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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.
I really don't like having to sign any cell phone contract. If I buy an unlocked GSM phone, can I just pop in a SIM card and it'll work automatically?--Siri, via e-mail
Technically, yes, but it depends on the phone. If you really want to ensure that you can use the phone anywhere in the world, you should make sure it is a quad-band phone that is compatible with all four GSM bands (850, 900, 1,800, and 1,900MHz). Also note that even though you can make calls with it, most phones require you to activate a data or messaging plan with your carrier before you can use features such as MMS or e-mail. Kent German, a CNET senior editor, recently posted a quick how-to on activating MMS on unlocked phones, and you can ask your carrier if your phone requires more detailed settings. For the BlackBerry, for example, you need to know the APN or Access Point Name for your particular carrier to access the Internet. Here is a handy guide on how to enable full Internet access on the BlackBerry along with APNs of some of the more popular cellular providers. If our readers have any more tips on other platforms, please let tell us in the comments.… Read more