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On Call: About that Interphone study

On Call addresses the recent Interphone study on cell phone radiation. Also, will the Samsung Galaxy S come to America, and can I get a cell phone with two numbers?

On Call runs every two weeks, alternating between answering reader questions and discussing hot topics in the cell phone world.

Q: I saw that the long-awaited Interphone study finally came out. I'm concerned about the issue and was looking forward to the findings. Given its mixed results, have you changed your position on cell phone radiation?
- Jose

A: As you note, Jose, the International Agency for Research on Cancer finally published the results of its Interphone study on May 17. The $24 million study attempted to determine whether long-term cell phone use leads to an increased risk of cancer, but after 10 years of surveying 13,000 people in 13 countries the results are largely inconclusive.

"Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones," the study said. "There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation." As my colleague Lance Whitney put it, the gist is they aren't quite sure if cell phone radiation is a problem or not.

Though the Interphone study drew criticism since it was partially funded by the cell phone industry, it was one of the largest and most comprehensive investigations to date on the issue. You weren't alone, Jose, in hoping that the results would offer more substantial findings. That wasn't the case, but as I said in a previous column, science can't conform to human emotion and our desire to find an answer quickly. Keep in mind that studies can take years to suggest casual relationships between one thing or another. And even after that they may never prove anything.

That's why I still say that there's no easy answer on whether cell phone use is harmful. I won't join industry groups like the GSM Association and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association in celebrating the findings, but I'm not about to draw other conclusions from the study (science is not my strong point). As the Interphone researchers said, research should and will continue.

If you're concerned about cell phone radiation, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure. And I encourage all readers to stay informed about the issue.

Samsung Galaxy S Kent German/CNET

Q: As a big fan of Samsung I'm very interested in the Samsung Galaxy S. Do you think that this phone will actually make it to the United States anytime soon (I'm with AT&T)? Also, I noticed that the Galaxy i7500 is already on sale in India. Is the 7500 much different from the Galaxy S? And if I were to buy an i7500 and use it on AT&T's network, would it work?
- Alan

A: I'd love to see the Galaxy S i9000 in this country as well, and from what I hear that will happen this year. The word on the street--and this comes from reliable sources--is that the Galaxy S will make it to all U.S. carriers in one form or another. So if you can wait, I encourage you to do so. The Galaxy i7500 is a previous model of the Galaxy S and it doesn't offer the same features. It is a full world phone so it will work with AT&T's 3G network, but I'd hold out for the Galaxy S.

Q: Can I carry a single cell phone that will handle two separate numbers for personal and business calls? I'm sick of being told by snotty tech nerds that "everyone" carries two phones these days. Once and for all, what is available for sane people who want to simplify their lives?
- Pete

Indeed, Peter, you can get a phone that has two phone numbers. Your first option is to purchase a handset with two SIM card slots. Though they were once rare in the United States, companies likes Cellular Abroad now sell a variety of unlocked Duet handsets that allow you to use two SIM cards--each with a different phone number--at once. Don't expect much in terms of functionality from the Duet phones, but models like the Duet D888 and K250 are workable. There are other dual SIM card phones available, but we haven't reviewed them.

Another choice is to go with Nextel's second line service. It's not avaialble on all the carrier's phones--we saw it on the i580--but you will be able to put a second line on your handset for an additional monthly fee (from $5.99 to $59.99 depending on the number of desired minutes.