The 411: Return to the answer seat

Every two weeks, Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones and their accessories.

Welcome to The 411, my column dealing with all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at nicole.lee@cnet.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know.

It's been a long time since I've answered your questions, so let's get down to it!

Currently I'm a Verizon customer and stuck in a contract. I want a phone with applications for organizing, tracking expenses and budgeting. Seems like a smartphone is the ticket, except I don't see myself using the e-mail and Internet much. I just want a PDA/Phone in one package. My husband also needs a phone and would use similar money apps, directions, gaming apps but not the email and Internet. I know I have to purchase a data plan with a smartphone--$29.99. Is messaging/texting a part of this Verizon data plan? I was thinking I could save some money by eliminating texting from our basic package. We don't text much anyway. Do you have any suggestions, a 3G phone with PDA applications? Or a good smartphone for what I need?--Heather, via e-mail.

If you're willing to go the smartphone route, most of them will have some kind of third-party app to help you manage your budget and track your expenses. Definitely take a look at our Personal Finance Software for Mobile list to see which one is the most appealing to you. I'm unfortunately unaware of any money apps that aren't for smartphones, unless you're talking about the ones for the iPod Touch, which isn't a phone at all. And no, messaging is not bundled into the data plan, it is separate. So yes, you could choose not to have a text messaging plan if you wish.

A Windows Phone 7 will be out later this year, but we know very little about it.

I'm having the hardest time trying to decide if I should wait for Windows Phone 7! I'm a T-Mobile customer and i think the Nexus One looks really cool, so I want to get that. But then I hear Microsoft might have a Windows Phone 7 phone later in the year?? Help! -- Keta, via email.

You're right that Microsoft has announced that it's on track to deliver a few Windows Phone 7 handsets later this year. Unfortunately we don't really know anything about them, or even when their release date would be. So if you really need a new phone in the near future, I think the Nexus One is a pretty good choice. It's also a case of choosing between a sure thing or something that's still very much up in the air. If you're a fan of Windows and you can stand to wait a few months, or maybe even a year, you can do that. Or you can wait for a shorter while and get a phone that we already know to be quite good.

I want to get a messaging phone from Verizon, but then I see that some of them have data plans, while others don't? Like I wanted to get the Nokia Twist , but apparently that has a data plan required. But I noticed the LG Cosmos doesn't require one. What's the deal? -- Lily, via e-mail.

Verizon has divided up its offerings into three separate categories; 3G smartphones, 3G multimedia phones, and regular feature phones. As you might imagine those in the two former categories are equipped with 3G, while the ones in the feature phones category do not have 3G. So in your case, the Nokia Twist is indeed a messaging phone, but it also has 3G connectivity, which gives it access to a few of Verizon's broadband services. Unfortunately, this means that you need to get a data plan with the phone. It's not quite as expensive as the one for the smartphones--you can get a 25MB plan for $9.99--but it's still required. The LG Cosmos, on the other hand, has no 3G, so Verizon assumes you won't consume as much data, and thus it doesn't require a data plan with it.

 

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