What phone should I buy?

What phone should I buy?

Steve ask for phones. Great question steve about what phone to buy. It's an incredibly complex question, even if you just live in Seattle. Here's an update on it, for more, you can search this blog for the occasional irreverent entries. First of all, I'm going to assume you are more or less like me, want something cool, but not too expensive. I'm assuming you don't want one of these hybrid PDA/smartphone things. That's a whole different set of issues.

First the methodology that I use:

  1. Carrier. Bill Malloy points out that coverage and dropped calls are the beginning, middle and end of the customer experience. Sort of the PC gospel of make the software easy and fast. I've tried lots of services, not specifically in Union Hill, but Seattle and Bellevue. Here is what I've found that coverage quality in rough order is: a) Verizon, b) Nextel, c) AT&T TDMA and T-mobile and d) Sprint and AT&T GSM. I haven't tried Cingular in this area. This is just one mans opinion of course.
  2. C|Net Phones has the best reviews of phones and a good overview of what's coming and the best place to buy seems right now to be Amazon Cell Phone Store, they have amazing rebates like the Internet days of old. . When looking through this, make sure to check the user ratings. Very revealing is the percentage of lovers and haters. Sometimes this is more interesting to read than the reviews. Right now, if you are a power user, I wouldn't get any phone that doesn't have a color screen and a camera which weighs more than 4 oz. The current hot models are by network:
    • LG VX4400 on Verizon. The upcoming Samsung is according to Paul Jacobs over at Qualcomm incredibly cool, but late. So if you can stand it, wait for the camera phones. As usual, most of these phones were supposed to make Christmas, but slipped, so this seems like when many are launching.
    • Motorola T720 on Verizon or T-mobile. What I am using right now. Verizon has good coverage and the phone is nice. The display is pretty good too. It is tri-mode on T-mobile and you can use pretty much anywhere in the world.
    • Sony Ericsson t68. The screen is nearly invisible in the sun, but it is tiny, tiny, tiny. Connie likes it for that reason. It is also a world phone and has bluetooth, IR, so you can geek out to your hearts content
    • Motorola i95cl. Nextel's color phone, it is bigger and larger than the rest, but it does have this DirectConnect, so you and Christine can stay in touch all the time. I've used its brothers and it is big and reliable.
    • Samsung SGH-S105
    • . Haven't tried this yet, but it got great reviews on Cnet. Cool color screen.

    • Sanyo SCP-5300 on Sprint. This is a camera phone. Has good reviews. I haven't tried it myself, but folks seem to like it.
  3. Rate Plans. This is the great confusing mess. Pretty much everyone has about the same rate plan right now. The sweet spot seems to be the $40 plans in terms of minutes. I actually haven't found that many difference. Cingular has a rollover, so the minutes keep accumulating. AT&T One Rate is more expensive, but the GSM plans are very cheap. Most of the others are identical. To me, the biggest difference is whether these are one or two-year agreements. With a one year, you can replace the phone in a year, which given the technology changes is a good idea. I try not to do anything that is more than a year. Also, if you switch rate plans in mid stream, they reset the one year clock. Interestingly, the lowest cost thing to do is to bounce between carriers because new customers get the phone rebates but old customers don't when you are buying a new phone. So I'd advise studying the web sites carefully.

Steve had a number of other criteria which I don't use but will cover here

  • Sound quality. I really haven't found in the last year that the phone is the main problem with sound quality. It is more the network.
  • Hands free system for car. Pretty much no one sells these anymore. Most folks just use a hands-free ear piece. The main reason is the models are spinning so fast. I don't think you can use the new Nokias with the old cradles, so I haven't had a cradle in my car for four years now. Also, the speakphone sound quality was always kind of bad at least for me.
  • Address book. Everyone has 500 numbers in the phonebook now, but don't even think about trying to sync with Outlook unless you have a few days of time. It is amazing that the firmware here is so bad.
  • Bonus: plays games. Just about everyone does. The color screen really adds alot. Prince of Persia rules!
  • Bonus: productivity apps. If you mean email. This is another sad story. Suffice to say, that this is incredibly hard. On the other hand, SMS seems to be working pretty well on most US phones now. Now if I could only get Connie to use it 🙂


  1. Rich, another very thorough evalution as usual. The questions I have is number portability. I want the latest gadget and love chasing the new stuff, but it is actually more important for me to keep the same number. Too many people have it. I am on AT&T which is third rate in coverage and slow in the cool phones. Any suggestions?

  2. Rich, thanks for the detailed guide for buying a cell phone. Like Martin, I’m with AT&T Wireless now and I don’t want to sacrifice my cell phone number as too many people have it. From the sound of things, it looks like I need to remain with AT&T wireless to retain my current cell phone number. If this is true, it totally sucks.
    Thanks again. I’ll let you know what Christine and I decide to do.

  3. Yeah, you basically have three choices if you don’t want to change numbers:
    1. Pray for number portability. This means you can take your number with you. The US carriers have been fighting this for years. It is standard in Europe. It is supposed to happen this November, but don’t count on it.
    2. Use your PBX. For instance, my Ignition number is actually forwarded to my cell phone if I don’t answer there. The main thing that you lose is ANI, so you don’t know exactly who is calling. OTOH, you have one number and you can flop around. There are also follow me services from folks like Wildfire that do this for you.
    3. Make sure all your numbers at least have the same last four digits and same area code. All my cell phones are like this. Most carriers except AT&T let you do this for free.

  4. i need the subsidy code of the motorola i95 cl please i am from mexico

  5. In your opinion, which cell phone service provider is better, T-Mobile or Sprint? Could you please include a brief description why? Thank You.

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