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The 411: A T-Mobile smartphone without a data plan

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.

Dear Nicole: I want a CURRENT cell phone. The problem is, I am unable to find a phone other than the smartphones that have the features I want. Please assist me in choosing a phone. I use my phone for calling when I am away from home. I prefer to use the speaker phone option, so voice quality, both reception and delivery, are important. I rarely text, but I often take pictures so I need something more powerful than a 2.0 megapixel camera. I travel abroad frequently and therefore, a GSM cell phone is essential. In addition, I need the option of charging my phone in my car. My NEW phone preference would be a touch screen, although I have no problem with a slider phone. I currently have a Motorola RIZR Z3 - Rose. The phone is OLD, texting is awkward and the camera does not take QUALITY pictures. I have access to the Internet at home and at work, and this is the only reason I am resisting a smartphone. I do not want to pay extra for a service I do not think I will use. Am I right or wrong? Please suggest some phones for me. I am currently with T Mobile, but I am not opposed to switching providers. -- Mahlet, via e-mail

Most of T-Mobile's smartphone options will work for your needs quite nicely, especially as any of them would be an upgrade over your existing handset. The HTC Sensation 4G is probably the best T-Mobile smartphones right now, but if you want the option for a slider, we rather like the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide too. Both of these phones take excellent pictures, and the MyTouch 4G Slide boasts extra camera controls. Both of these handsets are also quad-band GSM, so you can easily use them overseas. Other T-Mobile smartphones you might want to look at are the Samsung Nexus S and the T-Mobile G2X, both of which have the vanilla Android interface. A lot of Android users prefer the vanilla interface for faster updates and better performance.

If you want to buy a new smartphone from T-Mobile under contract, you'll have to sign up for a data plan. However, if you really must go without a data plan, you can try buying the unlocked version of the phone and popping your existing SIM card in there. Bear in mind that unlocked phones are typically quite expensive--most are double or triple the on-contract price. But you also end up paying less money over time, which might make up for the initial cost. I've heard of several T-Mobile customers managing to go without a data plan this way. Another benefit of buying an unlocked phone is that when you're abroad, you can just pop in a local SIM to save yourself pricey international rates. Just make sure to go into your phone's settings and turn the data off if you don't want to use it.

Would you take a chance on Windows Phone 7?
Would you take a chance on Windows Phone 7? Microsoft

Hi, I have AT&T and my upgrade is up in less than a week. I'm not really wanting to spend over $100 on a new phone. I definitely want a smartphone and I have figured out I either want a Samsung Focus or a Samsung Captivate. Which one should I get? I know same specs for both but in terms of OS and what's the future for the OS which one do you think is better? Thanks. -- Mason, via e-mail

It's always difficult for me to predict the future of any OS. I had high hopes for WebOS, and look how that turned out. I'll be honest with you and say that if it was up to me, I would likely go for the Captivate, simply because Android is more tried and true at this point in time. The Android Market is rich with really great apps, and the community support for Android is huge. However, this is not to say I don't like Windows Phone 7. I like the fresh and friendly user interface, and the Focus does offer a solid multimedia feature set. If you like being an early adopter and you're really keen on Windows Phone, I would say, sure, take a chance on the Focus. But if you're on the fence and you don't like to take too many chances, I would probably opt for Android. This is a highly individual and subjective question, though, so definitely try the phones out in the store before making the final decision.

Hi Nicole, Which Go Phones would you suggest that would be compatible with the AT&T sim card? Thanks in advance. -- Calvin, via e-mail

From the few GoPhones we've tested, we tend to prefer the ones with a QWERTY keyboard--the Pantech Link and the Samsung SGH-A187 come to mind. If you do insist on a flip phone, our readers seem to like the Samsung SGH-A197 even though it's not our favorite.