Decoding the choices in cell phones?

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With the advent of iPhone 3G and upcoming soon to be released Google's Android as well is Tcat's own personal need for a new cell phone, here I'm going to document my research on what to do for a cell phone. Of course each of our needs are a bit different, and I'll do my best to give you an overview, so that you can make the best cell phone choice for you.

The first question, you need to look at is not so much plans, but equipment. If you're going to be based in one country, make sure your phone is a dual band cell phone. Regardless of whether you're in North America or in Europe, you really want a dual band cell phone. The reason for this is the availability of the signal. Cell phones are of course, popular. And this can work against you. An area that has a lot of cell phone users, can eat up all the available slots for sending or receiving a call in a band. This means if you have a single band cell phone, you could be up the proverbial dirty creek without a navigational device. In other words, your cell phone will not ring, nor will you be able to make the call.

Because of these crowded conditions (in both North America and Europe) you want to make sure your cell phone is a dual band phone. If the older band is all full of users, your phone can automatically switch to the newer second band.

The second question that comes is, are you traveling internationally? Your cell phone will be happy if you are traveling within your home region, say, North America or Europe. The challenge comes when you expect your cell phone to work after you across the pond. If you have a dual band phone you are probably out of luck. In this case, you need at a minimum, a tri-band cell phone. This will give your cell phone at least one frequency that will work on the other side of the pond (Ocean). If you find yourself traveling extensively on both sides of the Atlantic, then you're probably going to have to pony up for a quad band cell phone.

Quad band cell phones are the newest and have the most features. Consequently, you're going to pay considerably more than for a tri-band cell phone. Up until recently, even tri-band cell phones were considerably more money. The operative word is recently. Tcat was able to get a Motorola tri-band cell phone for less than $30. No it did not have the fancy features such as a camera and MP3 player. These were not features I need to cell phone. I wanted to spend as least as possible and still have a cell phone that works on both sides of the Atlantic.

A little gotcha that you want to be sure of is that your cell phone has a SIM card that can be removed, and unlocked. A cell phone that is locked will at best be very expensive with roaming fees. At worst, you may as well be traveling with a brick that needs to be recharged.

If you travel a great deal on both sides of either ocean, the trick is to go with a pre-pay phone and not a contract on your cell phone. With a contract, you are paying for time you are not using while on the other side of the ocean. By changing the SIM card, you can use the same cell phone, changing only the phone number and the country your number is in. This does not have to be confusing to your callers. By using what Tcat refers to as an "umbrella number", your callers call the same phone number they always call, and you forward it to the number your cell phone is currently using.

One way to do this without paying hefty fees is to get a Skype phone number or Get Free Phone # from Groovytel. Give that phone number out, and pay Skype the couple cents a minute to forward to the cell phone. The rates vary, and in all cases, it is pennies a minute. So when you change the SIM in your cell phone, you just change the underlying forwarding. When you do this, the largest challange you face isn't not being available or getting wacked with roaming charges equal to your monthly mortage payment. The largest issue you will have is being 10 or 12 time zone away from your base. Callers don't realize this, and wind up calling you at say, 3:18 AM in time zone you are in.

 Tcat Houser is a frequent traveler around the planet, doing research, writing books, articles and speaking. Often, though not always, he uses his own Internet-based travel agency, http://www.travel4roadwarriors.com. You can see some of the cities he has visited by going to http://photos.travel4roadwarriors.com

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