Tips & Tweaks: Wild, Wacky, Mobile Phones

If you believe the newspaper ads pitching mobile phones, everyone needs to buy a new model. Of course it'll have a digital camera and camcorder, undoubtedly a double-layer DVD burner, a TV, built-in GPS, and maybe even a personal fax machine. Me? You know how I'm handling it all: I'll keep using my old cell phone until it stops working. (Advertisers just hate older people.)

I realize I'm in the minority, so I feel an obligation to help you do a few things this week: buy a new cell phone, maybe shop for a new plan, and find a spot to dump your old handset.

Cell Phone Obsolescence

Sure, I know I just said I'm not in the market for a new phone. But I sure love reading about far-out technologies and features, and I know plenty of you are itching to buy a new mobile phone.

First thing to do is look over our four-page article fittingly entitled "How to Buy a Cell Phone." Like our other how-to-buy guides, you get an overview, specs, and shopping tips.

Now that you have a baseline for cell phones, the rest of these articles will put things into perspective.

Jim Martin, our Mobile Computing guy, wrote "Newest Cell Phone Features," which covers just what I was kvetching about: ordering a meal on a Verizon Wireless cell phone and then using the phone to watch TV while you eat. No, really, some people might actually want to do that.

I have more to say about the hardware end of things in a sec, but I think you know that it's just as important to pick the right wireless plan. Jim tackled that in "Avoid Cell Phone Woes" and I encourage you to give it a skim. If nothing else, click the links Jim provides to see the carriers' coverage maps.

Dig This: NASA World Wind is similar to Google's KeyHole, but it's free. World Wind uses USGS data, satellite images, and other sources to give you some cool images of anywhere in the world. [Thanks to Mike D. for this gem.]

The No-Kidding Mobile Phone Future

You thought I was kidding about TV. Nope, and there's even more in store for cell phones this year. Dan Tynan has it all figured out in "What's a Cell Phone, Anyway?" He talks about some things to look forward to (and now I'm serious), such as really fast 2-megabit-per-second connections, 3-megapixel cameras, and built-in MP3 players.

BTW, Dan's got to be talking to me when he opens his article with "I bet you thought that cell phone in your pocket was just for talking. Silly you. Voice-only handsets have become as quaint as hand-crank telephones." Quaint, indeed.

And if Dan thinks I'm quaint, I can't imagine what Grace Aquino thinks of me. For quite a while now mobile phones have featured built-in GPS navigation--and over a year ago Grace told us all about two services that certainly won't work on my Precambrian Nokia. But GPS may be up your alley, so to speak, so read Grace Aquino's "GPS Cell Phones" for the scoop.

You'd think Grace would stop with the mobile GPS phone (I would have). But no, she's become obsessed and has decided to try out every innovative phone there is. Take the Amp'd Mobile, for instance. It apparently offers video on demand and--hold on to your guitar--live music. Targeted to 16- to 35-year olds (which mercifully leaves me out), Amp'd phones will range in price from $99 to $200.

If you're not interested in GPS navigation or music on demand, how about a mapping service for your cell phone? Check out Denny Arar's "Mapping Mania at CTIA" to learn about a $4-per-month plan that blasts Mapquest maps onto your mobile phone.

If you need some storage on your cell phone (and geez, who doesn't), Samsung hopes you'll consider the new SGH-I300 because of its 3GB hard drive. Thanks, but I'll wait for the 30GB, 7200-rpm version. The SGH-I300 has a built-in camera, plus Bluetooth, IrDA infrared, and USB connections. I imagine there's room for a phone, too.

I'm exhausted, but I have to tell you about another Samsung cell phone. This one offers an incredible 7-megapixel camera, and you can read about it in "Samsung Flashes 7-Megapixel Camera Phone."

I'm not done with you or your cell phone. Here's another news story, and don't LOL: "AOL Services Migrate to Cell Phones." There are lots of ways I can visualize that happening (sorry, I'm still LOLing), but I'm going to restrain myself. I've had some flack recently from a couple of AOL subscribers who feel like I've been picking on them.

Dig This: John Coltrane's performance of "Giant Steps" is a classic and Michal Levy, a Web designer, expressed the music with a must-see video. Watch how Levy's matched up a collection of shapes and colors with Coltrane's short staccato notes and longer quarter- and half-notes. It's just brilliant, and worth the 2.5-minute viewing. [Flash movie]

Sell Your Old Cell Phone

Okay, so let's say you go ahead and buy a new phone. Instead of stashing your old one in a closet, I have a few thoughts about passing it along.

If you want a few dollars for your old cell phone, you might try selling it. There are a few sites that'll buy them, with prices all over the map. For instance, a Nokia 3520 fetches $20 while a Nokia 5120 gets you $3. Here are three sites to try:

Better yet, donate your old phone to a charitable organization. Here are a few to choose from:

  • The Wireless Foundation places your old phone into the hands of domestic violence victims.
  • You can choose from almost 200 charities that will benefit from your old cell phone when you send it to CollectiveGood.
  • If you'd prefer donating and recycling your phone locally, try WirelessRecycling. I found 12 organizations ready to take my phone, all within ten miles of home.

There are loads of other places that would be happy to take your phone. Grace Aquino rounded up many that I missed, and you can find them in "Cell Phone Recycling." (I know the story's a little old, but don't worry; all the links are still working.)

Steve Bass writes the "Hassle-Free PC" column in PC World's print edition and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. Sign up to have Steve Bass's Tips and Tweaks newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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