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What are the Best Cell Phone Services in the US? 239

James Hewfanger asks: " has run an article on the five best cell phone services in the UK. These include a text-based service that gets you the number of a licensed cab company in London, Google Maps and Gmail on your phone, a service that can tell what artist and song you're listening to, an online service that backs up all your cell phone contacts and a text-based service that answers any question you can throw at it. What, however, are the five best cell phone services in the US?"
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What are the Best Cell Phone Services in the US?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:35AM (#18285954)
    Driving Directions
    Travel (flights, hotels, ...)
    Movies (via fandango)

    All voice activated with very good support for keypad.

    Historically they had free directory assistance.
    at times they had traffic information, it's now 511 (run by them)
    They run 1-800-555-1212 (toll free directory assistance)
    • Tellme now has what they call "Business Search" which is basically directory assistance for local businesses (not just 800 numbers). They even have a feature where you can listen to reviews of the business from other users or leave your own review.

      However, I find the most usefull feature is their driving directions. It's gotten me out of a jam many times. Only downside is that if you're lost, you need to find out what city you're in (which can be a bit hard on a country road in the middle of nowhere) and yo
  • Google (Score:5, Informative)

    by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:39AM (#18285980)
    Text anything to 46645. That's the only such service I use.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 )
      I'm cheap. If a free phone call to 555-1212 can't do it, never mind.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nickj6282 ( 896871 ) *

      I use this a lot, and it's fantastic. I'm on a text plan so I don't worry about the cost (google doesn't charge anything). You have to be with one of the major carriers though, when I tried to use this on US Cellular [] it wouldn't work because they don't support the five digit text numbers. Google SMS [] is a great way to get info on the go and has been my "yellow pages" for a long time.

      On the subject of other cell services, I used to use Infone [] before they went under at the beginning of last year and I haven'

      • "Also, Cingular has their MediaMax data plan for $20 a month. This gives you unlimited mobile web from your phone, which is useful for grabbing an email or two on the road. But what they don't tell you is that you can use this as a dialup connection for your laptop/PDA if you have a phone that will work as a modem. "

        I've done this for the past 3-4 years on SprintPCS. If you have your vision can tether your computer to your phone. They don't really like you to do that, but, if you don't use too

    • I've never known about that before. So I googled the number and found more information []. Thanks dude! You just changed my life.
    • by Leontes ( 653331 )
      On my wishlist for life is something that does simliar to this, but txts wikipedia articles similiar to the google SMS feature. Or, at least, the intro paragraph from any wikipedia article or first few sentences.

      The google service is very useful, my favorite use for it is to google telephone numbers that ring me, if they are a land based or business phone it gives you the goods on who is calling. Also, can be useful for area codes.
      • by ari_j ( 90255 )
        Google occasionally cites Wikipedia URLs in its responses, but I agree that a dedicated link to Wikipedia (Google, if you are reading this, add some kind of syntax like 'wp: *' to get Wikipedia articles) would be nice.
  • by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:43AM (#18286000)
    The only services of that type that I've seen mentioned in the US are download services for ringtones, games, etc. I don't think most Americans really use their cell phones for anything but making phone calls, taking the odd photograph, and configuring to play loud, annoying, horribly distorted snippets of Backstreet Boys songs whenever someone calls you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Seumas ( 6865 )
      Yeah, I've had a Treo 650 for about a year and a half and I only use it for phone calls. In fact, I've shut off all of the other services and disabled downloads and everything else. The only thing I didn't shut off was text messaging, in case people need to reach me that way (maybe five messages a month). I use about 2,000 minutes a month, but I don't use email or web browsing or calendaring or any other crap. I used the camera once or twice in the last couple of years, but I couldn't be bothered to figure
      • Really can't imagine what kind of services people would *want* on their phones. *shrug*

        Oh, I can imagine all kinds of useful services (or rather, functions) to have on a cellphone (esp. one combined with a PDA). The problem is that this will probably never happen in the USA. Here, your cellphone is tied to your carrier, and crippled by them, so that all the extra functions and capabilities are controlled by them, not by you. Want to play a game? That'll cost $10/month. Want a different ringtone? That'
    • This cracks me up, because I actually have a Backstreet Boys song as my ringer right now. It sounds pretty good though, which is the only thing not fully retro about it ;)
    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      I think it's time for you to leave your parents' basement. BsB is sooooo 2006.

