Assist a cell phone virgin, finally ready for his first mobile.
May 19, 2006 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify a no-frills cell phone and carrier. I have two firm requirements involving design (gotta be small!) and custom ring tones.

My requirements: well-designed flip or folding style, so it'll easily fit in its new residence (in my pocket); and the ability to customize its ringtone from my own mp3 file. I was leaning towards the Motorola PEBL but its ability to fulfill my latter requirement seems dubious.

For use in USA (although if possible, rather not be limited to there), signal in the boondocks not a necessity, inexpensive service plan rewarding minimal usage a plus.
I think I'm leaning towards T-Mobile as provider.
posted by Rash to Technology (13 answers total)
I have an LG phone that I'm pretty happy with. But the big advice I'll give you is to turn on the phones of any brand and scroll through the menus before you pick one -- some of them have really annoying/poorly designed menus that are murder on the eyes.
posted by desuetude at 3:05 PM on May 19, 2006

This may be helpful in finding a phone:

Your requirements seem rather minor, though, and I imagine you could find a phone with any provider that meets the clamshell + small + MP3 ringtone bar. You might be better off looking for a service plan/provider that suits your needs and then asking what phones they have, rather than seeking out a specific model.
posted by camcgee at 3:10 PM on May 19, 2006

Depending on how many steps you're willing to undertake, and whether you're willing to buy a USB-to-phone cable, I'm pretty confident (not positive, though) that the PEBL will meet your ringtone requirement. Whether it will be easy or intuitive, however, is another question entirely. Consider that cellphone service providers make a lot of money by selling ringtones, and thus it's probably not in their best interest to make the process easy. (You might try the methods mentioned in this question.)

Also, you might check howardforums for advice on phone hacking, and mobiledia and phonescoop for advice on cellphones in general.
posted by box at 3:18 PM on May 19, 2006

I know the RAZR takes my homemade MP3 ringtones over Bluetooth and uses them with no problem. (Currently: the intro to Baba O'Reilly.) I'm sure the PEBL will do the same.
posted by nicwolff at 3:22 PM on May 19, 2006

Oh, but note that I'm with Cingular. I know that the carrier can lock out specific Bluetooth functions - I think Verizon blocks file transfer - check before buying!
posted by nicwolff at 3:23 PM on May 19, 2006

Verizon blocks a lot of stuff on their phones, but you can get around all of it with programs like BitPim, etc. I regularly transfer Mp3's to my LG VX8100 and use them as ringtones. You just have to be willing to spend 5 minutes to learn how.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:44 PM on May 19, 2006

FWIW, I've been using the Nokia 3155i for a couple months now and have been happy with it. I had the same requirements as you: nothing fancy, fits in the pocket, and plays MP3 ringtones. You'll need a cable to transfer images and MP3s, and, unless there's some BitPim-ish software out there I'm not aware of, you'll need the free PC Suite software.

Also, I'm with Sprint. I've been happy with their service (shock!), but I don't know about their minimalist plans.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:11 PM on May 19, 2006

I'm with T-Mobile and I have this Samsung t609. It works great and it's small, sleek and sexy. (I bought the black model off eBay.)

You can use your own mp3s as ringtones, and in fact the phone serves as an mp3 player and an FM radio (with equalizer!), though those are just frills for me. It also has bluetooth (finally) and a great UI. I was considering the RAZR when it first came out, but the inability to put multiple numbers under one contact in the address book really annoyed me.
posted by killjoy at 4:54 PM on May 19, 2006

I wanted the exact same thing when I got my first phone back in September. There may be newer offerings now, but here's what I chose:

Carrier: T-Mobile.

Phone: Motorola V180.

The service is absolutely solid, though you'll want to check the coverage in your area to make sure it'll be adequate for you. I've never had a problem with T-Mobile here in St. Louis (nor have I had problems when traveling in other states). And the phone is absolutely perfect—simple to use, has a compact clamshell design, allows the use of custom ringtones (I believe), and is absolutely sturdy.
posted by limeonaire at 5:45 PM on May 19, 2006

I have a Nokia 6101 from t-mo (which I got after I couldn't stand my V180 anymore - I'd had 3 by the time the last one died) and am pretty happy with it. it will support mp3 ringtones, the contact list allows you to put multiple numbers and other data into it, and it's a fairly small camera phone. it has crap for memory and the menus are kinda weird (in that they stay where you were when you close the phone). the 6101 is a free phone now and there's an updated version (the 6103) that has Bluetooth if you want that. (IMHO, the best feature about it is the headset - the thing's got an FM radio in it so you get a stereo headset. I have problems focusing on people when they talk on the phone and having them come through in stereo helps a lot.)

it's worth noting that T-Mobile (at least, don't know about any others) does have a return policy - if you don't like the phone you have 15 days or so to bring it back. the time or two I've had to use it they were pretty good about it - no real questions.
posted by mrg at 9:11 AM on May 20, 2006

the PEBL can do custom ringtones; you'll need the Motorola Phone Tools software (piratable; but sometimes free with phone purchase), and a mini-USB cable - the rest of it is pretty straightforward as the program will walk you through it.

the PEBL is also quad-band, so it'll work worldwide on whatever GSM network you throw at it.

I don't know anything about American plans (I'm Canadian), so good luck with that and let us know what you find.
posted by heeeraldo at 3:12 PM on May 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all this info and experience, very helpful!
posted by Rash at 8:33 AM on May 21, 2006

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