Picking a GSM phone: As helpful as it is confusing 23 Jul 2005

10 comments Latest by Joe

Ever wondered which GSM phone to get? Should you get a Dual band? Quad band? Or Tri band? And, if Tri band, which? 850/1800/1900 or 900/1800/1900? Here’s a guide to GSM bands that should help and confuse you.

10 comments so far (Jump to latest)

RichB 23 Jul 05

Hmm - a 900/1800/900 would only be dual-band ;-)

CM Harrington 24 Jul 05

Well, if you want your phone to work in the US, you really only care about the 1900MHz, and 850MHz.

Matt Arevalo 24 Jul 05

My choice was easy. I’m on Cingular. I bought a Treo 650 :)

Anonymous Coward 24 Jul 05

What’s the real benefit to buying an unlocked phone? Just so you can switch carriers? Or is there another advantage?

Also, if you have an unlocked phone, do you have to sign up for a contract (with Cingular, for example) or can you pay month to month?

Brady Joslin 24 Jul 05

Pretty good example of poor consumption chain usability. The evaluation and selection process just should not be this complicated for the consumer. This is a huge problem for a lot of product categories right now.

CM Harrington 24 Jul 05

This isn’t rocket science people. This isn’t confusing. Here’s how to buy a mobile phone:

1) Find a provider. Look for features that you care about. For me, this is a good amount of minutes per month, no roaming, and GSM (because I am often in UK).

2) Find a phone. This is actually an “if then” branch. If you find a phone that you like, and your provider has on offer, you’re good to go. Buy it at the steep discounted rate. Be happy.

2a) If you don’t see a phone you like, you can find other phones around the Internet. Find out what system your provider uses (GSM in my case), and which frequencies they use (1900). Then find a phone that is compatible. You will pay through the nose if you don’t buy a phone from your provider. You have been warned

If you get a phone from outside your provider’s offerings, you’ll have to bring the phone to them, so they can get everything in order.

That’s all there is to it.

So what’s the confusion?

Noah 24 Jul 05

What’s confusing? Step 1:

“Look for features that you care about. For me, this is a good amount of minutes per month, no roaming, and GSM (because I am often in UK).”

I shouldn’t have to care about minutes or contracts or roaming/how my provider works with other providers. And *definitely* not about the underlying technology of the phone—it should just work wherever there is “mobile phone service,” whatever that may mean, just as wherever there are phone lines I can get land-line service.

And don’t get me started with Step 2… it *should* be: find a phone you like, then get a provider to give you service for it. You can’t get that to happen without doing a ridiculous amount of research (and still ultimately being limited to a provider or two in the end), and frankly, everyone’s time is more valuable than that.

Mobile phones is, by far, the most user-unfriendly business out there — the best experience comes from simply *not caring* about what you get. How it has stayed this bad for this long is beyond me.

CM Harrington 24 Jul 05

Yes, you should care about contracts, etc. If you are going to get service from a provider, you better be sure you know what you are getting. Cable television, land-line phones, even home electricity have contracts. Each contract stipulates what you get for your money.

Phone plans have choices, usually tiered by the amount of minutes they give you. Pick one based on your basic phone usage. Everything/anything else is gravy. It’s true, you *don’t* need to know about what system your carrier uses, as 99.999% of the people who buy a phone buy one that the carrier provides, as they are *so* much less expensive.

I think many people over complicate this. It’s just not that complex: “With Provider A, I can get 1000 minutes a month for $40, and no additional charges unless I go over my allotted time. With Provider B, I can get 500 minutes a month for $35” … I am going with provider A. I’ll then pick a phone from their case. Done.