      KFed all the way!
  • by dwater ( 72834 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:50AM (#18286044)
    Hearing a song and not knowing who sings it or what it's called can be very annoying. Fortunately, Shazam provides a service that lets you hold your phone up to any song playing and it will then text you back the artist and track name in a matter of minutes.

    "How does that work?", I wonder....clever stuff. ...and, again...

    if you have a question that you need answering, AQA is the mobile service for you. AQA, which stands for any question answered, is a text-based service that literally answers any question you can think of. We asked it 'which was better, a CMOS or CCD sensor?' -- amazingly it came back with a half-decent answer.

    In the words of Captain Darling himself, "Clever. Clever. Clever.".

    I wonder if it's scalable.
    • by dwater ( 72834 )
      > In the words of Captain Darling himself, "Clever. Clever. Clever.".

      Well, was very clever of me. I was feeling quite smug really, but unfortunately, I was wrong. The quote would correctly be attributed to Lt. the Honorable George Colhurst St. Barleigh. I know you all knew that, but it had to be corrected, if only for the record.

      I'm so embarressed.
    • I know someone who got a job with them (though she didn't end up taking it). Her degree isn't a science degree, but she's very smart indeed and has excellent Google-fu; I don't imagine she would find it hard to become very well informed on CCD versus CMOS sensors very quickly indeed.
  • Flurry (Score:3, Informative)

    by sbyrnes00 ( 940041 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @02:02AM (#18286102) Homepage Journal
    Flurry - ( Mail and news on my phone. Also useful are: Google Local ( Maps on my phone. Opera Mini ( Web browsing on my phone. EQO ( VoIP and IM on my phone. Note that these all work with data services from Cingular and Sprint, but T-Mobile has recently started preventing the use of these services on their phones unless you buy an "unlimited" plan. Verizon either charges a few dollars a month for them or doesn't have them available in the first place. If you have Boost mobile service, you should also check out Loopt ( - a service that lets you tell your friends where you are.
  • by KNicolson ( 147698 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @02:47AM (#18286290) Homepage

    1. Deco Mail: most of the new phones now have HTML mail and large libraries of animated emoticons and the like - wifey's has over 1,000, plus lots more downloadable free. They can also be forwarded to PC mail clients and displayed successfully.

    2. NaviTime: doesn't just tell you where to go, but copes with which exit from the subway station to get, if a taxi would be faster than trains, even which carriage to board to be closest to the exit!

    3. Napster: well, maybe not.

    4. iPot: mobile phone in granny's kettle so you can get an email if she doesn't use it for a day.

    5. Anti-bullying kiddie phones []: junior points camera at bully/perv, sounds the alarm, and parent gets a photo plus GPS coordinates, etc.

    • OK, word association exercise. Think about the meaning of iPot.

      Now read this sentence:

      4. iPot: mobile phone in granny's kettle so you can get an email if she doesn't use it for a day.

      Hands up if you had to read it three times to get what it was actually about because on the first two reads you thought it was some kind of weird stoner talk?

  • Come on people... (Score:3, Informative)

    by todesengel ( 722281 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @02:48AM (#18286296)
    Do people not even read the /. summary any more? The question is regarding the top cell-phone based services, not cell-phone carriers.
    • Do people not even read the /. summary any more? The question is regarding the top cell-phone based services, not cell-phone carriers.

