex (works like a walkie-talkie) Cost: $150 Sanyo SCP 4500 Pros: Full duplex built in speakerphone Voice activated dialing Supports text messages Cons Phallic in shape Cost: $180 Samsung SCH 8500 Pros: Small design Built in Internet minibrowser Cons: Expensive Active flip has large connections-very often break or are damaged Cost: $200 Samsung SCH 3500 Pros: Built in minibrowser Rated #1 by Co …