What's New in Technology for July 2003

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Cell Phones--When You Just Want To Talk
Today’s cell phones can take photos and let you email them to your family, friends or colleagues. In your idle moments, you can use them to play games or watch movies. And in work mode, you can also receive text messages, access the web and organize your workday. All these razzle-dazzle features are fun and, because they eat up lots of minutes, they are very lucrative for the cellular carriers.

But what if you are just wanted to use your cell phone to talk. If you are not interested in all the snazzy high tech add-on features, and just need a good portable phone with smart features that make calling simple, read on. Here’s a quick run through of some of the simpler phones available through major cellular carriers. We’ve tried to identify some of the crucial features you need to just talk, and to determine how these portable phones stack up.

The phones under review all offer the same basic features including speed dialing and text messaging. They are: Kyocera 2325; Motorola i35s; Nokia 3585i; Nokia 3595; and Samsung R225 and Samsung A460. The Samsung A460 is the most expensive (about $130). The rest cost $100 or less from cellular carriers (prices offered by carriers usually require you to sign a service contract, too). The Kyocera was the least expensive at $30 through Verizon.

Our goal is to find design that supports functionality—in other words--simplicity and easy of use. If you are looking for a new phone, think about what features you use the most frequently. Also consider any problems or design shortcomings, which have irked you in the past.

Here’s our list of key features:

1)Easy to turn on and off
This seems like a no-brainer, but not all phones make this first step easy! Some require you to hold down other keys.
Winners: If you like a dedicated power button, try the Motorola or either of the two Nokia models listed above.

2)Fast and easy to turn the ringer off
Once we’ve found how to switch it on, we want to be able to easily turn the ringer off when we go into an important client conference or a movie theatre. We would rather not have to punch several buttons. None of the phones listed above have a dedicated "ringer-off" button.
Winners: The Kyocera and Samsung models both will go mute when you hold down a specified key for a few seconds.

3)Keys Intended For Use by Adult-Sized Fingers
Smaller phones mean tinier keys—not a good thing if you use reading glasses, or are trying to operate a cell phone in less than ideal light. Be aware that you cannot dial the Samsung A460 without looking carefully at the keypad—the keys are flush and the pad surfaces are also flush with each other—making this the toughest phone to dial. The Nokia 3595 is awkward too, because it has two numbers on a key, requiring the user to "seesaw" the key. Try out the keypads of the other models out to find out which feels more natural to you.

4)Phone book is easy to access and use
All the models listed let you add to your phone book by typing in a number, pressing a function key and then typing in a name, and all display the phone book with one keystroke command. The Motorola i35s and the Samsung R225 require you to make some choices (options that have dubious value to the user) before they will store the data.
Winner: The Kyocera is the only model that gives you easy access to most frequently dialed numbers. This model puts the 10 numbers you call most frequently at the top of your phone list.

Obviously coverage depends on your carrier’s national coverage, where you live and where you go. Most carriers note that a retractable antenna can help. Of the batch listed above, only the Nokia 3595 does not have a retractable antenna.

6)The screen and type are clearly readable
All the models offered reasonably good screens and type clarity. The Motorola’s type is perhaps the least attractive.
Winners: The Kyocera 2325 offered excellent on-screen clarity. If you like color, you might prefer the Nokia 3595, which is the only one in our sample with a color screen.

In summary, overall the least expensive phone, the Kyocera 2325, scored best in the simplicity stakes. Its important features were always one key press away. Despite their popularity, the Nokia models do not seem to be designed for simplicity. The menus on both Nokia models were more complicated to operate and the Nokia models required four steps to silence the ringer. The keypads on the Nokia 3595 and Samsung A460 were the most awkward to manipulate. Before making your choice, remember prices vary and special deals abound. Check around for prices, rebate deals and other sales offers that might influence your final purchasing decision.


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