Monday, August 01, 2005

cell phone dilemma

I'm ready to buy a new cell phone. I've had my Nokia 3595 for two years, and I've never really liked its goofy keypad or its general boringness. For most of 2004 I used a Treo 600 that I got for free from my office, but gave it back after most of my conversations were drowned out by a loud buzzing noise audible on both ends of the connection. So after weeks of research, I was ready to buy a Motorola V551 from my local Cingular store. (I've been an AT&T Wireless customer for five years, but haven't made the official jump to a Cingular phone and plan.) I went to the Cingular store on 86th Street on Saturday evening, just after my ride. Unfortunately, my plans to walk out with a brand-new phone were derailed by the news that my contract prevents Cingular from selling me a new phone with a discount. I practically stormed out of the store and went home to call Cingular customer service, who confirmed that I'm stuck. Last year when I changed my calling plan from a regional to a nationwide plan, I locked myself into a contract that doesn't expire until July 2006. And there's some FCC regulation that won't allow Cingular to sell me a discounted phone with a new 2-year contract until next April, when my current contract has only 3 months left. It's complicated. Until then, I can get a new phone from Cingular, but I'd have to pay full price. I doubt my current phone will last another year: the 7 key doesn't work too well anymore, the battery life is about half what it used to be, and it doesn't find the network as quickly as it once did.

So here is my problem: I'm stuck with this old phone until next summer, or I can get an old AT&T phone or an unlocked GSM phone instead. Cingular customer service basically told me to get a phone from eBay if I can't wait until next year to upgrade. So I've spent the past few days on eBay looking at different new and unlocked varieties of the Motorola V551 and a few auctions for other used phones. I really want a clamshell/flip phone this time around, so I'm ruling out just about anything from Nokia (though I am intrigued by the candybar-style 6600 series, which a friend of a co-worker showed me last summer in London). I can get the Motorola I want from a business that sells its wares on eBay as "Buy It Now" items, meaning that I don't have to deal with the pressure of winning an auction. But I'm still hesitant to spend as much money as is involved on a phone from an online retailer without any kind of guarantee. I've looked at the cheaper phones from the same online vendor, but I've got my heart set on the V551. One more long-shot contender entered the fray today, in the form of the Treo 650. I haven't done any research on it, but now I'm thinking that might be the way to go. I haven't had a Palm organizer since I gave up the Treo 600, and while I'm getting along OK without a PDA, there's a part of me that wants one again. A Treo 650 would serve both purposes. But it's even more expensive than the Motorola, and it has even more features than I'll ever use. And if it had the buzzing problems my old Treo had, I think I'd kill someone.

Despite all my agonizing, I know how this saga is going to play out. I'm not going to be happy unless I get the Motorola phone. Buying anything else would just leave me pining for a super-cool flip phone. Over the weekend or next week I'll order it from the eBay vendor, have it shipped to my apartment (and fight with the USPS to get it delivered to me -- normally I ship things to my office, but because of Paypal, the phone will be shipped to my home instead, where USPS will leave me notes but no package), and pray that the phone works and never has a problem. I'll continue to get along without a PDA. Maybe I'll get a PAA (personal ANALOG assistant) instead, and write all my important numbers and addresses on a 3x5 index card, like my father does. I wonder if there's such a thing as Gadgets Anonymous. If my friends ever have an intervention for me and my gadget addiction, I hope there's a support group for technology junkies like me.

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