      Relax and please remove the stick. In the US, the term "service" can mean the "service" itself, or the provider thereof. A cell phone carrier is frequently referred to as a "service" as is the availability of their signal in a particular location. Phones in the US often display a message to the effect of "No Service" when a carrier's signal cannot be detected. "Cell pho

      • It can mean the same in the UK, funnily enough (although we would refer to a mobile service not a cell phone service this side of the pond). My initial reaction was how can you rate the top 5 mobile services, when there are basically only 4 or 5 main mobile providers in the UK...
    • Do people not even read the /. summary any more?
      What do you mean "any more"?...

      To actually answer the question though, the answer for me (in the UK) would be "none of the above" - with a web browser and RSS reader in the phone, the need for many of these sort of services goes away (OK, not the likes of "identify this tune for me", but I've never really felt the need).
  • Verizon! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Viceroy Potatohead ( 954845 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @02:48AM (#18286300) Homepage
    I like the "Teaching remedial math to call-centre employees" service that Verizon recently offered. I think it's got a great future.[/snark]
  • Cingular has the most customers. This means that chances are highest, than with any other cell provider, that when you call someone's cell they will be on network which doesn't eat minutes since on network minutes are free. The only reason I would switch from Cingular is if I moved to an area where I received poor signal. I used to work for Cingular, all be it in their network security division that had little to do with their cellular products. While working there I learned much about how cellular comp
    • "This means that chances are highest, than with any other cell provider, that when you call someone's cell they will be on network which doesn't eat minutes since on network minutes are free. "

      Minutes? That reminds me of the AOL days when they still charged by the minute. I got hit with huge $300 bills a couple of times.

      Now I use Sprint [] which gives me unlimited EV-DO mobile broadband for $60 a month (unlimited time -- with a two year contract -- which works 98% of the time). And I use MetroPCS [] for norm
      • by swv3752 ( 187722 )
        MetroPCS [] now has TravelTalk []. It is fairly decent Nationwide Digital Coverage. Unless you are in Eastern Oregon, Kentucky, W Virginia, and Northern Maine.
    • The problem with putting EVERY carrier on shared towers is space. By the time you get the backup generators, UPS, etc setup you have a significant footprint, multiply that times the number of carriers on a shared tower and you can see how that might not fit into many urban spaces.
      • There is a extremely large demand for seamless high speed wireless communications. Anyone that has a basic understanding of economics knows that in a capitalistic society where there is a demand there will be companies competing to fill that demand.

        When people say there will never be seamless (nationwide / global) high speed wireless communications has not seen the big picture. It is not if this will happen but when. We are getting closer and closer ever day. I know many people, like myself, that forgo
    • Ironically, the last time I climbed Mount Whitney I found that the summit had excellent coverage. I couldn't get a signal while climbing up the mountain, but once at the top, it seemed that everyone had a signal. I'm guessing that because the summit is so high it is within line-of-sight of numerous towers down in the valleys. It's a bit hard to talk on the phone, however, when even after sitting around for 5 minutes you are still panting because the air is so thin up there. :)
  • They did a special on this in their January issue.
    I think they do this every year or so.

    Either sign on at, or check it out at the library.
  • The answer is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlphaOne ( 209575 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @03:09AM (#18286396)
    "None of the above."
  • Text anything to 44636 (4INFO), or point your mobile browser to [] (or download their client at [] They've got:
    sports scores
    player stats
    stock quotes
    wifi hotspots
    package tracking
    yellow pages
    flight status
    hotel reservations
    city search
    TV Guide
    movie show times
    drink recipes
    price lookup
    pickup lines
    celebrity gossip
    music charts
    games ...

    More and higher quality services than Google (46645) and Yahoo (92466).
    • by dthree ( 458263 )
      Can't think of 5 that don't include services already mentioned, but one addition service I use is free411, an alternative to the $2-per-call carier 411 services.
  • When I found out Bell Mobility was denying my phone the ability to install Opera Mini, I found and their uploader utility. I was able to install Opera Mini, which rocks and is a total life-saver.

