The 411: Should I get a BlackBerry?

Every two weeks, Senior Associate Editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones, smartphones, and all things mobile.

Welcome to the 411, my column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. I receive plenty of questions about these subjects via e-mail, so I figured many of you might have similar queries, too. 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 in the e-mail.

BlackBerry Bold 9930
BlackBerry Bold 9930 RIM

Question: I currently have the LG Optimus V, and am looking to switch phones. My friends all have BlackBerrys, and I was thinking about getting the Bold 9930 . My question is, what happens if RIM goes under while I still am still under contract? What do you think the chances of that are? Thank you so much. -- Luke, via e-mail

Many industry professionals are skeptical about RIM's longevity ( including us ), so you're right to be cautious about it. Still, I wouldn't be too pessimistic. In the event that RIM goes under, your contract will be unaffected since your contract is not with the manufacturer, but with the carrier. So from that perspective, you're free to get a BlackBerry if you want. And who knows, RIM might find a way to redeem itself. The company still has many loyal BlackBerry fans.

That said, you still might not want to get the current crop of BlackBerrys. The latest BlackBerrys run on BlackBerry 7 OS, which is certainly an improvement over previous iterations, but RIM has already announced that it will be moving to its next-generation operating system (QNX, which already powers the Playbook) next year. If you get a new BlackBerry now, you might be stuck with an outdated OS about halfway through your contract. If you're OK with that, sure, go ahead and get one. But just make sure you've considered all your options before taking the two-year-contract plunge.

Hello! I just read your World Phone Guide and found if very helpful, though I do have a question, of sorts. I live in the U.S. and will be studying abroad for 10 months in Ghana. I want to get a plan that will allow me to call and text the friends I make in Ghana regularly, but also have some freedom calling my friends and boyfriend at home. I was thinking of getting and iPhone (though that choice is flexible) and putting a Ghana SIM card in it. Then I would pay for a data plan and use Skype's fairly cheap minutes when I wanted to call people in the U.S. when I'm away from my laptop. It seemed like a workable plan to me; I guess my question would be if it has any flaws that my not-so-technologically inclined brain is missing. Thanks for any advice you have, and feel free to direct my question elsewhere, if you wish :) -- Emily, via e-mail

You can certainly get an iPhone or anything you like to put a Ghana SIM card in it. However, you have to make sure the phone is unlocked. That means getting a phone that is not tied down to any carrier. You should also make sure the phone supports quad-band GSM bands (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), and that it supports the 3G network in Ghana, which I presume are the 850/1900 MHz bands.

The unlocked version of the AT&T iPhone would certainly work in this case, but so would any quad-band phone that supports those particular frequencies. Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of how much data plans cost in Ghana, and whether making Skype calls would be more affordable in the long run. My hunch is that it would be cheaper, but hopefully our readers would have more insight on that front. Please leave a comment if you know how to help Emily!

I am currently an AT&T customer and for the past few months I have been closed-minded to any phone other than the Samsung Infuse . With all of the news of the Nexus S coming to the carrier on July 24, and rumors of the Samsung Galaxy S II coming to AT&T on July 31 would it be wise to stick with getting the Infuse or wait to see what other options may soon become available? -- jtechie, via e-mail

In terms of specs, the Infuse 4G does support AT&T's 4G network while the Nexus S does not, so that tips the scales in favor of the Infuse. As for the Galaxy S II, its features are largely the same as the Infuse, so your preference will have to come down to size. We're not sure if the AT&T version of the Galaxy S II will be substantially different design-wise, but when compared with the Galaxy S II, the Infuse is quite large with its 4.5-inch display. If you prefer the larger screen of the Infuse 4G, then I say go ahead and get it.

UPDATE: Thanks to a few of our reader comments, we were reminded that the Galaxy S II does have a dual-core processor while the Infuse 4G does not. Even though we're not sure if the AT&T version of the device will have the same specs, it might be a good idea to wait and see how that shakes out before investing in anything.

 

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