Lost my cell phone on a change between airliners in the Houston airport. Was not much upset by this loss as I was not especially fond of the phone (an Audiovox CDM-8900). Since this provides an excuse for buying a replacement, the loss was not all bad :).

My two year Verizon agreement runs out in January of next year, so switching providers at this point would be expensive. At the same time, if I buy an expensive Verizon-only phone now, then the investment would be wasted if I switch providers later.

My last phone I bought based on reading a description on the web. When I actually got the phone, I found that that the built-in camera was marginal, and the user interface rather horrid. In retrospect buying without playing with the phone first was a mistake. Rather than repeat a past mistake I went into the local Verizon store to try out the various models.

Turned out – I did not like any of the models offered by Verizon! Cheap plastic cases, too small screens and keyboards, and stiff pricing for few interesting features – not what I wanted at all.

At this point Verizon was very near to losing me as a customer, locked-in service or not.

Aside from the stiff prices for replacement phones, my dad had just gone through a series of problems with his Verizon service. First his old cell phone starting dying (not the company’s fault). He bought a replacement from Verizon (and knowing my dad - probably went for one of the fancier models). After a bit we figured out his new phone had a tendency to drop connections on it’s own, and eventually he got a replacement. At about the same time he figured out that the Verizon service near his home had a different problem (connection noise only apparent when in the area, not elsewhere). He wasted a lot of his time trying to communicate this to some rather dense Verizon support folks.

This all took a rather large notch out of my regard for Verizon. Has to be somewhat uncomfortable for my dad as well, since he encouraged me to switch to Verizon. (The fact that my Sprint service became unusable at both home and work was also a factor).

After poking around a bit on web, I find that it is (apparently) possible to buy cell phones on the open market to use with Verizon and most any service. The cell phones you buy from the phone company are “locked” and only work with the company’s service. The cell phones you buy on the open market are “unlocked” and can work with any service - provided the phone supports the frequencies and encoding methods (CDMA, GSM, etc.) required by the service.

Not exactly news this, but something I did not know. Oddly enough the phone companies do not exactly go to lengths to point this out (surprise). They would prefer you buy only “locked” phones, which makes switching to another service expensive.

In fact the only reason I figured this all out was a small mention on the Verizon support site of the need to call to make sure your phone was compatible with Verizon. If I bought my phone from Verizon, why would it not be compatible?? The only logical possibility was that you could buy cell phones from elsewhere that were not specific to Verizon … so I started digging.

My “wish list” for a fancy cell phone would include support for Bluetooth and Java, a decent built-in camera (>2Mpixel), no Microsoft software (too unreliable), some means of backing up the numbers in the phone, solid construction, and a user interface that does not suck (especially for picture send/upload). Seems this pretty much rules out Verizon phones.

Turns out there are older models of combo phone/PDAs to be had on eBay for very little money. Now I have never been especially attracted to the notion of a PDA - seems too much like a little sub-adequate computer to me. With all the buzz about PDAs, had some desire to play with one a bit - but not enough of a desire to pay the premium prices.

Settled on the Kyocera QCP-6035 which has decent battery life and generally got good reviews. Originally listing at $600, you can now buy them from TigerDirect for $40 (my total was $58 with 2nd day shipping). At the worst I get a fat cell phone for a lot less money than even Verizon’s basic models. At best I get:

  • The ability to backup/copy phone numbers between my phone and computer (the #1 annoyance when getting a new phone).
  • A phone that can act as a modem (useful when travelling, perhaps).
  • A PDA to play with, and the ability to write/upload Palm applications (the built-in software in cell phones tends to suck).

At worst I’ve burnt $60 on a toy :).