by David Schloss
When it comes to cellular telephone technology, denizens of the United States have lagged far behind their European counterparts. Years ago, when the cellular industry was in its infancy, Europe agreed on a common standard called GSM (Global Standard for Mobile), while the U.S. split up into proprietary networks divided by access providers.
To Americans, the hassle of paying roaming charges and experiencing spotty coverage is simply the trade off for the convenience of wireless communications. For global travelers it means the inability to conduct simple business operations without packing a host of cell phones and multiple phone numbers.
The solution comes in the form of so-called “World Phones,” devices which are able to communicate on multiple GSM bands. The result is a phone that can operate in as many as 120 countries, and thanks to Omnipoint’s support of one of the GSM standards, it works in the United States as well.
Ericsson beat Nokia to the World Phone punch, but Nokia’s latest offering, the stylish 8890, offers so many features, conveniences, and options that it’s hard to imagine traveling the world without it.
Covered in an attractive brushed aluminum shell, the diminutive 3-ounce phone provides more features than any other phone on the market. Nokia has added voice-dialing support, allowing speed dial numbers to be activated with just the spoken word. The 8890 also supports SMS (Small Messaging Service) to send messages to other GSM phone users, a task eased by the predictive text input. The phone uses a dictionary to figure out what you’re typing on the miniature keys, and automatically completes the word. True wireless connectivity allows exchange of data with handheld devices such as PDAs and other 8890 phones.
For business users, or those on a limited calling network, the phone can be set up with calling card data, to ensure that each call gets billed to the right person. A clock that updates based on the cellular system’s clock makes country hopping easier. You’d think all these features would drain the battery, but the 8890 boasts more than six days of standby and nearly three hours of talk time.
Ranging between $700 and $1,000, the 8890 is expensive, but for the world traveler, the convenience of having one phone, one number, just about anywhere on the planet makes the phone worth its weight in gold.