Confused by the Tangled Web of Cell Phone Information
March 6, 2007 6:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm probably going to get a cell phone (yes, I'm a holdout) and I want to know what is and is not going to work for me.

I've been wandering the web looking for useful, coherent information about the features I can expect to have working on my phone, but it's such a mess of provider/phone model/hacks that I'm unable to suss out what exactly is possible with it. I'm hoping that, given a set of constraints, someone here can tell me what I can expect to accomplish.

Here's the things I want to do:
  • Use Apple iSync to sync at least my address book and calendar with the phone.
  • Use the file transfer modes to copy snippets of my own music to use as ring tones (this is optional, but a friend of mine has had lots of fun with custom ringtones for us). I'd rather not pay $2/ringtone, and I don't expect that I would find the songs I want there, anyway.
  • Make phone calls. I realize that this seems obvious, but you never know...
Here's my constraints:
  • I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, so my provider choices do not include cingular or Verizon, or any of the other US-only providers for whom there is lots of information.
  • I want a Razr because A) most of the models are supported by iSync, B) it's actually large enough that the microphone is near my mouth, and C) because I'm a gadget nerd and they look sweet.
  • I'm leaning towards Rogers or Virgin, because Rogers is a GSM network, and Virgin seems to have the least painful plans.
Can someone interpret all of these constraints and help me make a sane, informed choice?
posted by ChrisR to Shopping (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Various sources suggest getting a Razr might not be the best idea.

My cellphone's microphone (SE T610) is inches away from my mouth and I've never noticed it to be a problem. They're pretty sensitive things
posted by Flashman at 6:55 AM on March 6, 2007

I worked at Rogers when the Razr first came out, and I remember it being one of the glitchiest phones. I had to get a new phone recently and the rep I talked to told me the same thing. That's Motorola for you. Companies like Sony and Nokia make much longer-lasting (and equally slick) phones.

If you can find something else that has the functionality you need, get it. I know we all have our style preferences, but that' s all the Razr is: a fashion phone, nothing more.
posted by Menomena at 6:57 AM on March 6, 2007

My Sony Ericcson K810i works great with iSync, I can bluetooth MP3 audio to and from the phone, and it's got a 2 megapixel camera that takes decent photos. It's also an MP3 walkman, but I have an iPod so meh.

It's a candybar style phone, and it looks great, IMHO.

Bear in mind, I'm in Ireland. Razr phones were passe here a long time ago and definitely not cool anymore.
posted by ReiToei at 6:58 AM on March 6, 2007

As a side note, you picked a really great time to get a cell phone in Canada, now that number portability is a reality. As a result, wireless carriers have had to come up with competitive plans. Right now wireless carriers are all about unlimited network calling, which gives you free minutes when you call someone who is also using the same company.
posted by Menomena at 7:12 AM on March 6, 2007

Apple maintains a list of iSync compatible devices.
posted by The Michael The at 7:23 AM on March 6, 2007

I don't know anything about which phone you need, or for that matter Virgin, but I've been a relatively happy cell-phone plan holder of Rogers for the past decade or so. I say "relatively" because they can all have their painful moments. (And I won't give Telus a dime ever again, but that's another story.)

Are you doing pay as you go, or a contract? If a contract, be prepared to sign for 3 years, unless you want to pay full price for your phone. I know, it's painful, but they're all like that now.

Also, if you decide you want Rogers (or are at least thinking about it), call them instead of dealing with the guys in the mall. Tell them you're debating between them, Virgin and Telus and see what they can do for you. You can almost always get something free thrown in, whether it be free texting, more minutes, free voicemail or call display, etc. The guys in the mall usually can't give you anything other than their current promotion. I've always gotten better deals when I called them directly. For my last contract I got the 1st, 12th and 24th month free, for example, but that's because I've been with Rogers for so long. YMMV.
posted by cgg at 7:57 AM on March 6, 2007

Just don't call it a "cell phone" anywhere outside North America, or everyone will think you are a dork.
posted by mr. strange at 8:16 AM on March 6, 2007

This is totally MY thread. I've been thinking about getting a cell as well.

(I did have a Clearnet phone in 2000 but got rid of it and have been very anti-cellphone ever since. I think I am actually more anti-cellphone-rudeness, so I plan to be a responsible user.)

I'm have the same trouble you are. I go back and forth between Telus, Bell, Fido and Rogers and come up no more knowledgeable than before. It's frustrating. There are so many goddamn phones and so many goddamn plans.

I've used for some advice. Try checking that out.

Definitely post back about your deliberations -- I'd like to know what you come up with.
posted by loiseau at 8:19 AM on March 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just a note: as menomena's link points out, number portability in Canada is not a legal reality until March 14 for releasing numbers, and September 2007 for incoming numbers. Some carriers may be doing this ahead of time but the legislated deadlines have not yet passed. (Since you don't have a cell phone now, this probably makes no difference to you, but for others reading the thread - make sure the portability is there now if it matters to you).
posted by Rumple at 8:30 AM on March 6, 2007

Reception in fringe areas is important to me (apparently all of Augusta, GA is a fringe area) and after a little research on howardforums and phonescoop I got a RAZR based on its ability to pull in weak signals. I have only had it a day but have already noticed it is getting 4-5 bars where my old phone was getting 1-3 (and I even swapped out the SIM card and compared both phones in the same place at the same time). Other than that it seems to work pretty much the same as any other cell phone but is easier to put in a pocket. Of course (insert name of any US carrier here) still sucks, but the phone seems fine to me.
posted by TedW at 8:32 AM on March 6, 2007

Kind of a point-by-point:

I know about the local number portability; it's one of the main reasons I'm choosing now to get a mobile phone (You know what? I don't really care what other countries' terms are for these things; I'm not in other countries.)

