GSM tetherering cell phone for Mac
January 26, 2006 11:25 AM   Subscribe

I need to buy a new cell phone. It should have a text keyboard, work with a higher-speed EDGE/GSM network and most of all sync (address & calendar) + act as a bluetooth modem for my Powerbook. That last bit is a problem apparently: I am having trouble finding good actual info on which phones can do this.

Can anyone recommend me a phone (and US provider with unlimited data plan if you have one!) that has these properties? Here is the output of Phonescoop's phone finder with my preferences. Price, form factor etc is not too much of an issue otherwise.
posted by neustile to Technology (17 answers total)
Hands down: BlackBerry 8700 on Cingular. If price isn't an option, you can't do any better than that.
posted by purephase at 11:51 AM on January 26, 2006

My Motorola V600 has everything except the EDGE, it only works with GPRS (which I did get working recently). I'd be interested if you found a good phone that does EDGE, so I'll be reading this thread with interest :)

I have T-Mobile which has a $15/mo unlimited data plan that covers WiFi hotspots, GPRS, and EDGE (and possibly more, I don't recall). It's tacked on to my $50/mo 2-line family plan, so I'm not sure if it is available separately, although I'd be surprised if it wasn't offered to the rest of the normal plans.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 11:55 AM on January 26, 2006

Well, the V600 does not have a text keyboard, and its bluetooth implementation is broken—Motorola has disabled critical elements that allow you to do things like turn your phone into remote control. Maybe not initially important to you, but I developed a real love for it when I had my T610.

I also find my V600 very buggy. I wish I hadn't bought it, and will also be watching this thread. :)
posted by symphonik at 12:11 PM on January 26, 2006

I read somewhere the BlackBerry has disabled Bluetooth data transmission on their devices. That is, you can do hands free voice via a Uhura-styled earpiece, but can't use it as a modem for your Powerbook.

I too was disappointed with the Moto V600 and jettisoned it for a Sony/Ericsson K750i [gray market only in the US]. The SE phone gets along really well with my Mac but it doesn't support EDGE.
posted by birdherder at 12:24 PM on January 26, 2006

You could go for a Nokia 6882 and get the $100 bt folding keyboard. Not everyone's experience will be like mine but I discovered that having any phone too big to stick comfortably in a pants pocket was a major PITA. The convenience of full keyboard didn't compare to the inconvenience all the rest of the time.
posted by phearlez at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2006

I haven't had a need for remote control nor text keyboard on my V600, so yea, I didn't notice the lack. It is certainly a tad buggy, though, even after I flashed/flexed it to factory default it's still giving me whitescreens once in a while :(

I also am guilty of lusting after the ("LOL") RAZR, although since it doesn't have EDGE I probably won't get one.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2006

Hands down: BlackBerry 8700 on Cingular.

I read somewhere the BlackBerry has disabled Bluetooth data transmission on their devices.

See that's the problem: I've been reading stuff like this all day about these devices. I'd love to just buy a BB 8700c and have it be over with, but I need confirmation that it works as a bluetooth modem. purephase, can you confirm that it does?
posted by neustile at 2:04 PM on January 26, 2006

Every day, I use my Motorolla ROKR E1 as a modem into Cingular's GPRS service, from my PowerBook. It has gotten me out of a great many pickles. It takes a little tweaking, but does work reliably.

Plus, it syncs with iTunes! And you can use Google Local on it! :)

That isn't to say that there aren't any problems with the phone, but in general, the good outweighs the bad.
posted by chota at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2006

neustile, also -- you may consider waiting a couple of weeks and see how well the T-Mo SDA/MDAs fare. That's what I'm holding out for at the moment.

The problem of course at the moment is that no one has figured out how to make a Windows Mobile device work as a GPRS modem on OS X. But I am going to keep an eye on the various mobile boards looking for someone with success...
posted by symphonik at 4:10 PM on January 26, 2006

neustile writes "See that's the problem: I've been reading stuff like this all day about these devices. I'd love to just buy a BB 8700c and have it be over with, but I need confirmation that it works as a bluetooth modem. purephase, can you confirm that it does?"

I've asked some experts. I've never used the Cingular device (I live in Canada) and all the 8700r users I know are Windows users so I'm not sure if the device works for Macs. Hopefully some helpful souls will answer your question much better than I can.

I'm curious about this myself.
posted by purephase at 5:01 PM on January 26, 2006

Referring to the bluetooth as a modem issue with Blackberrys. I have a 7130e and after asking why I couldn't use it as a Bluetooth modem (have to use the USB cable that it came with but it works on both PC and Macs) I was told it was because Blackberrys follow a rigid security protocol that cannot be met with Bluetooth synching or modem use.
posted by jeffmik at 5:27 PM on January 26, 2006

I was doing a little more searching around and it looks like the modem functionality might be disabled on the Cingular network (which is unfortunate). My co-workers (using Rogers) use the 8700r as a modem constantly and swear by the service. As for the Mac support, it also looks like a no-go. In the link I posted above, a responder mentioned that RIM might be working on Mac support right now.

One nice feature is the upgrade capabilities of the BB over other devices. Even if the device doesn't support this now, it's possible that RIM will release software to support it in the future.
posted by purephase at 5:43 PM on January 26, 2006

BB's don't like macs. They can be made to work, via Missing Sync. No Bluetooth. I don't think it's possible from any BB that is sold in the U.S. (Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile). Sorry.

There is no device that meets your criteria available at any price, even from a gray market that is an edge modem for Macs. There are GPRS modems available (sony/ericsson and nokia). But there aren't models with keyboards that I know of.

I've got a nokia 3650. It works. No keyboard though. And no edge.
posted by zpousman at 8:30 PM on January 26, 2006

thanks purephase for the legwork. I might wait and see if there's any success with the T-mo MDAs. I just read about the Nokia E61 today too, which looks nice, but won't be out for a bit.
posted by neustile at 8:59 PM on January 26, 2006

Was there a comment deleted from this thread? I'm sure I saw a link to a blog comparing the T-mobile MDA thingy. It looked like just the business.
posted by bonaldi at 9:13 PM on January 26, 2006

I am on Cingular in Boston, MA. I use the Sony Ericsson s710a as a bluetooth modem with my PowerBook all the time. I pay something like $20 a month for unlimitted data use. It syncs effortlessly via bluetooth with iSync. The phone does not have a keyboard, but I don't find this to be a problem. I don't do email on the phone. I just carry my PowerBook and do email the "normal" way.
posted by rglasmann at 5:37 AM on January 27, 2006

Also, I had a Nokia 3650 before I purchased the SE s710a. The Sony seems to work slightly better as a bluetooth modem. Also, no iSync with the Nokia. You can manually transfer contacts, but it is a pain. With the s710a, I just open iSync and hit the button. If my phone is anywhere close by, it syncs. Nothing else required.
posted by rglasmann at 5:42 AM on January 27, 2006

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