    GMail for phones is also wicked. I have not yet confirmed that my phone picks up the POP3 messages from work I have tied into that GMail account... If so I could practically work from the phone.

    Yahoo! Go looks like the next best thing, but is not yet available for my Samsung SPH-A920 :(

    This phone pretty m
  • Yeah I know ... wishful thinking.
  • The phone makes an interruptive asshole out of anyone, you insensitive clod!
    • It would be nice if people figured out that you don't to yell into your phone in order for people to hear you.
      • by Bozdune ( 68800 )
        Actually, yelling into the phone seems to help with my shitty Cingular/AT&T coverage. "Sherman, set the Way Back Machine to 1923."
        • Perhaps since nobody has better coverage than AT&T and yelling into a device pressed against your head instantly marks you as an obnoxious asshole, why not just go without a phone? Obviously it doesn't suit your needs in a socially acceptable manner.
          • by Bozdune ( 68800 )
            Ah, I see, you're a cell phone coverage expert. And a psychic one to boot, since apparently you can divine from a great distance just how fantastic my one-bar AT&T coverage is. I'm blown away by your Godly powers.

            • It's not that hard to search the FCC database and see who has what where. AT&T has the A side of damn near every tower in the country. If they can't do it, nobody can.
              • by Bozdune ( 68800 )
                Verizon beats them in my neck of the woods (495 belt around Boston) a lot of the time, and especially on Cape Cod -- I've seen side-by-side evidence with my friends' phones (multiple Cingular phones had shitty coverage, not just mine). Sprint was also better, although I eventually had to dump them because they were highway-only.

                Problem is, there's no way to test Verizon's coverage here without actually committing to buy a phone (unless this Cingular LG phone can be moved over to Verizon's network).
      • Or use it when you're trapped in a confined space for an extended period of time (ie commuting on the train, in elevators, etc) or while driving... pretty much any context you wouldn't expect a phone booth...
  • Send all the thoughts you want for one low monthly price: $0.
  • by ZYB ( 1073592 ) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:32AM (#18286870)
    I just want to clear up a small misunderstanding here. ZYB [] that Cnet lists in the article is not a UK service, it is a world-wide mobile backup service that also works in the US. ZYB is absolutely free (forever), but your operator will charge you for the data-traffic you use. For the first synchronisation of 80 contacts an 60 calendar events the data amount should be below 100kb. Subsequent synchronisations use around 10-20kb of data traffic depending on the amount of new information added on either the phone or on ZYB.

    Runar Reistrup, ZYB
  • voice-based services (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mcesh ( 601684 )
    are handy for people like me that don't have a 'smart' phone, or if you can't/don't want to text message:

    Google Local: 877-520-3463. My favorite. You give it a city, category, and/or business name. It speaks or texts you the results, and connects you to the business.

    Tell Me: 800-555-tell (8355). I mostly use it for driving directions, but it has myriad other features.

    511: Traffic, public transit info (only handy if you're in the SF Bay Area or around Sacramento).
  • [] makes it quick and easy to get transit information in the Portland Metro area. You can search by line # or my favorite "stop ID" every bus/light rail stop has an ID# that you punch in and it gives you real time arrival info.

    Trimet homepage []
  • AT&T (now Cingular, soon AT&T) - didn't work in THREE AIRPORTS, poor coverage in SE Ohio.

    Verizon - billing problems, poor coverage in SE Ohio.

    Sprint - billing problems, poor coverage in SE Ohio.

    T-Mobile - billing problems, poor coverage in SE Ohio.

    • AT&T (now Cingular, soon AT&T) - didn't work in THREE AIRPORTS, poor coverage in SE Ohio.

