On Call runs every two weeks, alternating between answering reader questions and discussing hot topics in the cell phone world.
Q: When do you think
iPhone 4.0 will arrive?
A: Since we didn't hear a thing about the iPhone during the launch of the iPad last month, I'm now betting that Apple will release a new iPhone, or at least a new iPhone operating system, at its annual Worldwide Developer's Conference this June in San Francisco. We don't know exact dates yet, but it should be about the middle of the month. On the other hand, Apple could surprise us with a special announcement later this spring.
Q: What's the real deal with 3G? Today I went into my local AT&T store to shop for a new Blackberry phone. When the store's staff saw that I liked the Curve 8900 better than the Bold 9700 model, they relented on pushing the benefits of the 3G. Instead, they said 3G is not really faster and is only good for receiving e-mails while making a phone call. Come on now...really? That's all this 3G thing is about?
A: I can't understand why the AT&T reps would have downplayed the benefits of 3G. Though the service isn't for everyone, it is indeed faster than EDGE data and it is good for more than just making calls and sending e-mails. Though 3G will bring you faster e-mail service, it's best for customers who will be using a phone's Web browser and downloading apps and files. If that sounds like you, then I suggest getting a phone with 3G.
Q: With cost reduction in mind, I'd like to get a smartphone and combine it with a basic voice-only service plan. I'd like to use data only when Wi-Fi is available, but I cannot find a carrier that will go along. Can you comment on whether the idea will work? Are you aware of a service provider that will provide voice-only service to a smartphone? Thank you.
A: Unfortunately, all major carriers require specific plans when you purchase new smartphones with a subsidy. This is true even for prepaid-only carriers like MetroPCS. (Its RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 and Samsung Code lack Wi-Fi, and you're forced to select a $50 per month smartphone plan to get unlimited data and calling.)
I've heard from some CNET users who have successfully purchased an unlocked phone and inserted an active SIM card that has just a calling plan (this would limit you to GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile). Yet, this option carries risks. When you put a SIM card in a phone, your carrier can tell which phone you're using. And if it knows that you're using a smartphone--regardless of whether data roaming is active--it can add a data plan to your service automatically. You'll just get a message that the carrier has added the extra service for your "convenience." Also, it's worth noting that most carriers stipulate that calling plans are not always transferable between handsets.
Of course, you can always try going the unlocked route and see what happens. Just make sure the data roaming functions are turned off (though that's not really possible on a BlackBerry).