Wild, Wacky, Mobile Phones
Find a new phone and a new plan; plus,a little John Coltrane.

Steve Bass
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

If you believe the newspaper ads pitching mobile phones, everyone
needs to buy a new model. Of course it'll have a digital camera and
camcorder, undoubtedly a double-layer DVD burner, a TV, built-in GPS,
and maybe even a personal fax machine. Me? You know how I'm handling
it all: I'll keep using my old cell phone until it stops working.
(Advertisers just hate older people.)

I realize I'm in the minority, so I feel an obligation to help you do
a few things this week: buy a new cell phone, maybe shop for a new
plan, and find a spot to dump your old handset.

Cell Phone Obsolescence

Sure, I know I just said I'm not in the market for a new phone. But I
sure love reading about far-out technologies and features, and I know
plenty of you are itching to buy a new mobile phone.

First thing to do is look over our four-page article fittingly
entitled "How to Buy a Cell Phone." Like our other how-to-buy guides,
you get an overview, specs, and shopping tips.

Now that you have a baseline for cell phones, the rest of these
articles will put things into perspective.

Jim Martin, our Mobile Computing guy, wrote "Newest Cell Phone
Features," which covers just what I was kvetching about: ordering a
meal on a Verizon Wireless cell phone and then using the phone to
watch TV while you eat. No, really, some people might actually want to
do that.

I have more to say about the hardware end of things in a sec, but I
think you know that it's just as important to pick the right wireless
plan. Jim tackled that in "Avoid Cell Phone Woes" and I encourage you
to give it a skim. If nothing else, click the links Jim provides to
see the carriers' coverage maps.

Dig This: NASA World Wind is similar to Google's KeyHole, but it's
free. World Wind uses USGS data, satellite images, and other sources
to give you some cool images of anywhere in the world. [Thanks to Mike
D. for this gem.]

The No-Kidding Mobile Phone Future

You thought I was kidding about TV. Nope, and there's even more in
store for cell phones this year. Dan Tynan has it all figured out in
"What's a Cell Phone, Anyway?" He talks about some things to look
forward to (and now I'm serious), such as really fast
2-megabit-per-second connections, 3-megapixel cameras, and built-in
MP3 players.

BTW, Dan's got to be talking to me when he opens his article with "I
bet you thought that cell phone in your pocket was just for talking.
Silly you. Voice-only handsets have become as quaint as hand-crank
telephones." Quaint, indeed.

And if Dan thinks I'm quaint, I can't imagine what Grace Aquino thinks
of me. For quite a while now mobile phones have featured built-in GPS
navigation--and over a year ago Grace told us all about two services
that certainly won't work on my Precambrian Nokia. But GPS may be up
your alley, so to speak, so read Grace Aquino's "GPS Cell Phones" for
the scoop.

You'd think Grace would stop with the mobile GPS phone (I would have).
But no, she's become obsessed and has decided to try out every
innovative phone there is. Take the Amp'd Mobile, for instance. It
apparently offers video on demand and--hold on to your guitar--live
music. Targeted to 16- to 35-year olds (which mercifully leaves me
out), Amp'd phones will range in price from $99 to $200.

If you're not interested in GPS navigation or music on demand, how
about a mapping service for your cell phone? Check out Denny Arar's
"Mapping Mania at CTIA" to learn about a $4-per-month plan that blasts
Mapquest maps onto your mobile phone.

If you need some storage on your cell phone (and geez, who doesn't),
Samsung hopes you'll consider the new SGH-I300 because of its 3GB hard
drive. Thanks, but I'll wait for the 30GB, 7200-rpm version. The
SGH-I300 has a built-in camera, plus Bluetooth, IrDA infrared, and USB
connections. I imagine there's room for a phone, too.

I'm exhausted, but I have to tell you about another Samsung cell
phone. This one offers an incredible 7-megapixel camera, and you can
read about it in "Samsung Flashes 7-Megapixel Camera Phone."

I'm not done with you or your cell phone. Here's another news story,
and don't LOL: "AOL Services Migrate to Cell Phones." There are lots
of ways I can visualize that happening (sorry, I'm still LOLing), but
I'm going to restrain myself. I've had some flack recently from a
couple of AOL subscribers who feel like I've been picking on them.

Dig This: John Coltrane's performance of "Giant Steps" is a classic
and Michal Levy, a Web designer, expressed the music with a must-see
video. Watch how Levy's matched up a collection of shapes and colors
with Coltrane's short staccato notes and longer quarter- and
half-notes. It's just brilliant, and worth the 2.5-minute viewing.
[Flash movie]

Sell Your Old Cell Phone

Okay, so let's say you go ahead and buy a new phone. Instead of
stashing your old one in a closet, I have a few thoughts about passing
it along.

If you want a few dollars for your old cell phone, you might try
selling it. There are a few sites that'll buy them, with prices all
over the map. For instance, a Nokia 3520 fetches $20 while a Nokia
5120 gets you $3. Here are three sites to try:

* OldCellPhone.com
* CashMyPhone.com
* CellForCash.com

Better yet, donate your old phone to a charitable organization. Here
are a few to choose from:

* The Wireless Foundation places your old phone into the hands of
domestic violence victims.
* You can choose from almost 200 charities that will benefit from
your old cell phone when you send it to CollectiveGood.
* If you'd prefer donating and recycling your phone locally, try
WirelessRecycling. I found 12 organizations ready to take my phone,
all within ten miles of home.

There are loads of other places that would be happy to take your
phone. Grace Aquino rounded up many that I missed, and you can find
them in "Cell Phone Recycling." (I know the story's a little old, but
don't worry; all the links are still working.)
Steve Bass writes the "Hassle-Free PC" column in PC World's print
edition and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix
the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from
O'Reilly. Sign up to have Steve Bass's Tips and Tweaks newsletter
e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.


"Until last October, Christ had a very limited involvement in my life. I believed in God; I just never had to prove I believed. Belief is an absence of proof."
-- Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling

See More: Wild, Wacky, Mobile Phones