      To be fair, you do need to specify if you had AT&T's GSM service or not, because they also sold an awful CDMA service for a while. My previous employer foolishly signed a long term deal with AT&T maybe 7 years ago or so and got put on AT&T's CDMA service. After AT&T got bought out by Cingular, they began to phase out the CDMA service, as well they should because it was awful. I lost track of
      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        AT&T was on TDMA, not CMDA. They are moving off it because it's more expensive since they were basically the only large customer, and it uses spectrum much less efficiently than GSM. So by dropping TDMA they will be able to offer more bandwidth for 3G applications without purchasing a bunch of expensive spectrum. Btw they have added a surcharge for having TDMA service, and it is going to double soon from $5/month to $10/month so it is probably cheaper to get a new phone.
    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      I guess you didn't have a phone with analog backup because AT&T's coverage in SE Ohio was always excellent for me when visiting friends in Athens. They've probably since discontinued analog coverage, but with a 5W max power limit analog was great for rural areas, of course it ate batteries, but so what, just plug it in every night instead of once a week.
  • In Florida, 511 is a free cell phone call (well, besides airtime, but most people have airtime to burn so it's basically free anyway) to get freeway traffic reports. It REALLY came in handy driving home to Miami from Fort Lauderdale on Superbowl Sunday: "Accident, I-95, southbound, 79th Street. Two-mile backup." Needless to say, I jumped over to the Palmetto at Golden Glades instead of taking 95 to 836, and avoided it :-)
  • Whatever service Jack Bauer is using. Works in cities, deserts, in aircraft at 30,000 ft, anywhere! Never has drop-outs or lost calls and supports hi-speed data. Phones can be re-configured to set off enemy explosives. How cool is that!
  • I can call my credit union's self service telephone and do anything I can do in front of a teller or online. I can check balances and transfer money and get cash advances or even a loan over the phone.

  • I haven't seen this mentioned yet so I'll chime in. Berry411 [] started as a blackberry search app but has evolved to Beyond411 which works on many JAVA enabled devices. The best part is there are no monthly charges involved (aside from your regular data charges). I just recently discovered it so I'm still determining it's usefulness but so far it has delivered on it's expectations.
  • by jefu ( 53450 )

    a text-based service that answers any question you can throw at it

    Is P = NP?
    Does this (description of a Turing Machine) TM halt?
    What is BusyBeaver(100) ?
    Give a proof of the Riemann hypothesis. (Not in the form of a question? How about "Is the Riemann hypothesis true?")

    Of course, it doesn't say the answers will be correct (or verifiable).

  • "The Best Overall" is an extremely stupid question. It assumes that everyone values everything identically. That texting matters [or does not] for everyone. That access in the London Tube matters for a Glaswegian. That access while driving matters more than access at fixed locations. No-one is the best at everything, so it becomes a matter of compromise -- giving up things you don't value to get thing that are more important.

    • by 6Yankee ( 597075 )
      It assumes [...] That access in the London Tube matters for a Glaswegian.

      Of course it matters! How else is he going to get more Big Issues sent down to him? :)
  • But what I want is LESS features, LESS friendly nonsense, and LESS annoying menus and stuff to wade through. I wish phone makers and carriers would get on board with making phones less obnoxious all around, instead of worrying about absurd little trinkets and services of dubious value.

    For example, when someone calls me, I usually ignore it because I'm a crotchety type who doesn't want to talk to you. You get my voicemail, and now I have to clear it out because I'm not interested in what you have to say.
    • by szembek ( 948327 )
      Just press * to skip the voice mail message and get straight to the beep. It works with verizon VM, don't know about others for sure.
  • Slifter [], a mobile local product search. We search real store inventory near you, nationwide. If we're thin on the local results, we shove in online results.

    Available interfaces

    • J2ME, hit from your mobile browser. Redirects to XHTML MP if we don't think it'll work.

    • XHTML MP, hit from your mobile browser. Force by viewing []

    • PC web browser, hit from your web browser. Force by viewing []

    • SMS text keywords plus zip code

Many aligators will be slain, but the swamp will remain.