Is a Blackberry 8800 on T-Mobile my best choice for a data-heavy cell plan starting in spring 2007?
December 12, 2006 12:47 PM   Subscribe

My (non-existent) ideal device is a Treo -- with wifi, GSM/GPRS, and either EDGE or HSDPA -- on a service plan that includes flat-rate unlimited data, flat-rate international data roaming, and a small amount of voice usage inside the U.S. (say 100 mins/month). So, in the real world, is a Blackberry 8800 on T-Mobile my best choice for a plan starting in spring 2007?

I want to use wifi, cellular-data, and cellular-voice, in that order of usage/importance. (Cellular-voice calls would only happen when there's no wifi available for VoIP.) I've been tethering my Sprint phones as laptop modems for six years -- ever since the first-generation data network where you were lucky to get 10k or 12k down -- so I'm looking forward to having EDGE-or-better speed on my next device.

Cost of the PLAN is the biggest factor for me. T-Mobile is cheaper & more flexible than Cingular for data (more below). Sprint and Verizon are out, since they're CDMA and I want GSM/GPRS for international voice & data roaming (esp. in remote areas that currently have GPRS and aren't likely to have any other data coverage for years).

Cost of the DEVICE is less important (since investing in a device that works with T-Mobile will save me money overall vs. any other carrier's data plan). I already own a basic PDA-only Palm device, and I've accepted that I'll need to keep carrying that along with the new data/phone device (since my biggest musts, Palm OS and GSM+GPRS+wifi connectivity, seem to be mutually exclusive for now [I need Palm OS itself, not just an OS that can sync with my Palm data]).

---- Here's what I want in a PLAN:
• flat-rate data plan, covering both unlimited data on the device and unlimited tethering (such as T-Mobile's $30/mo Blackberry plan for non-corporate users)
• EITHER a very cheap add-on for voice calls (like $10/mo for 100 mins/mo [not available at T-Mobile]) OR the ability, if you're on a data plan, to make voice calls billed per minute (as in T-Mobile's $0.20/min voice calls with data-only plans)
• flat-rate international data roaming with no annual commitment (such as T-Mobile's $20/mo international add-on, which you start & stop anytime [billed at $0.66/day] and which doesn't officially include free web access, tethering, or anything other than "email" [I've found many dozens of anecdotal reports to the contrary, but those experiences are apparently due to communication gaps between T-Moblie and its partners which I have to assume will be closed sometime soon]).

---- Here's what I want in a DEVICE:
• available from T-Mobile by June 2007
• non-Windows OS
• quad-band
• QWERTY keyboard
• uses GSM and GPRS and any EDGE-or-faster data standard
• has wifi (WPA-compatible) and will run at least one VoIP client (preferably many clients)
• can be unlocked and used with a new SIM card (for any travels where cheap-voice is more important than cheap-data)
• ringtones can be user-supplied mp3s (it's fine if that requires third-party software and/or lots of fiddling)
• no unsolveable incompatibilities with Mac OS (again, third-party & fiddling are fine).

Am I right that T-Mobile is my best provider and a Blackberry 8800 is my best device (assuming it turns out to have most of the features that are now being leaked -- most importantly wifi)? Am I missing any better ideas? (There are lots of mefi threads with info on older Blackberries/etc., but none specific to my situation.) Thanks for any reactions!
posted by allterrainbrain to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Treo 680 is GSM phone and it can be unlocked. For wifi, you can get an SD Wi-Fi Card (assuming you're ok with swapping cards).

I'm not entirely sure whether the Treo meets the rest of your constraints but I just wanted to throw this out there in case you didn't know about the wifi card.
posted by jclovebrew at 1:14 PM on December 12, 2006

The Nokia E-Series satisfies pretty much all of your requirements except HSPDA. Of course, VOIP on cell phones is still tricky, but the E-Series is a good place to start. Among today's offerings, you probably want to look at the Nokia E61/E62 or my personal favorite, the E70. But if you're waiting until Spring of next year, I'd bet dollars to donuts that a future E-series phone will include HSPDA as well.

(Note that you can't buy these from T-Mobile. But if you buy them from Nokia, T-Mobile will happily supply the SIM card and sell you service. This also has the advantage of giving you unlocked equipment from the start.)

Oh, and you'll also be able to ditch your Palm with any of these. I've never looked back.
posted by j-dawg at 1:17 PM on December 12, 2006

The Treo 680 is not listed at that link as being compatible with that WIFI card.
posted by 4ster at 2:00 PM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the Nokia thoughts. Looks like I need to find out whether T-Mobile's data plans can be used on any device or only on their Blackberries. (The international plan in particular seems very Blackberry-specific.) I need naked-data, not voice+data.