The "why you bought a Razr" article is, well, not really relevant to me in terms of the reason; I'm interested because it looks like a decent phone from a comfort perspective. I'm open to other models, but the overlap between models supported by Apple and models offered by providers with whom I'm willing to deal is small, and I don't know the phones well enough to make an informed choice. That's what this AskMe is for, so does anyone know anything about which phone I should pick? Keep in mind that iSync support is non-optional, price is mostly not an issue, but I do not want a Blackberry/Treo sort of superphone. I don't need a PDA.

Menomena, I don't suppose you meant the W810i? Because that one is sold by Rogers, and looks okay to me.

cgg, I'll be happy to try that method. I'm going to have an uphill battle with my girlfriend, who is attracted to the Virgin plans (they do look like nicer plans, so I can see why) although I still prefer Rogers. An aside: Is the Razr really that bad? I see them everywhere, but that speaks equally to theories of marketing and quality, so I'd prefer some anecdotal evidence that I could use as data ;-)

Thanks for the current answers, and please keep 'em coming.
posted by ChrisR at 9:14 AM on March 6, 2007

My advice: ignore anyone who tells you that the RAZR is poorly-built or unreliable. The original model was, a few years ago, but since then they've had PLENTY of time to fix basically all of it (when I first got my v3m, I was STAGGERED at how sturdy it all felt, particularly the hinge). It's a great phone, outside of the rather flat buttons (a necessary evil, unfortunately).
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:17 AM on March 6, 2007

One more thing: I'm really curious what features on phones I might get are locked by Rogers and / or Virgin. I don't want a phone that is crippled substantively, and in particular I want to be able to configure MP3 ring tones on it.

I have seen hints that Rogers, at least, locks out mp3 ringtones on the Sony/Ericsson phones.

What recourse will I have for opening it up, after getting one? Can I do that without screwing up my use of the phone with Rogers or Virgin? Can I do that without a Windows machine? :)
posted by ChrisR at 9:27 AM on March 6, 2007

I have a RAZR, and so does EVERYBODY else. It's not cool if the old lady next to you on the bus is talking on the same phone. Seriously.
posted by clh at 10:14 AM on March 6, 2007

I could not possibly care less about 'cool' in the sense that you are describing. By 'looks cool' I mean I like it, not others looking at me like it.
posted by ChrisR at 10:27 AM on March 6, 2007

Yes, the RAZR is that bad. I've jumped ship on Motorola for the rest of my days. Even the newly updated models have the most ridiculous interface. I would highly suggest a Sony Ericsson.

Also, I'm seconding Howard Forums...a lot of enthusiasts that can usually come up with a concise answer to any mobile-related question.
posted by Asherah at 11:49 AM on March 6, 2007

You're right DoctorFedora, the newer versions are not as glitch-tastic. I've known a few RAZR users who are perfectly happy. I have a vendetta against Motorola because I find other companies more functionality-oriented.

ChrisR I don't know anything about Virgin but I can say that I've been a happy Rogers customer. Even working there didn't make me bitter (or brainwashed to say Bell is bad, though those 2 Bell beavers drive me up the freakin' wall....).
posted by Menomena at 11:58 AM on March 6, 2007

Cool, Menomena, but can you clear up if you meant the W810i or a K810i (whose existence I can't seem to confirm)?
posted by ChrisR at 12:22 PM on March 6, 2007

Oh, sorry. That was ReiToei's comment so I don't know about the K.

The Rogers rep told me the W810i is his favourite phone right now because it comes with so many features. Check out some tech spec sheets for more info. Or google for reviews.

Sony Ericsson is known to be one of the better brands when it comes to battery life.
posted by Menomena at 12:56 PM on March 6, 2007

I don't want a phone that is crippled substantively

I don't know how phone service works in Canada, but in most of the world (including USA) you can pay full price for a phone (250-300 US$ for a basic RAZR) and use a prepaid SIM card or similar contract free means to activate it. This works best if you do not use it too much, but it means you can switch carriers somewhat at will with whatever phone you choose. This seems to be more common in Europe where wireless networks are more standarized on GSM but it is becoming easier to do in the USA.
posted by TedW at 5:36 PM on March 6, 2007

Second Howard Forums. Be aware that there's a really slick little mac app called BitPim for many CDMA phones that'll let you do the things you want to do, like synching with Address Book and copying pictures/ringtones to your phone, assuming you have one of the compatible phones. I use it with my ridiculously-locked-down US Verizon handset to do cool things. I've never had a GSM phone, so I don't know what the software side is like there, but the HoFo folks should be able to point you in the right direction.

(Disclaimer: If you use 3rd-party access tools like BitPim, be sure you're using the right tool for your phone. I hear that CDMA and GSM tools don't play well with the other type of phone, and can cause problems. Doing hacky stuff to your phone will void your warranty if you get caught. So don't get caught mkay?)
posted by Alterscape at 8:19 AM on March 7, 2007

I'm a FIDO user in Calgary, and I got a free phone with my 3 year contract, but I've also bought a few on eBay. Just look for an unlocked GSM phone. Fido is owned by Rogers, so anything that works on one will work on the other. You can save some serious money by buying online.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:16 PM on March 7, 2007

Uh hi... I was talking about the W810i. Sorry :)
posted by ReiToei at 6:37 PM on March 13, 2007

« Older What is the origin of the phrase, "Carving nature...   |   Things to do in DC during the workday? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.