There are about as many cell phones on the market as ideas on what kinds of features they should have, so this will only be a guide to think about, for when you talk to your service provider. There are some critical things to know, especially if you are going to travel the country in your minivan camper conversion.
I have seen so many people go to these cheap “pay-as-you-go” cell phones available from nearly every store in the country these days, but what they don’t realize is… many of those cell phones will not work when you get outside your own service area! Guess what! That’s why they are cheap!
If you are going to be traveling the country, then you need to have dependable communications, no matter where you are! We found out the hard way what to look for in a cell phone. We had bought an expensive Palm Treo 300 back when they were popular. It was a great ($600) phone and we loved the features it had. But that was in Phoenix. When we made a trip to Durango, we suddenly realized everyone around us was using their cell phones, and yet we couldn’t even get a signal! We found out later that ours was a single band cell phone, and it wouldn’t work with the carriers available in Durango!
So the first thing you want to make sure of is that whatever you get is a multi-band cell phone that will work on any system, anywhere in the country! If you go out of the country, that’s another issue you have to watch for and ask about! And even in this country, there are still remote areas where there are no towers and no signal. If you travel to those areas regularly, you might want to spend the extra money on a satellite phone! But as long as you stay close to main roads, we have found that we can get a good signal almost anywhere we go with the new cell phone we have.
I know that some of you like your push-to-talk (walkie-talkie) phones and all that, and that’s fine, but keep in mind that the push-to-talk feature doesn’t work everywhere in the country either! Always check with your service supplier before buying if that feature is important to you.
And I know some of you like the smallest, lightest phone you can get so you can stick it in a pocket and break it the first time you sit down. Well, if all you are going to do is talk, one of those little dinky phones might work, but let’s face it, the screen on them needs a magnifying glass to read it. If they say you have web access with it, that is such a waste, because the screen is too small to even read anything!
And if you love texting, or even emailing pictures, forget one of those phones that has four letters for every number on the keyboard! You could send them a post office letter in less time than it will take you to type something! If you do any kind of keyboard work from a phone, then you want one that has a full qwerty-style keyboard on it. And you should always try the phone in your hands before buying anything. Try the navigation on it. If you can’t find your way around easily, then it’s probably not right for you. Take the time to have a knowledgeable person demonstrate it for you. If he looks like he can’t find his way around, then how can you expect to learn how to use it? And if all else fails… read the instructions!!! If you can’t find your way around on it, then what is the point of having web access?
And speaking of web work, it’s always nice to be able to see the screen without a magnifying glass! Many phones today have a full screen on the front that also has a touch-keyboard built into the program. That’s fine. I can bang out letters with a stylus pretty fast. Just make sure the screen is large enough to see what you are doing. If the screen is all on one side of the phone, that’s OK. If it isn’t, then I highly recommend one of the “clam shell” type phones that either opens to a keyboard and screen on the inside, or has a cover that slides up to reveal the keyboard. Look for one that can view web pages horizontally. It’s much easier to scroll up and down to read something than it is to scroll sideways, so a wide screen is also an important feature.
I have seen many cell phones that do not come with a case or even a belt clip. Maybe that’s OK for women to carry in their purse, but it’s not OK for guys. And carrying your phone in your pocket all the time is going to get it broken, sooner or later. You need a belt clip. Even if you wear sweat pants all the time instead of pants with a belt, at least you can hook it over the top. And always keep your phone in a padded case. I was in Wal Mart last week when a guy dropped his phone, and I noticed the screen was broken, I said something about it and he says, “Oh that’s been that way for awhile. It didn’t happen just now!”. Then he said he didn’t have a case for it, so I jokingly said, “You know, they have all kinds of cases back there in the phone department!”, to which he said, “Yeah, I suppose I should get one… one of these days.”
Maybe his phone wasn’t expensive, and the damage was already done, so he didn’t care. But MY phone happens to be a $450 phone, and you can bet that getting a proper case with a good belt clip on it was the first thing I did when I bought it! I can’t afford to be dropping that kind of stuff!
But we won’t tell you what make or model to buy. There are way too many choices to suit everybody. Just think about how you are going to be using it while traveling in your minivan camper conversion, and keep these things in mind. Hopefully, you’ll make a good choice.