(Re. the 680: believe me, I'd LOVE it if there were a Palm-OS GSM Treo that worked with a WPA-compatible wifi card, but sadly there's not and there doesn't seem to be one on the horizon.)
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:30 PM on December 12, 2006

We just went through this whole selection process for me - and we've decided (based on CURRENTLY available devices) on the Pearl with the unlimited Blackberry data plan, and some certain amount of minutes. Having hashed over every data plan on earth, I think I can confirm for you that the TMobile plan beats the crap out of most everyone else's, unless you have access to some crazy deal at another carrier.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:31 PM on December 12, 2006

Just curious, what does a plan like this cost? I've got a mostly unlimited voice, voicemail, roaming, etc. with limited messaging (no data / web) plan with Verizon that's about $60 a month for 1 phone and $9 for a second phone/line. I always wondered what people paid per month for portable intarwebs.
posted by luriete at 2:52 PM on December 12, 2006

Just curious, what does a plan like this cost? posted by luriete

Sprint's employee referral offer is open to the general public for signup through 12/18. Use this email addy as the referrer:

I got their basic package which includes 500 anytime minutes, unlimited 7pm to 7am minutes, unlimited web browsing and data service plus other perks for 30 bucks/mo with no activation fee or roaming charges. It's not everything the OP was searching for, but it sure suits my needs.
posted by buggzzee23 at 3:05 PM on December 12, 2006

I have one of the cheap voice plans plus the unlimited data service through T-Mobile. It works out to be around $70 a month. (I don't have a smartphone, but I pay for the data service because I use my Razr as a GSM modem to connect my computer to the net while I'm traveling. Plus it gets me unlimited use of T-Mobile's hotspots, which includes all Starbucks and most Borders / Barnes and Noble bookstores.) Although my device doesn't support EVDO (or whatever the GSM highspeed data is called), they don't charge you extra -- if your Blackberry does it, I've heard that can be a significant bonus.

I did some shopping around for data plans and I think T-Mobile's is one of the fairest; the other thing is that they're consistent, too, so it's not like you're getting in on some promotional plan that they're going to be trying to herd you off of in a year. Plus if you really don't like them, at least you can take your equipment and jump ship to Cingular or (on the west coast) Edge.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:23 PM on December 12, 2006

Sounds like you should just buy an unlocked Nokia e61. Go to J&R downtown and try it out.
posted by lovejones at 3:26 PM on December 12, 2006

Re: Nokia and T-Mobile... I use my E70 with their unlimited data plan, and arguably, I could probably do 95% of what I need to do with their cheap plan instead. They won't let you use a Smartphone plan with if you didn't buy one of "their" smartphones, which is annoying. The price difference is about $10/mo. (But of course, the cheapie plan is much less.)
posted by j-dawg at 5:52 PM on December 12, 2006

buggzzee23: I would like to recommend sprint too, but I cannot as their CDMA phones don't do international roaming very well at all!

They're definitely the cheapest unlimited data plan around though for US only use.
posted by aubilenon at 7:24 PM on December 12, 2006

I"m going to throw this out there just for kicks, but there's a chance that the rumored Apple iPhone (tentatively slated for Q1 2007, hopefully at MacWorld Jan. 09th) might be what you're looking for. Rumored to be unlocked, or with T-Mobile (who is, coincidentally, who I'm with as well - and I also have the cheap as hell data plan for wireless internet-laptop tethering), it's been rumored to boast a whole range of things - and while I can't find a link to it right now, wi-fi was one a projection at one point, I'm pretty sure. Biggest loser on your list of wants is the QWERTY keypad (not likely, I'd imagine), but everything else seems to be on the table. It'll definitely work with the Mac you seem to be working on. :)

However, much like everything out of Cupertino these days, this is all rumor and hearsay. However, there seem to be some pretty big names betting on this. I'd wait a few weeks to see if it pans if I were you.
posted by plaidrabbit at 7:40 PM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks j-dawg -- would you please tell me names (or URLs) for the plans you're talking about? Or just their prices? Long-term price is most important for me, so if I can't use a Nokia with the $30/mo unlimited-data plan, I'll have to wait for an official T-Mobile device...
posted by allterrainbrain at 11:59 PM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: For people reading this for their own research, another important note is that the 8800 and other phone/data devices with "wifi" are most likely to have wifi/UMA. It's not worth detailing here since any premature reports are part speculation, but be sure to check re. your particular device if you're making an assumption that wifi on a handheld device will let you use any third-party VoIP you want (since with wifi/UMA, your service provider would have the option to control and charge for voice calls over wifi originating on your device).
posted by allterrainbrain at 11:48 PM on December 15, 2006

Response by poster: Update: Ha.... the iPhone comes out and it's Cingular-locked. Apparently no chance of an unlocked version (or a willingness to unlock on Cingular's part) for years. Looks like I'm still in the market.
posted by allterrainbrain at 5:21 PM on January 9, 2007

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