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The 411: Unlocked phones and iPhone speculation

Every two weeks, CNET editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories.

Welcome to the 411, my Q&A column answering 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 in the e-mail.

Nicole, love your articles and was hoping you might be able to answer a question for me about buying an unlocked phone. I'm an AT&T customer and I'm looking at the LG KM900 Arena phone. The thing that scares me a bit is having to buy from an international dealer and then will there be any issues having it work with my AT&T service here in the U.S.? I've looked at the U.S. version of the LG Arena(GT950) but hate that AT&T has taken all the good stuff out of the U.S. model (i.e., Wi-Fi, FM receiver, built-in 8mb memory, 3.5mm jack, etc.) I really like the idea of Wi-Fi on the phone since I do not want to pay the $30/month data plan that AT&T requires on their U.S. phones for a 3g service. I don't use the Internet on the phone enough to justify that cost, but would like to be able to get on the internet through a Wi-Fi hotspot from time to time or through my home wireless router. Most of the online sellers for this phone are in Hong Kong. Is that something to be worried about, fake phones, knockoffs, refurbs, etc.? The KM900 is quad-band, so should work fine here in the U.S., or anywhere else for that matter, I'm just new to the whole idea of an unlocked phone I guess and have always been suckered into the free 2yr contract phones. Any help or ideas on this matter would be extremely appreciated. -- Glen, via e-mail.

That's a humdinger of a question, Glen. You are right to be cautious about buying a phone sight unseen, as that is the problem with purchasing any of these unlocked phones. I would try my hardest to buy the phone from a reputable seller--maybe look around online for any reviews of the site to see if they're on the up and up. I also want to warn you that just because you don't activate the data plan doesn't mean that AT&T won't charge you for it. From what I understand, you are required to pay a data plan for any smartphone regardless if it's unlocked, and AT&T will notice you're using one the moment you place your AT&T SIM card in it. So you'll get a better phone and you won't get a two-year contract, but you might not go without a data plan like you originally planned.

I was wondering whether there is credibility to the rumor going around that Apple will indeed release hardware upgrade like the prototype this summer. Thank you! -- Gabriella, via e-mail.

Like you, we too wonder if the lost iPhone prototype that was the center of one of the most intriguing technology stories this year so far will be the real deal. The short answer is we simply don't know. The long answer is that we'll find out in just a few weeks once WWDC rolls around on June 7. Sorry, but until then, all we have is speculation.

Hi Nicole, thanks for reporting on the Motorola H17txt. I wanted to confirm if it does indeed announce caller/texter ID. -- Ned, via e-mail.

According to Motorola, it does announce texter ID, but they did not mention caller ID, so we might have been mistaken there. They might add this feature in the future, though.