Mobile phones GSM and 3G review 2008

The latest mobiles deliver lots of features, but make sure you aren't paying for things you don't need.
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05.Features and functions

Features and functions most have

  • Colour display (except the Nokia 1110i).
  • Vibration alert: You can set the phone to vibrate instead of ring — useful if you need to have your phone on while you’re in a meeting or restaurant, where a ringing phone would bother others.
  • Polyphonic ring tones
  • Keypad locking
  • Li-ion or Li-polymer battery
  • Internal antenna
  • Dual band: They can operate in both the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands used by Australian GSM networks. Tri Band and quad-band models support more countries and are particularly useful if you travel more widely. (All but the Nokia 1110i, 1600, 2626 and 5200 are at least tri-band).
  • SMS (short message service) or 'texting' allows you to send and receive short text messages. Predictive text input (where your phone is programmed to anticipate what you’re likely to type once you’ve started) can assist in typing them more quickly.
  • Alarm to wake you up or remind you of appointments.
  • Phonebook memory in the phone in addition to that on the SIM card (except the Sony Ericsson Z300i, so you can save additional contacts.
  • SMS memory in the phone in addition to that on the SIM card, so you can save additional messages (except the Motorola F3).
  • Calendar with reminder function
  • WAP: This stands for 'wireless application protocol', and gives you access to the same functions as GPRS. However, WAP is quite slow, and you’re charged for the time you’re connected to download information.
  • GPRS: (except the Nokia 1110i and 1600) This stands for ‘general packet radio service’, and is a faster version of WAP. It allows you access to web-like applications available over the mobile network. You can use your mobile to receive and display information on certain topics (such as the weather, sports results or the share market), buy goods or book tickets, and send and receive email. Information can be accessed more quickly than with WAP, and you’re charged for the amount of information you download rather than the time you’re connected.
  • Hands free use a speakerphone on the mobile allows you to make a call without holding the handset to your ear.
  • MMS compatible: This allows you to send and receive messages with photos and/or sound (except the Nokia 1110i and 1600).

Other features and functions

  • A USB connection of any type also lets you transfer files to your computer. Some models use a commonly available  mini or micro USB connection and can have the phone appear on the PC as a removable drive.
  • Bluetooth — a wireless radio technology that allows a range of electronic devices, such as mobile phones, mobile phone car kits, computers and PDAs, to communicate with each other easily over a range up to 10 metres. A recent version of Bluetooth (A2DP) allows you to listen to your music without cables via a pair of Bluetooth stereo headphones. Of the top 10 overall performers in this latest test, the Nokia 2626 is the only one that doesn’t support Bluetooth stereo headphones.
  • Flight mode is a handy feature for air travellers, as you can turn your phone functionality off but still be able to use your mobile as a music player.
  • A memory card allows you to store photos and video clips and transfer them to a computer or printer. Not all the phones with a memory card slot provide a card, so you may have to buy one separately. Check to see the exact type of memory you’ll need, as the cards are all tiny and look very similar but aren’t interchangeable.
  • Voice dialling: Allows you to record a word (such as the name of a person) together with a phone number, and to dial the number by saying that word.
  • If your phone has voice recording, you can also record voice messages and send them on, and record voice memos and reminders. Some models also allow you to record your talk partner (if they consent to it).
  • Most new phone models come with a digital camera, some of which also allow you to record short video clips.
  • If you want to use your phone as a mobile office, look for a model with an IR (infrared) port for easy data transfer to your computer, email capability and organiser functions.
  • Play/record video: Allows you to record video clips with the built-in camera, and play clips sent to you via MMS.
  • If you like to listen to music on the go, look for a model with a built-in FM radio and/or MP3 player. Most phones with such a function provide a headset. If not, check whether you can connect a standard headset, or have to buy a specific one.
  • A memory card allows you to store photos and video clips recorded with the phone’s camera, and conveniently transfer them to a computer or printer. Not all the phones with a memory card slot also provide a card, so you may have to buy one separately.

Mobile phone jargon decoder

How not to be bamboozled when you’re buying.

  • 3G: Third Generation or 3G describes wireless communication involving video phone calls and sophisticated internet services. However, video calling (including international calls), information services and some messaging services are only available in ‘video zones’ in most parts of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth.
  • CND: This stands for calling number display, also known as Caller ID. It’s a network feature that allows the caller’s phone number to be displayed on the screen of the receiver’s phone before it’s answered - as long as the caller doesn’t have a silent or blocked number.
  • EMS: Stands for enhanced message service, and allows you to send and receive words, pictures, animation and sound clips.
  • ESN: Stands for electronic serial number, an alphanumeric number used to identify a CDMA phone. It’s essential to register the ESN and telephone number with the network in order for the phone to be operational.
  • IMEI: This stands for international mobile equipment identifier, a 15-digit number found on the back of GSM phones (usually under the battery), and used to identify them. Every mobile phone manufactured has a unique IMEI number programmed electronically into it that’s recorded along with the phone number when registering the phone to a network. The number can be used by the service provider to block the use of a stolen or lost phone.
  • mAh: Milliamperehours — the measurement used for the capacity of a battery.
  • MMS: This stands for multimedia messaging service and allows you to add your own images, video clips and sound to text messages.
  • Quad-band: As for triband, plus the phone can also operate on the 850 MHz frequency band used in parts of the US and Canada, or the 2100 MHz 3G band.
  • Roaming: Allows you to make and receive calls with your phone, as well as sending SMS, while you’re travelling overseas in countries your Australian network provider has a roaming agreement with. Check with your provider for details and costs.
  • Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card: This is the computer chip that goes into a mobile phone to operate it. The card contains your telephone number, a host of details enabling you to make and receive calls, and stores information such as phone numbers and text messages.

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