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The 411: Gift of cell phones

Every two weeks, CNET editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories in The 411.

Welcome to the 411, my Q&A 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 the same questions, too. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.

Hello, My question is I received an LG Chocolate as a gift. Do I have to have a Verizon deal/contract to get it to work? Or can I buy minutes and use it that way? Thank you--Al, via e-mail.

If you plan on using your phone on a relatively frequent basis then a Verizon contract would be good as you might save more money over the long run. However, if you want, you can buy prepaid minutes and use them with your new Verizon phone. You may need to ask Verizon if your particular phone--the LG Chocolate in this case--is supported, however--I understand Verizon only offers prepaid minutes for certain phone models.

You also bring up a good point in regards to gift-giving when it comes to cell phones--you need cell phone service for them to work! If any of you plan on giving cell phones as gifts this year, do remember to do a little research on what carriers your recipient prefers and if things like prepaid minutes or data plans are options. Do your research so they don't have to!

Help! I want a small simple cellphone, I don't need texting or camera capability. I am with Verizon's National Freedom 300 plan ($35 monthly). Plan is no longer available to new subscribers, I want to keep the plan. Can you suggest a phone for me? I have an old Motorola currently, battery won't last the day. Thank you.--Zeb, via e-mail.

There are a number of simple cell phones on Verizon that don't have cameras. The Samsung Knack, for example, is a very basic phone that has an easy-to-use keypad and a slim profile, and it's only $39.99 with a contract. If you prefer a more rugged model, the Motorola Barrage can be bought without a camera either, but it is more expensive at $129.99 with a contract. If you don't mind having a camera, you can get various phones for free with a contract--they include the LG Chocolate 3 and the Nokia 7205 Intrigue (At the time of this writing anyway). Unfortunately, Zeb, I don't think you can keep your current plan if you want to get any of these phones under contract. You might be able to keep your plan if you buy these phones without a contract, but the price would be significantly higher. The Samsung Knack, for example, would be $159.99 without a contract. Maybe you can ask a Verizon representative and persuade them to let you keep your plan. Let us know if that works out for you.

Ms Lee, I had owned two Gz'One Boulder telephones, both of which suffered from a poor receiver speaker. The speaker sounded extremely muffled on both, so I gave up on the Boulder. Can you tell me if this problem has been addressed on the new Gz'One Rock? Thank You. Dale, via e-mail.

The speaker on the G'zOne Rock is no longer as muffled as the one on the original G'zOne Boulder, so you're in the clear there. We still thought it sounded rather echoey and tinny, so your mileage may vary.

I really need a Bluetooth speakerphone recommendation! Price isn't an issue if the product is excellent quality...and small size that will cip to car visor... Kim, via e-mail.

I'm personally a fan of the BlueAnt S1 thanks to its voice recognition, streaming music ability, and affordability (currently around $65 online), but you might also take a look at the Motorola Motorokr T505, which earned an Editor's Choice last year for great features and performance. Hope that helps!

This is the last 411 column for the year, so thank you so much for your response in my inaugural year fielding your cell phone questions. Happy holidays to everyone and may you enjoy full signal strength in 2010!