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December 23, 2003

Mobile phone

I am posting this early in case anyone in southern Ontario with mobile phone advice is up late. I am after a cell phone to use in Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo and the highway between. I have pamplets from Bell, Rogers, Fido and Telus and cannot make heads or tails of them. I am after a reliable phone for occasional event coordination and for emergencies on the road. I do not see why I would need something to take pictures or play Tetris, etc. Any suggestions? Are there models of phone to seek out/avoid? Is it better to pay-as-I-go or get a fixed term contract? I have been told Fido has bad coverage and I have a long history of fear and loathing of Bell and Rogers. This left me leaning toward Telus and a Kyocera phone but their pamphlet is just as confusing as the rest.

And then... Hmm... I am now perusing Steve's Southern Ontario Cell Phone Page instead of publishing this morning's Flea. Yay, "internet"! Boo, late Flea!

And then... Ok, I picked up the Motorola V60i yesterday. Good: It is a stylin' little phone. Not good: Rogers tried to charge me twenty-five bucks to change my assigned phone number, did the hard sell on the more expensive voice mail option, forgot to sign me up for the less expensive option I wanted and Radio Shack did a Wormtongue routine on every extended warranty. Good: The Rogers customer service representative out in Vancouver was incredibly friendly and helpful. Not good: The reason I know the customer service rep out in Vancouver is friendly and helpful is because the phone turns itself off thirty seconds after turning on. Bad battery? Defective battery charging software? Automatic energy saving feature I have activated without knowing it? Motorola products cannot be relied on and Rogers is demonstrating the same qualities that have earned them my wrath in all their other business ventures? Who can say?

Posted by Ghost of a flea at December 23, 2003 12:55 AM


The devil is in the details and that's what you get with cellphones.

If (big if) you are ONLY going to use it occasionally then pay as you go would be cheapest and Bell or Rogers (I've been with both)would have the best coverage, with weird dropout points along the way. I don't know too much about Telus and have heard the same things about Fido's lack of coverage, but don't know if it's still true.

If you go over a certain amount of minutes per month (consistently, mind you) it might be better to go with a monthly plan. Also you can combine for discounts with Bell or Rogers if you have Bell Expressvu or Rogers Cable (they want ALL of your business)

The fixed term is best if you want an expensive piece of hardware that you know you are going to use all the time. (My personal choice is a Nokia 3600 with Rogers. It has a camera, email, messaging, web browser, day planner yada yada. Because I signed up for 2 years, the price dropped by $200.)

What the cellphone companies will do is give you voicemail, 3way calling, call forwarding etc. for the first couple of months for free hoping to hook you (damn negative billing.) Then you'll start seeing the charges start to pile up. If you're using the phone as you say (occasional, emergencies etc.) I'd certainly recommend pay as you go.

I've owned 4 Nokia phones and have been happy with all of them. My wife has a Samsung and is happy with it.

Posted by: Ray at December 23, 2003 01:35 AM

Thanks Ray! This is why the blogosphere kicks ass.

Posted by: Nicholas Packwood at December 23, 2003 09:29 AM


Something else you may want to consider, as you are a travelling Flea of the world.

I will generalize a bit here, so phone geeks bear with me. Bell Mobility and Telus operate CDMA networks, whereas Rogers and Fido operate GSM networks. Rogers also operates an older TDMA network. CDMA networks are prevalent in North America and the Southeast Asia-Oceania region. GSM networks are available worldwide and are particularly prevalent in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. TDMA is prevalent in North and South America.

My company has recently selected some GSM Blackberries for our executives because they need voice and data capability both in North America and the UK. The portability of a phone depends a lot on which carrier you have (and which regional roaming partners they have lined up) and which particular phone you choose. For instance, Rogers North American GSM frequencies are 850/1900 MHz. Their roaming partners in the UK use 900/1800 MHz. If you want a phone that is portable to the UK, then you need to pick a unit that operates on (at minimum) two of the GSM bands (i.e. 900/1900) or preferrably three (i.e. 850/1800/1900).

Since you seem to do a fair amount of work in the UK, I would recommend you look at a GSM carrier, and try to select a tri-band GSM phone, so that you'll have voice coverage (and possibly data, depending on local carriers) overseas when you travel.

I've used Bell Mobility, Rogers Cantel (TDMA) and Rogers AT&T (GSM) services in my lifetime, and while I was with Bell for about 10 years, I've recently dumped it in favour of a tri-band GSM unit with Rogers AT&T. If you're going to remain in North America, CDMA is a fine choice and technically speaking provides a higher level of security. If you plan on using your phone around the world, GSM is really the only option, and as a bonus, it has slightly better fault tolerance than the CDMA networks.

Posted by: Chris Taylor at December 23, 2003 10:48 AM

Wow. Ok. A tri-band phone it is! I think I am going to go for the Motorola V60i due to ok reviews and a good deal with contract at Rogers.

Posted by: Nicholas Packwood at December 23, 2003 12:01 PM

He falls for the flip phone...

The only other thing you might want to consider is if you'd ever want to connect a laptop to the cellphone as well. Rue and I are doing the totally mobile blogging thing in early 2004 when we move to B.C. via her shiny new laptop and my shiny new cellphone tht can connect to each other wirelessly. If you see the need, you might want to ask the salesperson what ridiculously marked-up accessory you might need for that.

Posted by: Ray at December 23, 2003 04:12 PM

Hey, it had to be a flip-phone! I am still waiting for ST:TOS style phones and cannot understand why we don't have them yet.

I figure I am going to take this in baby steps vis a vis mobile blogging. If I have good employment news in January I may shell out for a Blackberry...

Posted by: Nicholas Packwood at December 23, 2003 04:22 PM