Yet another cellular-data phone recommendation question.
October 8, 2007 10:50 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a phone for tethered EDGE data use with a PC, and basic voice calls? GSM, T-Mobile, Motorola preferred but not absolutely required. I've done some research but I'm a bit confused.

I've decided to join the world of mobile not-quite-broadband, and I want to get a phone that I can tether to my notebook (sometimes a Mac, sometimes PC) and use for Internet access. I've actually gotten the tethered-data thing working with my current phone, a first-generation Motorola Razr V3, but it's GPRS-only and almost unusably slow once I get the office VPN up and running. All I want is to do email and light (image-disabled) web browsing, plus phone calls. I don't care about the other features, and I don't care about looks as long as it's small enough to fit into a dress-shirt pocket.

I've heard that EDGE is a step up in speed from GPRS, and the best I can really do right now on T-Mobile's network. (Or so I've been led to believe. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.) And for that, I need a new phone.

Aside from the slow data, I'm very happy with my current pairing of Motorola phone and T-Mobile as a provider. (I've used Motorola phones since they came with shoulder straps, and have never had a problem.) Plus, I got tethered data working on my non-EDGE Motorola pretty easily. Therefore I've been mostly looking at Motorola phones, but I'm open to other suggestions in the same price range.

According to what I can find, the Motorola phones that support EDGE are the newest Razr model (the V3xx), the KRZR K1, the RIZR Z3, and something called the W510. They all seem to retail for about $200USD, unlocked. However, I've read some anecdotal reports that EDGE support in some models is disabled, flaky, or non-functional. Can anyone vouch for them? If you have one, do you like it? Do you wish you'd gotten something else?

I've read their spec sheets and they seem to support different 'versions' of EDGE (e.g. the V3xx is EDGE version 10, the KRZR is version 12); should I care?

Also, I'm not sure if I should be buying a phone today that supports 3G data (HSPDA? UMTS?) so that I won't be repeating this business next year.

As you can probably tell, I'm in a bit over my head. Help me get squared away, MeFi! Thanks!

P.S.: I've read the past threads on this topic, but none seemed to discuss phones with this particular set of requirements.
posted by Kadin2048 to Technology (4 answers total)
From what I understand and have seen, EDGE is really really slow. I believe that this is currently what the AT&T iPhone users are on, when not on wifi, and very unhappy with. I know the next gen iPhone is supposed to function on a different higher bandwidth network, so you might want to find out which one because it might be a better option. I have played around with iPhones on that network, if it's the one I am thinking about it and it was about as slow as 56k dial-up.
posted by Raichle at 12:23 AM on October 9, 2007

I've used my Sony W810 as an edge modem using a bluetooth connection to my Macbook. The W510 is also a Sony model, not a Motorola.

Edge is really quite slow, and even doing things like webmail is quite painful. It is however do-able, and with the Sony/Mac combo it was painless to set up.
posted by modernnomad at 1:41 AM on October 9, 2007

Best answer: I have the V3xx, but on Cingular. Edge seems pretty reliable, but not fast (at all). It does support 3G (on Cingular). Tethering to a PC has been straightforward, but I only use it on vacation.
posted by anaelith at 2:16 AM on October 9, 2007

Best answer: EDGE is basically about as fast as ISDN, around 100 - 150kbps. 3G technologies (HSPA on GSM networks) are about as fast as a slow DSL line. GPRS is comparable to a slow dial-up modem, e.g., a 28.8 one on a good day. So that's your relative speed comparisons.

If you have no choice, i.e., there's no wifi nearby, EDGE is workable.

If you're using your cell phone for Internet access frequently, you may want to consider 3G, though if you're stuck with T-Mobile, that's out.

Note that T-Mobile's add-on data plan for their smartphones, e.g., the Dash, includes T-Mobile Hotspot access, so you can use the wifi at Starbucks or Kinko's.

I have a T-Mobile Dash, which I like a lot. I've used it tethered to a laptop a number of times for EDGE access, when, say, the hotel is charging $$$ for wifi access. It's serviceable for basic web browsing (no YouTube) and email. As said, the data plan for the Dash also includes Hotspot access at Starbuck's and so on, and you can use wifi on your laptop instead of going through the phone in those situations (you get a username/password for Hotspot access, which you use with the laptop; the Dash has a T-Mobile app that accepts the same credentials for logins whenever the Dash sees the Hotspot).

Note that the Dash comes with a mini-USB cable, so the phone is charging when its tethered. This actually simplifies cable issues when traveling, since your charging cable is also the same as your sync cable.
posted by chengjih at 5:59 AM on October 9, 2007

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